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May in Toronto

1845, First Victoria Day


Queen Victoria memorial, outside Queen's Park

Queen Victoria Monument, Queen's Park
ca. 1910
City of Toronto Archives
Fonds 1568, Item 203

May 24, Victoria Day, is the Queen's official birthday in Canada.

First declared a holiday in 1845, the date was chosen as it was Queen Victoria's birthday. After her death, the birthday of her son, Edward VII, who was born in November, was also celebrated on May 24.

During the reigns of George V and Edward VIII, possibly as these kings were born during the summer, Canada celebrated their birthdays on the actual dates, June 3 and 23 respectively, although May 24 continued to be a public holiday.

Under the reign of George VI, who was born in December, Canada followed the United Kingdom and celebrated the monarch's birthday in June. This practise continued until 1953, when the celebration of the sovereign's birthday reverted back to May 24.

The 2012 Victoria Day was of particular importance as it was being celebrated during the Queen's Diamond Jubilee year. As a special commemoration to the 60 year reign of our monarch, the City of Toronto Archives produced a web exhibit, Queen City: Her Majesty in Toronto highlighting some of her previous visits to our city.

1892, Opening of the Hospital for Sick Children


Postcard of old Toronto Hospital for Sick Children building

Postcard view of Hospital for Sick Children, c.1910
City of Toronto Archives
Series 330, Item 419

On May 6, 1892, the Hospital for Sick Children officially opened the doors of its new building.

Located at the corner of College and Elizabeth streets, this 320-bed facility was one of the first hospitals in North America to be specifically designed for the care of children, and included modern amenities such as electric lighting, telephones and an elevator.

The five-storey Romanesque building was a big improvement on the hospital's first home, which was a small downtown house, equipped with only six cots. This house had been rented in 1875 by hospital founder Elizabeth McMaster and a group of Toronto women.

The striking red brick structure, that was the Hospital for Sick Children until 1951, still stands at 67 College Street in Toronto, and today is home to Canada Blood Services.

1939, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth attend the running of the Queen's Plate


George VI and Queen Elizabeth at old Woodbine racecourse

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth arrive at Woodbine Racetrack
May 22, 1939
Photographer: William James
City of Toronto Archives
Fonds 1244, Item 1019a

The above image was taken on the afternoon of May 22, 1939 when King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited the Woodbine Racecourse to watch the eightieth running of the Queen's Plate.

Archworth ran out winner of the then 1 mile 1 furlong race, earning the 50 guinea Royal prize for his owner, Toronto Globe and Mail publisher, George McCullagh.

Inaugurated in 1860, the Queen's Plate is the longest continuously run stakes race in North America. George VI was the first reigning monarch to attend the event while his daughter, Queen Elizabeth II, was a spectator at the 100th and the 151st running of the race in 1959 and 2010 respectively.

The 2014 Queen's Plate will be the 155th running of the race.

1950, First Sunday professional sport in Toronto


Baseball action

Baseball action at Maple Leaf Stadium stadium, c.1960
City of Toronto Archives
Series 1057, Item 850

The above image shows action from a baseball game at Maple Leaf Stadium, located at the foot of Bathurst Street at Lake Shore Boulevard. Demolished in 1968, the stadium was home of the Toronto Maple Leafs Baseball Club for 42 years.

On May 7, 1950 almost 18,000 fans braved the wintry conditions to watch the Maple Leafs make history by playing in Toronto's first ever professional sporting event to take place on a Sunday.

Prior to 1950, as part of the provisions of the Lord's Day Act, sporting activity on Sundays was outlawed, and even playing fields were supposed to be padlocked. In a municipal pleniscite in 1950 Torontonians voted to allow the playing of sport on Sundays, however shops were to remain firmly shut until the 1980s when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled the act unconstitutional.

The high turn out on that day didn't help the Leafs though as they lost both games of the the double header to the New Jersey Giants. They were defeated in the first game 9–5 and in the second 4–1, in a match up reduced to five innings to avoid breaking the 6pm Sunday curfew!

1967, The last time the Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup


Team photograph of 1966-67 Stanley Cup winners

1966-67 Stanley Cup winning Toronto Maple Leafs
City of Toronto Archives
Series 306, Subseries 1, File 57

On May 2, 1967, the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Montreal Canadiens by 3 goals to 1 to win the Stanley Cup.

The champion team, pictured above, was coached by "Punch" Imlach, and featured George Armstrong as captain, a 42-year-old Johnny Bower in goal and Tim Horton in defence.

1966-67 was the last season when the NHL consisted of the Original Six teams. The Leafs have failed to win the Stanley Cup since.

1973, Sir Ernest MacMillan dies


Sir Ernest Macmillan riding bicycle on University Avenue

Sir Ernest MacMillan riding his bicycle on University Avenue
City of Toronto Archives
Series 1569, File 11

On May 6th, 1973, conductor, composer, organist and writer, Sir Ernest MacMillan died.

MacMillan was born in Mimico in 1893. A child prodigy, he performed his first concert aged 10 on the organ at Massey Hall. Completing his music doctorate in 1918, he rapidly gained a reputation as a composer, concert organist, and conductor in Canada and the United States. In 1926 MacMillan was appointed as Principal of the Toronto Conservatory of Music and later became Dean of Music at the University of Toronto.

He is, however, best recognised for his 25-year tenure as Conductor and Musical Director with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, where he was particularly known for his dedication to music education for children and young people. He also served as organist for Timothy Eaton Memorial Church.

MacMillan was knighted in 1935, and received the Order of Canada in 1969.

1981, Canada's Wonderland officially opened


Canada's Wonderland, Main entrance, June 1981

Main entrance, Canada's Wonderland
June 8, 1981
Photographer: Harvey Naylor
City of Toronto Archives
Fonds 1526, File 98, Item 1

On May 23, 1981, the country's first theme park, Canada's Wonderland, was officially opened by Premier Bill Davis, Dudley Taft and Wayne Gretzky. At over 350 acres, it is the largest theme park in Canada.

Located in Vaughan just north of Toronto, Canada's Wonderland took two years to build at a cost of over $120 million. The park is divided into several themed areas, including the original four sections: International Street, Medieval Faire, Grande World Exposition of 1890 (now Action Zone), and Happyland (subsequently divided into Kidzville and Planet Snoopy).

Canada's Wonderland now has 69 rides. Its 16 roller coasters represent the world's second highest concentration of roller coasters in one location. The newest ride, the Leviathan, which opened in 2012, is the 7th tallest (306 feet) and 9th fastest (148 km/h) roller coaster in the world.

The image of the front entrance of the park was taken two weeks after opening. For more photographs of Canada's Wonderland in the summer of 1981, see Harvey Naylor's collection of images.

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