Friday, 28 April 2017

May Day 2017: Only YOU Can Prevent Archives Fires!

In the world of archives, May 1 is a day to think about disaster preparedness. We take a lot of care to control the environment in which we store sensitive material, but all of that work can be destroyed if we're not prepared for events such as fires or floods. This week we are looking at some examples of fire prevention and preparedness among the Catholics of Toronto.

One of the earliest examples is from 1853. Someone made an "inventory of books and documents of value deposited in fire proof closet in bishop's palace." The list includes account books, correspondence, and sacramental records (you might even say this is the earliest version of ARCAT!). Archivists still recommend that records vital to the function of an organization are stored in a way that protects them from fire.

The person who invested in a fireproof closet would have had in mind the Great Fire of 1849 that destroyed almost 15 acres of property only a few block away from St. Michael's Cathedral near the site of today's St. Lawrence Market, including Old City Hall, St. James Anglican Cathedral, and many other shops and offices.

Inventory of Books and Documents of Value, deposited in fire proof closet in Bishop's Palace, upper shelf, North end.

April 20, 1853

C AE01.09
Bishop de Charbonnel Fonds

In 1922 Archbishop McNeil had a three-ply tin clad sliding fire door installed in the House of Providence between the laundry and boiler rooms. Fire doors can be the difference between the survival and loss of life and property, as evidenced by the legendary story of the librarian who saved the Library of Parliament by closing the fire doors as centre block burned in 1916. Today, fire doors are a part of building codes, and ideally archival storage rooms are built using material that can withstand heat.

The House of Providence was no stranger to fire. In 1886 a stove in an attic room ignited bedding and furniture. Luckily, the fire department was able to contain the blaze, and all of the residents were evacuated safely. 

Letter to Archbishop McNeil regarding the installation of a fire door at the House of Providence.

December 22, 1922

MN AH11.104
Archbishop McNeil Fonds

In 1929 the Association of Canadian Fire Marshals resolved to take steps to limit the risk of fire caused by the use of nitrocellulose x-ray film. In archives, nitrate film requires special care and storage. It is extremely flammable, and if stored improperly, the film can degrade and release gasses that can spontaneously combust under the right conditions. Few archives store nitrate film, choosing instead to copy it and destroy the original.

The 1929 resolution below was in response to a fire at the Cleveland Clinic that started in the x-ray film storage room and resulted in severe loss of life. Archbishop McNeil would have had an interest in this issue because of the Catholic hospitals in his care.

Resolution of the Association of Canadian Fire Marshals

July 4, 1929

MN AH18.66
Archbishop McNeil Fonds

In the 1920s and 1930s Archbishop McNeil corresponded with the Dominion Fire Commissioner. He wanted to work with the Archbishop to ensure that Catholic lives and buildings in the Archdiocese were protected from fire.

Part of his motivation may have been a pair of fires that occurred in 1922. In March of that year, Ste. Anne de Beaupre Basilica was destroyed as the result of faulty wiring. In December the Basilica in Quebec City, which was dated from the 1650s and was opened by the first Bishop of Quebec burned. The conflagration resulted in the loss of countless artistic, cultural, and spiritual treasures.

Letter from the Dominion Fire Commissioner to Archbishop McNeil.

May 27, 1932

MN AH21.47
Archbishop McNeil Fonds

Each one of these documents is an example of learning from past mistakes and an attempt to stop history from repeating. We benefit from previous tragedies and disasters because they allow us to take proactive preventative steps to protect our resources. Lets use this week to do the things that make our collections safer!

Friday, 21 April 2017

Record of the Week: A Proclamation

This week we celebrated the 35th anniversary of the patriation of the Canadian Constitution. On April 17th, 1982, the Canada Act was signed by Queen Elizabeth II. Though Canada had had a constitution since the British North America Act of 1867, the power to amend it remained with the British Parliament. In 1982, this authority was transferred to Canadian Parliament. As the highest law in the land, the constitution defines the way we approach legislation. In addition, an important document called the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was added, which codifies the rights we have as citizens, including the freedom of religion.

Here in the Archives we have many documents that illustrate the friendship between Cardinal Carter and Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau. In 1983, Cardinal Carter received a copy of the proclamation inscribed by the PM:

Copy of the 1982 proclamation inscribed by Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau in 1983.

Cardinal Carter Fonds

"To Emmett Cardinal Carter with filial and friendly regards. Pierre E.T. 1983"

Cardinal Carter Fonds

For more information about the origins of Canada's constitution, check out this episode of TVO's The Agenda with Steve Paikin.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Record of the Week: Christus resurrexit!

This weekend we will celebrate Easter, so naturally, this week's blog features a record relating to the holiday.

ARCAT has a number of letters to Archbishop McNeil from R. T. Nichol, Latin translator of the book Of the Just Shaping of Letters by Albrecht Dürer. In 1921, Nichol sent his good wishes for Easter in a card.

The cover of the card is rather simple:

"Wishing his Grace a very joyful Easter.
R. T. Nichol
ora pro me.
Easter, 1921."

MN AH10.177
Archbishop McNeil fonds

The inside, however, is a nice surprise. It features a print of the painting The Resurrection by Italian Renaissance painter Pietro Perugino and hand-written text in Latin:

"Si autem [Xts] non resurrexit, inanis est 
praedicatio nostra; inanis est et fides vestra.
Nune autem [Xts] resurrexit a mortuis 
primitiae dormientium.”
                                        S. Paul. Ad Cor. I. XV. 14,20

V.  Surrexit Dns vere.  Alleluia!
R.  Et apparuit Simoni.  Alleluia!  Alleluia!

Deo Patri sit gloria:
   Et Filio qui a mortuis
Surrexit: ac Paraclito
   Per saeculorum saecula.
                    Breo. Ran.

MN AH10.177
Archbishop McNeil fonds

ARCAT hopes you get some nice surprises this long weekend and wishes you all a very joyful Easter too!

Friday, 7 April 2017

Archives Awareness Week 2017: The Results Are In!

The results of our Archives Awareness Week 2017 Now and Then Quiz are in! How did you do?

1 : D. Archbishop's Palace / Lourdes Lane

The residence at 9 Earl Street near Our Lady of Lourdes Church was known as Head of Wellesley Place and designed by A.W. Holmes. It was originally meant for Archbishop McEvay. McEvay died in early 1911, and the house subsequently became the official residence of Archbishop Neil McNeil in 1913. The entrance faced south, down Wellesley Place. It was refurnished in 1935, and Archbishop McGuigan lived there from 1934 until May 1947.

After this, the building was used as an infants' home run by the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Refuge, which was eventually taken over by the Catholic Children's Aid Society. The house was renovated in 1960 and was reopened as a shelter for adolescent boys called the Neil McNeil Residence. It closed in 1965 and was sold to the Ontario Cancer Institute.

Archbishop's Palace


PH 31P/227AL 20
ARCAT Photo Collection

2 : I. St. Mary's Church / Adelaide & Bathurst Streets

The present building at Adelaide and Bathurst is, in fact, the third St. Mary’s church. The cornerstone of the first building was laid in 1852 at the site which was described as being on the lakeshore at the edge of the city. At the time, there wouldn’t have been much between the church and the lake. Soon after the building was opened, it was deemed structurally unsound. A second iteration was also found to be lacking in integrity. The present church was designed by Joseph Connolly and was opened in February 1889.

St. Mary's Church


PH 31P/227AL 03
ARCAT Photo Collection

3 : F. St. Michael's Hospital / Bond Street

The parcel of land at Bond and Queen was originally occupied by a Baptist church and was purchased by Archbishop Lynch in 1876. The building was used as a meeting hall until 1889, when it was turned into a women’s hostel run by the Sisters of St. Joseph. Soon after, the Sisters decided to use the building as a hospital and school for nurses. St. Michael’s Hospital opened in 1892 with 26 beds, six doctors, and four nurses. The hospital was expanded many times as need grew. For an excellent description of the growth of the St. Michael’s campus, see the poster produced by the hospital archives. See last week's blog post to learn more about the records ARCAT has about nurses.

St. Michael's Hospital


PH 31P/227AL 08
ARCAT Photo Collection

4 : B. St. Francis of Assisi Church / St. Agnes Church / Dundas West

In 1903 a church designed by architect Charles J. Read and known as St. Francis of Assisi was built on the north side of Arthur Street (now called Dundas West) at the corner of Grace Street. After an influx of immigration to the area, a bigger church was needed, and one was built at the corner of Grace and Mansfield. The older church was given to the Italian-speaking community in 1914 and renamed St. Agnes. In 1970 it was given to the Portuguese community.

St. Francis of Assisi Church


PH31P/227AL 09
ARCAT Photo Collection

5 : J. Our Lady of Lourdes Church / Sherbourne Street 

The church at Earl and Sherbourne, dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes in 1886, was built to celebrate Archbishop Lynch’s silver jubilee on property attached to his residence. Architect Frederick Law modeled the structure after Santa Maria del Populo in Rome with a magnificent 97-foot dome. The structure was expanded in the early 20th century to accommodate the growing Catholic population.

Our Lady of Lourdes Church


PH 31P/227AL 12
ARCAT Photo Collection

6 : A. St. Basil's Church & St. Michael's College / St. Joseph Street

The site at Clover Hill, now identified as the corner of Bay and St. Joseph Streets, was donated by John Elmsley for a Catholic church and college in the early part of the 1850s. The buildings designed by William Hay were opened in 1856 and operated by the Congregation of St. Basil. Many expansions have been made in the intervening years.

St. Basil's Church & St. Michael's College


PH 31P/227AL 14
ARCAT Photo Collection

7 : C. House of Providence / Power Street

In 1857 the Sisters of St. Joseph opened their William Hay-designed building on Power Street to house Torontonians of all denominations who needed help. Many additions were made, and the facility grew to be four times the original size by the 1950s. The Sisters moved their operation in 1956, and by 1962 the building was demolished to make room for the Richmond Street off-ramp of the Don Valley Parkway. A parkette called Orphan’s Green remains. The original mission is still carried out through Providence Healthcare in Scarborough.

House of Providence


PH 31P/227AL 17
ARCAT Photo Collection

8 : H. St. Michael's Palace / Church Street

The Gothic-style building on Church Street, designed by William Thomas, was completed in 1846. It housed the Bishop, the Cathedral rector, the chancery office, as well as St. Michael’s College for a time. It has had a few expansions and upgrades, but it is the oldest building in Toronto still used for its original purpose.

St. Michael's Palace


PH 31P/227AL 24
ARCAT Photo Collection

9 : E. Newman Hall / St. Joseph Street

The Newman Club was opened in 1914 at 97 St. Joseph Street, a residence purchased from Judge Auglin, as a place for Catholic students at the University of Toronto. A chapel dedicated to St. Thomas Aquinas was constructed in the backyard. After six years, the club needed more space and moved to the corner of St. George and Hoskin. The original house on St. Joseph was demolished to make room for St. Basil’s Seminary, but the chapel was saved for use as a gym and still stands behind the Cardinal Flahiff Basilian Centre.

Newman Hall


PH 31P/227AL 36
ARCAT Photo Collection

10 : G. St. Paul's Basilica /  Power Street 

The present Basilica is the second church dedicated to St. Paul. The first was completed on Power Street in 1824 and was the first official place of worship in Toronto. The red-brick church designed by John Ewart was used as the diocesan cathedral between 1841 and the completion of St. Michael’s in 1848. After large waves of immigration and settlement in that part of the city, a new church was needed by the 1880s. The present structure, designed by Joseph Connolly, was completed in 1889 in Italian Renaissance style. It is particularly known for its sanctuary art. The church was elevated to the status of Minor Basilica in 1999.

St. Paul's Basilica


PH 31P/227AL 45
ARCAT Photo Collection

Thanks for playing!

Monday, 3 April 2017

Archives Awareness Week 2017: Now and Then Quiz

Today is the beginning of Archives Awareness Week 2017. To celebrate, we put together a quiz to test your knowledge. 

One of our most-used collections in the archives is a 1914 photo album that contains images from a survey of Archdiocesan properties. Can you match the 1914 photos with their modern-day Google Street View counterparts (below)? Answers will be posted on Friday!