Written by moatway on 30 Oct, 2004
Entering London from the 401 on Wellington Street will expose the visitor to an increasingly typical major Canadian street. It is lined with strip malls, motels, service stations and gas bars. In other words, it is enterprise unchecked and not pretty. But it is also…Read More
Entering London from the 401 on Wellington Street will expose the visitor to an increasingly typical major Canadian street. It is lined with strip malls, motels, service stations and gas bars. In other words, it is enterprise unchecked and not pretty. But it is also typical of London, where much of the shopping has moved to the suburbs and the big malls. Downtown shopping is limited and an air of decline hangs over the low buildings that house small shops, a monotony broken only by the occasional bank tower or new development.
An attempt to resurrect the downtown area was made with the creation of the Galleria at the corner of King and Wellington. I had hoped on this latest trip to find it fully occupied and bustling with shoppers. Unfortunately, its decline has continued; sometimes if you build it, they won’t come. As a consequence, most of the Galleria is a series of empty storefronts, sometimes softened with product displays from the few remaining stores. Among the survivors are a Henry Birks, an Athletes World outlet, a wonderful decorative store called Jonathans (featuring original art), a Magic Mountain Trading Co., a couple of clothing shops, and a couple of dollar sores. All in all, it’s a merchandising nightmare with underground parking. There are, thankfully, two fairly good pub-style restaurants, the Rockwater Brewing Co. and the Elephant and Castle. So how does Galleria survive? It is the site of the London Public Library and the University of Ontario’s Continuing Education branch and is also about to become the site of a couple of more schools’ downtown campuses. There is little here for the visitor.
Just up King Street you’ll find the Covent Garden Market. This building is new, bright, and airy. It is a permanent market that expands into a farmers’ market on Saturdays. As a permanent market, you will find everything: jewelry; crafts; flowers; and an eclectic variety of foods, both imported and domestic. It’s a great place to buy some cheese, pasta, meat, or fresh vegetables. After the Covent Garden there is the new John Labatt Center, an ice rink cum entertainment complex. Unfortunately, the center seems to have had two effects: it has proven good for businesses that might cater to the center’s clientele, but on the other hand, it is sitting in the middle of a growing wasteland of pay parking lots. London could use a couple of really large parking garages.
There are small shops, restaurants, and bars on King, Dundas, and on Richmond, but again, the area looks tired-and even the Richmond Row, mentioned in tourist brochures, is a little shaky with its billing. The natives of the city seem to have kept driving up Richmond to Masonville Place, one of London’s three 200-store malls. Sitting at the corner of Richmond and Fanshawe, the best that can be said for it is that it is a mall. I recommend it more than the others only because it has three major anchor stores: The Bay, Zellers, and Sears. Once inside it, you could be in any city with a population of 100,000 anywhere in the country. I find the sameness absolutely mind-numbing.
A drive towards Adelaide down Fanshawe keeps that sense going. You’ll see a Winners, a Canadian Tire, and blah, blah, blah. Was I impressed? No not really. Much of what London has can be found in smaller cities, and sometimes it’s presented more attractively, but London’s problems are atypical for many Canadian cities.
Banting house was the office of Sir Frederick Banting, the discoverer of insulin. For whatever reason, the place was in a bit of disarray when we arrived. We were met and promised a tour ($4 each). After a half hour of poking about on the…Read More
Banting house was the office of Sir Frederick Banting, the discoverer of insulin. For whatever reason, the place was in a bit of disarray when we arrived. We were met and promised a tour ($4 each). After a half hour of poking about on the first floor, we had seen most of the relevant exhibits and left (having, of course, saved $8).
The house was purchased by the Canadian Diabetes Association in 1981 in recognition of Banting’s importance. It was also meant to provide an office for the Ontario and district offices of the organization. The home has clearly been renovated with an addition to the rear houses offices and the association’s store.
The story of Banting and the house is extremely interesting. It is told in newspaper articles, and frankly, I was pleased that the guide didn’t show up because I enjoyed the reading immensely. Banting received a Military Cross in WWI, and so it was as a physician and war hero that he purchased the Adelaide Street property from the Hill family in 1920. He arranged with the Hills to take over three rooms downstairs as an office while he permitted them to live in the house for a year. For the first 23 days, he received no patients, and in the first month, he made only $4. So, four months later, when he was offered a job lecturing to medical students at the University of Western Ontario, he accepted with alacrity. In his first month, October 1920, he was asked to lecture on the subject of diabetes, a subject with which he had little familiarity. While reading an article on the subject, he came up with an idea for the cure of the disease.
In May of 1921, he left the house for Toronto to continue his research. Western lacked the labs that he needed. Within a couple of years, his name would be familiar all over the world, and he would share the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine. He achieved near-mythic status, accolades, a knighthood, and an audience with the king.
When WWII began, Banting re-enlisted in the Medical Corps with the rank of major. His work for the forces was scientific, and he was involved with a number of projects. It was in relation to this work that he was to fly to Britain in 1941. Unfortunately, the bomber in which he was the sole passenger crashed in Newfoundland shortly after leaving Gander.
Having discovered Banting’s life, we set about exploring his restored office. The house’s parlour has been transformed into a doctor’s consultation room circa 1920. Behind it is a small dispensary with a wall-hung sink and to the rear of that is an operating room dating back to the period when Banting occupied the house. A guide really wasn’t necessary. Surgical saws and scalpels speak for themselves.
Upstairs, you will find a museum and displays about the background of the discovery of insulin. We felt that we had successfully discovered Banting on the ground floor. It made for a good visit, and at the price, we didn’t have to pay. We were very pleased. Great story!