The F. Ellis Wiley fonds at the City of Toronto Archives make up one of the largest Kodachrome-rich collections on Toronto publicly available, and it is clear he was consistent with using colour slide film for the half-century of his shooting days. Remarkably, and to our benefit, much of what he produced was taken with Kodachrome. Following his passing in 2002, Wiley’s widow, Jean, donated his slides to the city.
His work, often improperly cited (if at all), periodically appears on Urban Toronto and other blogs. If ever in doubt, anything labelled “Fonds 124” from the city archives was Wiley’s work.
A great way to formally introduce Wiley is to look at one of the most recognized intersections of the city: Yonge Street at Dundas Street. As with a few other places, Wiley returned here to periodically chronicle its paced changes.
This view of the Yonge-Dundas intersection is just a few years before Cadillac Fairview demolished the west side of Yonge to erect the Eaton Centre. This photo is estimated to be sometime around 1972, probably just after the Crombie government was elected — and, thus, during the years of the Yonge Street Mall (for more, read When Queen’s Park Smothered Toronto’s Yonge: Looking back on the Yonge Street Mall, 1971–1974). Sadly, Wiley did not document the Yonge Street Mall.
Looking back the other way:
Yes, there evidently was once a time when we could let wild primates show their faces in the public spaces of our city — exempting, of course, when Don Cherry is let loose from his cage. Street performers were no less common then, if not more so. Wiley captured this “monkey man” a couple of times, including nearby Nathan Phillips Square. The Mr. Sub seen in the background is the same place where a wall stood through much of the 1990s and 2000s, and now where 10 Dundas East (fka., “Toronto Life Square” before backing out) lives. Instead of subs, you can now spring for some Chipotle or Milestones.
By 1980, traces of the newly-built Eaton Centre were evident, though this was still before the 1 Dundas West skyscraper was added. For a brief period, there were shade trees and sitting places at the southwest corner — about where the street meat cart and flag souvenir cart now reside. The Jeans store and Cole’s bookstore (the same bookseller who opened the World’s Biggest Bookstore in 1980) still occupy the southeast corner — the same corner which was later expropriated by the city at considerable legal and political expense. The expropriation cleared the way for the city and Cadillac Fairview to push ahead with their public-private partnership plans for Yonge-Dundas Square — a private space still owned and managed by Cadillac Fairview.
This demolition of the southeast corner during the later 1990s was suspected as a factor for why adjacent neighbourhoods experienced a spike in socio-cultural woes. One debate, discussed in Xtra! in 2005, contended that the exile of street-bound youth, who used to keep close to the southeast corner of Yonge & Dundas, had migrated to Church Street after the late 1990s and onto the The Steps at Second Cup at then-Churwell Centre — leading to the elimination of the establishment by 2005. But that’s a story for another day. ¶