Tucked into a space between City Hall and the Court House, is a construction site.  Up until recently it was a parking lot.  Soon it will be a new Court House.  Like all construction sites in Toronto, it is surrounded by hoardings to separate it from the streets and sidewalks.
a yellow digger, not working at the moment, sits in a vacant lot, slightly snow covered, the back of Toronto City Hall is in the background.

On two sides of the lot, the hoardings have been covered with a mural that was commissioned by Infrastructure Ontario.  It is “Picturing the Ward”and it is an exhibit about the area that once existed here, The Ward.  It was an area where many immigrants first settled.  It was roughly in the rectangle formed by College St., Yonge St., Queen St., and University Ave.   In the 1830’s it was home to Blacks escaping slavery, it saw waves of Irish, Eastern European Jews, Italians, and Chinese to name a few.

On the west side (along Centre Avenue), there are old photos, newspaper clippings, and stories of individuals who once lived in the area.   The content was collected and curated by the Toronto Ward Museum, a new ‘museum without walls’  in the city.   PATCH (part of The STEPS Initiative) designed and installed the mural.  The stories are in both English and French.

below: A segment of the mural with a story titled “Hungering for Success”.   It is the story of Edward and Donna Pasquale nee Bernardo.  Both were born in Italy and both were brought to the Ward by their parents.  They met here and married in 1918.  Edward and his brother Pamphilo founded Pasquale Brothers store on Elm Street.   During WW2 Pamphilo spent three years imprisoned in an internment camp in Petawawa along with other Italian, German, and Japanese Canadians that the government considered enemies of the state.  Edward remained in Toronto running the store.

part of larger mural, small tree branch in front, tall office building behind, mural has old photos in blue tones as well as a lot of words about the history of the area

below: The newspaper story from ‘The Toronto Star’ of 3rd October 1907 describes the death of Mrs. Hazleton, a widow with two children, who was hit by a car at Yonge & Bloor.  The car was driven by Mr. F.E. Mutton.  Yes, back then the driver of the car was named in the newspaper.

old photos in blue tones on a mural, along with a picture of an old newspaper clipping describing an automobile accident at Yonge & Bloor in which someone died.

below: The middle section is a collage of cyanotypes (an old photographic process which results in blue pictures) produced by PA System (aka Alexa Hatanaka and Patrick Thompson) .  The images are of artifacts uncovered during the excavation of the area along with some heirlooms contributed by former Ward residents.  A couple of CBC people were braving the cold that day too!

part of mural on a snowy corner, photos in blue tones, a CBC cameraman and reporter are standing on the sidewalk in front of the mural

below: The south side of the hoardings are along Armoury Street.  This section is called, These Stories Are Not Unlike Your Stories. Old photographs of the area have been reproduced in shades of blue.  Orange ‘bubbles’ contain stories.  Most of the photographs are from the City of Toronto Archives although some come from private sources.

part of a larger mural in Toronto, blue photos, with words written in large capital letters, These Stories Are Not Unlike Your Stories

below: On one side, the pictures are printed in reverse and the accompanying words are in French.  The French stories are translations of the English ones.

part of larger mural, reprints in blue tones of historical photos from city archives of ould buildings from the part of the city called The Ward that was demolished in the 1950's to make way for new City Hall

below: The people who lived in The Ward were poor and their housing was sub-standard.  In 1911 a report by the city’s Department of Health described how bad the living conditions were for the people here.  Largely because of that report, demolition of the area started soon after to make space for office towers and government buildings.  I’m not sure how long parts of The Ward survived, but it was in the 1950’s that the original Chinatown along Elizabeth Street was demolished to make way for Nathan Phillips Square.

part of larger mural, reprints in blue tones of historical photos from city archives of ould buildings from the part of the city called The Ward that was demolished in the 1950's to make way for new City Hall

below: Some of the orange bubbles contain quotes from descendants of former residents of the area.  The bottom quote is: “My mom use to say, ‘We were all poor.  No one had anything.  It was normal.  Everyone was in the same position so we didn’t worry about it too much.'”  by Brian Banks, grandson of John & Mary Colestock, former residents.

 

part of larger mural, reprints in blue tones of historical photos from city archives of ould buildings from the part of the city called The Ward that was demolished in the 1950's to make way for new City Hall

below: There is still a lot of work to be done on the site!   The mural will be on view until at least October of next year. If you are interested in the details of the mural, more about the people featured, or the events described, then the best place to start looking is the section of the Toronto Ward Museum website that is devoted to this project.

two red diggers on top of a pile of dirt on a snow covered vacant lot, large multirise buildings in the background

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