I was doing some research this week on the history of another part of Toronto by looking at Charles E. Goad’s fire insurance plans. That side tracked me a little bit into thinking about how much Toronto has changed over the past century. I’ve always been fascinated with the area around old St. John’s Ward, which now roughly comprises Nathan Phillips Square, Old City Hall, Osgoode Hall, Trinity Church and the Eaton’s Centre. This area has changed dramatically since Goad recorded the area in 1884 and again in 1912. Although Goad recorded the basic information about building materials and street layouts in this area, it wasn’t until the early decades of the twentieth century which saw the area officially documented photographically for the first time. Two of the best known photographers of this area were William James and Arthur Goss. This week’s article will examine the photographs of Arthur Goss from St. John’s Ward.
The nineteenth century was a pioneering time on so many levels for Canadian society. It was a great century for the expansion of the west, the Confederation of the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada and scientific discoveries led to the development of the telegraph, electric power and the automobile by the end of the century. Yet, in these developments, there was an artistic revolution happening in the heart of Canada’s cultural mecca of Montréal. That revolution, which would transform Canadian society from coast to coast, was the development of photography. Throughout the nineteenth century, and well into the twentieth, an image of Canada was broadcast to the rest of the world as a place of beauty, grandeur and vast diversity in its landscapes and its people. At the forefront of that revolution of photographic wonder was the William Notman and Son Studio from Montréal.