Saturday, July 2, 2016

The History of King and Church in Toronto

The intersection of King and Church streets in downtown Toronto is one of our city’s most historic.

Even the names of these two thoroughfares are historic. King refers to King George III who was on the throne of England during our community’s formative years. Church recognizes the church that was constructed of wood and one in which adherents held services in 1807. Today’s magnificent Cathedral Church of St. James opened on the site in 1853 with its towering spire added 22 years later. The first set of bells was installed in 1865 with the present set of 12 change-ringing bells installed in 1997.

This intersection also has an interesting transportation heritage.

The very first city streetcar route travelled through the intersection beginning in 1861 when the horse cars of the new Toronto Street Railway (TSR) made their way between the St Lawrence Hall (its green cupola and flag can be seen in the background of both photos with this column) and the Yorkville Town Hall on the west side of Yonge St. north of Bloor St. The intersecting Church St. was the route of the first electric streetcars of the Toronto Railway Company (TRC), successors to the TSR and predecessor of today’s TTC. The terminals in 1892 were the old Union Station (foot of today’s University Ave.) and South Dr. in Rosedale travelling via Front, Church, Bloor and Sherbourne. With the introduction of the TTC’s new 514 CHERRY route (which runs from the Distillery District to the Dufferin Gate) this past June 19 the Commission’s newest streetcars are now traversing this historic intersection.

Both of the photos that accompany this column look east along King St. over Church and show horse cars on the Dovercourt and Sherbourne routes (John Bromley Collection) and one of the TTC’s newest vehicles from Bombardier, #4413 (MF photo).


The former Great Lakes passenger and freight vessel S.S. KEEWATIN turns 108 years old on Wednesday.

As part of the anniversary celebrations that day a team of specialty divers is going to inspect the hull and look for discarded artifacts on the bottom of Hogg Bay in the Port McNicoll Harbour. This Canadian Pacific luxury ship was built in 1907 at Goven, Scotland on the River Clyde and launched and named on July 6, becoming part of the fleet that ran from Port McNicoll to Fort William with passengers, cargo and grain, completing the national transportation system with a water link in the rail chain connecting the west to the rest of Canada. Keewatin was retired from service in 1965, and towed to a small town in the United States where she served as a marine museum. She was returned to Port McNicoll, just north of Barrie Ontario in 2012, and now serves as a permanent historical salute to Canada, having fulfilled the promise that encouraged Alberta and Saskatchewan to join Confederation in 1905.

A group of dedicated volunteers have restored the ship to its former glory and Keewatin is part of a number of historic attractions in “The Heart of Georgian Bay”. Wednesday, at a special anniversary party, a dive team will work from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the harbour reporting the condition of the hull and looking for items thrown overboard back when the ship docked at this port before heading out for the Lakehead. Onlookers will be treated to free hot dogs and cold drinks and the event is free at 311 Talbot Street next to the ship. All ages welcome! For information call 1-855-533-9284 or Captain Rick at 416-318-7186.
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