Hurricane Hazel – Iconic Art Memorial Fades

Back in 2002, local artist Mario Noviello was commissioned to decorate the Eastern abutment of the old Humber footbridge. Mario’s concept was brilliant—to illustrate the old bridge and neighbourhood and replicate the front pages of several newspapers reporting on the disaster. All this was using remnants of the old bridge as a ‘canvas’. This is one of the many bridges swept away during Hurricane Hazel. Mario’s beautifully executed and extensive set of murals covered the abutment telling the story of that fateful night in 1954. Many more photographs of the mural are here.

Sadly, the mural has not withstood the elements well and has almost faded to the point of oblivion.

The main mural showing the old footbridge - photo taken in 2002

When I spoke with Mario in 2004 after the mural and plaques were unveiled, he told me that an anti-graffiti coating placed over the murals was already leading to a deterioration of the underlying paint.

Cutting the ribbon at the official opening, October 16, 2004; from left Rob Draper, Alan Tonks, Mario Noviello, Julian Fantino, Elaine Heaton and Frances Nunziata.

 

 

The mural as it looks today.

This corner of Lions Park is the nearest thing we have to a shrine commemorating the victims of the hurricane and, along with plaques describing the event, draws many a school group, walking tour, pedestrian and cyclist on their way through the park system. Thieves took about 5 minutes to remove the original cast metal plaques on either side of the new bridge—now replaced with plastic ones.  It’s truly a shame that the mural is in such poor shape. Hopefully, one day it can be restored to its former glory.

 

4 thoughts on “Hurricane Hazel – Iconic Art Memorial Fades”

  1. Rob Draper and Elaine Heaton are the first and fifth people in the picture to fill in your blanks. As the former President and Director of the now-defunct Weston Community Improvement Committee as well as the former Weston Ratepayer and Residents’ Association (folded in April 2005), they were on the committee to have this mural commissioned. The plaques were soon stolen as noted and the mural defaced with graffiti. As the original committee was disbanded after the 5-year mandate from the old City of York, there was little or no interest by the City of Toronto to keep up – do they even know about this mural? There were other elements around the community that were built but are also not well taken care of.

  2. It’s a shame to have had to watch this beautiful piece of art work deteriorate. The fact that it’s not just a piece of art, it also commemorates a piece of history, should be enough to get the City of Toronto to take some action to restore and protect a piece of local memorabilia. Too often we let these historic memories fade into the past.

  3. what a tragedy. it was a haunting yet beautiful mural. when i was a kid, i thought the blocks of concrete were dumped construction waste. had the mural been around then, i would have learned what happened there much sooner in life.

    and what kind of idiot would vandalize such a sacred object?

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