Saturday 25 May 2013

Doors Open - Old City Hall, Toronto, ON

The 14th annual Doors Open offers residents and visitors an opportunity to take a peek behind the doors of over 150 architecturally, historically, culturally and socially significant buildings across the city.

This year's theme is entitled "Creators, Makers and Innovators" and features many older buildings that have been redesigned, re-invented and re-purposed into modern 21st century spaces that host collaborative teams of imaginative people who are creating new ways of thinking, making and doing.

Gord and I checked out Old City Hall, which was home to city council from 1899 to 1966.

Designed by Toronto architect Edward James Lennox, the building took more than a decade to build (work on the building began in 1889) and cost more than $2.5 million.  Angry councillors, due to cost overruns and construction delays, refused E.J. Lennox a plaque proclaiming him as architect for the completed building in 1899. Not to be denied, Lennox had stonemasons "sign" his name in corbels beneath the upper floor eaves around the entire building: "EJ LENNOX ARCHITECT AD 1898".  Gord and I think this is a hoot and plan on going back to take of pictures of that.

In spite of its large size upon completion, Old City Hall proved to be inadequate for Toronto's growing municipal government within a couple of decades of completion. A new city hall and public square were completed in 1965. The original plans called for Old City Hall to be demolished and replaced by the Eaton Centre and a number of skyscrapers around a large plaza, leaving only the cenotaph (or in one plan, the clock tower) in the front. Public outcry forced authorities to abandon these plans (yay!) and the Eaton Centre was built around the Old City Hall and the Church of the Holy Trinity (which was originally planned to be demolished). Old City Hall then became a dedicated courthouse.

There are many elaborate touches inside and out ... here are just a few outside.

Just inside on the right, you are greeted by this lion.

The two-story entrance hall was once called "Toronto's grandest indoor space". The hall, originally used for public events, is lined top and bottom with scagliola (faux marble) columns with plaster capitals. The mosaic floor was patterned in Buffalo and brought to Toronto. Lennox's eye for detail even extended to the door knobs that bear the city's old Coat of Arms (there are only three left).

The entrance hall, looking east
The entrance hall, looking west
At the top of a pillar
At the top of a pillar
The volunteers were great. This guy was giving tours.
Also a big shout out to the gentleman we chatted with in the
former Council Chamber ... he was very knowledgeable.
Looking up at the ceiling

Opposite the entrance, along the north side of the entrance hall, the Grand Staircase rises to the second floor. On the landing where the stairs divide into two, a stained glass window depicts the Union of Commerce and Industry, and symbolizes the progress of Toronto. The window, manfactured by Robert McCausland Limited, is organized in three arches. The window includes 12 life-size figures, scenes of the Toronto waterfront, depictions of Toronto's second City Hall on Front Street East and Old City Hall. A marble war memorial is positioned beneath the window. The memorial was dedicated to citizens who lost their lives during the Second World War.

Looking down at the Grand Staircase
Looking down at the Grand Staircase
Looking down at the entrance hall and Grand Staircase

Heading out, you have these fellas staring at you!

You can't go in Old City Hall unless you have business to be there ... so it was great to get a chance to check it out today.

1 comment:

Margaret B said...

Awesome photos Teena! I like how you focused in on the details that sometimes we don't notice.