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Toronto's Visual Legacy


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Official City Photography from 1856 to the Present

In 1857, Toronto’s City Council was invited to make a case to officials in Britain for selecting Toronto as the capital of the Province of Canada. As part of its bid, the City acquired a set of photographs that offer a 360˚ panorama of the young city’s downtown. These 25 fascinating images, reproduced in full, mark the beginning of the use of photographs to document Toronto’s growth, its achievements, its great civic works, and its citizenry.

This book, published in 2009 to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the city’s incorporation, brings together a selection of official City of Toronto photographs chosen by the City’s archivists from their collection of hundreds of thousands of images.

Not surprisingly, official City photographers have documented the city’s growth and its many fine public buildings. Waterworks, roads, and bridges, many of them familiar landmarks today, are seen as they were being built. The Bloor Street Viaduct, the R.C. Harris water filtration plant, and the old and new city halls are all celebrated in these images.

Toronto’s citizens are also captured in these photographs, going about their affairs on the street, as proud workers, or as spectators at public events. At times, in an effort to raise public concern about poverty and poor housing conditions, city photographers have documented conditions for residents in low-income neighbourhoods. Some of these photographs are included here, in an impressive series of poignant images.

In the past fifty years, as Toronto has grown into the cosmopolitan metropolis it is now, city photographers have recorded the construction of key projects like the Yonge Street subway, the new City Hall and the CN Tower, while documenting major public events and celebrations.

This book, published in 2009, offers a visual overview of Toronto’s history and at the same time documents attitudes and values expressed by City officials, from 1856 to 2008. 
Price: $37.75 (GST included) 
Book Size:
10'' x 11''
Trade Paperback:
176 black & white images; 28 colour images
James Lorimer & Co. Ltd