Monday, July 19, 2010

Heritage: Queen's Park Tour

Queen's Park, built in 1892, is the seat of government for Ontario, and the focus of a Heritage Toronto walk on 17-July-2010

TORONTO, ONTARIO - Many of Heritage Toronto's walks are done in concert with the organizations in charge of the sites in question that can offer quite a perspective, and the Queen's Park walk held Saturday was a classic example. David Bogart, the Communications Officer of the Legislative Assembly staff, led the tour around the grounds and then inside the building.

David Bogart showed a picture of a tree planting; the tree had grown to have more than a foot-wide trunk by 17-July-2010

Officially, the walk was to focus on the monuments around the grounds of Queen's Park, many of which are quite remarkable. While we had to take a slightly different route in order to avoid the noise of an ongoing protest, there was a lot of information presented on the history of the grounds, which had once featured quite different ornamentation including a significant fountain at its south end. The use of historical pictures juxtaposed against the present state effectively helped tell that story. The recent visit of the Queen, covered on this blog, added additional contemporary interest to some of the sites.

The view from the second floor of the West Wing of Queen's Park showed the grandeur of the building's interior on 17-July-2010

While the walk officially ended outside and was worthwhile in its own right, Bogart next led us inside on a special version of the normal Queen's Park Legislature tour. This part of the tour really impressed me, as various aspects of government and politics came to life, from the portraits of past premiers to the mace serving as the symbol of the Speaker's authority--both the present and the original mace used in Ontario were visible on this day.

A view toward the Speaker's chair was taken from the middle of the Legislative Chamber for the province of Ontario in Toronto on 17-July-2010

The obvious focal point of the interior tour was the Legislative Chamber itself. While I have rarely watched the television feed of Provincial Parliament on the Internet, news clips of the debate do not do the room justice. The way the press and visitor galleries peer into the room, the skill with which the television cameras were hidden in the walls, the and the ornamentation around the Speaker's chair all seemed much more impressive in person to me.

A small glass pane in the floor outside the Legislative Assembly showed some of the damage done to the building in a 1909, seen on 17-July-2010

Having an expert tour guide to point out things like the location of the Executive Council Chamber, the offices of well-known Members of Provincial Parliament, the significance of the placement of royal portraits, and details that might otherwise be missed like the subtle display of 1909 fire damage, really made the visit special. The "real walk" may have been outside, but most of what I will remember was inside, thanks to David Bogart of the Legislative Assembly staff.

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