A Toronto Album: Glimpses of the City That Was


120 pages
Contains Photos
ISBN 0-88882-242-1
DDC 971.3'54103'0222






Reviewed by Sarah Robertson

Sarah Robertson is the editor of the Canadian Book Review Annual.


Originally published by University of Toronto Press in 1970, A Toronto
Album provides an engaging record of the city’s evolution during the
period from 1860 to 1950. The 100-plus black-and-white photographs
(arranged more or less chronologically, with some grouped by topic) are
the same as those in the 1970 edition, while the text (marred by
frequent typos) “has been altered slightly.”

The photos depict streetscapes, beaches and amusement parks,
architectural landmarks, steamers and aircraft, commercial and
recreational activities, many incarnations of the omnipresent streetcar,
and important events in Toronto’s history; especially memorable are
the images of ruin in the aftermath of the Great Toronto Fire of 1904.
Aesthetically, the photos run the gamut from the painterly beauty of
“An idyll on the Humber” to the pollution-choked sight of
“Steamers docked east of the Toronto Harbour Commission Building, c.

The British influence and the probity demanded by temperance
organizations loom large in many photos. We see the “order and harmony
of scale that once characterized the downtown city” give way to the
post-Confederation “process of random destruction and ever larger
construction.” The “invasion of the rail companies” that began in
the 1850s has, in the author’s view, dismaying implications for
today’s advocates of waterfront revitalization: “By 1860 young
Toronto’s dream of becoming a model colonial town, architecturally and
perhaps socially as well, was shattered forever.”

Popular Toronto historian Mike Filey writes a regular column, “The
Way We Were,” for the Sunday Toronto Sun. His other books on Toronto
include The TTC Story, Discover and Explore Toronto’s Waterfront, I
Remember Sunnyside, and the Toronto Sketches series.


Filey, Mike., “A Toronto Album: Glimpses of the City That Was,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 25, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/7830.