Queen St. W. and O'Hara Ave., looking east, around 1910.
A COUPLE OF BLOCKS EAST along Queen toward downtown Toronto and this is
what you'd have seen around 1910 - the Union Meat Market building facing
the Canadian Bank of Commerce across the main drag
Those little peaked roofs on the corners of commercial buildings were, along with functionless cupolas, masonry caps, ornamental brickwork, copper flashing and decorative ironwork, the little grace notes that builders added to give a row of storefronts with apartments above a sense of completion.
Along the low skylines of city streets, they acted as landmarks, the stylish
and emphatic punctuation on a roofline. Their disappearance is one of those
little things, so hard to pin down, that makes these streets seem so incomplete today
I'm assuming the building on the left is still the Union Meat Market; the market opened at O'Hara and Queen with much fanfare in 1888, but there's every chance it had moved on by the time this picture was taken, over twenty years later. It's hard to tell from the postcard, but stone cladding on
a corner property, in Toronto at this time, tended to mean bank. I'll have
to do some research on this one. The Bank of Commerce, the little temple
of finance facing it came later but, solid as it looks, it wouldn't survive
to see the end of the century.
Some considerate retouching artist at Valentine & Sons, the firm that printed most of these postcard views, has eliminated the overhead wires from this photo, leaving the poles that line the sidewalk looking like empty crucifixes awaiting new victims.
Parkdale town centre, a block further east; the Standard Bank of Canada at Queen St. W. and Brock Ave., circa 1918. (Courtesy Toronto Public Library. T14029)
block further on, where Cowan Ave. ends on the south side of Queen, and
Brock begins on the north, sits the longtime civic centre of Parkdale,
and just past the Canadian Bank of Commerce's neoclassical temple on the
right of the postcard, you can see a forthright little house, complete
with pillared balcony over its street-level bay window. The home, perhaps,
of a local worthy, built before Queen Street's commercial character became
quite so pronounced. It would be gone in a couple of decades, replaced
by a squat but elegant moderne police station.
Notice the streetcar tracks plunging into the distance. The Queen streetcar was - and still is - Parkdale's principal link with Toronto. In a city with
a serious and strictly utilitarian commitment to public transit, it would
have been replaced with a subway years ago. The streetcar's persistence
will probably be the key - and the most cited obstacle - to the revitalization
of the neighbourhood.
But let's jump ahead a century, less a decade or so...