A few months ago, a fabulous brochure landed in my mailbox. Printed on high-quality, lustrous paper it captivated me with everything that a Shangri-La lifestyle had to offer. As I had written in a previous post, my partner sadly did not share my romantic (slightly dramatic) vision, leading to the end of the affair that was Jesse and her Shangri-La. Time passed and my lust for Toronto’s latest luxury condominium faded away, filed away in the dusty shelves of my mind, only to be taken out during subway rides and waiting room visits.
Events that unfolded in late summer would prove, however, that this beautiful building is suited to me in more ways than one (the first being that I just want to live there). The proposed ground for condominium construction was found to be over a row of houses dating back to the nineteenth century - be still my history-buff heart. A recent Toronto Star article told all: “Brief window in the past”; The Globe and Mail weighed in: “Shangri-La steps into a 19th century footprint.” My unyielding thirst for Toronto history was stirring and I devoured every city newspaper that mentioned this discovery. History and luxury were hand in hand as construction was halted to give urban archaeologists four months to uncover what they could and piece together what life was like for a Torontonian in the 1800s.
While technology sometimes does, necessity never fails. These five pre-Confederation row houses were paved over in the 1960s to make way for the era of convenience. Cars and buses were gaining popularity and needed roads – history was cast aside to encourage the go-go-go city attitude. Covering up the past for the sake of the automobile seems to be a recurring theme in Toronto as skeletal remains were recently found beneath a parking lot of the Old Don Jail.
As distraught as I am about Toronto-the-good’s lack of historical recognition during its formative years, I am delighted that archaeological digs are retrieving and piecing together our collective Torontonian history. The Shangri-La continues to relentlessly fascinate me - what is better than an ultra-luxury condominium in downtown Toronto? One with ghosts.
Jesse is a Toronto freelance writer. Email Jesse
Photo credits: bottom photo courtesy of Lauriewrites.vox.com