Heritage Toronto announces Stephen Otto as Special Achievement Award recipient

Heritage Toronto is pleased to announce the 2009 Heritage Toronto Special Achievement Award recipient. The award will be presented to heritage advocate Stephen Otto on October 13th.


Stephen Otto is one of the city’s most determined advocates for the preservation and promotion of Toronto’s built and documentary heritage. As the founding head of heritage conservation programs in the Ministry of Culture & Recreation from 1975-81, he administered the newly enacted Ontario Heritage Act and led the development of programs to support architectural conservation, archaeology, museums, historical plaques and publications.


As a founder of the Friends of Fort York, Mr. Otto was motivated by his awareness of Fort York National Historic Site’s place at the centre of the history and geography of Toronto, and the urgent need for its recognition within Toronto’s Official Plan. As a result, the Fort York National Historic Site (Fort York, Garrison Common and Victoria Memorial Square) has a prominent and vital role to play in the future of the city.


As with his work on Fort York, many of Otto’s other contributions have focused on the public realm – the squares, parks, streets, bridges, cemeteries, markets and public buildings that define people’s experiences in Toronto. Many of these places have become character defining to Toronto today – the Don Jail, the Don Valley Brickworks, the Distillery District National Historic Site, Todmorden Mills and St. Lawrence Hall and Market, to name a few.


Otto is a former director of the Ontario Heritage Foundation and Canadian Association of Professional Heritage Consultants, a member of the Toronto Historical Board, serves on the Bata Shoe Museum advisory council, Grange Committee of the Art Gallery of Ontario, and the Massey College Architectural Advisory Board. He was founding chair of the Friends of Fort York & Garrison Common, an office he held again more recently until ill health forced him to retire. At present, Otto sits on the Corporation of Trinity College. 


He was presented with the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal in 1977, the Toronto Historical Board’s Award of Merit in 1988 and 1996, and the Arbor Award for voluntary service by the University of Toronto in 1991. His revised edition of Toronto, No Mean City, Eric Arthur’s classic work on the city’s 19th-century buildings, appeared in 1986.


“I’m delighted that we are honouring Stephen with the Heritage Toronto Special Achievement Award this year. With his dedication and quiet passion for Toronto’s heritage, he has contributed immensely to the culture and self-understanding of our city, and we are all richer for his work,” said Peggy Mooney, Executive Toronto of Heritage Toronto.


The Special Achievement Award will be presented at the 35th Annual Heritage Toronto Awards on Tuesday, October 13 at the historic Carlu, in conjunction with the William Kilbourn Memorial Lecture, “The Great Toronto Roast.”


The Awards celebrate outstanding contributions – by professionals and volunteers – in the promotion and conservation of Toronto’s history and heritage landmarks. In a bit of a departure from its usual format, Heritage Toronto is also hosting “The Great Toronto Roast,” its birthday party for our City’s 175th year. Special guests of roasters and toasters will celebrate both the city’s triumphs and foibles in a lively one-hour program.


Other award nominations will be announced and tickets will go on sale in late August. Please visit www.heritagetoronto.org for more information on the Awards, including a full biography of Stephen Otto.