Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Junction of past and future

Been meaning to note a local-historical achievement. I went out on Monday night, a coolish spring evening in Toronto, to join the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the city of West Toronto Junction. Considering that West Toronto Junction amalgamated with the city of Toronto barely a year later, it does not sound of earthshaking experience.

But the Junction neighbourhood has been kinda rundown and depressing for quite a while and is now achieving a startling renaissance. That's partly because nowhere in Toronto remains available to poor people, and even marginal neighbourhoods are upscaling fast. But it is also because local heritage activists, local artists, and local businesses around the Junction have been very clever and creative in promoting sensible preservation, adaptation, and development in the nabe. Community-building remains crucial to that project, and the commemoration delivered.

Monday night's event was simple enough: a brief announcement, a walking tour, wrap-up at a local pub with video greetings from Mayor David Miller. But lo and behold: at least a hundred people took the time and trouble to join in.

And the event delivered for them, I'd say. Tour leaders, including local councillor Bill Saundercook, were stylishly dressed in formal wear of the period (reminding us that the age of elegance is dead, alas). The tours were suitably brief, skillfully scripted, surprisingly informative, and damned good entertainment. Everyone who went along went away thinking, this neighbourhood came from somewhere and it's going somewhere, and that's good.

Kudos to Gib Goodfellow of the West Toronto Junction Historical Society and to Neil Ross, who engineered most of the events. They provided a model of the unique service a historical society can offer to its community. Civil society at its best.

Info on Junction history at
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