Challenge: The Tower

This is the first installment of my Candid Camera Challenge, in which readers submit suggestions of subjects they’d like to see photographed for this blog. Photos can be new or from my archives. Thank you to those who have already responded.

Today’s challenge comes from Samantha of CrystalCats, who suggested I capture “something that typifies where you live … like Robin Hood is the first thing associated with Nottingham.” I’m a proud Toronto girl, so I was happy to tackle this one!

The Toronto skyline viewed from Algonquin Island during Earth Hour 2008, the first anniversary of the international event. The “lights out” didn’t seem terribly impressive, but the CN Tower (left) and other buildings in the downtown core did go dark at the appointed time.

Historic Toronto
The City of Toronto is situated on land originally inhabited by native Iroquois and Huron peoples. From its establishment in 1750 as a French trading post, Fort Toronto, it became a British/Canadian garrison, Fort York, in 1793. The defended settlement was renamed York for King George III’s son, the Duke of York, until it was incorporated as a city in 1834 and given back its original name. As the city grew, it became Metropolitan Toronto, and when several municipalities amalgamated in 1998, Toronto achieved “megacity” status.

With a population of almost 3 million (the Greater Toronto Area has 6 million), my hometown is the largest city in Canada, the fourth-largest by population in North America and one of the most multicultural, welcoming and inclusive cities in the world, with over 200 ethnicities and 160 languages represented. Just about every week somewhere in the city, a different festival is held. In June, for example, Toronto will once again celebrate Pride Week, one of the world’s largest LGBTQ festivals. On the whole, this city is friendly, clean and safe, living up to its moniker as “Toronto the Good”, which is one of the many reasons I love it so much.

What’s in a name?
The word Toronto means “plenty” in the Huron language and “trees standing in the water” in Mohawk. “No place in Canada has as many sobriquets as Toronto,” writes geographer Alan Rayburn in his book Naming Canada: Stories about Canadian Place Names. Amongst its many nicknames are:

  • Muddy York, dirty Little York and nasty Little York, all from the settlement’s earliest days of unpaved roads and lack of drains and sewers
  • Hogtown, possibly from the Anglo-Saxon word for York, Eoforwic, meaning “wild boar village” or, more likely, for Toronto’s once-abundant livestock processing plants
  • Toronto the Good, coined by a 19th century Toronto mayor for the city’s supposedly high Victorian morals
  • Queen City, used mostly by French Canadians
  • The Big Smoke, a name shared with London, England and several other world cities
  • The Six (also The 6 or The 6ix), a term coined by Toronto musicians – used most recently by Drake – from the city’s six former municipalities and its 416 area code
  • T.O., for Toronto or Toronto, Ontario; articulated TEE OH
  • Hollywood/Broadway North, for its thriving film, theatre and music industry

The CN Tower as seen from our seats in the Skydome (since renamed the Rogers Centre) during a Toronto Blue Jays baseball game • May 2005

The Tower
Whilst perhaps no one individual is notoriously associated with this city, like Robin Hood is with Nottingham, by far Toronto’s most iconic landmark is the CN Tower. Aside from Niagara Falls, the CN Tower is undoubtedly the most popular tourist attraction in Ontario.

When it was completed in 1976, the 553.3 metre (1,815.3 foot) communications / observation tower was the tallest freestanding structure in the world, a record it held for 32 years. The “pod” near the top houses three observation decks, one of which has a glass floor, and a 360° revolving restaurant. One of the high-speed elevators running up its side has glass panels in its floor, making the ascent quite stomach-dropping, and the EdgeWalk (installed in 2011) offers visitors a chance to walk, whilst tethered, outside on the roof of the pod.

Like other world landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, the colour-changing LED lights on the CN Tower are often used to celebrate special events or holidays or to mark international solidarity and days of mourning following a tragedy or the death of a public figure. The lights can also be turned off completely, as happens during the annual observance of Earth Hour, and to reduce bird mortality during spring and autumn migration.

Looking southwest from the observation deck of the CN Tower, several landmarks are visible: Fort York, the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) grounds, Ontario Place, Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, heritage sites such as the 1928 Canada Malting Company silos, and the first wind turbine ever installed in a major North American urban centre • April 2008

I’ve visited the Tower as a tourist as well as a cheerleader for a workplace team who participated in the World Wildlife Fund’s annual CN Tower Climb fundraiser. Note how I said I was a cheerleader … nothing could have persuaded me to climb all 1,776 steps (144 storeys) myself! Average climbers take about 30 minutes to make the ascent; the fastest climb on record, in 1989, clocked in at 7 minutes 52 seconds. Holy Inhaler, Batman!

T.O. Trivia
By the way, you might be wondering how to pronounce Toronto. Just as it’s spelled, with the emphasis on the second syllable – if you’re not from around here. However, if you’re a born-and-raised native like me, it’s TRAWN uh.

Viewed from the west at Colonel Samuel Smith Park, the Toronto core rises like a ghostly apparition through the haze of a warm spring day • May 2010