Dundas

Picture an alternate fantasy-world, in which the Toronto Maple Leafs somehow win the Stanley Cup (as implausible as that may sound). Where would the resulting street celebrations wind up?

Yonge and Dundas, of course. The pulsing, flashing heart of downtown. And how would most people get to the party? They’d take the subway to the narrow confines of Dundas station, emerging bright-eyed and boisterous, intoxicated by the ecstasy of glory long-denied.

Dundas station platform view
The ‘bilious acid yellow’ tiles and horizontal metal band of Dundas

Time will tell whether Dundas ever bears witness to such an improbable bacchanal. I don’t hold out much hope for it.

The station, which opened on March 30, 1954, is one of the original Yonge line stops. The busy southbound and northbound platforms are in separate paid-fare areas—a quirk unique to Dundas, and a recurring cause of discombobulation for visiting tourists.

When the Eaton Centre was built in 1977, a connecting corridor linking the platforms (but outside the paid-fare area) was also constructed, beneath the tracks. This passageway is often manned by one of the TTC’s numerous licensed buskers.

Rock decoration at Dundas station
I totally dig this groovy circle.

The sublime bas-relief terra cotta panels of William McElcheran’s Cross Section are mounted by the northwest entrance to the station. The next time you head to the Eaton Centre, take a few moments amidst the hurly-burly for a visit, to appreciate the fine work and wry humour captured in the detailing.

William McElcheran's Cross Section terra cotta bas-relief at Dundas Station
William McElcheran’s Cross Section

One other aspect of Dundas deserves particular mention: the station’s puce-yellow tiles. They have long been the subject of critical vitriol.

In 1982, as part of a general refurbishment program for the Yonge line, the TTC spent $890,000 to renovate Dundas. Much to the chagrin of passengers and transit heritage purists, the original soft primrose yellow Vitrolite tiles (with black trim) were replaced with the durable, but unfortunately hued, ceramic tiling we know today.

Dundas station tiling
Notice how there’s no trim?

An unprecedented degree of public opprobrium ensued. Newspapers printed columns denouncing the work, while a torrent of phone calls and angry letters wound up at the desk of TTC Chair, Julian Porter. Words such as abomination, travesty, and deplorable were used to describe the station’s appearance.

Local artist Charles Pachter took the opportunity to lobby for an extensive mural installation to cover up the tiling—an idea to which the Commission was receptive. Controversy erupted when it was observed that Pachter had been awarded the art contracts for both College and Dundas, without a public competition, a marked departure from previous practice with the Spadina line.

Porter strenuously defended the selection, and as late as June ‘84 the TTC remained publicly committed to proceeding with the Pachter installation. However, perhaps rattled by the multiple tussles involving the artist (College had its own set of thorny issues), the TTC opted to defer further work until outside financing could be secured; it was hoped that a provincial Wintario grant would help recover the approximately $98,000 cost.

That financing never came through, and ultimately the design was quietly shelved. Given Pachter’s subsequent career and rise in artistic stature, it seems that we missed out on a prime opportunity for a stellar installation to accompany McElcheran’s work (which was paid for by the developers of Atrium on Bay).

The entire episode remains a telling display of the emotional connection we form with our public transit, and how its architecture and design language affect us deeply.

I reached out to Pachter for comment; he bemusedly invited me to his Moose Factory studio to inspect the mockups for his proposal. I am very pleased to present a bonus gallery of sample images from his design (see 2nd gallery below).

Photo Gallery

Tour the station, and view captioned historical images from its past:
(hint: turn on the captions)

Dundas station photo gallery

Special Bonus Gallery — Charles Pachter’s 1984 mural proposal for Dundas station, approved but never implemented by the TTC. These design images have not been seen in public for over thirty years:

Charles Pachter mural proposal for Dundas Station

Transfer:
Dundas Station TTC transfer
Dundas station transfer

More about Dundas

TTC Station info | Map | Wikipedia: Dundas

My next stop: Dundas West
Previous station: Main Street

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