Alan L. Brown and Ontario Plaques are Gone

What happened to Alan L. Brown who ran the websites for OntarioPlaques and TorontoPlaques? and

He has disappeared and the sites are gone. He had other sites, intended for school children mainly, and the two sites about historical plaques in Ontario. (First Ontario and then another site to focus on Toronto). But all gone now. I hope someone kept an archive of his site and all his photographs and documentation about his research and exploring.

A post about Alan, from the Toronto Star (2012) – Hobbyist’s websites document historical plaques all over Toronto and Ontario

For the past eight years, Brown, 66, has photographed all the plaques he knows about that have been erected by municipal, provincial and federal governments over several decades. Then he posts the photos on his websites, and, along with transcriptions of the text, “context pictures” to show surroundings, maps and links to related subjects.

The 884 plaques he’s ferreted out in Toronto — the majority are downtown — and 1,483 across the rest of the province are usually installed on walls, roadsides, in front of buildings or in parks.

“The point of a plaque is for the public to read it,” he says. And that leads to “one of my gripes. Some are in places that are hard to get to, like a gravel road somewhere or in the middle of a field.”

Overgrown weeds and bushes sometimes obscure them, he says. “They sort of erect them and forget about them.”

But he put himself on plaque patrol, alerting either Heritage Toronto, Ontario Heritage Trust or Parks Canada to errors in inscriptions, illegibility on weather-worn markers and the occasional theft by someone who perhaps mistook their aluminum construction for copper.

Plaque-hunting around the province during road trips several years ago tested sleuthing skills and sharp eyes.

“I had lists but there were always errors,” recalls Brown, who pitted wits against his travelling companion brother in a game of who-can-spot-it-first. “We’d go to a place and couldn’t find it so we’d go into the local library and they’d say, ‘Oh, our town moved it two years ago.’”

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