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January 2, 2018


Steve Otto is one of Ontario’s strongest advocates for heritage conservation, and it is with great pleasure that we learned of his appointment to the Order of Canada for his sustained advocacy in support of heritage conservation and for his contributions to preserving and promoting Ontario’s buildings and architecture. 


Steve has been called a civic resource – the “go to guy” in Toronto for anything to do with our history, valued for the depth of his knowledge and his willingness to advise on a broad range of projects, both large and small.


The following is an appreciation of Steve written by Rollo Myers, who has worked with him for over thirty years.


I have known Stephen Otto for more than thirty years and have an ever-increasing admiration for his judgment, knowledge and impeccable research on anything to do with Ontario’s history -- and his determination invariably underpins tangible outcomes that have brought about positive, significant change.


For me, first there were his updates on Eric Arthur’s landmark Toronto – No Mean City. Then his Once More Into the Breach that chronicled Fort York’s long history of trials and tribulations, then his participation in the award-winning urban design proposal Fort York – Setting it Right, both of which gained Toronto City Council’s attention, and contributed to the success and achievements of the Friends of Fort York, a group of volunteers Steve helped found, provided continuing leadership to, that funds the Fort York Guard, and raises funds for the new Fort York Visitors Centre, including a generous personal donation.


Steve initiated and advised Parks Canada’s precise delineation of the Fort York National Historic Precinct and encouraged and influenced the subsequent addition of significant additional open space for the fort.


His research brought back to public attention the original Walks and Gardens legislation – dating to 1818 – of how Toronto’s waterfront should be protected, and this in turn led to Council’s formation of the Walks and Gardens Working Group.  The successful international competition for the commemorative artwork to be installed at Union Station is a direct result of Steve’s initial research and participation.


Steve’s sought-after advice has influenced the development of – amongst many others -- Toronto’s Distillery District, Spadina House, Todmorden Mills -- and he advised on and participated in successful efforts to return the site of Upper Canada’s First Parliament Buildings to public ownership.


Steve was head of Heritage Conservation Services at Ontario's Ministry of Culture and Recreation, and administered the newly enacted Ontario Heritage Act between 1975 and 1981.


He was a former director of the Ontario Heritage Foundation (now Trust), and a former director of the Canadian Association of Heritage Professional Consultants.


He was awarded the Queen's Silver Jubilee Medal in 1977, the Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2015, and has received awards for Special Achievement from Heritage Toronto and from Architectural Conservancy Ontario.


Steve has been an active participant in the regular publication -- since 1996 -- of Fife and Drum, the journal of the Friends of Fort York. With book reviews, recipes, historical essays, biographies, research reports, architectural studies and other topics of interest to the 3000 readers.   


- Rollo Myers


January 2, 2018


Type of News Item: media/communications