Picturing the Ward

Commissioned by Infrastructure Ontario (IO) on behalf of the Province of Ontario, Picturing the Ward is inspired by the unique history of the site of the New Toronto Courthouse, which was once part of St. John’s Ward (the Ward). The life stories of former residents and their descendants were collected and curated by the Toronto Ward Museum, and the exhibit’s design and installation was managed by PATCH, a social enterprise operated by The STEPS Initiative.

Picturing the Ward invites you to discover this historic neighbourhood through the words and life stories of former Ward residents and their descendants. In the telling of this history we hope to create a space for voices and perspectives that are often not heard. Through these stories and family albums uncover aspects of Ward life – experiences that, although rooted in the past, still resonate today. The legacy of this neighbourhood lies not in the buildings that once stood, but lives on in the lives of those who remain to tell their stories.

This exhibition celebrates the diversity that thrived in The Ward, while drawing out universal themes that may be familiar to us today: agency or a lack thereof; the importance of family and community for survival and a sense of belonging; and the daily struggle undertaken by so many newcomers who came to Toronto, either by choice or by chance, who were compelled to make a home and livelihood in a new city. Some thrived, while others struggled.

While each narrative presented here is unique, we challenge you to find parallels in your own family’s history. Do you have similar stories of migration in your past? Can you remember a time in your life when you were new to a place and struggled to belong?

These voices are a few among many. Today, the majority of newcomers live outside Toronto’s downtown core, which presents a new set of challenges that former Ward residents did not necessarily experience as many could walk to work and often lived close to their families and communities.  That said, the realities that many former residents of the Ward faced over a hundred years ago are shockingly not that dissimilar to the experiences of many newcomers today. By illuminating this history, we invite you to consider the impact that newcomers past and present have had on our city, province and country.

These stories are not unlike your stories. Many of us can trace our roots to distant lands. We should think of that journey, the love, hardship and perseverance it took to get us here today, and let the memory of these struggles inspire us towards building a more just and inclusive society for us all. ­

– Inspired by the words of Nelson Wong

This exhibition was made possible by:

Toronto Ward Museum logo


Brian Banks

Nicole Chodos

Lynda Holm Franklin

Mavis Garland

Ching Yee Ho

Anna Marie Kalcevich

Theodora Pillo

Rose Marie Pillo Scholes

Judy Pocock

Patte Rosebank

Rosemary Sadlier

Chuck Wong

Nelson Wong

Curatorial Team

Anja Hamilton

Gracia Dyer Jalea 


PA System 


Kellen Hatanaka

Web Design

Gracia Dyer Jalea

Project Management Team

Alexis Kane Speer

Carolyn Rowan