Frequently Asked Questions

This is still a fairly young blog and as of this writing, no one has asked a single question yet, much less asked it frequently.  The Socratic exchange below reflects the sort of questions I anticipate being asked.

Why don’t you include more photos in your articles?

When possible, I like to illustrate my articles or posts with relevant graphics, but this is not always simple.  While there are many great old photos of Toronto, there are many early buildings, people, etc., for which images are limited.  As an example, I wrote an article for Heritage Toronto about Toronto’s first zoo, which was open during the 1880s.  I know of no photos of this zoo, despite it being visited by many prominent visitors, and despite it reportedly being a popular place to have one’s photo taken (if you have any photos of this zoo or the dead whale carcass which sat on its site, please get in touch).

Why are the photos you have used of such poor quality?

When choosing images, I try to use ones which are in the public domain.  In the event that no such image is available, I may use low-quality images which I am entitled to do under Canada’s “fair dealing” laws provided that I credit the source and that the image is directly relevant to my text, which describes and/or criticizes the image in some way.  Whenever possible, I link to the other websites which have made these images available, ideally to their copy of the image itself.

What is Heritage Toronto?

In its own words, Heritage Toronto “is a charitable organization and agency of the City that works with the citizens of Toronto to advocate for, preserve, and promote a greater appreciation for our city’s rich heritage.”  They are partially funded by the City, with additional money coming from memberships and other donations.  Heritage Toronto‘s programming includes walking tours, plaques, and an annual awards ceremony for Toronto’s heritage community, along with many other projects.  They have nothing to do with protecting historic buildings.

What is Heritage Preservation Services?  What is meant by “heritage listing” or “heritage designation?”

Heritage Preservation Services (HPS) is a department within the City of Toronto, under the Planning Division.  Its staff are paid city employees who work to identify properties in Toronto with heritage value.  Amongst other things, they assemble and maintain the city’s files on historic buildings which get protected through heritage designation.  An excellent description of their activities can be found on their website.

“Listing” refers to inclusion on Toronto’s inventory of heritage properties, which is a list of properties in Toronto known to have historic significance.  This list is not complete and is continually growing.  If a property owner wishes to demolish a building listed on the inventory, the applicant must give the City 60 days notice, during which the application is reviewed by HPS staff.

“Designation” refers to actual legal protection for a building on historical/heritage grounds.  When a property is designated, the city writes a specific by-law under the Ontario Heritage Act indicating which attributes of the building are legally protected from alteration and demolition.  Toronto then has a legal right to refuse proposed changes or demolitions, although sometimes these designations are contested in court.