|THEN : Toronto's first purpose built city hall, shown in the mid-nineteenth century, when everything south of Front Street was still Lake Ontario.|
|NOW : The 1844 city hall has been converted into the Market Gallery, the lake waters south of it have been filled in and now house vendors.|
From 1834, when the City of Toronto was incorporated out of the old Town of York, elections for city council, and therefore, for Mayor, were actually held every single year, right up until 1956. Traditionally, campaigning was done for three weeks in December, and elections were held on or about New Years Day. Now that they let just about anyone in Toronto who's of age go drinking on New Years Eve, perhaps some changes are for the best.
WILLIAM LYON MACKENZIE
Toronto's First Mayor (1834)
|THEN : William Lyon Mackenzie, Toronto's Mayor in 1834.|
The first mayor to be chosen for the brand new City of Toronto was none other than William Lyon Mackenzie. Born in Scotland in 1795, Mackenzie had emigrated to Canada in 1820, after leaving behind a youth spent drinking and gambling - not to mention the illegitimate son, James, that he left behind in the care of his aging mother. Throughout the 1820s he was editor of a series of newspapers, most notable among them "The Colonial Advocate", which he used to slander various Tory politicians. In 1826, the sons of some of the same wealthy luminaries who Mackenzie criticized broke in to Mackenzie's printing press, breaking up his equipment and throwing it into the harbour. Although Mackenzie was in New York State at the time of their attack, he took them to court, and eventually won a substantial amount of money. This was somewhat of a miracle for Mackenzie, as he'd been out of town in New York evading his creditors. If those young Tories had just left him alone, Mackenzie probably would have gone bankrupt and no one would have heard from him again.
As it was, Mackenzie was able to use the money and the notoriety he gained from the Types Riot to launch a political career. He was constantly being thrown out of the halls of government for his antagonistic behaviour, but then would get put in again in subsequent elections. In 1834, the year that the City of Toronto was incorporated, he became our first mayor. Mackenzie was essentially an ineffective mayor. He did manage to throw out a number of conservative Tory candidates and replace them with his own supporters, but he did nothing to curb the large municipal debt, and he failed to make much needed improvements to municipal works. In 1834, there was not even enough money to lay boards on the streets to serve as sidewalks. Hmm, debates about government expense and struggles with the city's budget ... does that sound like a familiar election issue?
The Toronto city council had one thing to worry about in 1834 which fortunately has vanished today. That year, the city was devastated by a cholera outbreak. No one, rich or poor was immune, and whole families were wiped out by this terrible disease, which killed some individuals in half a day. Huge mass graves - the most well known of which lies just to the east of the Cathedral Church of St. James - were filled in with hundreds of bodies. Like everyone else, Mackenzie was impacted; he lost many friends to the epidiemic and was heartbroken by the death of his own daughter to the disease. It was a great municipal tragedy.
Mackenzie's leadership style caused frequent arguments among his fellow councillors. For his entire professional career, he was known as a man who was incapable of compromise. By the summer of 1834, Mackenzie's style had crippled the city council and the Reformers accomplished nothing. The Tories easily won the election of 1835 and Robert Baldwin Sullivan became Toronto's second mayor. Just a few years later, in December of 1837, Mackenzie would be disgraced as the leader of the Rebellion of 1837, in which he led a large group of followers in an open revolution against the provincial government. Although Mackenzie successfully escaped arrest and fled to the United States, several of his followers were captured and imprisoned. Mackenzie literally left them to hang, with a few of the executions taking place on the north side of King Street, between Toronto and Church streets, more or less where a branch of the CIBC stands today. Mackenzie lived the life of an exile until he was pardoned in 1849, and he returned to Toronto in 1850, dying in a house on Bond Street in 1861.
With his lack of accomplishments as mayor, his failure to muster any kind of cohesion amongst his fellow councillors, and his open revolt against the provincial government just a few years after his term as mayor, it's clear that as a municipal leader, William Lyon Mackenzie was a rogue!
WILLIAM HENRY BOULTON
Mayor of Toronto from 1845 to 1847, and again in 1858
|THEN : William Henry Boulton, Mayor of Toronto, 1845 to 1847, 1858.|
William Henry Boulton was a member of one of Toronto's wealthiest and most elite clans during the first part of the nineteenth century. He was born into priviledge in 1812, here in Toronto, which was still known as the Town of York at the time of his birth. Although he was only a boy when Mackenzie arrived in Upper Canada (now Ontario) in 1820, William Henry had the honour of being a member of the first family that our "illustrious" first mayor criticized in his reformist newspapers. As a young man, Boulton studied law and entered a legal practice. Boulton was first elected to Toronto's City Council in 1838, and in 1844 he was elected to the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada (then made up of parts of present day Ontario and Quebec). As a member of the Legislative Assembly, Boulton represented Toronto as a conservative member - not surprising giving his family's membership among the establishment.
Boulton served as Mayor of Toronto from 1845 to 1847, and then again in 1858. Between the time of Mackenzie's Rebellion of 1837, and Confederation in 1867, there were many debates regarding reforms to Canada's politics, education and governance. This period saw the secularization of certain institutions that had formerly been run by the Anglican Church. Most notable among them was education. King's College, the predecessor to the University of Toronto, was originally established by the Church, and it was at this time that it was turned into a secular institution. But the separation of church and education was not without heated debate. Boulton voted against the secularization of post secondary education, showing his true conservative stripes. However, he did show some support for reform, supporting a movement to make the Legislative Council elected, and not merely appointed.
William Henry Boulton died in Toronto in 1874, and his wife Hariette Boulton inherited the family estate, known as the Grange. She remarried shortly after, and her new husband, Goldwin Smith, moved in with her. When Smith died in 1910, the house was bequeathed to become the "Art Gallery of Toronto". In the last century, the modern Art Gallery of Ontario - including the recent additions by famed Toronto architect Frank Gehry - has grown around the Boulton home. The Grange dates back to 1817, making it one of the oldest surviving brick homes from the old Town of York.
|THEN : Donald Summerville in 1959, before becoming Mayor of Toronto. On the right is another later Mayor, Nathan Phillips, who became the first Jewish Mayor of Toronto.|
And now for something almost as frightening as staying up late on Monday night to watch the polls close ...
Every night from now until October 31st, I run my "Hallowe'en Season" of ghost tours. The two-hour "Haunted Streets of Downtown Toronto" tour runs every night at 7:00 p.m., and the shorter "Ghosts of the University of Toronto" tour runs every night at 10:00 p.m. Both tours are held each and every night. Make sure to reserve though, as some nights are already almost sold out. Reservations may be made by contacting me by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at (416) 487-9017. Hallowe'en is always a busy time of year, and I am thankful to all the people who help to keep it that way!
Sign up now, as some nights are already sold out!
For more information on either of the two ghost tours, please visit these links.
"The Haunted Streets of Downtown Toronto" Tour
"The Ghosts of the University of Toronto" Tour