The Face of Early Toronto: An Archival Record 1797-1936


157 pages
Contains Illustrations, Index
ISBN 0-920348-24-6





Reviewed by Dean Tudor

Dean Tudor is a journalism professor at the Ryerson Polytechnical
Institute and founding editor of the CBRA.


Several books on early Toronto architecture have been published in recent years, most notably Eric Arthur’s Toronto: No Mean City (University of Toronto Press) and William Dendy’s Lost Toronto (Oxford University Press). But these have been collections, with narrative texts, of photographs. Martyn’s book, her third on Toronto history, concentrates on reproductions of early drawings, watercolours, engravings, and some photographs mostly drawn from the John Ross Robertson collection at the Metro Toronto Library Board. Each brown-and-white picture is notated with the architect’s name, the format of the original drawing, etc., and a 250- to 400-word description of the events surrounding the building, such as why it came into being, what it was used for, and when it “died.” There are 84 of these buildings arranged by direction away from the crossroads of Yonge and Adelaide Streets. There is much history here, but little on architectural detail. Thus the Martyn book nicely complements Arthur and Dendy.

The last third of this book is a 35-page abstract from Goad’s Atlas of Toronto (1884). Goad did 1,100 atlases of Canadian cities and towns between 1875 and 1910, detailing buildings for insurance company records. The atlas, of course, is almost as good as an aerial view.


Martyn, Lucy Booth, “The Face of Early Toronto: An Archival Record 1797-1936,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 23, 2024,