Tag Archives: history

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.

Return to Vancouver, BC, Spring 2016

WestJet had a seat sale, so I thought it was time for another trip to Vancouver, BC.

I usually book trips based on a seat sale and where I want to go.  One of the conditions of this sale required me to take a flight with three stops.  I departed from London, ON (YXU), next stop was Winnipeg, MB (YWG), followed by Calgary, AB (YYC), where we had an opportunity to deplane for thirty minutes, finally arriving in Vancouver, BC (YVR).  Not a terrible way to spend an afternoon.

I had booked accommodation through EBAB – a site I have used before, although mostly in Europe.  I just off Davie Street, within walking distance of English Bay Beach.

The view from my balcony in Vancouver, near English Bay Beach.
The view from my balcony in Vancouver, near English Bay Beach.

It was evening when I arrived.  The apartment owner picked me up at the airport, and made dinner.  I settled in for the night.

Early the next morning, it was time to venture out.  I took a wander down Robson Street, where I had stayed on my previous trip.  Locals are making a big deal over a new Nordstrom store that recently opened.  Lunch brought me to the Ovaltine Cafe on East Hastings Street.  It’s easy to see that gentrification is encroaching.

The Ovaltine Cafe on East Hasting Street - in business since 1943.
The Ovaltine Cafe on East Hastings Street – in business since 1943.

Late afternoon the apartment owner calls, asks if I want to take a trip!  He picks me up downtown, and we’re off to Horseshoe Bay.  It’s a small village nearby in West Vancouver.  We stopped into the Spirit Gallery, where I bought a piece of native art for my home.  It barely fit in my carry-on.

The BC Ferries dock at Horseshoe Bar
The BC Ferries dock at Horseshoe Bay

We returned to Vancouver and had dinner at the apartment.  I went for a walk in the dark, toward the Pacific Ocean, where I discovered that at the end of Davie Street is English Bay Beach.  Great for a little evening relaxation.

My trip starts out well, with a packed first day.  Six more days to go.  Early mornings, late evenings, lots of walking, a car rental, and side trips to Harrison Hot Springs, Chilliwack and Whistler.

More to come…

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.

The Old St Thomas Church

Completed in 1824, the St Thomas Anglican Church is one of the oldest structures in the city.  It was in continuous use until 1877, and designated a heritage property in 1982.  In 1877, the significantly larger Trinity Anglican Church was built.

Restoration of the church took place in 1986.

It is still in service as church on special days, is available for tours, and weddings.  The graveyard is still active, and has had a scattering garden added recently.

 

Gateway to the Old St Thomas Church
Gateway to the Old St Thomas Church
Gateway to the Old St Thomas Church
Your first view of the Old St Thomas Church from inside the gate.
The St Thomas Historical Board commemorated the 100th anniversary of the church in 1924.
The Elgin Historical Board commemorated the 100th anniversary of the church in 1924.

The interior of the church remains much as it did when built.  Cubicle style pews, a prisoner’s box, historical artifacts and original windows.

http://oldstthomaschurch.com/
The church was closed when I was there, and this was the only picture I could get through a reachable window. The rear of the church is on a hill and is not accessible.

The most significant monument is for the Chisholm family, who had seven family members die within seven years.  Constructed of Italian marble on a sandstone base, at the time it cost $5,000 – the price of two homes.

Folklore has it that the family had the Curse of Ireland.  In addition to all immediate family members dying within seven years, none died in their beds.

The Chisholm Monument
The Chisholm Monument
The gravestone of Ann Payne, born in 1762 and dies in 1834.
The gravestone of Ann Payne, born in 1762 and died in 1834.

Many of the graves have suffered the effects of age, acid rain, and even vandalism.

Old St Thomas Church Graveyard
Old St Thomas Church Graveyard

Buried here are the son of Daniel Rapelje (founder of St Thomas), Judge Hugh Richardson (sentenced Louis Riel to death) and Octavius Wallace (Canadian, fought as a corporal during the US Civil War).

Sometimes, small towns and cities hold the most memorable treasures.

 

 

** UPDATE **

Doors Open Ontario came to St Thomas early in October, 2014, and I was able to tour the interior of the church.

Interior, stained glass window, Old St Thomas Church
Interior, stained glass window, Old St Thomas Church

The interior of the church, from above the front door.  the rear of the church backs onto a ravine.  These are the only (not original) stained glass windows.

Interior, Old St Thomas Church
Interior, Old St Thomas Church

Early in its history, the church did not have stained glass windows.  The windows were painted to resemble them.  This is the last one remaining, still in place.

The last remaining painted window in the Old St Thomas Church
The last remaining painted window in the Old St Thomas Church

 

 

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.

 

Walter P Chrysler Museum

In September, 2010, I spent a weekend in Detroit.  My friends wished me away, hoping I’d come back without a toe tag.  I actually had a very good trip, although the conditions in Detroit proper were quite alarming.

I spent an afternoon at the Walter P Chrysler Museum in Auburn Hills.  Truly, a splendid museum of beautiful cars, well organized, and with informative staff.

Five years later, I’m back for another visit to Detroit.  The city has vastly improved.  Unfortunately, the Chrysler Museum has closed, due to lack of visitors.

Here are some of the pictures I took at that time.

There are still signs on Chrysler Drive directing you to the museum, although once there, the doors are locked.  It’s only available for private functions and employees.