"Cowardice asks the question...is it safe? Expediency asks the question...is it politic? Vanity asks the question...is it popular? But conscience asks the question...is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it because it is right." ~Dr. Martin Luther King

Monday 9 April 2012

Weird and Fanciful

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Hopes And Dreams":

I have just returned from a vacation that included, among other things, a visit to Savannah, Georgia.

This is a very interesting city that was created as the first settlement in what would have been the 13th colony in British North America. It was interesting then as one of the rules around how the colony was governed was that lawyers were not allowed - would it not be nice if we had that law now?

What is interestng now is how they embrace their old buildings. Within the confines of the original town layout, they created 24 "squares". Each square contained a park like area and buildings surrounded them. Of those 24 squares, 22 still exist. 2 of them were taken over by - get this - a court house and jail; on what was called "Liberty Square".

Some of the old buildings are being restored by SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design). This group buys derilict buildings and restore them either to be sold or to be used as SCAD facilities. I saw a building that they just purchased that was literally 4 walls - no roof and wild plants growing in them.

If we had a group in the GTA like SCAD we would have a better inventory of old buildings that would be usable today.

But we wouldn't have Savannah.

Savannah didn't have the idea of town squares first. Squares like that were a feature of  the west end of Victorian and Edwardian  London.

The garden in the centre was  enclosed  by wrought iron railings. There were  paths and benches. residents owned the garden and they had keys to the gates.

Behind the houses and reached through  intermittent unobtrusive archways, were liveries for horses and carriages

Entrances to the houses were steps up from the sidewalk.
They laso had wrought iron railings.

There's a  beautiful example  in the movie Oliver Twist.

Featured in the musical number "Who will buy" among other things "My sweet scented Lavender"

I  used to suggest the town square design  when town house development was first proposed in Aurora. Planners and developers alike looked at me as if  I had suddenly  sprouted horns.

Bayview Avenue is a classic example of how not to do it.  Houses facing  Bayview are  elegant. Cut stone features, steps up to the front door, wrought iron railings. Tiny garden areas form  part of the frontage. Much attention to detail.

I sat in the car one day in parking lot on the west side of Bayview and contemplated the vista. 

Huge investment in  curb appeal. No pedestrian traffic  to appeal to.  Certainly the  carriage trade moves too fast to notice the elegance.  The small gardens are almost universally neglected  and have no useful purpose.

Savannah is probably not the only North American city to be built in the design of a place left behind.

I sat on a street bench,early one sunny summer morning.  in the City of Guelph. I was early for a hearing in a  building nearby.

Configuration of the street intrigued me. Instead of an intersection, the right of way forked in two. It reminded me of Dumfries,Scotland. When my colleague joined me in the office.I mentioned the similarity.

She had grown up in the  town.

"Well " she said " we are in Dumfries County, you know "

The odd thing was, in Dumfries, Scotland, as it was all over the old country, roads follow the pattern of tracks that took the line of least resistance, before traffic evolved, maybe even before wheels.

The first immigrants, when it came to building towns, in many instances, simply rebuilt  the towns and houses left behind.

In a garden opposite the government office in Guelph , there was   a tree  trunk about eight feet high.  The bark had been stripped, the surface was smooth and seemed strangely naked. The whole  was painted a light shade of green in latex.

The owner probably couldn't bear to lose the tree completely. I understand that. Judging by the size of the trunk,it must have been a massive tree. But I don't think it added a thing to the street scape. It was a narrow street.

But it really was quite remarkable. I remember little else about that street.


Anonymous said...

I once heard a rumour that the official plan for Guelph was accidently switched with Goderich.

If you were to take a map of downtown Goderich (with it's central courthouse and circular main street with radial streets running out from it it) and place it in Guelph, it would fit.

If you think about it, a circular street pattern in Goderich does not make much sense with the lake close by.

Anonymous said...

You won't hear about it from the town website. But the new Maunders is operating out of the former Wellington Gallery and there is a new outfit, Harvest
Fine Meats at their old location. I hear they have meat pies.Not sure if they have turkey.

Anonymous said...

I've been told that the people in Maunders are the ones from the recently-closed Aurora Fine Foods, which was located at Yonge & Dunning.

Apparently, the sausage rolls are good.