May 29, 2020
This isn’t the first time the city of Toronto is undergoing historic upheaval. In the past century, Toronto has faced some truly remarkable challenges, and each and every time it has come out stronger. In difficult times we see the best in our fellow citizens, who pull together to work hard and help one another out. Read on to learn about four historic events that challenged this city and its people, but couldn’t destroy its spirit.
The Great Fire of Toronto: April 19, 1904
In the spring of 1904 a massive fire destroyed a huge section of Toronto’s downtown core. Firefighters from as far away as Hamilton and Buffalo came to help battle the flames, which covered 20 acres and took nine hours to put out. One hundred and four buildings were destroyed, many of them iconic. Fortunately the fire began after regular work hours and the area was virtually empty; there were no fatalities associated with the blaze. Five thousand workers lost their jobs and the damage was valued at $10.3 million—in 1904 dollars. Many of the affected businesses quickly found temporary quarters and continued to operate; others began rebuilding immediately. City Council quickly passed a new building by-law and set standards for fire-resistant construction. In just a year the city had already made amazing progress.
The Spanish Flu: 1918-1920
In the fall of 1918 the Spanish Flu, an international pandemic, appeared in Ontario. Schools, theatres, and businesses were closed; hospitals and public health departments were overrun. Volunteer organizations mobilized immediately to deliver much-need social services. In Toronto, the Neighbourhood Workers’ Association had its headquarters on Yonge Street, across from where the Eaton Centre stands today. This was ground zero for coordination of the relief effort, where volunteers gave out emergency medical supplies and food. Thousands volunteered to deliver these supplies, as well as provided nursing care, to households across the city, helping approximately 500 families a day. The sheer scale of volunteer efforts was impressive and ensured help was available for whomever needed it.
The Great Depression: 1930s
On October 29, 1929 the Toronto Stock Exchange suffered a major loss, the worst in its history. This plunged the country into the Great Depression of the 1930s and resulted in bankruptcy for many. Approximately one third of the city’s population was unemployed and those who still had jobs saw their wages drop as much as 60 per cent. People could not pay their debts and any government spending on public services was postponed. These were bleak times and many had little hope. It wasn’t until the end of the decade and World War II when the demand for soldiers and war supplies helped improve the employment situation. After the war, prosperity returned.
Hurricane Hazel Hits Toronto: October 15, 1954
Canada’s worst hurricane struck the Toronto area on October 15, 1954 and had devastating results. Hurricane Hazel had winds that reached 124 km/h and more than 285 millimetres of rain fell in just 48 hours. There were 81 deaths, mostly in Toronto. The extratropical category 1 storm had merged with an existing cold front south of Ontario, and nearly 2000 were left homeless after the flooding. Some homes near the Humber River were swept right off their foundations. In response, the government began to institute flood prevention measures, including the creation of dams, floodplains, and parklands.
These instances illustrate that even though Toronto has withstood historic upheaval before, the city manages to come out stronger in the end. Its residents are strong and resilient, and always come together during the biggest challenges. Thanks for reading and don’t forget to follow the MOD Developments blog for more on our great city.