Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Local history in architecture; and big men to fear

Art of Bartoletti: mermaid on seahorse confronts mollusc

Dave Leblanc, who writes the Globe and Mail's "Architourist" column, has an entertaining piece on strange statues that decorated the forefront of some apartment buildings in an otherwise not very artsy corner of Toronto  -- the work of a little-known sculptor named Alfi Bartoletti.  

What I really liked is the abundant credit Leblanc gives to the Etobicoke Historical Society and its volunteer members Neil Park and Denise Harris, who guided and informed his search for the sculptures and the sculptor. Leblanc concludes the account of his visit: 

And, as I open my car door to leave, I remind myself that local historical societies do amazing work, and they are deserving of our support.

Well said, Architourist. Put "historical society" in the search box at top left of this blog and you can see a few occasions when I have had similar thoughts. Nice to see the idea making its way in the national media. 

Speaking of the Globe, I've been reading Big Men Fear Me, Mark Bourrie's biography of George McCullagh, who in the 1930s bought up the papers that would become The Globe and Mail.  I had not realized how bizarre the paper's origins are. McCullagh was an unstable high-school dropout who made a fortune in a very brief career as an investment broker. (Where are the customers' yachts? as they say.)  In his short career as proprietor of the newspaper, McCullagh made it the vehicle for a lot of crazy causes and ideas. 

Imagine today, if some rich crank took over an important social media news site! Somehow the Globe survived to become the respectably gray thing we know today. 

The author of Big Men Fear Me at times seems to share his subject's odd views about "the Left" ("It's likely she wasn't a Communist, but she did like some of their ideas, like old age pensions and unemployment insurance."), but he provides a lively read on a subject worth attention.  McCullagh was new to me -- though I can see good reasons why he fell into the obscurity Bourrie laments.

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