180 PORTRAITS OF THE PEOPLE WHO HELPED SHAPE THE CITY FROM MARCH 6,1834 TO THE PRESENT
OF PEOPLE WHO HELPED MAKE OUR CITY GREAT, FROM MARCH 6, 1834 TO TODAY. DID YOU MAKE THE CUT?
Bishop John Strachan
Strachan was an influential figure long before he became Toronto’s first Anglican bishop in 1839. As a tutor, he educated key members of the Family Compact, the powerful clique that controlled political, economic and judicial power in Upper Canada throughout the first half of the 19th century. Strachan is remembered for his sympathy toward the First Nations community and his fierce antiAmericanism. He founded Trinity College in 1851, which became part of the University of Toronto in 1904.
William Lyon Mackenzie
Toronto’s first mayor was elected in 1834 and from the beginning was a resolute advocate for reform, which meant frequently crossing swords with the Family Compact. His dissatisfaction with the slow pace of progress led him in 1837 to organize the Upper Canada Rebellion, a short-lived uprising that forced him into exile in the U.S. for 12 years. The compelling orator and newspaper publisher was a controversial figure throughout his life and is remembered as a champion of open government and an opponent of nepotism and corruption.
A year after his arrival in 1843, Brown founded the Toronto Globe (which later joined with others to become the Globe and Mail). He used the paper to attack slavery in the U.S. and, as a member of the Reform movement, was an advocate for responsible government in Canada. Brown attended the two conferences in Charlottetown and Quebec that led to Confederation in 1867. He died in 1880 from an infected leg wound after being shot by a former employee. His name lives on in Toronto’s George Brown College, founded in 1967.
George William Allan
Toronto’s 11th mayor, elected in 1855, played an important role in the cultural life of the city as president of the Historical Society, the Ontario Society of Artists, the Toronto Conservatory of Music and the Toronto Horticultural Society. Allan was also a friend and patron of artist Paul Kane. In 1857, Allan donated a parcel of land for the creation of Allan Gardens, with its distinctive conservatory, one of the city’s oldest parks. It was opened on Sept. 11, 1860, by the future Edward VII.
Toronto’s first Jewish mayor served from 1955 to 1962 after a lengthy career in politics that began with his election as alderman in 1926. He was known as “mayor of all the people” and his tenure represented a dramatic break: all previous mayors had been Protestant and, since the beginning of the century, members of the Orange Order. Phillips championed the construction of New City Hall to replace the old one across the street at Queen and Bay, which was completed in 1899. The public square facing the building is named in his honour.
Toronto’s 56th mayor led the civic-reform movement between 1972 to 1978, ending an era of rampant pro-development policies at city hall by preserving public housing and focusing on creating livable communities such as the St. Lawrence neighbourhood. After leaving city politics, the “tiny perfect mayor” has offered his expertise on the future of Toronto’s waterfront, as chair of Ontario Place and as CEO of the Canadian Urban Institute, the national think tank.
William Peyton Hubbard
When Hubbard was elected alderman in 1894, he became the first politician of African descent to hold elected office in a Canadian city. Remarkably for the times, he was elected in one of the city’s most affluent and Anglo-Saxon wards and served as deputy mayor. During more than a decade in office, Hubbard — known for his wit and oratory — was a strong proponent of public ownership of Toronto’s water and hydroelectric system.
Gardiner, who had been reeve of Forest Hill, was appointed by the province in 1953 as the first chairman of Metro Toronto, an amalgamation of Toronto and 12 smaller municipalities. Known as Big Daddy, he was a tough pragmatist who during his eight-year tenure oversaw the creation of the Toronto Transit Commission and the opening of the Yonge subway line (in 1954); the amalgamation of police forces (in 1957); and planning for an expanded network of arterial roads and expressways, including the Gardiner Expressway.
Few people have had as many roles. In 1973 — after nine years as North York alderman — he served in the powerful role of Metro chairman. He left politics in 1984 to become publisher of the Toronto Sun — rising to the position of CEO of Sun Media — and a board member of the Stadium Corp. of Ontario, which selected the site and design for the SkyDome (now the Rogers Centre), which opened in 1989. In 2000, Godfrey became president and CEO of the Toronto Blue Jays, a position he held for eight years, during which the Jays’ parent company, Rogers Communications, purchased the stadium for $25 million, a fraction of its estimated $570million construction cost. He is currently president of Postmedia Network and served four years as chair of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. until his ouster last year.
In an era when municipal politicians were elected to one-year terms, Church set a record: he was elected mayor for seven consecutive terms from 1915 to 1921 (despite opposition from the Toronto Star and a young writer named Ernest Hemingway). He was also the last mayor in the city’s history to read the Riot Act, in 1918, to demonstrators who were targeting immigrant businesses. Later a longserving MP, Church’s death in 1950 led to what was then the largest public funeral in Toronto’s history.
Even before he was mayor, Lamport played an important role in loosening up Toronto the Good, successfully lobbying the province to allow the city to open cocktail bars in 1947. In 1950, as a city controller, he led a campaign to allow sports to be played on Sunday (at a time when even swings were padlocked on the Lord’s Day). He was first elected mayor in 1951 but resigned in 1954 to serve briefly as vice-chair and then chair of the Toronto Transit Commission, which in 1959 approved the construction of the BloorDanforth subway line. Lamport was also known for his colourful mangled aphorisms, including: “It’s like pushing a car up a hill with a rope” and “It’s hard to make predictions — especially about the future.”
Following his election as city councillor in 1982, Layton led the city’s response to the AIDS crisis as chair of its board of health. During his long career in municipal politics, the left-wing politician and social activist championed initiatives related to the environment, homelessness and affordable housing. As councillor, president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and later as federal NDP leader, Layton continued to advocate for new sources of long-term funding for Toronto and all municipalities from senior levels of government.
James “Jimmie” Simpson
The city’s first “socialist” mayor came to Canada from England at 14 and was among 27 printers who in 1892 went on strike and formed The Evening Star, which in 1899 was taken over by Toronto Star founder Joseph Atkinson (Simpson would later work for him as a city hall reporter). Simpson was first elected as a city controller (senior alderman) in 1914, returning to office from 1930 to 1934, where he advocated for a minimum wage for municipal workers. In 1935, he was elected the first and only mayor under the banner of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, the forerunner of the NDP.
The former appliance salesman was often the Bad Boy of city politics during a 35-year career as the first and only mayor of the City of North York (which was elevated from borough status in 1979), and, in 1997, when he became Toronto’s first megacity mayor, serving two three-year terms during the difficult early post-amalgamation years. He was derided for calling in the Canadian military to help with snow-clearing in 1999 and jeopardized Toronto’s Olympic bid with intemperate comments about Africans. He also endured personal crises when his wife, Marilyn, was arrested for shoplifting, and when it came to light that he had had a longterm mistress who bore him two sons.
Toronto’s second post-amalgamation mayor — a former NDP member who brought decorum and diplomacy to the office — was a soothing contrast to the first mayor and the city’s current one. As a regular user of the TTC, he wrested new sources of funding from Queen’s Park, including a vehicle registration tax (since revoked under Mayor Rob Ford) and a land transfer tax.
Donald Willard Moore
Moore arrived from Barbados and became a lifelong activist fighting against repressive federal laws that restricted immigration for nonwhite people from the West Indies and other Commonwealth countries. His first black delegation to Ottawa in 1957 succeeded in opening the doors for nurses and domestic workers to enter Canada and to receive permanent resident status. Moore was also involved in founding a community centre for new immigrants near College St. and Augusta Ave. as well as the Toronto Negro Citizenship Association.
Callwood grew up in small-town Ontario and came to Toronto in 1942 to work as a reporter for the Globe and Mail. Over more than six decades, she was a passionate crusader on various social-justice causes, including those involving women and children and freedom of expression. Over her career she helped found more than 50 organizations, including PEN Canada, which advocates for persecuted writers around the world. She founded Jessie’s to provide services for pregnant teens and young families in 1982 and Casey House for people with AIDS in 1988.
When five Italian immigrants were killed in an underground tunnel in 1960 — an event known as the Hogg’s Hollow Disaster — Stefanini, who would later serve as business manager of Local 183 of the Labourers International Union of North America, led the effort among union leaders to mobilize the community to improve working conditions, resulting in a provincial Royal Commission that led to the first major update of safety standards and labour regulations in decades.
The English-born activist is cofounder of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty and has been a strident and articulate voice on behalf of the poor and marginalized for almost 35 years. Through public demonstrations and advocacy, the coalition has opposed government tight-fistedness and social-service cutbacks, drawing attention to the need for affordable housing and support for individuals who have been denied government benefits to which they are entitled.
The conservationist fell in love with Don Valley in his youth and devoted much of his life to preserving our natural heritage. He founded the Don Valley Conservation Association in 1946 and in 1957 joined the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, which acquired much of the valley and ravine lands over the next two decades. Sauriol wrote four books on the history of the Don River and led efforts to create other conservation areas in Toronto, including Black Creek Pioneer Village and Todmorden Mills.
Armstrong arrived from Jamaica in 1947 and embarked on a lifetime of advocacy on behalf of immigrants and people of colour. A labour activist and civil-rights leader, he founded a number of organizations during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, including the Toronto Black Business and Professional Association, the Urban Alliance on Race Relations and the Canadian Ethnocultural Council. He also founded the Caribbean Soccer Club and served as vicepresident of the Toronto United Negro Credit Union from 1950 to 1954.
Otto is among the city’s most ardent champions for the preservation of its historical heritage. Over more than 40 years, he and a network of friends and allies have struggled valiantly to protect and refurbish heritage properties. Otto’s most notable achievement: the reclamation of lands around historic Fort York. He is the founder of Friends of Fort York and with his volunteer group is the chief steward of the military fortification and garrison that predates Toronto. Otto donated $250,000 to the fort in 2009.
The Bay Street investment banker was the co-founder, in 1993, of Project Warmth, which provides sleeping bags for homeless people. Since then, he has co-founded the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee which, until it ceased operation in 2012, worked to get the federal government of the day to declare homelessness a “national disaster.” He has been chair of SKETCH, an arts space for street youth. A past-president of the Rotary Club, Andras has also worked on issues related to poverty, aboriginal issues, community housing and youth employment.
With the publication of The Life and Death of Great American Cities in 1961, Jacobs become the best known “urban guru” of her time. Seven years later, she left New York to bring her intelligence and activism to Toronto, and over the decades that followed inspired generations of citizens, civic leaders and urban planners to make her adopted city work better. Jacobs was a leading figure in opposing the Spadina Expressway, which was abandoned by the provincial government in 1971. Her support was also important in the creation of the St. Lawrence neighbourhood.
With degrees in modern history from Oxford and Harvard, the Toronto native spent much of his life researching and celebrating the city’s past. Kilbourn, who sat on city council from 1970 to 1976, also served on the board of the Art Gallery of Ontario, Young People’s Theatre and the Toronto Historical Board. He wrote several books, including Toronto Remembered: A Celebration of the City and The Firebrand: William Lyon Mackenzie and the 1837 Rebellion. The William Kilbourn Memorial Lecture is sponsored by Heritage Toronto in his memory.
For more than 30 years, the Australian-born Myers has fought to preserve Toronto’s history. He is cofounder of Citizens for the Old Town, a group that works to preserve the original 10-block area of the pre-Toronto Town of York. Myers spent more than 15 years drawing attention to the site of the province’s first parliament buildings at Front St. E. and Berkeley St. that were burned by the Americans during the War of 1812. This led to the excavation of the area for historical remains and the site’s designation under the Ontario Heritage Act. He has also renovated four heritage properties in Cabbagetown.
One of the Don Jail’s first female correctional workers, Lankin has since been a union activist with a focus on women’s issues, including pay equity and maternity leave; a co-founder of the Ontario Coalition for Better Childcare; a Toronto MPP and provincial cabinet minister; and served from 2001to 2011 as CEO and president of the United Way of Greater Toronto, mobilizing the agency to identify the underlying causes of social problems. Lankin currently serves on a panel that oversees the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and was recently appointed chair of the Ontario Press Council.
Stanley G. Grizzle
Born in Toronto to Jamaican immigrants, Grizzle worked as a railway porter. After returning from service in the Second World War, he became a labour activist with the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, which battled with Canadian National Railway to open management ranks to black employees. During the 1950s, he became a leader in Canada’s fledgling civil-rights movement. Grizzle was appointed the country’s first black citizenship judge by prime minister Pierre Trudeau in 1978.
Described by the Star in his obituary as the “unofficial mayor of the Toronto gay community,” Hislop was an indomitable advocate at a time when hatred and discrimination were socially acceptable. In 1971, he co-founded the Community Homophile Association of Toronto and organized the first gay-rights march on Parliament Hill. He was defeated in his sole run for city councillor in 1980, in large part due to the virulent opposition of the Toronto Police Association and the Toronto Sun. In 2003, he was among a group of seven activists who sued the federal government for CPP benefits for same-sex partners of deceased pensioners.
A long-time Scarborough resident with a degree in political science from the University of Toronto, Ontario’s Lieutenant-Governor is also a vocal and visible advocate for people with disabilities. During his 23 years at Citytv covering science, technology, education and weather and as anchor, Onley insisted the camera not shy away from the fact he used a mobility device. He has used his role as viceregal to remove barriers to the province’s 1.5 million people with disabilities.
Since being called to the Ontario bar in 1991, Go has used her legal skills to assist low-income immigrants to navigate the justice system, serving as director of the Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic since 1992. As head of the Toronto chapter of the Chinese Canadian National Council, she played a role in efforts to redress the injustice of the Chinese head tax levied from 1885 to 1923 and the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1923 that made immigration virtually impossible. Go acted as co-counsel in a suit that led the federal government to apologize and offer compensation to head-tax survivors or their spouses in 2006.
“The Town itself is full of life, motion, business and improvement. The streets are well-paved and lighted with gas. The houses are large and good; the shops excellent.”
A graduate of the University of Toronto law school, Roach represented foreign domestic workers facing deportation in the 1970s. In 1988, he was a founding member of the Black Action Defence Committee, a vocal opponent of police violence. He was also a founding member of Caribana, later renamed the Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Carnival.
The Hong Kong-born Ng arrived in 1975 and worked for two years as a community worker at University Settlement House, one of Toronto’s oldest social-service agencies. Her mother’s job as a sewing-machine operator led her to the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, where she worked to improve working conditions and end the exploitation of women from many cultural backgrounds. Since then, she has championed the cause of immigrant workers — male and female — through such organizations as the Asian Canadian Labour Alliance and the Canadian Labour Congress.
At 12, Kielburger and his older brother, Marc, founded the Toronto-based organization Free the Children, dedicated to children’s rights and ending child labour in developing countries. Since its inception in 1995, it has mobilized young people to build 650 schools in 45 nations. The Kielburger brothers have also founded Me to We, which sells socially conscious products and services that raise money so that volunteers can travel to Kenya, India and China.
Historical sources offer no explanation of how Bloore, an Englishman who immigrated to Canada in 1819, lost the “e” in his last name to become simply Joseph Bloor. From 1824 to 1831, he made a good living as the innkeeper of the Farmer’s Arms on King St. After he and his partner, William Jarvis, purchased four tracts of land in the vicinity of Yonge St. and Bloor St., he built a brewery in Rosedale Valley and founded the Village of Yorkville in 1830, using the lure of “clean suburban air outside the city” to establish what is considered to be Toronto’s first residential suburb. Bloor St. was originally called the Second Concession, then later Tollgate Road, before being renamed in Bloor’s honour in 1855. After a petition by its residents, the Village of Yorkville was annexed by Toronto in 1883.
Berczy had an unusual hybrid career as both postmaster and spymaster. Appointed postmaster surveyor (inspector) in 1835, he became postmaster three years later. After the Upper Canada Rebellion, he served as an adviser to Lt.Gov. Sir Francis Bond Head, charged with monitoring the activities of his fellow postmasters. Over the course of his career, Berczy was the first president of the Consumers’ Gas Co. of Toronto, president of the Toronto Building Society as well as founder of the Toronto, Simcoe and Lake Huron Union Rail-Road Co.
John George Howard
The city’s first professional architect was also its first chief surveyor, mapping out land for development, including the Esplanade on the city’s waterfront and Toronto Harbour. Howard’s greatest gift to the city was deeding 120 acres in 1873 for the creation of High Park in exchange for an annual pension. He bequeathed the city an additional 45 acres, including Colborne Lodge.
The son of Daniel Massey, the founder of a farm-equipment empire, Hart Massey moved the company to Toronto in 1855 under the name Massey Manufacturing Co. It would later become the company we know as Massey-Ferguson. A philanthropist who contributed to causes in Toronto and elsewhere, Massey financed the construction of the city’s landmark concert venue, Massey Hall, completed in 1894, and later set up the Massey Foundation, which built the University of Toronto’s student centre, Hart House.
An avid gardener, Leslie founded Toronto Nurseries in 1845. By the 1870s, it was said to be the largest greenhouse enterprise in Canada. In addition to selling flowers and shrubs, Leslie’s trees adorned Allan Garden, the Mount Pleasant Cemetery and city streets. The community of Leslieville, then located just outside Toronto city limits, is named in his honour.
Edgar John Jarvis
Jarvis was 19 when he drew up plans to develop Rosedale, so named because his uncle, William Botsford Jarvis — the sheriff who put down the 1837 Upper Canada Rebellion led by William Lyon Mackenzie — had a property there known as Rosedale Villa. Jarvis envisioned a suburb for Toronto’s wealthiest families, which it remains to this day. To that end, he built two bridges across the south Rosedale ravine to attract buyers. Over the course of his life, he built three homes in Rosedale, including Glenhurst, which remains on the site of Branksome Hall, the girls’ school.
“Personally I always think of Toronto as a big fat rich girl who has lots of money but no idea of how to make herself attractive.” ROBERTSON DAVIES THE TABLE TALK OF SAMUEL MARCHBANKS, 1949
The exiled Polish army officer, who in civilian life had been a civil engineer and businessman, played several roles in Toronto following his arrival in 1845. First, he oversaw improvements to Yonge St. up to Lake Simcoe. In 1852, a consortium led by Gzowski built the Toronto and Guelph Railway. His bestknown contribution was in 1860 when the Toronto Turf Club, under his leadership, inaugurated the Queen’s Plate, today Canada’s oldest thoroughbred horse race and the oldest continuously run horse race in North America.
The “dean” of Canadian architects, the Scarborough native was a practitioner of the Beaux-Arts style. He left behind many of the city’s bestknown buildings, including Convocation Hall, which he co-designed, the former Bank of Montreal building at the northwest corner of Yonge and Front Sts., now home to the Hockey Hall of Fame, and the Toronto Club on Wellington St. W., which houses the city’s oldest private club.
Henry Bowyer Lane
As a Toronto architect from 1841 to 1847, Lane designed the first purpose-built Toronto city hall on the south side of Front St. near Jarvis St. He also designed additions to Osgoode Hall and several churches, including Trinity, St. George the Martyr and Holy Trinity, and the Enoch Turner School.
The architect’s mark on Toronto was brief but enduring: the neoclassical Massey Hall, which opened in 1894. Built by millionaire businessman Hart Massey — a member of one of the city’s most prominent families — it cost $150,390.75. The luminaries who have graced its stage over the generations include Enrico Caruso, Winston Churchill, the Dalai Lama, Gordon Lightfoot and Luciano Pavarotti.
Frederic William (F.W.) Cumberland
A true multi-tasker, Cumberland’s first contribution to the city upon his arrival in 1847 from London, England, was as a surveyor, laying out the intersection of Yonge and Bloor Sts. As an architect, he designed and built the Gothic Revival St. James Cathedral at King and Church Sts. from 1850 to 1853. Other Cumberland projects include University College at the U of T, the centre portion of Osgoode Hall, and Mechanics’ Institute Building, which later became the site of the first branch of the public library. He was also first president of the Ontario Jockey Club.
E.J. (Edward James) Lennox
A Cabbagetown native, Lennox at 29 won an international competition to design what is now called Old City Hall at Bay and Queen Sts. It was erected between 1891 to 1899. When city councillors refused to erect a plaque in his honour in the foyer, he had his name carved on all four sides beneath the eaves of the 300-foot bell tower. Lennox also designed the King Edward Hotel, St. Paul’s Church and Casa Loma.
Onlookers admire a Rotary Club ice dance revue in front of old city hall, 1963.
King St. looking east from Yonge St. 1912.