Toronto Through My Lens

Month: January 2023 (Page 1 of 5)

Magic on Sumach Street

Walking down Queen Street East this past weekend on my way to photograph Riverside, I passed Sumach Street; the colour of these interesting pieces caught my eye and drew me in.

At 60 Sumach Street sits The Magic Building. I’m not sure exactly what goes on at said building, and I couldn’t find much on the Web, so I guess it’s open to interpretation:

Above the door an annoyed-looking witch casts a weary eye on any interlopers…

… while a figure not unlike Metallica’s James Hetfield broods quietly on each side of the door…

Elicser on the Magic Building

BUT!… the best part of this location is the massive, impressive canvas by Elicser, wrapping around the corner of the Magic Building:

On the other side of Sumach Street at the corner of Queen Street East, is this utility box – unmistakably Elicser:

Elicser is one of Toronto’s best street artists who has helped define our cityscape. In photographing Toronto over the years, I’ve encountered a lot of Elicser’s work, all of it impressive and distinctive. You can read more about him here and here.

Here’s a short video on the man himself:

Leaving the magic behind and heading a little further east across Queen Street, I encountered these in an alley beside a building at 533 Queen Street East:

Quite good, actually. The only identification on the mural was a little inscription on the one side: Not Art by @ITSMAHYAR. After some minor Googling, I found a little bit more here about the Not Art Gallery and the artist Mahyar Amir.

I’m not sure if this mural on the opposite wall was by Mahyar Amir as well, but I thought the scales of justice were particularly well rendered.

So, all in all, it was an interesting little diversion that day on Queen Street East.


Outside the Kelly Library, St. Michael’s College (U of T) at 113 St. Joseph Street, resides Untitled by sculptor William McElcheran.

This bronze sculpture was installed on June 6, 1973 as a plastic piece before being bronzed a few years later; it was sent to Italy for that process.

This is a 2-sided sculpture: the street side shows a crowd of people, many clinging to the others, while the library-facing side shows historical figures involved in intellectual discussions.

The Street-Facing Side (crowd)

The Library-Facing Side (historical figures)

McElcheran deliberately included the faces of many contemporary and ancient scholars and teachers on this side of the sculpture. Some of these individuals, such as Einstein or Gandhi, are easy to make out. From left to right, you can see the following figures:

James Joyce
Stephen Leacock
T. S. Eliot
Geoffrey Chaucer
Marshall McLuhan
Dante Alighieri
Germaine de Staël
George Bernard Shaw
George Sand
Leo Tolstoy
William Shakespeare
Sigmund Freud
Jean-Paul Sartre
Rene Descartes
Etienne Gilson
Søren Kierkegaard

Georg Hegel
Immanuel Kant
Eugène Ionescu
Jacques Maritain
St. Thomas Aquinas
Sir Isaac Newton
St. Theresa of Avila
St. Augustine
Albert Einsten
Eldridge Cleaver
John Henry Newman
Barbara Ward
Karl Marx
Charles Darwin
Mahatma Gandhi
Herman Kahn

Some of these scholars – for example, Marshall McLuhan and Etienne Gilson – have taught at St. Michael’s College and even used the Kelly Library.


So what does McElcheran’s statue symbolize? The interpretation of Reverend Edward A. Synan (1918-1997), a noted philosopher and medievalist with the Pontifical Institute at the Medieval Studies at St. Michael’s College, was printed in the September 7, 1973 issue of the U of T Bulletin:

There are people outside and inside the Library, all of them gratifyingly different. … Some hurry by and will never go in. … Some will go in, but why hurry? Stand around and talk awhile. After you are in, ideas, facts, perspectives, are all hard to come by. One side of Bill’s sculpture says this and much more.

The other side in this artist’s report on the inside of our Library… (he) has reached the people whose books guarantee them survival. … Bill has put in conversation men and women who met only in libraries and in the intellects of those who use them. … Not all the figures are historic — at least not yet. Look carefully and — who knows? — you may find yourself.

Synan also observed that the head of Jesus can be seen on the side of the statue facing the street. Synan said McElcheran was trying to show that Christ overhears the talk of those waiting outside the library and that He can like what He hears. Knowledge is what a library is all about and it means hard work so a lot of struggle goes on, for first you must get in.

Father John Kelly speaking beside the McElcheran statue outside the Kelly Library, 1973 (I can’t help but wonder if the dude in the front left still has those groovy plaid pants…)

1Analysis from the Kelly Library’s site

Want to see more works by William McElcheran? Click here to read about another of his sculptures I’ve profiled on

Simcoe WaveDeck

The Simcoe WaveDeck is one of four WaveDecks along Toronto’s Harbourfront. Located at the foot of Simcoe Street – 234 Queen’s Quay West to be exact – it opened in June 2009.

Located at the water’s edge, the wooden Simcoe WaveDeck features an informal public amphitheatre-style space with curves that soar as high as 2.6 metres above the lake. Inspired by the Canadian cottage experience and the shorelines of Ontario’s great lakes, the WaveDeck is meant to give urban dwellers a feel for life at the lake.

The other WaveDecks along the Harbourfront are the Spadina WaveDeck (foot of Spadina Avenue), the Rees WaveDeck (west of Rees Street on the south side of Queens Quay), and the Parliament WaveDeck (foot of Parliament Street; currently under development).

The WaveDecks were designed by the firm West 8 Urban Design & Landscape Architecture in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The WaveDecks have achieved the Award of Excellence, Ontario Builders Awards (2009) and were nominated for the Conde Nast Traveller Innovation and Design Awards (2010).

The Spadina WaveDeck has been the recipient of numerous prestigious awards including a Toronto Urban Design Award. It was also the first Canadian project ever to be short-listed for the world-acclaimed Brit Insurance Design Awards.

The Rees WaveDeck has been honoured with several awards including a Bronze Medal for Landscape Design from the Design Exchange.

The Simcoe WaveDeck’s Construction

To see a time lapse video of the Simcoe WaveDeck’s construction, check this out:

Future Plans

There is to eventually be a total of 8 WaveDecks along the Harbourfront, and they promise to totally transform our waterfront.

Here’s an interesting video from our controversial architecture critic Christopher Hume, discussing this project and its expansion:

Drs. James Till & Ernest McCulloch

This 2016 monument of James Till PhD and Ernest McCulloch MD, created by artist Ruth Abernethy, resides at the MaRS Discovery District, 101 College Street.

James Till PhD and Ernest McCulloch MD are globally recognized as the Fathers of Stem Cell Science for their research in the 1960s at the Ontario Cancer Institute and Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto. They received Canada’s Gairdner Award in 1961, and were inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in 2004. They also won the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research in 2005.

St. Paul’s Basilica

St. Paul’s Basilica is the oldest Roman Catholic congregation in Toronto. It is located at 83 Power Street in the Corktown neighbourhood, near the intersection of Queen and Parliament Streets. Created by architect Joseph Connolly in the Romanesque Revival style, it opened in 1889.

For the following text I’ve borrowed heavily from the History section of the Church’s website:

Established in 1822, St. Paul’s is the mother church of the Archdiocese of Toronto. The first St. Paul’s, of red brick and Gothic style, was completed in 1824. After the diocese was created in 1841, Bishop Michael Power used St. Paul’s as his cathedral until the completion of the construction of St. Michael’s Cathedral in 1848. In 1847, a typhus epidemic raged through the city, killing 850 people, including Bishop Power. Many were buried on the grounds of St. Paul’s Church and School, though the majority were moved to St. Michael’s Cemetery at Yonge and St. Clair Avenue West.

In 1880, Bishop Thomas Timothy O’Mahony was appointed Pastor. He had served in his native Ireland and Australia and was a man of great vision and energy. The old St. Paul’s had to be replaced in order to accommodate the rapidly growing Catholic population of Toronto. Bishop O’Mahony soon began planning a new church with architect Joseph Connolly. They designed a large structure in Italian Romanesque style, which was rather extraordinary in a city of Gothic churches. The cornerstone was blessed in 1887 by Elzear-Alexandre Cardinal Taschereau, Archbishop of Quebec. The first Mass was celebrated just before Christmas of 1889. The statue of St. Paul was placed above the centre door in 1899.

To the memory of the Irish immigrants who were buried in the adjacent ground during the year of 1847, and in honour of the Right Reverend Michael Power, First Bishop of the Diocese of Toronto, who laid down his life for the fever stricken members of his flock, this monument is devoutly dedicated.
Untitled sculpture in churchyard

Dean John Lawrence Hand was appointed Pastor of St. Paul’s in 1892 and served to 1936. If Connolly designed St. Paul’s and Bishop O’Mahony built it, Dean Hand completed the church and made it the work of beauty one sees today. He was responsible for commissioning most of the artwork inside St. Paul’s. The four major paintings in the sanctuary and the side apses were finished in 1893. The all-wood organ was installed in 1898 by R.S. Williams & Son, Toronto, and is the only one of its kind in North America. The stained glass windows were installed a year later, and the Stations of the Cross in 1901. The campanile (bell tower) with the bell from the original church was erected in 1905.

Scenes for the life of St. Paul were painted on canvas in 1911. The angels behind the altar were created with the same technique in the 1920s. The bronze Pieta on the front lawn was erected in 1933 as a memorial to Bishop Michael Power and hundreds of parishioners who died during the typhus epidemic of 1847. A plaque at the front entrance bears the names of 81 members of the congregation who died during World War I. Beside the front steps is the grave of Bishop Thomas Timothy O’Mahony.

In 1998, Father Tom Day began the process of restoring the church to its original splendour. This continued under Monsignor Brad Massman in collaboration with the architect Charles Hazell.

On August 3, 1999, Pope John Paul II elevated St. Paul’s to the rank of Minor Basilica by an Apostolic Decree. To be given this Papal honour, a church must be a centre of liturgical and pastoral life in the diocese and renowned for its antiquity, beauty, canonical significance or devotional popularity. Minor Basilicas receive special concessions such as the privilege of granting plenary indulgence on certain days in a year. The insignia of a Minor Basilica include the Ombrellino or Pavilion (a red and yellow umbrella) and the Tintinnabulum (a processional bell). St. Paul’s is the twentieth church in Canada to receive this honorific title.

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