Doors Open Toronto – Part 2

The theme for my second part on Doors Open Toronto is the judicial system. I visited two buildings along Queen Street West that accommodate the courts and other aspects of the legal system.

Osgoode Hall is one of the oldest buildings in Toronto. It houses the Court of Appeal for Ontario, the Superior Court of Justice and the Law Society of Upper Canada. The facade has a lot of neo-classical elements that convey an “orderly” message – hence my photo title Law and Order.

Lawyers and paralegals in Ontario are self-governed, and the Law Society of Upper Canada, originally established in 1797, is responsible for this role. The Law Society is governed by a board of directors, who are referred to as “benchers.” The present Benchers’ Quarters are located in the original east wing of Osgoode Hall, which was opened in 1832. Several steps lead up to the Benchers’ Entrance which is sheltered under a portico. Parts of the steps and surrounding stone work were recently repaired or replaced.

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Law and Order
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benchers entrance

Old City Hall was opened in 1899 as the third city hall for the growing City of Toronto. It originally accommodated both city hall and court facilities, but it now operates solely as a courthouse.

There is a great amount of detail in the stone carvings that surround the building. Some of the faces that appear around the front entrance are said to resemble some of the city councillors from the time of construction. If you look carefully, you can read the “Municipal Buildings” carved into the frieze above the front entry.

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Old City Hall front entrance
old city hall closed doors cw
side door
old city hall west doors cw
west wing doors


Doors Open Toronto – Part 1

After a hiatus of several weeks, I am back to blogging on doors. My previous posts on doors have used images taken from my travels in other countries. This time, I thought it would be a good idea to keep closer to home in Toronto. I have only lived in Toronto for the past three years, so there is still much for me to discover in this city.

A perfect opportunity presented itself with the 18th annual Doors Open Toronto event, hosted by the City of Toronto. In celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday this year, there were 150 buildings open for public viewing across the City on the May 27-28 weekend.

The curatorial theme – Fifteen Decades of Canadian Architecture – was intended to highlight the evolution of Canadian architecture. I used this opportunity to focus on several of the older buildings in downtown Toronto, and discover some of their features.

In keeping with Norm’s Thursday Doors blog theme, I have focused on the doors at some places of worship in Part 1.

St. George’s Greek Orthodox Church was built in the 1890’s and was originally named Holy Blossom Temple. It served as a synagogue for the first 40 years, before it was acquired by the Parish of St. George. The church is a good example of Byzantine religious architecture.

The tympanum (the decorative half-circle space over the entrance) originally had Hebraic lettering. A mosaic of St. George and the dragon was incorporated after the building became a Greek Orthodox church.

There are many variations on the myth of St. George. Many of these myths – involving St. George and the slaying of a dragon – evolved in medieval times. St. George, with the white shield and the red cross, representing good, and the dragon representing evil. Earlier stories of St. George still had something to do with Christianity, but nothing to do with dragons.

The church doors were open for viewing of the interior, but interior photos were not permitted; however, they did have a book of photos available for sale.

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St. George’s Greek Orthodox Church

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Doors open at St. George’s Greek Orthodox Church

St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica was built in the 1840’s and preceded Canada’s confederation. During this decade, there was an influx of Irish emigrants to Toronto, escaping the Great Famine, and contributing to a doubling of the number of Catholics in the Diocese of Toronto. The church was designed in the gothic style and was just recently refurbished. The Archdiocese of Toronto is celebrating its 175th anniversary this year.

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St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica

St. Michael’s Choir School originally opened in a single room in the diocesan office building next to the basilica in 1937. It reopened in a new location across the street in 1950. Although it is a newer building, the front door reflects some of the gothic elements of the past.

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St. Michael’s Choir School

The Cathedral Church of St. James was opened a few years later in 1853, and it is also an example of Gothic Revival architecture. The main entrance is quite impressive, while the side door is  still quite an elaborate mini-version of the front entry.

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Doors open at the Cathedral Church of St. James
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Side entry to the Cathedral Church of St. James

The Church of the Holy Trinity is tucked away on one side of the Eaton Centre, which was forced to be built around the existing church. The church was opened in 1847 and was dedicated to the Holy Trinity. The Holy Trinity was associated with the “Catholic Revival” in the Church of England, which implied a return to Medieval art and a renewed sense of social responsibility.

The church congregation has been a lead in fostering social diversity in Toronto, and is considered to be a home for the LGBTQ community.

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The Church of the Holy Trinity

First Evangelical Lutheran Church was not on the Doors Open Toronto list of buildings, so the doors were not open. I wonder what is behind the green doors?

“There’s an old piano
And they play it hot behind the green door
Don’t know what they’re doing
But they laugh a lot behind the green door
Wish they’d let me in so I could find out
What’s behind the green door”

Lyrics from The Green Door, Jim Lowe, 1956

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First Evangelical Lutheran Church


Cimetière du Père-Lachaise – Part 2

It has been several months since I posted my Part 1 blog on la Cimetière du Père-Lachaise. For much of this time, I wasn’t certain that I would ever follow up with my planned sequel to Part 1.

This Parisian cemetery opened in 1804. It contains about 70,000 graves, including many famous artists, musicians, writers, politicians, etc. from the past 200 years. It has traditionally been of particular importance to the political left in France. However, at the back of the cemetery, up the hill and about as far away from the main gate as you can get, there are several commemorative monuments. These memorials commemorate several 20th Century wars, and some of the atrocities associated with these wars.

When I saw these monuments, I couldn’t help but wonder – how did these get here, and who was responsible for their installation?

I was especially struck by the monuments constructed in memory of the occupants of Nazi concentration camps, three of which which I photographed.

In order to learn more about the history of the war memorials at Père-Lachaise, I found a blog created by Jennifer Boyer-Switala. Some of her research is incorporated into the following descriptions.


Ravensbrück was a concentration camp located in northern Germany and built specifically to accommodate women. It was opened in 1939 and liberated in 1945 by the Russian army. Polish women were the largest population of the camp, but there were many other nationalities represented among about 130,000 female prisoners who were deported to the camp during these seven years.

Ravensbruck memorial

The “Monument to the Memory of the Deportees of Ravensbrück Camp” was sculpted by Émile Morlaix in 1955. It was commissioned at a time when President Charles de Gaulle was trying to bolster French national patriotism by celebrating the role of the French Résistance during World War II. Many captured female Résistance fighters were imprisoned and died at Ravensbrück, which is likely the primary reason why this memorial was created.


Dachau was the first concentration camp built in Germany by the National Socialists Party in 1933. The camp initially imprisoned German citizens opposed to the Nazi regime. Later on, résistants and victims of Nazi oppression were deported there, having been arrested in countries occupied or annexed by Germany. More than 200,000 inmates were imprisoned there over its 12 years of existence, prior to its liberation by US troops in April 1945.

Dachau memorial

The”Monument to the Memory of the Deportees of Dachau Camp” was designed by architects Louis Docoet and François Spy and installed in 1985. It is constructed of granite and is surmounted by a large red granite stone. The red triangle was used to identify the category of political prisoners in the camp system. This differs from many of the other monuments in its simplicity – a stark antithesis to the atrocities and inhumane treatment forced upon its prisoners.

The Dachau monument was conceived during the presidency of Francois Mitterand. In the 1980’s, France was obsessed by its memory of the occupied years during WW II, and there were prominent trials of several French citizens who had collaborated with the Germans during the war. More than 12,000 French citizens had been arrested and sent to Dachau.

Auschwitz III

The camp at Buna-Monowitz (also known as Auschwitz III) was constructed by the Germans in proximity to the larger Auschwitz extermination camps. Auschwitz III was used to house a labour force to work at the nearby J.G. Farben Company factory, where synthetic rubber and synthetic petrol were produced.

Auschwitz memorial

The”Monument to the Memory of the Deportees of Buna-Monowitz-Auschwitz III” was commissioned by the organization of survivors from the Auschwitz III camp, under the sponsorship of the French government. It is a bronze sculpture, depicting six skeletal men – one in a wheelbarrow – trudging towards their execution at the Auschwitz gas chambers. It is one of the most graphic memorials in the cemetery.

The memorial was sculpted in 1993 by a famous French cartoonist Louis Mitelberg (aka TIM). Mitelberg’s life experience (1919-2002) mirrored many of the prisoners’ lives. He was born in Poland, and moved to Paris in 1938 to study architecture at L’Ecole des Beaux Arts. After the war broke out in 1939, he joined the French army; was taken prisoner and placed in a camp in Germany; and later escaped, ending up in Edinburgh, Scotland. He then joined the French Free Forces and fought for the liberation of France. Following the war, Mitelberg became a cartoonist and a sculptor.

Louis Mitelberg was also Jewish. The Auschwitz III monument was the first original memorial at Père-Lachaise to specifically mention Jewish victims. Writing of the significance of this sculpture, Mitelberg wrote “For me, this work…represents the life of those who died, those who accompany us in our search for dignity.”

A visit to Fort George

Over 200 years ago, there was a war between England and the United States in British North America – later to become Canada. The Niagara peninsula was one of the regional battlegrounds of the War of 1812, and Fort George was occupied by the Americans for several months in 1813.

Fort George is now a National Historic Site that is managed by Parks Canada. The site is open to visitors daily, and there is an active interpretive program. The 41st Regiment Fife and Drum Corps parades around the grounds of the fort, and participates in various ceremonies, such as the morning flag raising ceremony. The regiment recruits young band members who learn how to play and perform military music during the summer months.

The following are a few images taken during a visit earlier this year, with some “vintage” treatments.

young cadets on parade
flag raising prelude
flag raising ceremony
officers’ mess composite

Let’s all go to the ball game

It’s September, and the major league baseball pennant race is in full throttle. Our local MLB team had a successful year in 2015, and they are looking for a repeat performance in 2016. Success seems harder to grasp this year, with the runs harder to get, and stronger teams within the division.

We went to four baseball games this summer, and got into the pre-game routine. Here are a few images from our most recent visit to the ballpark. These were all taken with my iPhone 6 with some post-processing in Lightroom and Photoshop.

Great expectations
The shirt guy
The angels
The pirate
The twins
Tonight’s lineup
Is the food outside the gate …
… better than the food inside?
Game on!

A visit to St. Jacob’s

It has been several months since I posted my last blog. This summer has been full of activities, with little time for photography and even less for blogging.

I recently visited the village of St. Jacob’s in south-western Ontario. The primary attraction was its big farmer’s market, but the highlight of the trip was a visit to a Mennonite farm, and an opportunity to learn more about the history of Mennonites in Canada.

Mennonites first began to settle in the Kitchener-Waterloo area in the 18th Century, migrating north from Pennsylvania, following the American Revolution. They were seeking cheaper land, an escape from conflict, and an opportunity to practice their religion freely.

There are many Mennonite farms in the region, and the farm we visited was a mixed farm. They grow corn, operate a small dairy, and harvest maple syrup. The Mennonites are not a homogeneous group, and there are many variations in life style among the Mennonite community. Some drive a horse and buggy, some drive cars – but only black ones – and others have adopted a more contemporary lifestyle.

To learn more about the Mennonites, a good place to start is by visiting The Mennonite Story in St. Jacob’s.

Here are a few photographs from our visit. Mennonites prefer not to have their photograph taken, so there are no recognizable images of people.

a field of dreams?
the corn silo
the dairy barn
a history of maple tree tapping
an old mechanical work horse
town and country by horse and buggy