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Queen Street Shoot 2001

Early History of Queen Street West

Although initially part of the French Colony from 1615 the Toronto area came under British rule in 1760. In 1791 Britain divided the colony of Quebec into Upper and Lower Canada, and the area now known as Ontario became Upper Canada. In 1792 John Graves Simcoe was named the first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, and shortly after renamed the Toronto area York and commenced construction of a new town. One of the main east west streets of this new town, Lot Street, was renamed Queen Street. By 1812 the town had a population of 700. During the war with the United States of America (1812-1815) York was occupied by American troops in 1813 and partially destroyed. In 1814 following the withdrawal of the American forces a more formidable fort was built and some of the original buildings exist today as part of historic Fort York.

Following the war York continued to grow in size and importance as the capital of Upper Canada. Queen Street shared in this growth with many notable buildings being built including, the "old" City Hall opened in 1899 after 10 years of construction, The Law Society of Upper Canada's Osgoode Hall first built in 1829-1832, and Campbell

Fig.1 Queen St. W. Looking East
House built in 1822 for Sir William Campbell, a notable lawyer , chief justice of the province and speaker of the Legislative Council in 1825. Only in 1834, when it was incorporated as a city, did Toronto regain its original name.

Queen Street West Today

Travelling west along Queen Street West from Yonge Street, Toronto's main north/south artery which divides the city into east and west, we see Toronto's two City Halls at the junction of Bay Street. First the red sandstone 'Old City Hall', and then the present day modern City Hall with its twin towers and reflecting pool. Further west at the north-east corner of Queen and University Avenue is the imposing structure of Osgoode Hall with its manicured lawns. Across the road at 160 Queen Street West is the relocated Campbell House, now open to the public as a museum.

The other side of the street's character now appears with a steady stream of small stores, restaurants, funky cafes, pubs with outdoor patios and clubs to entertain residents and visitors alike. Further west the influence of local artists is seen with studios and galleries and works of art to make the spirits rise. The Queen Street West of today has changed with an energy that can engulf and delight.


The "Essence of Queen Street West"

During the 2000 - 2001 Club season it was proposed by Past President, Peter Neely that a group of Club members, as a Summer Outing, visit the Queen Street West area of Toronto with the intent to capture on film the "Essence of Queen Street West".

So it was that on Sunday, July 15, 2001, members of the Don Mills Camera Club converged on Queen Street West to make a contemporary photographic record. The following images are a small sampling of their work, and are a testament to the members' photographic prowess.

Here at the start of the shoot (Fig.1) looking east along Queen Street West , the copper roofs of Old City Hall make a contrast with the high rise towers of modern Toronto. The open space of City Hall's Nathan Phillips Square to the left of the picture welcomes residents and tourists alike.

The two images on the right (Fig.2 to 3) show Old City Hall reflected in City Hall's reflecting pool, and carved gargoyles above the columns of Old City Hall. The world acclaimed modern architecture of City Hall is shown in the following image (Fig 4), which is as exciting as the building itself.

Fig.2 Old City Hall Reflected

Fig.3 Gargoyles - Old City Hall

Fig.4 Bold Curves - City Hall

Toronto has an excellent public transit network which includes a subway system, streetcars and buses. Bicycles and pedestrian travel are the best way to get around if you want to experience the city close up. This group of images Fig. 5 to 9 explores these transportation modes.


Fig.5 Queen St. Streetcar

Fig. 6 Walking by the Blue Wall

Fig.7 Entrance - Osgoode Subway Station

Fig.8 Two Wheels

Fig.9 No Wheels!

However if you happen to own the bicycle with no wheels, then you will have to walk, which just happens to be the best way to enjoy the sights and sounds.

At 299 Queen Street West, Toronto's City TV have their studios in an ornately decorated old restored building, as seen in Fig. 10 below. Keep an eye open for the celebrities that come and go.

On the opposite side of the street at 240 Queen St.W is one of Toronto's oldest and best known 'watering holes', The Beverley Tavern, which has served the thirsty for many years, and now has bars on three floors including a rooftop patio.

Fig.10 City TV Studios, 299 Queen St.W
In common with other streets in Toronto, Queen Street West has become a haven for young 'street people'. It is not for us to moralize about this phenomenon, but as photographers we feel compelled to record this condition and leave it to others to debate the rights and wrongs.

In a lighter vein, Fig.12 shows a tattoo artist plying her trade on a willing customer either for pleasure or profit.

Fig.11 Youth Resting

Fig. 12 Tattoo On The Street
"Shop till you drop" works as well on Queen Street West as anywhere, but the young would-be shoppers in pink make an image (Fig. 13) of the ever present cash machines worth while.

Fig. 13 Pink On Cash

Graffiti is a fact of life throughout Toronto, including Queen Street West, and like it or not it's here to stay. The vibrant colours cannot be ignored. Four examples (Fig. 14 to 17) are shown below, including some that have a commercial bias.


Fig. 14 Graffiti Phone

Fig. 15 Say Hello

Fig.16 Graffiti Blast

Fig.17 Jules

Some of the street's store window displays (see Figs. 18 and 19 below) compete with the colours of the graffiti, and have the advantage that the harsh Ontario Winter will not diminish their brilliance.


Fig.18 Kinky Display

Fig.19 Safari Window

It had been a long morning and the photographers, dedicated though they were, had become hungry and thirsty. Lunch now became the driving force. The number and variety of taverns and restaurants was overwhelming, see Figs. 20 to 22 below. They hoped the decor of these establishments would be matched by the excellence of their fare. Do they eat in or out? Decisions, decisions.


Fig.20 Outdoor Refreshment

Fig.21 The Duke Of Richmond

Fig.22 Cadillac Lounge, 1296 Queen St.W


They did indeed eat well, and after some more images were recorded, work for the day was finished. However the sights of Queen Street West are guaranteed to lure them back again, or perhaps another of Toronto's colourful streets will be their focus. That will be another story, by another story teller.


The Photographers - Some of Them


Fig.23 Cheryl Powers

Fig.24 Pete Neely

Fig.25 Anton de Swart

Fig.26 Colin Needham

Fig.27 John Poole

Fig.28 Bel Remedios

Fig.29 Sandor Mathe
My apologies to those members who are not featured, either by work or portrait, but the large volume of images produced made inclusion of all images impossible. My sincere thanks to those members of the Don Mills Camera Club who made their images available for publication.

NOTE: The images shown here are the copyrighted property of the photographers and are not to be reproduced without their permission.

Credits and Acknowledgements

Research and Writing: Vince Sheridan
Photographs: Sheila Bayne Fig.14, Alan Flagel Fig.26, Sandor Mathe Fig.23, Grace Neely Fig.15,16,17 & 19, Pete Neely Fig.1,2,3,4,5,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,18,20,21,22,23,24 & 25, Raf Ollivierre Fig.25,27& 29, Bel Remedios Fig.6, Gordon Sheehan Fig.24,George Takahashi Fig.28

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