Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Homes A Photo Essay

The First Nations peoples originally settled this land and built their homes on the banks of the Highland Creek.

The name "Iroquois" was given to the peoples of the six nations by their enemies. The Algonquin called them the Iroqu (Irinakhoiw) "rattlesnakes." After the French added the Gallic suffix "-ois" to this insult, the name became Iroquois. The Iroquois call themselves Haudenosaunee meaning "people of the long house." Iroquois villages were generally fortified and large. The distinctive, communal longhouses of the different clans could be over 200' in length and were built about a framework covered with elm bark.

Evidence of two of their villages have been found long the banks of the Highland Creek. These villages were set well back from the creek, away from the flood plain and from the sight of their enemies. The village on the west hill is located near the Alda Motel, while the one on the east hill of the creek is on the Helliwell property. Descendants of the original peoples continue to reside on this land in the Gabriel Dumont community of West Hill. This reconstructed Longhouse is from the Crawford Lake reserve.

More Myth than Reality, more Dream than Truth, the original village of West Hill can no longer be seen but only glimpsed. Hidden from direct view behind apartment blocks, shopping malls, major thoroughfares and sprawling subdivisions, the village of West Hill lives on, in small oasis of beauty between the encroaching bricks and granite of Canada's largest metropolitan area. Swallowed first by the City of Scarborough which in turn was engulfed by the City of Toronto, West Hill no longer exists on any map, yet can still be found when the light is right and guide is sure. Come, we will seek this small village together and let her peace and charm renew our souls and delight our eyes.

Originally the home of Colonel Bickford, The Guild Inn was owned by my great uncle Msrg. John Fraser from September 1921 to October 1924. He renamed the property the St. Francis Xavier China Mission Seminary. During World War II it became an official naval base and was renamed, HMCS Bytown and, later still, was transformed into a military hospital and renamed Scarborough Hall. The property later became the Guild of all Arts and became an major Arts Center. Now owned by the City of Toronto, and its future the subject of considerable controversy, the stately building has been boarded up and left to rot.

Most recently Centennial College has expressed an interest in the property to house its International Relations Department.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

CIBC Now Open On Sunday

The unheard of has happened in West Hill.

The new CIBC bank at Morningside Crossing has announced that it will open on Sunday. West Hill joins a select few other branches in Canada offering Sunday hours.

The move is part of an expanded awareness of customer needs and a willingness to extend service to meet those needs. Not only are banks open later in the day, not only do they have more banking machines, but now CIBC has added Sunday service to its customers.

It wasn't long ago that banks closed at 3 pm with additional hours only on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings.

At one point it was thought that internet banking and bank machines would make branches obsolete. Instead they have been modernized and made more customer friendly.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

West Hill Churches (Part 2 of 2)

The Heron Park Baptist Church holds a hugely successful community picnic every summer. It is located at Lawrence and West Hill Drive. With a congregation of over 300 from a variety of Christian traditions, it is also active with a number of community partners including West Hill Community Services, the Toronto Children's Choir, and Philip Aziz hospice services.

The West Hill's Seventh Day Adventist Chruch was also renovated and enlarged in the 1990's and is located at Kingston Rd and Poplar.

West Hill Gospel Hall was newly renovated and expanded in the 1990's. It is located at Morningside and Coronation.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Churches of West Hill (Part 1 of 2)

We have been challenged by Photojournalist, and former Associated Press Photographer, Patty Hancock to post more photos of our Community. Patty has undertaken this project as a way for us all to get to know each other's community. Maybe you'd like to skip over to Patty's to see what the spiritual life in Crisfield Maryland looks like. There are links from her site to other communities joining in this weekly venture.

West Hill certainly has a rich spiritual life and here is part one of a tribute to the churches of West Hill.

A new feature on the West Hill landscape is taking shape among the evergreens on the banks of the Highland Creek at the Kingston Road bridge. A new Buddhist Temple of the Toronto Mahavihara Society, is evidence of the diversity of the spiritual life of the community.

The major Roman Catholic Church in the community is St. Martin de Porres. Erected in the 1960's and substantially enlarged in the 1980's, its dramatic architectural style and placement at the intersection of Morningside and Lawrence make it one of the most well known features of the West Hill landscape.

Another historic Church, St. Margaret's in the Pines, has been a West Hill landmark for decades. St. Margaret's was the first parish in which Tom Harper, author and religious editor of the Toronto Star, served after his ordination as an Anglican Priest. Today St. Margarets reaches out especially to the Tamil community and to the elderly, with recreation and social programs for senior citizens running on a daily basis. The programs are run by West Hill Community Services and include transportation to and from St.Margarets.

Among the oldest Churches in the area, the Melville Presbyterian Church stands on the very edge of the west hill of Highland Creek on picturesque Old Kingston Road. It is visually one of the most dramatic of the area's churches.

Opportunities for a rich spiritual life are offered by the many religious centres in the community. Of these, only one carries West Hill's name. And it is likely the most controversial church in the entire country.

The West Hill United Church stands at the intersection of Orchard Park Dr and Kingston Road and looks innocent enough at first glance. Reverend Gretta Vosper welcomes visitors to her 1960s church. With a 230-family congregation, an average Sunday service has about 150 worshipers of all ages. The church has a youth group, a community supper program, and an outreach program that assists many charities. The church is currently creating more groups and programs. On Tuesday nights it houses Boy Scouts, karate and Narcotics Anonymous. The controversy arises from its being the only Church in West Hill, and maybe in the entire country, that has banned God. All mention of God has been removed from all Hymns sung and sermons preached. This is a Church for those who like their religion, "With Or Without God".

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Howard Johnson's Coming to West Hill

By March 8th, Howard Johnson's Motel chain will establish an east end of Toronto presence in West Hill.

Taking over the Gateway Motel at the Highland creek bridge, the international hotel chain will take a significant step in reclaiming the tarnished image of motels in the West Hill area.

Once an important tourist destination for those on their way to the downtown core, the City's decision to use the motels in West Hill as Emergency accommodation began in the 1980s. It continues to the present day.

Of the motels along the Kingston Road strip, only the Grand maintained its reputation as a family owned business catering to the tourist trade.

Howard Johnson's is a chain of restaurants and hotels, located primarily throughout the United States and Canada. The name is derived from the founder of the original company, Howard Deering Johnson, who started the initial chain of restaurants and motels. Howard Johnson hotels are now part of Wyndham Worldwide, formerly a part of Cendant.

Wyndham operates the Howard Johnson brand under many "tiers," based on price, level of amenities, and services offered. Howard Johnson Express Inns, Howard Johnson Inns, Howard Johnson Hotels, and Howard Johnson Plaza Hotels range from limited-service motels to full-service properties with on-site concierges and business centers. Howard Johnson recently has begun offering its "Rise 'N' Dine" continental breakfast.

Howard Johnson's had a long history of providing service to the east end of the city having operated a motel at Markham and Progress for many years, until it was acquired as a student residence by Centennial College.

Newly renovated and upgraded, the latest addition to the Howard Johnson chain will be opening its doors to the public in West Hill on March 8th.