Saturday, April 16, 2011

Toronto's Old City Hall Gargoyles

Toronto's Old City Hall celebrated its centennial birthday in September 1999. It took almost 20 years to plan and implement and began with an original budget of $600,000 and was completed for approximately $2.5 million. The stone, grey from the Credit River Valley in Ontario and brown from New Brunswick, took more than 1,360 train-car loads to deliver - the equivalent of a train nine miles long. In additionally, 8,354 barrels of cement were used.

Following the opening of Toronto's fourth and current City Hall, Old City Hall was threatened with demolition during the planning of the Eaton Centre. A group of concerned citizens and community activists, known as the "Friends of Old City Hall", convinced the city to preserve this important landmark, that complemented Osgoode Hall and the new City Hall. Old City Hall was declared a National Historic Site by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada in 1989.

When Old City Hall opened in 1899, it contained two large (5 feet high) grotesques, located at the foot of the main staircase. These elaborate pieces of wrought iron, each in the form of a griffin or other mythical beast, were produced by the Toronto Fence and Ornamental Iron Works.

The grotesques remained at Old City Hall until 1947. In that year, they were removed during renovations for the installation of the war memorial. The grotesques remained unclaimed and unwanted, until Henry Dobson Antiques Ltd., purchased them.

In an effort to return the works to the Toronto public domain, the Metropolitan Corporation bought the grotesques in the late 1980s. In commemoration of Old City Hall's 100th anniversary, the grotesques have been restored.

Above the monumental Queen Street entrance, in Romanesque Revival style, are grotesque stone carvings, which contemporaries suggested were caricatures of councillors.