Sunday, December 26, 2010

The End of Otter Loop

When it comes to history, there's a lesson that should not be forgotten: What may be a historical artifact tomorrow is frequently just an unregarded piece of trash today. It's impossible for someone in the now to judge what futurefolk will find interesting or illuminating, but we can always give them a hand by keeping items of historical provenance in the living world and outside the aged photographs or garbage heaps for as long as possible.

Toronto, it seems, has consistently struggled against the prospect of learning that lesson. Vast swathes of its heritage architecture was destroyed during the middle of the decade, in what then was seen as "progress" but which I consider to be considerably less so - even Old City Hall was at one point in imminent danger of being demolished in favor of the Eaton Centre's towers of glass and steel. Today, as much as we might want to believe that things are otherwise, the situation hasn't changed.

Back in May 2009, I launched my HisT.O.ry series with a look at Otter Loop, a former TTC bus transfer loop in North York that stood out because it still retained its original station structure, believed to be one of the last - if not the last - in the city. For several years, the site of the loop's been tied up with the "Heart Park" initiative. I've been firmly of the opinion that the structure should have been integrated with the park, and failing that for it to be disassembled in the interest of a future transit museum.

The bus shelter at Otter Loop - May 3, 2009

But then, my opinion doesn't matter. As part of its conversion into green space, the Otter Loop shelter was recently demolished. I found out only today, when the bus went past and there was only flat ground. Councillor Karen Stintz, who seems to be one of the prime supporters of the park in City Hall, puts it down to the city's preservation panel failing to officially desginate the shelter as a heritage structure. Personally, I'd really like to know why that particular action wasn't taken.

Sure, it's easy to see this as irrelevant. It was just a bus shelter that only a handful of folk even knew about, let alone cared about. In my post on it, I wrote that it was "ordinary history" - and I think that's at the core of it. This was something mundane, something quotidian, that nonetheless speaks about the nature of the people that built it. In the end, it's never a good idea to just pave over the past in our headlong rush toward the future, or else we may not like what we find once we get there.

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