Blog: “For Best Service”: John Lissee’s Appliances on Ossington

Once the dispensary was removed, the sign for John Lissee’s appliance shop was revealed. Image: C.Ryan, September 2018.

Kathleen and I recently took a quick vacation to Toronto (as well as Hamilton and locations across Manitoulin Island) and while walking around, noticed this well-preserved and recently-revealed sign on one of the empty commercial properties along Ossington Avenue. 

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Bill Cadzow Views St. James Town

Shooting for his employer, the CMHC, Bill Cadzow captures a view of Toronto’s St. James Town from a building on Wellesley in July 1971. Image: CMHC 1971-528.

This shot of Toronto’s St. James Town, taken by the CMHC’s Bill Cadzow in July 1971, remains one of my favourites in what I’ve seen of the CMHC’s historic photo collection. I just wish they would digitize more of them after having done so many a few years back. A boy can dream.

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Queen East at Woodbine

Pushing it back another 23 years: Woodbine Avenue, looking north from Queen East (1955). Image: City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 220, Series 65, File 123, Item 4.

At the beginning of the year, I ran a then and now of Queen East and Woodbine from 1972 to the (near) present. While browsing the City of Toronto Archives’ database, I landed on this one of the same view from 1955/56.

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Thorncrest Shopping Centre, 1955

Thorncrest Shopping Centre (Plaza) from above in 1957, shortly after completion. Image: City of Toronto Archives, Series 12, Item 100.

It all depends on how you slice and dice it, though it would not be unfair to at least entertain Thorncrest Village’s claim to be Canada’s first planned community. At least not Canada’s first post World War II planned community. To be certain, comprehensive community plans existed previous to the war and, honestly, claims to “first” tend to obscure the realities of invention and innovation. We all stand on the shoulders of giants, after all.

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Skyline Hotel, Etobicoke, c. 1962

The Skyline Hotel, c. 1962. Image: City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1464 File 24 Item 5.

Midcentury hotels are one of the first things that got me into urban history. There is just something about their design and the role that they tended to play that proves endlessly interesting. Although hardly competition for the Constellation Hotel down the road (now demolished), the Skyline recently caught my eye.

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An Eastward View of the Wood-Wellesley Improvement Area, 1969

An unidentified CMHC photographer captures the view from an upper balcony (or perhaps the roof) of the Westbury Hotel in Toronto on June 19, 1969. Image: CMHC, 1969-544.

Of the things I’ve hoped to see more often appear on the CMHC’s FTP site since it began being indexed by Google a few years back, I must say that it is photographs that I’ve wanted to see more of. Although I love the slow (but consistent) digitization of print materials, there is something to be said for high-quality scans of colour slides from the Corporation’s archives that really make so much come alive. A small handful of images from Toronto taken in 1969 and 1971 has always been interesting to me.

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Trillium Terrace, Etobicoke, c. 1956 & 2015

In 1955/56 the Etobicoke Council documented the location for the then-controversial sewage treatment plant along the Humber River. When looking through issues of the Etobicoke Guardian from the era, it was clear that, as a political topic, the plant soaked up much of the local government’s time.

Spremo does Casa Loma, 1970

Looking northward in 1970. Image: Boris Spremo / Toronto Star / Toronto Public Library, Baldwin Collection, Item TSPA 0109754f.

I don’t have anything much to say about it other than I’ve been reminiscing lately about my visit to Casa Loma in the early 1990s. This is one of my favourite Boris Spremo shots (amazing how they tend to involve St. Clair in some way) and one that I would take myself today, given half the chance.

Sherbourne and Bloor E, 1982 and 2016

“For an active Canada.” 1982. Image: David Cooper / Toronto Star / Toronto Public Library, Baldwin Collection, Item TSPA 0003817f.

It was made effective April 1, 1982. The federal government designated Metropolitan Toronto as a bilingual service area. With a bit less than two years beyond it and the 1980 Quebec referendum, the government’s decision to take out some of the billboards en français seulment – in Toronto of all places – was seen by some as a political move. While it was to some degree, it was also a move that also recognized the presence of a Francophone community in the Toronto area.

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