PART I: ST. JAMES CATHEDRAL CHURCH
Canada’s history is timelessly preserved in some of the most beautiful architecture in Toronto. These living artifacts built with wood, stone, brick and mortar over the past 200 years continue to speak to us. Yet the very act of observation changes this state because we experience our own version of the ephemeral rattling of our economy, morality, scientific thought, spiritual currency – continuously tilting the axis of human edifice.
Church Street has always been a gathering place. Sanctuary to new immigrants, the homeless, the curious and the faithful. St. James Cathedral Church was built on soil steeped in blood from centuries past – providing shelter for the wounded and the dead during the War of 1812.
The great human struggle continues, as global economic upheaval rattles the very senses of 21st Century progress. The Occupy Movement chose this destination to set-up camp in 2011, a defining moment in Toronto’s civic stewardship.
On Canada’s 145th birthday and the bicentennial of the War of 1812, I packed my camera and trekked the muddy streets of York, curious to discover the ancestral path of my forefathers. I was looking for Schrodinger’s cat. Instead, I found Toronto.
The Little Muddy York that could
In 1791 Canada was separated into Upper and Lower Canada. Lieutenant Governor Simcoe commandingly chose to name the capital York, though mapmakers in Britain had designated it Fort Toronto as early as the 1720’s. In 1787, Governor General Lord Dorchester arranged the ‘Toronto Purchase’ from the Missisaugas Ojibway (Anishinabe) Nation, an area covering today’s Metropolitan Toronto and York Region. Thus, Toronto was born. Additional rationale for this name change was that York could be confused with New York and other Yorks, and because of its nicknames (Muddy York and Little York).
It seems that we have not lost our hankering to be a ‘little New York’. Steps away from St. James Cathedral Church, financial towers reach for the sky – bold minimalist glass and steel icons – casting the shadows of a post-modern world on a city that has not lost sight of the heavens.
“The grounds of St. James’ Cathedral have served many purposes – a place of worship, a cemetery, and even a public park. Few today are aware of the most sanguinary chapter in the site’s history, when the original Church was used as a military hospital by the British and Canadian forces during the heaviest fighting of the War of 1812. At the outbreak of war against the United States on June 18th,1812, military infrastructure in Upper Canada was minimal. While larger garrisons such as Fort York did possess rudimentary hospital facilities, these were small buildings, suitable only for the routine demands of a peacetime garrison. As military forces and casualties increased, the town of York became a key reception point for the sick and wounded personnel owing to its strategic and political importance as the capital of Upper Canada. The town’s only church was to play a major role in