All posts in electric lights

Toronto Mayors? Name Misspelled and Chiselled on Building He Opposed, RECALLS OLD FIGHT


Of the 100’s of newspaper articles the blog has collected over the past year, from non digitized sources, this is one of the most interesting and telling about the Junction history in terms of public technology and political fights.





Misspelled and Chiselled on Building He Opposed

There may be here and there a pupil who has been taught “civics” ‘in Toronto schools and who can repeat the names of all the mayors from, William Lyon Mackenzie to Bert Wemp. Such a student would be surprised were he to pass over the overhead bridge spanning the railway tracks where they cross Weston Rd.,. and, looking westward, see a legend carved in atone which gives the impression that in 1901 the city had a mayor named “D. W. Clendennln.”

Of course, Toronto never had such a mayor and some citizens have suggested that the inscription on the tablet be removed or revised, since it preserves information which, while originally correct, is now misleading and which, being chiselled deep in stone, may outlive contemporary printed and written documents to the confusion of civic historians of the future.

The mayor, whose name is carved upon the tablet—Incorrectly spelled at that—was D. W. Clendenan,’ first reeve of the village of West Toronto Junction and later first mayor of the town Toronto Junction. ‘

The inscription itself recalls to oldtimers the stormy meetings of the Toronto Junction council which preceded the advent of electric light on the streets’ and in the homes of a. section of the city which is now populated by 50.000, but was then a town of 4,000 inhabitants and a high-vaulting ambition.

The municipality was first incorporated as a village in 1888, under the, name of West Toronto Junction, the nomenclature being dictated by the Canadian Pacific Railway which had an named its station in the township of York. As a junction, the place was of more importance to the C.P.R. then than it is now, for the railway had not yet acquired an eastern entrance along the waterfront and its trains from Montreal converged here with those from the north and west to go to the Union station over one track. Later, the railway was induced to drop the word “west” and” the dawn became Toronto Junction.

The Grand Trunk continued to call its local station Carlton, declining to conform to the town’s name on the ground that this was not a Grand Trunk Junction point.

Of course, this caused much confusion which after some years was overcome by a compromise followed by an act of the legislature under which the name West Toronto was adopted by the town, which became the city of West Toronto before amalgamation with Toronto took place in 1909.

…movement to obtain the most modern means of lighting their homes and their streets…

In 1890. Mr. Clendenan kept out of municipal politics in order to ‘contest the riding of West York against the late Dr J.T. Gilmour. Being unsuccessful he accepted the mayoralty again in 1891. He was therefore the town’s chief magistrate when the citizens tired of coal oil lamps and started a movement to obtain the most modern means of lighting their homes and their streets Toronto, the town’s big neighbor, was mostly electric-lighted and there was a popular demands for the same sort of service for the Junction.

Public ownership was abhorrent In the Junction?

There was, however, a minority headed by the mayor who thought the new-fangled light an extravagance. Public ownership was abhorrent to this minority even for street lighting. Indeed, even the “ginger group” who finally put the street lighting scheme across had not the temerity to suggest a publicly owned plant to provide interior lighting.


click for full size image

The mayor advocated a long-term contract with Consumers Gas Co. to light the streets and, backed by a few councillors, put up a stiff fight against Councillor Thomas Gillies and his followers who were proponents of electricity. By the way, Mr. Gillies is still a resident of Toronto and, so far as the writer knows, is the sole survivor of those whose names adorn the tablet. The fight was long continued and grew bitter as the weeks passed.

Recriminations and charges and counter-charges of “graft” were features of the meetings, but finally the principle of publicly-owned electric system won the day.

Hydro power was undreamed of in those days and the committee set to work to erect the building in which a steam-driven electric lighting plant was installed. The mayors name was omitted from the tablet as first erected-a circumstance which led top another storm in the council. The committee disclaimed any desire to belittle the mayor and assured him that the omission of his name was due to belief that he would not desire posterity to learn that he had any pasrt in the erection of a building that he so much despised.

Finally, the committee undertook to send a man up a ladder to chisel his worship’s name in the stone. It would appear that he was provided with incorrect copy, either by accident or design . Hence Mayor Clendenan’s named was spelled “Clendennin”

either by accident or design . Hence Mayor Clendenan’s named was spelled “Clendennin”


The name of J.H. Venables described as an engineer will remind old-timers of mechanical genius who half a century ago was superintendent of the Toronto waterworks and was in charge of West Toronto’s water supply in `1891 when his services were borrowed by the electric light committee to design the building with the tablet which is a cryptogram to all beholders except the few old-timers who can recall the circumstances herein related..


This tablet, which may be seen from the overhead bridge at the point where the Weston Rd. crosses the railway tracks, recalls the time when the town of Toronto Junction first obtained electricity.

It reads: “Erected 1891—Ball Electric Light Co., of Toronto—T. Gillies, ch’man, W, H. Millichamp, J. W. Campbell, J. B. Bruce, committee; J. Marr, uont’r., J. H. Venables, engin’r;, D. W. Clendennin, Mayor.”

Blog Note: the tablet referred to in this article no longer exists

Original Scan Link,

image in orig article page dark text unreadable, page dark