Friday, November 30, 2007

Farewell Old Friend--The Morningside Mall is Gone

There was certainly no minute silence to mark her passing. Indeed the roar of the tractors, powershovels, crushers and dump trucks was louder than ever as the last of the Mall came down on a bleak November 30, 2007. In the picture above, only the North front stairwell to the second floor remains standing, behind the new Morningside Crossing.

Still young by any standards, the Mall suffered from internal decay, the life slowly bled out of her over the last ten years.

Among the first signs of trouble, more than a decade ago, was the closing of Jack Sprats restaurant on the upper level between a pet food store and Shoppers Drug Mart. It wasn't so much that the restaurant closed as the inability of the Mall to find a new tenant for the site. It sat empty for several years with a large "For Rent" sign out front before the Mall gave in and simply walled over the area making it look as if nothing had ever been there. Soon to follow was the loss of Walking on a Cloud and Mahar's Shoes. The loss of Second Cup Coffee with its lively and attractive wait staff was a devastating blow. Then we said goodbye to Suzie Shear, Town and Country, Jack Fraser's and the other clothing stores. The Library moved from the third to the second floor, to disguise the growing number of empty store fronts with "For Rent" signs in the windows. The closing of Home Hardware and the German deli on the ground floor were the writing on the wall for all to see. The two jewelery stores got tired of being robbed and fled early.

Security Guards began to patrol the two levels of the Mall. Their very presence an advertisement that the Mall was no longer safe. Shoppers began to stay away in droves.

When Walmart pulled out it was clear it was over. No more would the little animated family wave at us from above the movator at Christmas time, as they had since Woolco days. Coles bookstore fled to far distant Kennedy and the 401, to become Chapters. Blacks photography held on until nearly the end. As did Nat and Mario's and Cadet dry cleaners and the shoe repair. The Library moved to Manse Road and away from the major population centre. Then Dominion closed forever. Soon only the banks and the convenience store remained.

Gradually all the fast food restaurants brought down their shutters for the last time until only coffee time on the bottom floor was left.

Now all we have are memories. And for good memories we have to stretch back a very long way indeed. However, somewhere, in almost every West Hill resident's photo album there is a picture of them or their children taken in the lower level court yard of the Mall, seated on Santa's knee and beaming radiantly at the camera . Those are the memories that will last forever.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Mystery of the Missing Totem Pole

The installation of a 15 foot totem pole in Morningside Park was intended to be an event, not an adventure and a mystery. The Pole was a creation of the Monarch Park Project by Mr. Dorsey, part of an effort to beautify our parks and is the second Totem to be raised in the City. The project was completed with the assistance of 30 youths from the Malvern community.

The totem was built in a collaborative effort between the Toronto and the Regional Conservation Authority, the Scarborough Arts Counsel, Dorcey (a professional sculptor) and the students from Malvern. The magnificent totem pole was made from a recycled hydro pole gracefully carved from top to bottom. The first totem had been created back in 2004 as part of the Monarch Project, an attempt to involve youths in artistic and environmental initiatives to improve the community.

However, the day before the Pole was to be raised, it went missing. The theft of the pole outraged the community and made headlines in all the Toronto papers. To loose this work of art after so much time and attention had been lavished on its creation, was heart-breaking. How such a large object could have been spirited out of the Park was a mystery. Police speculated that it would have taken six people and a truck to remove the pole. Fortunately the truth proved much simpler than that once the mystery was solved. It had just been rolled into some distant bushes and was later found by two Toronto residents who had strolled off the Park's main pathway.

At over 416 acres, Morningside is by far the largest park in West Hill and one of the most beautiful and interesting in the City of Toronto. Connecting to the University of Toronto grounds and Col. Danforth park, it forms part of a continuous trail all the way to Lake Ontario. Through the summer months, the Park is regularly visited by numerous Community, Church and Scout groups, families, and sports organizations. Although the totem was erected at the end of the third parking lot, due to the vastness of the park, and despite the size of the pole, the totem is easily missed. Although not deliberately hidden now, to be seen, it still needs to be found.

Wood Green Ravine

This week will likely see the end of the Wood Green Ravine. A 4 year battle to save this young forested site in West Hill has come to an end and developers will soon start to clear cut the nearly 2000 trees.

Earlier this week over 30 local residents braved nearly freezing rain at 7:30 in the morning to block the developers entrance to the site.

The Ravine is a five acre site, located near Lawrence Ave. E. and Manse Road behind the new 43 Division Police Station. This wonderful site has more than 1200 trees, plus an additional 800 saplings, and many types of bushes and flowers. It is the home to abundant wildlife including white tailed deer, fox, raccoons and a wide variety of birds. It is both a resting and feeding ground for the monarch butterfly on its migration to Mexico. The Ravine is used by people of all ages for playing, walking, exploring, meeting, or enjoying the fruits of a huge blackberry patch!

All of this, however, is about to come to an end. The City of Toronto, as owners of the property, have sold it to a developer for the construction of 60 affordable houses. The development plans call for the site to be clear-cut, so that not a single blade of grass will remain!

There are many reasons to save this environmentally sensitive woodlot. In addition to being a community meeting place and treasure, and a home to birds and animals, the trees help act as a carbon sink removing pollutants from the air, helping moderate the air quality in the area. The Ravine borders on an industrial site along Coronation Drive with a large concentration of chemical industries. The area has been identified as having the fifth highest toxic chemical emissions in the City of Toronto!

With continued population growth, all wild areas are now precious but they are especially critical where, by some miracle, that wilderness can still be found the heart of a City of three million, the economic engine of an entire nation. In such a large city it is easy to loose sight of the fact that we are a part of nature. And if we loose Woodgreen Ravine, it will be harder still to hold onto that knowledge.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

West Hill Students show Appreciation For The Old Man Who Rips Tickets at Morningside 401 theatre

If you live in West Hill and you have ever been to the movies you know West Hill resident, James Loader. You may not have known his name, but you sure know his face. If you're old enough you remember him from the Cedarbrae Theatres where he collected your tickets and directed you to your theatre for many years. After Cedarbrae closed he could be found working at Fairview or $2.00 ticket days at the massive Scarborough Mall. For the last seven years James has been ripping your ticket at the Morningside and 401 theatre and without anyone knowing it, he has become one common denominator that units us all.

In a world where you never get the same waitress no matter how many times you visit the same restaurant, James has been working for the same theatre chain for over 40 years. And now, thanks to Gus Saurer of Port Union, James is finally getting a little appreciation. Gus is the creator the the "Old Man Who Rips Your Tickets at the Morningside Theatre Appreciation Page" on Facebook. Since putting the page up a little over a month ago, over 10,000 local residents have joined to show their appreciation. There is even a move under way to get James nominated for the Scarborough Walk of Fame. If being instantly recognizable by virtually everyone in Scarborough counts as fame, James nomination is a sure thing.

As one fan puts it, "James is a great guy. He has been working in the cinema's for a long time. I have known him for about 20 years. He used to belong to the same church that I went to. He is truly a very nice person. He has a son, and lives with him. Lost his wife years ago, sad to say. He will greatly appreciate this fan club on his behalf and he really deserves this. He is truly a wonderful man, and is in the right job where he enjoys being of public service."

West Hill Website Gets Major Upgrade

We may look the same, but behind the scenes the West Hill website has undergone a major upgrade. Virtually every page of the site has been changed in some way. For the most part, dated material has been removed, broken links repaired or eliminated, new photos added and much older sections of the site replaced with the new format we introduced a year ago.
In one of the more substantial changes, our popular poll feature has been incorporated into the new West Hill News, which replaces the old Westhillian News section.
The West Hill website began over ten years ago as a simple attempt by West Hill resident, Barry Fraser, to show a distant Australian cousin what the West Hill area of Toronto looked like. His cousin, Roger, had been unable to find West Hill on any map. The West Hill Today section is a somewhat more elaborate version of that small original website.
To Barry's surprise the site began getting a large number of hits. He later discovered it had been linked as a Community on the City of Toronto webpage . The number of visitors led to a flood of e-mail questions about the area which resulted in more and more features being added to the site until it assumed the essential structure it has today.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Toronto's Poet Laureate Talk To Be Rescheduled

Pier Giorgoi Di Cicco, the Poet Laureate of the City of Toronto was to hold a workshop on Building Creative Communities at Sister's Restaurant on Kingston Road this Fall. However unforeseen delays in the publishing of the Community Newsletter prevented news of the talk from reaching residents, and is now slated to be rescheduled.

Pier Giorgio is the author of "Municipal Mind, Manifestos for the Creative City."

Di Cicco offers a blueprint for building sustainable cities in a global era, predicated on the City Soul. As former Toronto Mayor, David Crombie observes, Di Cicco's ideas "...will find a home in the hearts of those who want to understand the indispensable connection between the building of livable cities and the growth of the human spirit."

Tickets for the event will be on sale from the Coronation Community Association of West Hill website at as soon as a new date is chosen.

Morningside Crossing

The abandoned and nearly empty space known as Morningside Mall in West Hill has reached its end. The once massive three story building is now little more than rubble.

The reconstruction of the Morningside Mall space, at Kingston Rd and Morningside, into a medium sized box store shopping complex is now well underway, with a “Super-bank” centre including Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and Toronto Dominion branches joining the old Scotiabank branch now complete. Other stores like Shoppers Drug Mart and Food Basics will be constructed on the site of the actual Mall when its demolition is complete. The date for these new stores to open is in the Fall of 2008. Pizza Hut, greatly reduced in size, has moved to the new Morningside Crossing from its present location at Kingston Rd and Lawrence. The TD branch between Kitchener Road and Lawrence has closed. Starbucks is thriving. While the line-ups don't match Tim Horton's across the road, it is still very busy.

The are rumors of the Liquor Store closing and moving to much larger quarters at Morningside and Lawrence where earth movers are already at work. There is also talk of the renovations extending to the demolition of the Blockbuster plaza, but this is unconfirmed.

The properties formerly housing TD Bank at the top of Kitchener Rd and Pizza Hut and Lawrence and Kingston have yet to be sold.


Welcome to the reformatted Westhillian News. The old format was taking far too long to to update, stories were being missed, deadlines weren't being met and something had to be done.
Using the services of google blogs, all the tedious formatting is done for us.
Now we can return to the original intent of the Westhillian News, to keep Westhillers up to date on changes within our area, like the demolition of the massive three story Morningside Mall. As you can see, it is now easy to incorporate pictures into the News and news articles will all be achieved for future viewing.
This format also allows readers to comment directly on the stories they read in the News. Just click in the comments box and let us know what you think.

More general comments can be still be posted in our guest book.