Archive for the ‘Toronto’ Category
Torontoist’s David Wencer explained over the weekend the complex story of the Tabor Hill ossuary, found in the 1950s in the course of suburban construction in what is now north Toronto.
On August 17, 1956, while levelling land to make way for a new subdivision, a power shovel ripped into the side of Tabor Hill, northeast of the intersection of Lawrence Avenue and Bellamy Road. According to the next day’s Globe and Mail, “about 100 feet of earth were sliced from the hill before the shovel gouged out a pocket about four feet below the surface. The hole, about seven feet wide and one foot deep, was crammed with bones.” The shovel had uncovered a centuries-old burial pit, one of the earliest ossuary sites in Ontario.
It was immediately apparent that the site contained bones from many burials; initial reports suggested there were at least 50. Gus Harris, then the reeve of Scarborough Township, initially dismissed suggestions that the site might be a First Nations burial ground on the basis that no corresponding artifacts were present. One theory he suggested to the press was that the bones belonged to victims of a late 19th-century cholera epidemic. The Star printed a further theory of Harris’s: that the site at Tabor Hill “might be a disposal spot for some medical school, where they could put human remains after students were through with using them in the laboratories.”
“We should have charged admission,” one workman told reporters as Scarborough residents were crowding the site to see the unexpected discovery. Local children reportedly began digging in the surrounding area, finding additional bones buried only a few inches below the surface.
The next day, archaeological experts visited the site and identified it as a First Nations burial pit, likely several centuries old. James Lovekin, a graduate student and history teacher at R. H. King Collegiate Institute, told the Globe and Mail that he thought it was an Iroquois site from the 17th or 18th century, and suggested it was likely linked to a specific ceremony, wherein “bodies were allowed to decompose for seven years on platforms, scraped clean, and then buried during a Feast of the Dead ritual.”
Over the next few days, Walter A. Kenyon, an archaeologist and assistant curator of ethnology at the Royal Ontario Museum, conducted a preliminary examination of Tabor Hill, in the process discovering a second burial pit at the site that was somewhat smaller than the first. Noting the large number of total burials at the site and the excellent condition of the bones, Kenyon wrote a letter to Gus Harris, suggesting action to preserve the ossuary and to have Tabor Hill declared a historic site. Harris took on this project with considerable enthusiasm, immediately announcing plans to form a committee with representatives from the provincial and federal governments, telling the Star, “We need financial help and we need it fast. Otherwise we could lose a national historical site.”
The Toronto Star‘s Diana Hall notes that the diggers of the mysterious tunnel found this January by York University have been found, and that their motives for doing so were not criminal at all.
It wasn’t Al Qaeda. It wasn’t future Pan Am Games spectators eager to get closer to the action. According to Toronto Police, the mysterious tunnel discovered in January near York University and the Rexall Centre, a site of the upcoming Pan Am Games, was simply built as a place for a couple of guys to hang out.
“There was nothing nefarious, there was nothing criminal, it was literally them doing it for a place to hang out,” Const. Victor Kwong said of the two builders who have no background in engineering.
[. . .]
Police were able to identify two men in their 20s who “built the tunnel for personal reasons” and confirmed that there was never any “criminal intent nor any threat to the people or city of Toronto,” according to a statement.
After significant media attention generated “enormous interest” in the case, police received information on Feb. 27, which led them to identifying the two men who built the tunnel.
Police aren’t releasing any more information about the builders, who are not facing any criminal charges.
I wonder if these two might later come out and identify themselves, or if they might be identified by someone else.
Torontoist’s Kaitlyn Kochany reacts to the Fabricland in Honest Ed’s, erected in the basement and set to last along with the store. It’s a nice essay about a changing neighbourhood and a homey topic.
Toronto’s newest Fabricland—and at 16,000 square feet, also its largest—is located in the basement of Honest Ed’s, at the corner of Bloor Street West and Bathurst Street. Go past the kitchen supplies and the jumble of tiny gold Buddhas, and head downstairs to where the Polish cookies used to be. Now, there are rows of buttons, neon thread, and pink urethane cushions available for sale. If you’ve been inside any other Fabricland, you know what to expect: the lighting is fluorescent, the music is canned, and the fabric is plentiful.
There are fabrics for clothings, for home decor, for handicrafts, for finishing touches. There are gossamer tulles and heavy brocades. There are fun furs and feather boas, a million different buttons, and the same depressed-looking knitting section that every Fabricland store offers. There are some surprises, like a quilting cotton printed with a map of the Canadian rail corridors and sleek examples of public transit (which gives the impression that Calgary might have a bullet train!), and a huge roll of zebra-print fleece. The salespeople are friendly. The clientele is mostly women, mostly middle-aged. There are no windows.
There’s a certain brio inherent in opening a store with a limited lifespan: this Fabricland will close at the end of next year, when Honest Ed’s vacates the corner block it has dominated for 67 years, and a new condo development moves in. We’re used to thinking of pop-up stores as being in service of the new and the hip, but this particular short-term tenant is trend-proof. The pattern books suggest items like blousy jackets that would look at home on the set of The Cosby Show, and wide-legged pants particular to the late-1990s raver style. Leafing through one of those books is like hopping into a time machine you have to assemble yourself. There are a few designer gems, like Rachel Comey and Donna Karan, but those require some serious digging to find.
If it sounds like I’m being hard on Fabricland, I’m not. Growing up with an interior-designer mother, I spent more than my fair share of time wandering among the bolts of Stratford, Ontario’s Fabricland. (Fabric stores often rival hardware stores for places that are utterly uninteresting to children.) Fabric is the raw material of creativity: a seasoned eye can look at a bolt of fabric and see a couch, a new pair of pants, or a quilt. But these stores offer no toys and no books, and there are only so many patterned flannelettes one can fondle before even the most well-behaved child will slide onto the floor and throw a temper tantrum just for something to do.
Torontoist’s Sarah Hagi reacts to Douglas Coupland, now with an exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum. Her suggestion that his best ideas are in the past strikes me as a bit unfair: might his more recent ideas still be pretty good? I have to go see the exhibit, regardless.
Coupland is best known for his iconic novels like Generation X (1991), which coined the term that defined 1990s youth culture, but before all that he started off as a formally trained visual artist and designer. Taking place at the Royal Ontario Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, the pop art–inspired whimsical exhibition everywhere is anywhere is anything is everything is where his work as a novelist and visual artist clearly intersect.
In one section we are shown his novels Girlfriend in a Coma and Generation X—only, Coupland has lovingly chewed them up into pulpy hornets’ nests. The nests were so convincingly crafted, they were hard to tell apart from the real nests he left atop the display.
Then there’s a section called “The Brain” that takes up a large chunk of the exhibition, which displays various knickknacks collected over a decade and divided into three hemispheres that hint at the brain’s bilateral symmetry. The piece itself is remarkable, made up of thousands of objects, including street signs and miniature kitchen furniture, all representing different experiences in the artist’s life—from being born on a Canadian military base in West Germany to growing up in middle-class Vancouver.
Spending a few minutes in the exhibit, you quickly realize why its title is so broad—Coupland’s work is anything and everything. It’s also for anyone, with many pieces appealing to the general audiences. This feels a bit too safe, but the exhibit’s accessibility makes sense: Coupland’s status as a national treasure is something that couldn’t have been achieved without catering to a wide audience. In a culture of hot takes and unpopular opinions, his pieces feel somewhat refreshing; Coupland isn’t trying to be the first to make a statement, but instead focuses on interpreting major 21st-century events. This message was amplified by paintings about 9/11 that were created so to only be properly seen through the lens of a smartphone camera (which didn’t exist in 2001).