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Tour Title London Downtown Discovery Trail
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  Central Library Socrates himself presides over the doorway of the Elsie Perrin Williams Memorial Library (1939). This was the site of the “Winter Gardens” skating rink, a popular pleasure spot for Londoners, although today’s Central Library patrons seek culture of a different sort. Notice the maple leaf-shaped Centennial building to the east. Fully Accessible; Washrooms   Click here to show map location
  One London Place As the city expanded, the financial district of London moved eastwards by stages to end up here, where it has largely remained. Major bank and trust buildings were joined here in 1993 by the shimmering skyscraper of One London Place. Business has a solid foundation, but not so all the buildings downtown, some are built on shifting sands and Ice Age bogs. One London’s Place’s foundation piles extend down a staggering 5 storeys to reach bedrock. Gone, however, ate the factories and foundries that dotted this area to the south, encouraged by the city to move out to the suburbs.   Click here to show map location
  Banker's Row - Ridout Street Restoration Early commercial life hummed around this intersection; these handsome and rare examples of late Georgian architecture represent London’s first financial centre – banks and private homes. James Hamilton, an early painter of local scenes (and bank manager!), lived above the bank no. 435. These buildings became the focus of London’s first major conservation effort, bought and beautifully restored by the Labatt Brewing Company in 1970. (John K. Labatt had started his brewery in London in 1847.) Self Guided Tours   Click here to show map location
  Eldon House The best addresses in these early decades overlooked the Thames and their gardens reached down to the river. John Harris, Treasurer of the London District, built what is now London’s oldest house in 1834, in a spacious Regency style. In 1961 the Harris family donated Eldon House and its contents to the City to become an outstanding museum of Victorian family life. The grounds became Harris Park. The house is open to the public: Tuesday to Sunday 12.00-5.00 P.M. Guided Tours; Washrooms   Click here to show map location
  Ridout Street In 1838 Elijah Leonard’ s foundry was opposite Eldon House, and factories and shops lined this important road, the main route to all points north, via Blackfriars Bridge. Ridout Street, like all “downtown” areas, combined industry and commerce with domestic life – people had to live near where they worked. Here also were farms; cows and pigs roamed the streets while wolves still howled in the encroached forest.  
  Dominion Building The massive height and patriotic décor of the public building proclaimed hope and confidence in the nation’s future when it was built in 1936. Its construction helped ease unemployment during the Great Depression. Today it represents one of the delightful examples of Art Deco architecture in the country. Notice all the maple leaves and the exceptional bronze lights that flank the building. You may go inside and admire the original brass fittings of London’s former main Post Office.   Click here to show map location
  London Club The opulent Queen Anne style of the London Club, with its wealth of decorative detail, speaks of a more prosperous and leisured era. In the 1880’s this area was the hub of the city’s busy financial district. Built in 1881, the Club provided a haven and exclusive social centre for financiers, businessmen and politicians of late Victorian days. In today’s more democratic age its patronage is wider, and it is no longer an exclusively male domain.   Click here to show map location
  St. Paul's Cathedral Set in a peaceful green oasis, the Anglican St. Paul’s Cathedral is a typical example of the “parish church design favoured in the 1840’s. Its multitude of pinnacles reaches toward the sky in pure Gothic style. London’s early Establishment was largely Anglican and symbolically the tower dominated the skyline for many years. The cast-iron beaver fence of the demolished Customs House encircles what was London’s most important cemetery. In early days, burials – particularly of cholera victims – often took place at night. In 1849, the cemetery was moved though some graves remain. Look for them hidden in the north-east corner. You may go inside; amongst the treasures are four famous Tiffany stained glass windows. The Cathedral is open from 11-2 (winter) and 12-4 (summer) on weekdays. Guided Tours   Click here to show map location
  Grand Theatre Representing over 150 years of theatrical development in London, the Grand theatre was built in 1901 on the site of the old Roman Catholic Cemetery. Sir Henry Irving, Sarah Bernhardt and London’s own Hume Cornyn once trod its boards. In 1919 the proprietor, Ambrose Small, disappeared in mysterious circumstances and it is said his ghost still walks behind the scenes. Behind the modern frontage, the original beautiful proscenium arch still spans the stage.  
  St. Peter's Basilica Splendidly medieval in style stone, the Roman is reminiscent of French and rendered in varieties of Catholic St. Peter’s (1885) Gothic Cathedrals, particularly Notre Dame in Paris. The Carillon Tower contains 12 bells, one for each of the Apostles. Look out for typical gargoyles and the rose window made in Austria. London’s two cathedrals traditionally exchange preachers and congregations on the Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul.   Click here to show map location
  St. Peter's Rectory The 1874 date stone of the elegant former Palace and seminary exhibits St. Peter’s keys and mitre. Built in Italianate style, it has an air of retired dignity and composure, enlivened by contrasting stylistic features: a Tudor Revival doorway and a French Second Empire style mansard roof.  
  Victoria Park In the year of Queen Victoria’s accession, British troops were sent in to defend Upper Canada after the Rebellion of 1837. The British Garrison had a sprawling wooden barracks here, wit muddy parade ground and cricket new life and increased prosperity to the straggling frontier community. Today London’s own soldiers are remembered by the Boer War Memorial statue, the “Holy Roller” (a D-Day invasion tank) , and the Cenotaph at the south-east corner, where Remembrance Day service are still held. 20,000 people celebrated the end of the war here on Armistice Day in 1918. After the army left here, finally (the cannons commemorate their temporary exodus to fight in the Crimean War), the grounds were donated to the city in 1874. They were landscaped: adorned with statues, statues, fountain, band shell and a skating rink. Flower beds, winding paths and a double parade of trees around the perimeter for riders turned the ground into a delightful neighborhood park. And a Victoria park address soon had a real cachet: on the streets around were some of London’s finest homes.   Click here to show map location
  London Life Building Victoria Park took on an institutional hue when London Life’s impressive Beaux-Arts style Head Office was erected here on the site of former mansions in 1927. As a product of the ebullient confidence of the Pre-Crash twenties, the buildings convey an air of solid assurance. One of London’s earliest companies, London Life helped to establish the city’s reputation as the “Insurance Capital of Canada” and, incidentally, the front lawn holds the record as the ‘greenest in Canada”. Major additions and a 1964 building mean that the company now dominates this entire block.   Click here to show map location
  City Hall and Reg Cooper Square Victoria Park environs acquired not only a civic flavour in 1971 with the latest City Hal but also a slightly Italian air. The building and milieu were inspired by a vision of Italian cityscapes. The wind-swept “piazza” with fountain and colonnaded arcades can, however, only be enjoyed in summer! White Ontario marble covers the curved building and two massive black cantilevers house the Council Chambers and the Mayor’s Offices, the contrast symbolizing the separation of administration and elected officials.   Click here to show map location
  Metropolitan United Church “Methodism’s Magnificent Temple” is influenced by the weighty Romanesque Revival style fashionable in the 1890’s. Massive buildings like this amply demonstrate turn-of-the-century affluence and the importance of religious institutions in the growing city.   Click here to show map location
  Queen's Court In 1910, apartment living was an innovation for Londoners and this corner saw the first of a bevy of attractive buildings nearby that still comprise downtown’s foremost residential area. Edwardian Hayman Court (1912) was renovated in 1986, when it won an Ontario annual award for condominium development.   Click here to show map location
  Old City Hall With business came government. London’s 4th City Hall was built here by adding a new wing to an existing Neoclassical style utilities building in 1927. Today it still plays a useful role downtown now converted into offices, shops and apartments.   Click here to show map location
  Galleria Dundas Street evolves and the Galleria, a 1980s shopping mall, reflects the habits of today’s consumers. Part of it was developed on the site of Wellington Square, which was North America’s first indoor downtown shopping mall. Today London has more shops per capita than any other North American City. An ‘Information London’ service available here.  
  Mechanic's Institute An educated workforce was as important to an expanding Victorian economy as it is today. London’s finest Second Empire edifice, built in 1877, started as a place of education for working men with lecture halls and free library. As times changed, it became a theatre and music hall. One April 1st in the last century, a murder occurred on the stage. The audience was not alarmed. They thought it was an April’s Fool’s joke! Today, it has been impeccably restored and conveys the strength and character of its original function with its inspired façade. Street View only   Click here to show map location
  Canada Trust Building In the 1930’s, in the wake of the economic disaster of the Great Depression, didactic architecture was in vogue. On this Art Deco Canada Trust building robust pioneering figures illustrate all aspects of Canadian industry, perhaps announcing that, by this time, the London company had a national profile. Travertine marble on walls and floor, decorated brass doors, and columns of Egyptian inspiration grace the interior.   Click here to show map location
  Duffield Block This building, known as Duffield Block, is one of the few survivors of the concert halls and opera houses found downtown in a previous age. Their ornamental exteriors promised a grand night out for patrons. Renovations have blurred Spettigue Hall’s showy façade and, after it was bought by James Duffield, it has seen a variety of other uses –once as a studio where Paul Peel, London’s most famous artist, reputedly had his first art lesson.  
  Hawthorne Hotel Hotels were prolific downtown. In 1873, a city of 18000 souls could support over 100 taverns and 60 hotels! This was the Hawthorne Hotel, with amazingly tall and ornately crowned windows. At the turn of the century its “European Restaurant” catered to more sophisticated tastes.   Click here to show map location
  Century Theatre All kinds of ventures thrived on Dundas Street. Formerly Loew’s Theatre, it was built during the transition from vaudeville to film and both types of entertainment took place here. W.C. Fields, George Burns and Gracie Allen all appeared live on the stage.   Click here to show map location
  Reid's Crystal Hall Tragedy struck here in 1907 when the second floor of this building collapsed, killing 10 people. As a consequence, the city brought in a new bylaw and hired its first building inspector. Today blank-faced cladding shrouds the frontage.   Click here to show map location
  Union Block Substantial brick-built blocks began to appear in the city after the Great Fire of London in 1845 when wooden buildings became prohibited. They symbolised the city’s new sense of permanence and prosperity; London had “boomed” when the railroad arrived in 1854. The Union Block was well known for the better class of boot and shoe stores.  
  Market Tower Customs change, but landmarks commemorate past times. Today a modern clock tower marks the traditional importance of this crossroads as London’s major shopping destination. The popular emporium here was originally the Smallman and Ingram store, and later Simpson’s and The Bay. In an ideal location close to the market, it was surrounded by several other department stores, including the first ever Zellers store 176 Dundas. This was also the city’s primary transit hub. The London Transportation Company started in 1875 with a horse-drawn street railway, progressing to electric streetcars and in 1923 to the first gasoline powered buses.   Click here to show map location
  Covent Garden Market Market Square was always the busiest place in town, thronged with farmers and their wagons laden with hay and produce of all kinds. It was surrounded by merchants, taverns, hotels and stables, and an arcade of shops linked the Square to Richmond Street. Most stalls were still outside even after the butchers were housed in an elegant Palladian-style building in 1853, now remembered in Paul Peel’s sunny painting. There has been a market on this site for over 150 years.   Click here to show map location
  Kingmill's Kingmill’s is London’s only traditional-style department store, established here for shopping in elegant style in 1865. This Kingsmill building is the third to occupy the site and this block was long a source for dry goods. The first Mr. Kingsmill was very obliging, he would open his store on a Sunday for those suddenly in need of mourning clothes—was this the first Sunday shopping in Ontario?   Click here to show map location
  Museum London We end London’s story at this space age building, designed by Raymond Moriyama in 1976. Here you can see London’s only white rhinoceros and from the gallery enjoy a wonderful view of the Forks of the Thames. This gallery houses the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame.   Click here to show map location

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Group London Heritage Council
Added By Heritage Council
Date Added October 2, 2013
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