My last tour of Toronto would be a history walking tour with local historian, Bruce Bell. He loves the city of Toronto and wants you to fully understand it, this wasn’t just a regular tour of Toronto history to spout facts/figures, this was personal. Now for me, i tend to forget the dates of history and am best served with stories that bring history to life so that I can imagine it as it was and see it as it is today. Bruce was that guy to share the stories and not make history boring.
We would start across the street from the Convention Center at the Roundhouse park which celebrates the rail heritage of Canada. With a working live miniature steam train to entertain kids of all ages (even big kids!) as well as a selection of trains on site, it is an interesting exhibit to showcase history.
We would walk through the buildings from the CN Tower over the train tracks that separate the city to exit onto the street in downtown. Toronto has done well to bridge the gap of the train tracks that separated the city by building over them in order to bring the city together and continue its growth.
Our next stop would the Canadian Broadcasting Center building where we were the only visitors to the free museum of radio broadcasting. It is a small space but packed full of history memorabilia from radio broadcasting in Canada. Seeing the old turntables, sound effect props and equipment reminded me how far radio has advanced and yet I wonder how many have no clue to this past – the young born with an Ipod (I may need to show my nieces some history as I’m sure i have records, mix tapes and remnants of the old days).
We would then enter the Royal York hotel for our intimate, behind the scenes tour.
Exiting the hotel, we walked to the train station which is undergoing renovations outside. The inside of the train station which i had seen on my prior tour was still grand. Bruce looked at me and said “it was similar to Philadelphia’s 30th street station”, I was impressed by his knowledge of my hometown.
We would walk into a renovated bank building on King Street, viewing the old vault in the basement (in Philadelphia our version of this is at Del Frisco’s restaurant) and the soaring, decorated ceilings of the main floor with the original marble stands for people to complete their deposit slips (Philadelphia has a plethora of renovated banks so I am used to seeing the conversions and yet it never gets old).
With the St. Laurence Market closed on Monday, we continued to wander the city to see more landmark buildings, the historical plaques that Bruce helped the city erect, the park and finished at the cathedral before saying our farewells.
Bruce was able to bring Toronto history to life – it wasn’t just about the facts/figures. He was able to provide a story to illustrate the history and evolution – how the old and new coexist in the city in all areas of life in Toronto today.