Friday, April 9, 2010

Heritage: Vimy Circle

TORONTO, ONTARIO - On this Vimy Ridge Day nationally in Canada, it seemed appropriate to pay a little attention to a monument to this day that was never constructed--Vimy Circle.

I first learned about Vimy Circle from "Unbuilt Toronto" author Mark Osbaldeston's presentation to the Swansea Historical Society in February. Vimy Circle, which would have been located at modern-day University and Richmond, would have been a large roundabout, surrounded by Romanesque architecture with a monument to the battle at Vimy Ridge in the center.

The latest issue of Spacing magazine included more information on Vimy Circle, which was part of a bold effort to change the street map of Toronto, including Federal Avenue from the front of Union Station up to Queen Street and several streets running at a diagonal through the city's grid. A post on the Toronto Before blog illustrates what it might have looked like, and where it might have been, though the best rendering I've ever seen appears in Spacing. It looks almost like something out of Rome or Paris, and would have lent a feeling of planned and revered civilization that Toronto sorely lacks, save perhaps at Queen's Park.

Why was Vimy Circle never built, along with all the other proposals of the day? It was put to a referendum just three months after the 1929 Black Thursday crash of the stock markets heralding the start of what became the Great Depression. Unsurprisingly in those circumstances, the referendum failed.

Yet, while Toronto does not have a Vimy Circle, events today in Ottawa prove that Vimy Ridge will not soon be forgotten in Canada.

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