Friday, 14 November 2014




One of the reasons why I love to write for the Featured Object column on Musings (and one of the reasons why I entered the Museum Studies program in the first place) is rooted in a great joy of mine: to wonder about, research, and uncover secrets and stories about the places we live in and the objects we encounter on a daily basis.

So you can imagine my delight and surprise while eating lunch at the Maple Leaf Gardens Loblaws recently, when a story itself jumped out from the lunch table and served up a side of heritage with my spicy rapini salad.

Public lunch table at Maple Leaf Gardens. Source: BlogTO

I sat at a public table on the second floor of the 60 Carlton Street Loblaws, finishing my meal and planning my next move into Joe Fresh for some post-lunch browsing. Suddenly I noticed that the table was covered not only in a collage of hockey photographs, but also featured a small square of text (or, to draw upon museum terminology -- a text panel!). On this panel I began to read about Bill Barilko, a legendary player for the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1947 to 1951. Within the span of a few minutes, I not only received my daily vitamin C intake, but also learned that Barilko scored the winning goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs at the 1951 Stanley Cup -- his final goal before his tragic death in a plane crash in August 1951.

This brief yet informative heritage lesson in the middle of my day was a welcome and unexpected addition to my routine. While providing an interesting moment in Toronto’s sport history, this lunch table collage also prompted me to reflect on how heritage buildings can remember and share their own rich history, as the Maple Leaf Gardens Loblaws does here.

Maple Leaf Gardens floorplan. Source: Heritage Toronto
Maple Leaf Gardens exterior. Source: SportsNet

Let’s take an even bigger step back from the table and take a look at the whole building itself. While newcomers to Toronto may only know Maple Leaf Gardens for its flagship Loblaws and Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Centre, the building’s life has encompassed so much more. Opened on November 12, 1931, Maple Leaf Gardens was, for many years, the primary sports arena in Toronto. Perhaps best known as the home rink for the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team, Maple Leaf Gardens was also the site of multiple other sports games, such as Toronto Raptors (NBA) and Toronto Rock (National Lacrosse League). It also held major concerts (among them, The Beatles -- swoon) and events, such as Winston Churchill’s 1932 speech in Toronto. The original arena held its last function in 2000, a Toronto Rock lacrosse game.

Montreal Canadiens vs. Toronto Maple Leafs at Maple Leaf Gardens, 1964. Source: Heritage Toronto

In 2011, Loblaws opened its flagship grocery store in the historic Maple Leaf Gardens building. Amid the overwhelming amount of food and departments in this complex, including the “Amazing Wall of Cheese,” sushi bar, bakery, and cooking school, among others, it might be easy for shoppers to forget quickly the long and rich history of the original building.

Yet the store appears determined not to let the history of Maple Leaf Gardens fall by the wayside: in addition to the images and texts on the lunch tables that I encountered, evidence of the building’s heritage is peppered all throughout the store. Posters of The Beatles, Frank Sinatra, and other stars who performed at the Gardens wave above the aisles. Behind the main escalator hangs an unmissable larger-than-life maple leaf, crafted entirely out of the blue folding chairs that once lined the stadium -- an innovative display of artifacts, if I’ve ever seen one.

Stadium chairs on display at Loblaws. Source: Urban Toronto

All of these displays and artifacts work to retain memories of a building, whose current purpose varies significantly from its years as Toronto’s sports and entertainment hub. So go ahead, enjoy a side of heritage with your lunch -- and don’t forget to hit the Patisserie on your way out.

Cupcakes at Loblaws. Source: Suzie the Foodie Blog

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