Tag Archives: architecture

Four Days in York, UK

York, UK

I just can’t resist a seat sale.

Early in 2016, Iceland Air had a seat sale to London.  I waffled over this for some time, and left it up on my screen.  $650 was a good price for a flight from YYZ – LGW, including a stopover in KEF on my return.  Finally, after three days I went for it.  Refreshed my screen, and the price is now $502.  I would be on my way to York in a few months.

During the planning process, I thought I’d spend time in London and Manchester.  My friend said why?  They’re just two big cities.  She’d go to York.  Then somebody else chimed in that if you’re going to York, you should do Lincoln also.

I arrived in London Gatwick at 11:45 and easily sailed through customs.  I had pre-purchased most of my train tickets, so my next stop was St Pancras International.  King’s Cross was right across the street, and I was on the 15:08 to York.

I had some rudimentary instructions to get to my hotel, so I decided to walk it.  I had to go past the Mickelgate Bar, and look for Scarcroft road.  Down that street would be the Wheatlands Lodge Hotel.

Wheatlands Lodge, York UK
My hotel in York – Wheatlands Lodge

Here we have a number of town homes converted into a hotel.  There is a bar and they serve a great breakfast.  My room was in one of the dormer windows.  No elevator!

York Minster

York Minster
The Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Saint Peter in York

The second largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe, construction began in the 1200’s.  This is the main attraction in the centre of town, however there is still  the original wall, and various gates (called BARS).

The Micklegate Bar is the original Royal Entrance.  Think of King Henry VIII coming through here, or the severed heads of his enemies staked upon it.

St Mary’s Abbey

The remains of St Mary's Abbey
The remains of St Mary’s Abbey

Located in the gardens of the Yorkshire Museum, the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey, which was a Benedictine Order established in 1088.  The Abbey was closed and substantially destroyed during the dissolution of the church by King Henry VIII.


Day Trip to Sheffield, UK

September of 2016, I spent three wonderful weeks in England.  I arrived at Gatwick Airport, hopped a train to St Pancras International Station, crossed the street to King’s Cross, and boarded another train north.  My visit included York, Lincoln, Sheffield, London, Stratford and Bath.

I was staying in Lincoln for a few days, and one afternoon when I had nothing to do, I checked out the train schedule.  For a small sum, and little travel time, a visit to Sheffield was in order.

On arrival at the train station, I exited away from the city centre.  Up a rather steep hill, then a walk down Norfolk Avenue past the Shrewsbury Hospital Estate.

Gated entry to Shrewsbury Hospital Estate, Sheffield
Gated entry to Shrewsbury Hospital Estate, Sheffield

Further on, is the Cholera Monument Grounds and Clay Wood, part of Sheaf Valley Park.

First thing I notice is that it is very quiet.  There are a few people jogging around the path, but not much else.  A vast expanse of green, with the monument in the distance.

This park was used as a burial ground during the cholera epidemic of 1832.  402 victims are buried here, and the monument was erected in 1835.

Cholera Monument, Sheffield, UK.  Erected in 1835 after the epidemic of 1832.
Cholera Monument, Sheffield, UK. Erected in 1835 after the epidemic of 1832.

This area is also the home of Clay Wood and Norfolk Park.  The park opened in 1848 on land owned by the Duke of Norfolk.  The park was officially given to the city of Sheffield in 1910.

Cholera Monument, Sheffield, UK.  Erected in 1835 after the epidemic of 1832.
Archway in Norfolk Park, Sheffield, UK
Lime Avenue, a beautiful laneway of trees planted in the 1800's
Lime Avenue, a beautiful laneway of trees planted in the 1800’s

At the entrance to Norfolk Park on Granville Road, exists an original Victorian light standard.  Although originally gas, it has been converted to electric.

Victorian Light Standard at entrance to Norfolk Park on Granville Road
Victorian Light Standard at entrance to Norfolk Park on Granville Road

The Cholera Monument and grounds, Norfolk Park and the Lamp Standard have all been listed Grade II




Vancouver Heritage


There are a number of magnificent heritage buildings in downtown Vancouver, many of which are re-purposed banks.

At the turn of the 1900’s, banks gave their depositors a show of strength by building these monuments.  By the end of the 19th century, most of these had been sold off and the banks now rented properties.


The Henry Birk's Store, Downtown Vancouver Heritage Property
The Henry Birk’s Store, Downtown Vancouver

Henry Birk’s store was built in 1908 as a show of strength by the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.  It is located at Granville and West Hastings.

Morris J Wosk Centre for Dialogue - part of Simon Fraser University
Morris J Wosk Centre for Dialogue – part of Simon Fraser University

This was originally built as a Toronto-Dominion Bank in 1910.  The bank abandoned this location in 1984 and the building became derelict.  It was donated to the University in 2000.

Heritage detail above the entrance to the former TD Bank
TD Bank Detail

Detail of the door on the right in the previous photo.


Former Post Office
Former Post Office

The former post office is located at the corner of Granville and West Hastings.  Construction began in 1905 and the building was completed in 1910.  The four clocks in the tower are twelve feet in diameter and were restored in the 1980’s.  Similar to the banks, the post office (then ROYAL MAIL) built monuments.

The building was incorporated into the Sinclair Centre, part of a downtown Vancouver shopping centre, which incorporated several other heritage properties.

Vancouver is probably the most beautiful city in Canada.  Easily walkable, with lots of neighbourhoods, parks and beaches to occupy your time.

They have demonstrated an interest in preserving heritage properties.  I can only hope that this continues as gentrification comes to East Hastings Street.

Warren Pennsylvania Weekend

Every quarter, IHG Rewards has a special called PointBreaks.  Hotels across the world are available for booking at five thousand points nightly.  I’ve taken advantage of this many times.  Sometimes the hotels are inconveniently located, sometimes they have just been renovated, at other times the hotel is about to be reflagged.

My recent stay was in Warren, Pennsylvania – I though a small town retreat would be good.  Warren is located near the Allegheny National Forest.

The Holiday Inn is located on the outskirts of town – at first look I thought it was a converted government building.  This hotel was quite large, with a restaurant and a bar.

This building is located in downtown Warren. Referred to by locals as "The Point"
This building is located in downtown Warren. Referred to by locals as “The Point”
Fountain outside The Point
Fountain outside The Point – not working, likely do to the time of year of my visit.

The Plaza Diner came recommended by the clerk at the Holiday Inn.  I could have eaten at the hotel, but I was looking for something local.  It was quite packed, given the size of the town.  I sat at the counter, watching the work.  There are two kitchens – one in the front window, the other hidden from view.

Plaza Diner downtown Warren, PA
Plaza Diner downtown Warren, PA

Duffy’s came recommended by one of the local bartenders.  Long and narrow, I sat at the bar at the back.  Famous for their grilled vegetables, which were excellent.  There are many ghost signs in Warren – the one beside Duffy’s is for a previous business, advertising an Oyster and Chop House.

Duffy's - Ghost Sign
Duffy’s – on a side street just of the main
The nearby Kinzua Dam
The nearby Kinzua Dam

On my way out of town, the hotel staff recommended that I stop and see the Kinzua Bridge, so I took a trip through the National Forest to find it.

Road Sign - Longhouse Scenic Byway
Longhouse Scenic Byway

Almost unannounced, this appears.  Pennsylvania was a major producer of oil, and this is one of the few remaining power houses, long decommissioned.

Powerhouse Historic Site
Powerhouse Historic Site

I reach my destination – the Kinzua Bridge in Mt Jewett, PA.  Originally a railroad bridge, three hundred feet high and two thousand feet long, it was opened in 1882 and closed permanently in 2003.  A tornado went through the valley, collapsing the supports.

It’s now becoming a state tourist attraction.  One can walk out the train tracks, and there’s a viewing platform at the end, with a glass floor.

Kinzua Bridge, Mt Jewett
Kinzua Bridge, Mt Jewett

Mount Jewett, Pennsylvania is located about half an hour from Warren.

Art Gallery of Ontario

Art Gallery of Ontario, 317 Dundas Street West, Toronto

Sign beside the door of the Art Gallery of Ontario
Sign beside the door of the Art Gallery of Ontario
Art Gallery of Ontario streetscape, fronting Dundas Street in Toronto
Art Gallery of Ontario streetscape, fronting Dundas Street in Toronto

The Art Gallery of Ontario began as the Art Museum of Toronto in a historic Georgian manor in downtown Toronto.  The building was left as a bequest of Harriet Boulton (nee Dixon) in 1909.

The building has had numerous upgrades and expansions over the years.  The current structure looks like a dirigible facing the street.  The original mansion is behind and serves as the members lounge.

The gallery has seen many travelling exhibitions through the years, including the 1979 King Tutankhamun Exhibition.

The Barnes Foundation in 1994, the Courtald Collection in 1998.

Maharaja: The Splendour of India's Royal Courts
Maharaja: The Splendour of India’s Royal Courts – Silver Rolls Royce
Maharaja: The Splendour of India's Royal Courts
Maharaja: The Splendour of India’s Royal Courts

In 2010, the Art Gallery of Ontario gave us “Maharaja:  The Splendour of India’s Royal Courts.  A massive exhibit of sumptuous paintings, jewellery and furniture representing court life.  Prior to Toronto, the exhibit had been on display at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

Haute Culture: General Idea
Haute Culture: General Idea at the Art Gallery of Ontario

In 2011, General Idea’s two meter tall AIDS sculture was erected outside at the corner of Dundas West and Beverley Streets.  This was the first comprehensive retrospective devoted to the collective.

Alex Colville retrospective at the Art Gallery of Ontario
Alex Colville retrospective at the Art Gallery of Ontario

In 2014, more than one hundred works from Mr. Colville were on display beginning in the summer.  and gave graphic representation of his influence on Stanley Kubrick’s films.

Landscape Exhibition
Landscape Exhibition
The Grange
The Grange

The Grange is the original home of the Art Museum of Toronto.  Believed to be the oldest standing brick building in Toronto, it faces out to Grange Park.  Behind the Grange is the rear of the Art Gallery of Ontario, in glass and titanium.

Tom Thompson:  The West Wind
Tom Thompson: The West Wind

Part of the permanent collection, this iconic image was created in 1917.  It was the artist’s final painting:  he drowned later that year.



Hastings Street, Vancouver

Five years ago I spent a decent week in Vancouver.  A slight chill in the air, most days were a combination of rain and sun.  I stayed at the Empire Landmark Hotel, a huge place (a former Sheraton, I believe), with breakfast served in the revolving restaurant on top.  There was a lot to see in Vancouver, but I particularly liked East Hastings Street.

Streetscape - East Hastings Street, Vancouver
Streetscape – East Hastings Street, Vancouver
Afton Hotel/Ovaltine Cafe
Afton Hotel/Ovaltine Cafe on East Hastings Street

The Ovaltine Cafe was opened in 1942 and has been used as a film set many times, including the movie I, Robot and the original X Files series.  The hanging sign dates from 1948 and the lettering across the front from 1943.

The building was constructed in 1912 in the Edwardian Italian Renaissance Revival style as an apartment building.  It was home to government offices and a postal station, but subsequently used as a rooming house since 1925.

Hotel Pennsylvania, corner of East Hastings Street and Carrall
Hotel Pennsylvania, corner of East Hastings Street and Carrall

One of the sharper places on the street, The Pennsylvania Hotel opened as the Woods Hotel in 1906.  Through the years the hotel fell on hard times and had changed names.  It closed as the Portland Hotel.

In 2008, after $12M in renovations, the Hotel Pennsylvania re-opened as a residence for low-income earners.

The Only Sea Foods
The Only Sea Foods

This twenty seat diner opened in 1924, and closed in 2009.

The Shaldon Hotel
The Shaldon Hotel

Totally decrepit in 2009, the Hotel Shaldon is a single room occupancy hotel for the homeless or those with a history of homelessness.  55 rooms with support staff available.

Blue Eagle Cafe
Blue Eagle Cafe

This cafe was in operation of East Hastings Street from 1944 to 1999.  In 2010 the property owner donated the sign to the Vancouver Museum.

Balmoral Hotel
Balmoral Hotel

The first class Balmoral Hotel opened in September, 1912, with commercial entities on the ground floor and accommodation above.  The sign dates from the 1940’s.

Now, one of the worst single room occupancy hotels in the city.

So there it is…a trip down historic Hastings Street in Vancouver.  Sandwiched between Gastown and Chinatown, it’s difficult to miss, but well worth the trip.  Get out of your car, and go for a walk.


Detroit Institute of Art

Five years ago I spent a weekend in Detroit.  My friends waved me off, hoping that I’d return with more than a toe tag.  I returned to Detroit in 2015 to be surprised how good the city is now looking.  My first stop was the Detroit Institute of Arts, followed by a stroll down Woodward Avenue, then a trip into downtown.

The DIA was my first stop in Detroit.  I always seek out major art venues, and I’ve been here before.  It does not disappoint.

Detroit Institute of Art
Detroit Institute of Art

Founded in 1885, the gallery moved to the current address on Woodward Avenue in 1927.  Many major galleries have vast, expansive entrances which have long been shuttered for a smaller entrance of more recent vintage.  The Albright-Knox in Buffalo comes to mind – they have a magnificent entrance facing the park, which is unused.

Here in Detroit, the massive original entrance remains in use.

Entrance to Detroit Institute of Arts
Part of the original entrance to the gallery, behind The Thinker.
Detroit Industry
Detroit Industry by Diego Rivera

The Detroit Industry fresco cycle was completed by Diego Rivera in March of 1933.  It is one of the most famous works in the gallery.  It is considered the finest example of Mexican mural art in the US, and encompasses all four walls within the gallery.

New York Department Store
New York Department Store, Max Weber, 1915
The Moods of TIme: Evening, 1938
The Moods of TIme: Evening, Paul Manship, 1938
Stained Glass: John LaFarge
Three pieces by John LaFarge:  Helping Angel; Faith and Hope; Abou Ben Adham: Write Me as One That Loves His Fellowmen – all dated 1890
Paneled Room
Paneled room from a chateau near Amiens, France – 1760 – 1770

The DIA is located at 5200 Woodward Ave in Detroit, closed Mondays.



Sherbourne Street Toronto

There’s lots to see and do in Toronto, some off the well worn tourist path.  Sherbourne Street stretches from Bloor to the lakeshore (where it’s called “Lower Sherbourne”.  I took a stroll from Carlton Street to Richmond.

Parish of the Sacred Heart
Parish of the Sacred Heart, at the corner of Carlton and Sherbourne

Located on the northeast corner, Paroisse du Sacre Coeur was built in 1936, despite looking significantly older.  The building was expanded in 1951, and remains an active French language church.

St Luke's United Church
St Luke’s United Church, at the corner of Carlton and Sherbourne

Located on the southwest side of Sherbourne, St Luke’s United Church.  Opened in 1887 as Sherbourne Street Methodist, later Sherbourne United.  This church amalgamated with Carlton United to form the present entity.

Allen Gardens Conservatory
Allan Gardens Conservatory

One of Toronto’s oldest parks, Allan Gardens is situated between Carlton, Sherbourne, Gerrard and Horticultural streets.  The conservatory was built in 1910 and is designated under the Ontario Heritage Act.

Robbie Burns
Robbie Burns

Allan Gardens has had significant changes over the years, including two wings to the conservatory.  There was a massive fountain in front of the conservatory which has long been lost to history.

In 1902, the Toronto Burns Monument Committee gave the city a life size statue of Robbie Burns which still stands.  Located midway down Sherbourne Street, the statue faces into the park.

John Ross Robertson House
John Ross Robertson House

John Ross Robertson was a philanthropist and publisher who lived in this house from 1881 – 1918.  He published the first school newspaper, was city editor and The Globe and later founded The Daily Telegraph.  In 1876 he founded The Evening Telegraph which became on of Toronto’s most influential newspapers.

True Love Cafe
True Love Cafe

The exotic purple and red True Love Cafe, located at Sherbourne and Dundas.  They have an extensive reasonably priced menu, and acoustic jams on the weekends.  A large space that’s good for the neighbourhood.

Mansion at 230 Sherbourne Street
Mansion at 230 Sherbourne Street

Located just south of Dundas Street, this mansion was derelict for many years.  Dating from appoximately 1872, it housed William Dineen, a prominent furrier.  As the neighbourhood declined, it became a rooming house, and eventually was an empty, boarded up shell.  The absentee landlord applied for a demolition  permit, which was denied, and the building received heritage status.

The home has been restored within the last five years, but remains vacant.

Sherbourne and Queen
Sherbourne and Queen

Toronto has many buildings similar to this in various states of repair.  Although most still have residential occupants and businesses at ground level, this location has been abandoned for years.

A 2008 Toronto Star article refers to the area as “skid row”.  Even today, this area is laced with trendy boutiques and million dollar condos within sight.


Guild Park

Take a trip out the Danforth and then Kennedy Road, way out in Scarborough.  Make an exit onto Guildwood Parkway, and you’ll arrive a Guild Park, eighty-eight acres that abut the Scarborough Bluffs.

Originally the location of the Guild Inn, which was built in 1914, later to become an artists colony and subsequently a hotel and restaurant.  It stands today in a shabby state of repair, having been closed for ages.  Circled by chain-link fence, there’s a sign on one of the doors warning of the danger inside from mould and asbestos.

There is, however, a significant reason to make the journey to Guild Park.  Inside are the architectural remains of some of Toronto’s historic, long demolished buildings.

Bankers Bond Building
Bankers Bond Building, 1920 – 1973
60 King St W, Toronto – at the entrance to Guild Park
Temple Building
Temple Building
1895 – 1970
Bay & Richmond, Toronto – home of the Independent Order of Forresters
The Granite Club
The Granite Club
1926 – 1973
63 St Clair Ave W, Toronto – main entrance
Greek Theatre
Bank of Toronto
Built 1913
King & Bay, Toronto – used in the summer as a theatre, playing Romeo & Juliet in 2015.  Operated by The Guild Festival Theatre

Although many beautiful historic buildings remain throughout the city, Toronto has long been on a mission to destroy the past, no matter how magnificent.  These are just some of the pieces scattered throughout Guild Park.

More in a future post.



Aga Khan Museum

The Aga Khan Museum is situated on Wynford Drive at the Don Valley Parkway in Toronto.  Land was purchased from the Shell Corporation, and the modernist Bata Shoe Headquarters were demolished.  The site is composed of the Museum, the Aga Khan Park and the Ismaili Centre.  The museum opened in September, 2014.

Aga Khan Museum
Aga Khan Museum and reflecting pond.

The museum’s contents include collections from His Highness the Aga Khan, the Institute of Ismaili Studies and Prince and Princess Sadruddin Aga Khan.

Courtyard Fountain from Egypt, 1500's
Interior Courtyard Fountain from Egypt, 1500’s

Silk Tunic from 1300's Iran


Intact silk brocade tunic originated in Iran in the 1300’s.  Note the extra long sleeves.

A massive carpet from the 1300's - possibly Samarkand
Safavid Carpet, mid 1500’s.  Made of wool, cotton and silk in Iran.

Revetment Tiles


A panel of revetment tiles from Damascus, Syria in the 17th century.

The museum is closed on Mondays.  On Wednesday, there are extended hours, and admission is free from 16:00 to 20:00.  Surface and underground parking is readily available.