An AC/DC man

Adam Beck Memorial, Emanuel Hahn - 1934

Adam Beck Memorial, 1934
LOCATED: Intersection of Queen Street West and University Avenue.
ARTIST: Emanuel Hahn (1881-1957)
COMMISSIONED BY: City of Toronto & the Toronto Hydro Electric Commission
Copyright 2017, Public Art of Toronto. All rights reserved.

map-admI’ve been sitting on this particular piece for a while now, not entirely sure how to categorize it. Yes, it’s a memorial, and I’ve written about those before. Those pieces were dedicated to soldiers, who, despite the noblest of intentions, tended to blow stuff up. This particular statue is different. It is dedicated to Adam Beck, who, unlike those worthy soldiers, built a good part of the province of Ontario, as opposed to tearing stuff down. But Adam Beck is hardly a household name. What exactly did he build?

Well, if you’re charging up your tablet while reading this, you have your answer.

Adam Beck was born in 1857 and spent most of his life as an industrialist, activist, and politician, but he was best known as the founder of Hydro-Electric Foundation of Toronto. After he lost his first run at the Ontario provincial legislature in 1900, Beck founded the London Health Association which eventually became the University and Victoria Hospitals. In 1902 he was elected both as both mayor and Member of Parliament for London Ontario, posts he would serve simultaneously until 1905. He was then appointed Minister Without Portfolio, which allowed him to begin advocating for a public power grid in the province.

Adam Beck Memorial, Emanuel Hahn - 1934

Adam Beck Memorial, 1934
LOCATED: Intersection of Queen Street West and University Avenue.
ARTIST: Emanuel Hahn (1881-1957)
COMMISSIONED BY: City of Toronto & the Toronto Hydro Electric Commission
Copyright 2017, Public Art of Toronto. All rights reserved.

A public power grid had long been one of Adam Beck’s pet projects. After chairing an enquiry into the viability of building a provincially funded, municipally owned, hydro-electric system, he was appointed chairman of the Hydro-Electric Power Commission in 1906 and work began on the establishment of the system in 1907. The first powergenerating facility, the Adam Beck Hydroelectric Generating Station I (formerly called The Queenston-Chippawa Hydroelectric Plant) was completed in 1922.

Adam Beck didn’t rest on his laurels and he continued to advocate for the public good until his death in 1925. He founded the Queen Alexandra Sanatorium in 1910 after realizing that, while he may have the means to treat his daughter Marion’s tuberculosis, not everyone was so lucky. The sanatorium treated patients until it closed its doors in 1972 as the Beck Memorial Sanatorium. Today it houses the London Child and Parent Resource Institute. In 1915 he attempted to establish a system of interurban railways much like our modern GO system, but World War I, an election loss and Robert Franklin Sutherland’s love affair with the automobile scuttled that plan.

The title for this piece comes from The Polecats’ electrifying 1981 single, Make a Circuit with Me.

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