WTJHS: What’s Up With Us?

WTJHS Update June 2020

Home sweet home – someday!

We hope you are all safe and well at home. The past three months have been very trying for our community here in Toronto, and across the world. We’re all acutely aware that we’re living through an important historical moment, even as we do our best to help reduce the curve of new cases.

Collectively, we have learned during this pandemic how vital it is to connect with our family, friends and communities.  When the Annette Library closed indefinitely on March 13, the Society had no idea that the location for our monthly meetings and archives still would be closed more than three months later.  Our scheduled event with Arlene Chan on April 2nd still cannot be rebooked and our normal May Annual General Meeting remains postponed.

Even though our public events can’t take place yet, the Society has not stopped recording and promoting the history of the Junction neighbourhood.  Here are some updates to help us keep in touch.

40th anniversary of founding of the WTJHS

The Society was founded on June 24, 1980, in an era when many historical buildings in the Junction were under threat.  CPR’s overnight demolition of its West Toronto Station in 1982 underscored the challenge.  The vibrancy of the Junction’s heritage commercial, residential and institutional environment in 2020 points to the many successes over the past 40 years.  The Society’s plan for a community celebration of our 40th anniversary this fall is one of many cancellations resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.  We intend to reschedule this community celebration for Fall 2021.

Junction history high school art competition

In cooperation with art programs at Western Technical-Commercial School (Western) and Humberside Collegiate Institute (Humberside), the Society is sponsoring a 2020 visual art competition.  The first purpose is to engage the creativity of visual arts/graphic design students in illustrating the history of the Junction.  The second purpose is to preserve copies of the resulting art for Society events and future fundraising.  Student entries are to be evaluated by selection panels, with small cash prizes for the winners.  Future exhibitions of entries are planned in locations accessible to the Junction community.

The closure of schools during the pandemic has delayed the competition.  Fortunately, the Western graphic design students were able to complete their digital poster designs remotely.  Evaluation and awarding of prizes for the Western poster competition will take place over the summer, while the Humberside oil painting competition will run during the 2020-21 school year.  Public exhibitions will be arranged when permitted and safe.

COVID-19 oral histories

In early May, the Society invited members to create short recordings of their experiences during the pandemic restrictions. This could include anything from a description of day-to-day life, family events, or how you have changed your daily routine. We’re happy to accept videos and/or audio recorded on your smartphone or computer, letters and emails, or to conduct interviews over the telephone.

The point is to create a brief living record of this time that future WTJHS members and others living in the Junction and in Toronto may find interesting and instructive. You may share these online by tagging us in your social media posts or by emailing them to junctionhistorical@gmail.com. To date, we have received several responses and would welcome more from anyone in our community.

Youth employment to create displays and heritage map

The Society successfully applied for a grant from the federal youth employment program for funds to employ two young people this summer.  Our objective is to develop displays on many aspects of Junction history for events such as the Summer Solstice Festival, the Junction Farmer’s Market and the Society’s 40th anniversary celebration. We also will develop an annotated digital map of heritage buildings and locations throughout the Junction.  Although we cannot proceed over the summer, the Society intends to take advantage of a recent extension of the federal program to hire part-time employees over the fall and early winter.

The Leader & Recorder – our historical journal

The 2020 issues of our journal also have been delayed during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Our current plan is to combine two issues in one, to be published over the summer.  We will provide electronic copies to our current members, with a few print copies for those without email access, and for our archives.

Please note that only paid-up members of the Society will receive the Leader &  Recorder.  You can join or renew your membership through PayPal by clicking HERE.

Annual General Meeting – postponed but not forgotten

The Society’s AGM, normally held each May, is required by law for approval of vital actions including election of the executive, approval of the audited financial statements and selection of the auditor.  As noted, this year’s AGM could not be held because of pandemic restrictions.  We are considering ways to hold an AGM over the summer, perhaps in an outdoor setting, once permitted under the public health restrictions.

Stay safe and connected

Thank you to all our members and supporters.  We’re glad to have such a great community during this difficult time.  While our public meetings have been suspended for now, we’re still working hard behind the scenes.  To support the initiatives you’ve just read about and more, please consider donating on our CanadaHelps page HERE.


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Fairmont Royal York (Now Complete!) – TPL Image

As part of the Royal York Hotel’s 90th anniversary celebrations, the Society was awarded a voucher for a one-night stay in a deluxe suite in the hotel. As an incentive for membership renewals during this extraordinary year, we offered this voucher through a draw open to members in good standing. The draw was held today, June 24 (board members and those involved in the draw were not eligible) and the voucher winner is Diana Fancher. WTJHS currently has 145 paid members (including Life Members).

Over 40 additional renewals were made during the Royal York voucher campaign.

Congratulations, Diana!

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MEETING POSTPONED ! Thursday April 2nd, 2020

Regretfully, we must postpone our April 2nd meeting at the now-closed Annette Library

Arlene Chan:  Building a Nation One Spike at a Time: Chinese Labourers and the Construction of the CPR

Between 1881 and 1885, Canada was forged into a nation from sea to sea with the construction of the CPR. Some 15,000 Chinese labourers contributed to building a ribbon of steel, one of the longest, most expensive, and most challenging engineering feats ever. The national dream of a country, connected with its first transcontinental railway, quickly formed the backbone of Canada’s growth.

Arlene Chan, author, Chinatown historian, and retired librarian, has written seven books  and contributed to numerous publications about the history, culture, and traditions of the Chinese in Canada, some shortlisted for the Ontario Speaker’s Book Award, Heritage Toronto Book Award, Silver Birch Award, and Red Cedar Award. Her work has been recognized with the Heritage Toronto Special Achievement Award, Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Award, and Woman of Distinction Award.

Arlene, who has happy memories of growing up in the Junction, is the president of the Jean Lumb Foundation that awards high school students of Chinese heritage from across Canada. She serves on the board of Little Pear Garden Dance Company and as an advisor for Myseum of Toronto, Heritage Interpretation Working Group for Ontario Infrastructure, and the Toronto Public Library’s Chinese Canadian Archive.

The WTJHS Archives will open at 6 pm,
meeting room doors open at 6:30 pm.
Presentation at  7:00 pm, Refreshments and Business Meeting to follow.
Annette Public Library, Lower Level, 145 Annette Street, Toronto.

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Past Event: Thursday March 5th, 2020

Kelly Mathews, author of The Road to Marylake:

The Road to Marylake is about Sir Henry Mill Pellatt, the owner of Casa Loma, and the story of how he built his country estate in King Township. The property later was developed into an agricultural farm school and then a monastery and retreat.


The WTJHS Archives will open at 6 pm,
meeting room doors open at 6:30 pm.
Presentation at  7:00 pm, Refreshments and Business Meeting to follow.
Annette Public Library, Lower Level, 145 Annette Street, Toronto.


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