Friday, August 27, 2010

Heritage: A Hidden Air Raid Siren

TORONTO, ONTARIO - Recently, while reading the latest edition of Spacing magazine, I was surprised to find a short article on air raid sirens in Toronto. It featured a nice Matthew Blackett photo of an air raid siren on a pole in Bayview Village Park and a short explanation of its history. What really attracted my attention was that, almost in passing, it mentioned that there are two more such sirens, one at the Harbourfront Centre, and one at the northwest corner of Dundas and Shaw near Trinity Bellwoods Park.

Was there an air raid siren hidden in the background of this view of Dundas and Shaw in Toronto, taken from the edge of Trinity Bellwoods Park, on 21-August-2010?

While definitely not in my neighbourhood, the corner of Dundas and Shaw was hardly an exotic place to me. It's on the Garrison Creek discovery walk, for one, not far from the route of the annual Good Friday Procession, for another, and Dundas Street West is part of the fastest route for me to walk downtown. Yet, in the multitude of times I had walked past this location, I had never caught a whiff of an air raid siren overhead.

It just happened that the next time I walked past Dundas and Shaw was within a few days of reading the article, and as I approached the corner, despite being in a bit of a hurry, I decided to cross the street and see if I could find it on the northwest corner. Sure enough, behind the first row of trees lining Shaw Street, there it was. As it was basically hidden by trees on three sides, I could see why Blackett chose to feature the one at Bayview Village Park. Still, it was definitely there.

The air raid siren was indeed towering above the trees outside a retirement home in Toronto, Ontario on 21-August-2010

It looked about the same as not only the air raid siren Blackett had featured, but also just about every other Cold War-era air raid siren I've ever seen in the western United States. According to Blackett, they remain in Toronto because "the City claims the Province is responsible for them, Provincial staff say it's a Department of National Defence matter, and the DND claims the city has the right to remove them."

They've been there so long now that they practically qualify for a heritage designation, or at least placement in Toronto's city museum, if that ever comes to be. To think that I walked by one for years without ever noticing rather boggles my mind. Thank you to Spacing and Matthew Blackett for causing me to take note.

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