Historicist: The Man the Rocks Talked To: A.P. Coleman uncovered Toronto’s prehistory, among other adventures – by Dennis Duffy (Torontoist.com – August 19, 2017)


Such a map as Coleman’s (and he drew many such, across Canada and elsewhere as he
took his geology students along on summer expeditions) was more than a guide to the
origins of the Sudbury Big Nickel that you can spy from the Trans-Canada. It helped
provide the kickoff for the exploitation of Northern Ontario’s mineral—as opposed
to timber—resources. It also promoted the growth of Bay Street, which has done so
much to reshape Ontario’s image and boost Toronto’s takeoff toward its present
position in the financial and commercial life of the country.

If you’re at the Evergreen Brick Works Market in the Don Valley, walk north along some 200 yards of lovingly created wetland. When you’ve gone about 50 yards past that, you will be on a little rise. Look behind over your shoulder for a view of the downtown skyline.

Then keep on walking until you get to a little cul-de-sac and look at the cliff face that you have been staring ahead at for the last while. It is overgrown. The small plaque in front of you states that you are facing one of the oldest geological formations in the Toronto region and that it was first “discovered” (let’s be more precise and call it “labelled”) in the 1890s by geologist A.P. Coleman (April 4, 1852–February 26, 1939), a scientist and public intellectual of great renown in his day and a figure still dimly remembered now. Coleman’s work on the traces of the last great ice age (the Pleistocene) enable us to view the Brick Works park within the broad perspective of the long history of our city.

That cliff before you is probably the oldest face you will ever meet in Toronto. That downtown view you just enjoyed is one of the newer faces in the crowd. Can you—as if stumbling across an old acquaintance whom you haven’t seen in decades—fit those two views together into the same person?

Coleman wrote a number of times about the importance of the formations whose eons-distant natures he had tracked. A 1933 piece written for Ontario’s Bureau of Mines is his final iteration of his conviction that Toronto’s formations—chiefly those of the Brick Works and Scarborough Bluffs—“include the most complete and interesting record of the Pleistocene in North America if not the whole world.”

Coleman wrote that most Torontonians had never heard of these telltale outcroppings, saying “[we] take no pride in features that, from the scientific point of view, distinguish Toronto from all other cities.”

For the rest of this article: http://torontoist.com/2017/08/historicist-man-rocks-talked/