Sunday, April 15, 2012
New Facebook group revives old Toronto landmarks with vintage photos
Vintage Toronto, which has racked up over 13,000 likes since launching in January, showcases thousands of old photos featuring city landmarks.
Albums are arranged according to time periods and themes, such as “Lost Cinemas and Theatres” and “Yonge Street Strip.” There’s also a series of “Then and Now” albums that compare present-day scenes or buildings with those from the past.
Ironically, the group’s founder Bill Stevenson, lives in Kingston, where he runs a general merchandise store that sells vintage items. But the two decades he lived in Toronto — from 1960 to 1980 — left a lasting impression on the 54-year-old Stevenson.
Stevenson was inspired to start Vintage Toronto after discovering Vintage Los Angeles, a similar Facebook group.
“When I first started, I thought it might interest, you know, friends and a few other people,” he said. “I’m kind of surprised how popular it is, how quickly.”
Stevenson mostly scours the City of Toronto’s online archives for photos. He also scans collections from the Toronto Public Library, universities and the federal and provincial governments. Members can contribute their own vintage photos.
“It’s just like a hobby for me. I like finding these things,” he said. “It’s kinda like detective work in some ways.”
With constant updates, Stevenson says he invests a lot of time in maintaining the group, which has images from the mid-1800s to the 1990s (some illustrations go back as far as the late 1700s). Every morning, he wakes up at 5:30 a.m. to collect and post photos for several hours before heading to work at 9. He estimates that he spends two to four hours a day organizing albums.
Although the group appeals to a broad range of people, including fans from Korea, Australia and Israel, most members are current and former Torontonians who want a whiff of nostalgia, Stevenson said.
Matthew Blackett, who grew up in Willowdale, was one of the earliest members of Vintage Toronto.
“There’s a lot of people that are seeing either their childhood or where they now live or where they work in a little bit of (a different) light,” he said. “It doesn’t seem too long ago, but it’s changed.”
Blackett, who is the publisher of Spacing, a magazine about urban issues, adds that the group has images that aren’t readily available on other sites, including his favourite photo of Bathurst station in 1970.
“I use that station everyday now ‘cause that’s where my office is,” he said. “It looks kind of dreary and drab now, but at that time period, you can understand its aesthetics and its value.”