Saturday, November 7, 2009

Heritage: Faces on Places

Author Terry Murray spoke at the Swansea Historical Society meeting on 4-November-2009

TORONTO, ONTARIO - This week's meeting of the Swansea Historical Society featured as speaker the medical journalist and author of Faces on Places, Terry Murray. While I had attended a Heritage Toronto walk that included many of the places downtown that she featured in the book, I definitely wanted to attend the meeting to find out what faces she had found on places closer to where I live.

I was not disappointed. While a history of some of the installations that had interested her in this topic and some of the adventures she had while documenting sculpture in Toronto made for an entertaining presentation, there was local content. Over the course of the evening she mentioned at least three places within walking distance of my residence where there was sculpture that either I had never noticed before, or never looked at closely.

A montage of the "reading, writing and arithmetic" sculptures on the side of Swansea Public School, sculpted by Murray Brown in 1953, was captured on 7-November-2009

I set out on an unseasonably warm autumn day today to take a look at two of the places she had talked about. The first proved to be right along Windermere Avenue. During an expansion of Swansea Public School in 1953, the sculptor Murray Brown was apparently commissioned to do another version of the "reading, writing and arithmetic" sculptures that were common in Scarborough at the time. (Neither Scarborough nor Swansea was then a part of Toronto.)

Four gargoyles were found on the north face of the tower at Morningside-High Park Presbyterian Church in the Swansea neighbourhood of Toronto, Ontario on 7-November-2009

Terry Murray's real passion is for gargoyles, sculptures that not only decorate a structure but serve the function of draining water away from them. She did find gargoyles in Swansea at the Morningside-High Park Presbyterian Church. As the building is a community icon, opened in 1917 and serving as a polling place amongst other civic uses, I knew how ornate the church was, but had never paid attention to the higher portion of the tower, where the gargoyles are located. I combined the four on the north face of the tower into a montage above.

For more on gargoyles and other building sculptures around Toronto, see Terry Murray's blog or find a copy of her book.

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