By: Yukon Damov

Preserving Toronto's heritage one award at a time. Not quite a standing ovation, though

Preserving Toronto’s heritage one award at a time. Not quite a standing ovation, though

Bodi Bold

Nostalgia made for a melancholy Tuesday evening at the 37th Heritage Toronto Awards ceremony. Various speakers praised the work done to preserve and restore the history of the city for the future. TIFF Co-Director Cameron Bailey celebrated the evolution of the city’s festivals. Uncertainties about Heritage Toronto’s fate loomed over the evening. The recent loss of a pivotal member of the heritage and development community added to the solemn mood.

Heritage Toronto is like Yonge-Dundas Square in that it is run by a board that has its delineation of authority, expectations, and requirements validated by Toronto City Council — it is an “arms-length” agency. The historical plaques found dotted around the city are the work of Heritage Toronto.

Mary Ito, host of Fresh Air on CBC Radio, was Master of Ceremonies. She began the evening by giving it a grim backdrop, which focused on our difficult and tumultuous age. Of a more immediate concern, she also alluded to the possibility of Heritage Toronto losing its funding from the city. But despite all this, she said there were people like those present who are “inspiring, contagious, hopeful” to nurture Toronto.

Beginning with North America’s oldest parade, organized by the Orange Order, keynote speaker Cameron Bailey traced the history of the public festival in Toronto. Since 1967, the year of the first carnival, Toronto has gradually embraced the nature of festivals. “Carnival is about upending everything that is good, right, and proper,” said Bailey. “Festivals,” he said, “teach us how to own our city.”

This is the same spirit that Heritage Toronto fosters in its awards. The ceremony was held at Koerner Hall in the Royal Conservatory, an appropriate place as a jewel of the city’s so-called Cultural Renaissance, and last year’s recipient of the top prize, the William Greer Architectural Conservation and Craftsmanship Award of Excellence.

This year the co-winners were the John Street Roundhouse, beside the CN Tower, built around 1930, now housing a Leon’s furniture store, Steamwhistle Brewery and the Toronto Railway Heritage Centre; and, Seventh Post Office, at No. 10 Toronto Street, a beautiful Greek-revival structure from the 1850s last used as the head office for Conrad Black’s company. The Shops of Summerhill, located just south of the Summerhill LCBO, received the Award of Merit.

The book awards went to Imagining Toronto by Amy Lavender Harris; Defiant Spirits: The Modernist Revolution of the Group of Seven by Ross King; and Stroll: Psychogeographic Walking Tours of Toronto by Shawn Micallef.

Paul Oberman, a champion of heritage development died in a plane crash in March. Tuesday night there was a video tribute in his honour, which received a standing ovation.

This article was originally published on our old website at