Thursday, July 28, 2016

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 257

City Hall, Toronto, Canada, ca 1920s

Like some of the other cards produced by different companies this one is titled and numbered.  The title for this card is at the lower left corner “City Hall, Toronto, Canada,” and the number is handwritten in the lower right corner  “113483 (V).”


Although this postcard was never stamped nor mailed someone has inked in the date of Aug. 6, 1931 on the reverse shown above.  The logo in the center identifies the company as
Valentine & Sons, or alternately as Valentine-Black Co., Ltd. of Toronto with the publishing information along the left side indicating that the card was printed in Great Britain.   

The Valentine Company was a lithographic printing firm established in 1825 in Dundee, Scotland by John Valentine.  By 1860 Valentine’s son, James, was reproducing photographic images as prints and stereo-views.  After James died in 1879 his two sons took over the business and began producing Christmas cards in 1880 then printing postcards beginning in 1896.  As the company expanded branch offices were opened in several other countries including Canada. 

From 1890 to 1902 most of the Valentine cards were printed in black & white collotype.  Later between 1907 and 1923 a variety of different reproduction methods were used.  This card appears to be produced using the Photo-Brown method that implemented two half-tone screens to achieve the look of toned real photos.  Valentine’s closed their Canadian branch office in 1923 therefore it is possible to date this card to the 1920s or earlier despite the inked in date on the reverse.  Postcards and greeting cards continued to be produced by the company into the 1950s.  The company was sold first to John Waddington & Co. in 1963 then in 1980 it was passed on to Hallmark Cards. 

The photograph is of the Old City Hall, as it has been called since a newer replacement building was constructed in the 1960s, was built in 1899 and designated as a National Heritage Site of Canada in 1984.  The largest civic building in North America at that time it was home to the Toronto City Council from 1899 to 1966. 

Three different types of stone were used in the construction, sandstone, grey stone and brown stone.  It took ten years to build and due to cost overruns and construction delays the angry city councilors refused to put a plaque on the building naming the architect, Edward James Lennox and the completion year of 1899.  Lennox then had the stonemasons put his name and the date in the decorative molding called corbels beneath the upper floor eaves around the entire building.  Lennox also designed an annex to the building, Manning Chambers, built in 1900 which was later demolished to make way for the current city hall.

One of the most distinctive features of the Old City Hall is the clock tower at 340 feet or 103.6 meters it was the tallest structure in Toronto from 1899 to 1917.  The clock has three bells the largest weighing 5-½ tons or 5,443 kilograms.  Originally there were carved sandstone gargoyles at the upper corners of the clock tower but they were removed due to erosion in 1938.  In 2002 bronze casts of the gargoyles were reinstalled.  The four clock faces are each 20 feet in diameter with the mechanism sitting in a glass box enclosed by the timepiece.  The manually functioning clock was automated in the 1950s.  The clock was stopped for the first time in 1992 after more than 100 years of operation for repairs and maintenance.  The room housing the clockworks is accessible only by climbing 280 stairs as the original elevator was taken out in the 1920s. 

The Old City Hall has been described as a massive square quad with a courtyard in the middle.  The originally planned large public square to be called Victoria Square never was developed instead a smaller space was allocated in front of the building.  Currently the building is being used as a courthouse with future plans perhaps including a museum for the city.  There is also a memorial to those who died in World Wars I and II as well as the Korean War and Canadian peacekeeping operations at the foot of the front stairs on Queen Street where ceremonies are held on November 11th. 

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