Emerald City: Toronto Visited


355 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography
ISBN 0-670-85356-9
DDC 971.3'541




Reviewed by Steve Pitt

Steve Pitt is a Toronto-based freelance writer and an award-winning journalist. He has written many young adult and children's books, including Day of the Flying Fox: The True Story of World War II Pilot Charley Fox.


John Bentley Mays, the “Citysites” columnist for The Globe and Mail,
came to Toronto in 1969. This architectural examination of Toronto
combines the fierce love of an adopted son with the cold clarity of an

Mays has no love for old Toronto buildings just because they are old,
but neither is he a booster for “modernity” if it is just an excuse
to build something large and cheap. Instead, Mays strives to link
architecture to the beings who created it. Every building is thus
examined in the context of the question “But how does this relate to
the people living here now?” Rather than confine his thoughts to Metro
Toronto’s architectural gems, the author takes his readers on tours of
abandoned industrial parks, rooftop gardens, and rundown alleyways.

Mays barely attempts to hide his scorn of what he considers to be
sentimentalists or pretenders. Scarborough, to him, is what most people
say it is—a bore. North York is a borough is a borough is a borough.
Kensington Market, Mays points out, is attractive only to people who do
not have to live there. The sight of a homeless person’s filthy
campsite under an expressway bridge allows Mays to examine the
difference between a house (structure) and a home (personal space). He
can sympathize with the pre–1980 North American’s love of a
well-laid expressway.

This book is a fine guide for people who have a hard time seeing the
city for the buildings.


Mays, John Bentley., “Emerald City: Toronto Visited,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 19, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/6744.