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It has never achieved the iconic status of the CN Tower, or enjoyed the kind of literary immortality that Hart Crane bestowed on the Brooklyn Bridge.

Still, when workers begin to dismantle the 45-storey CBC-TV tower in downtown Toronto next week, Canada will lose one of its most important cultural and technological landmarks, a poignant reminder of the Golden Age of Electricity when CBC ruled the airwaves and Juliette, Wayne & Shuster and Hockey Night in Canada were touchstones of English-Canadian identity.

When it was erected in 1952, the transmission tower was, at more than 150 metres in height, the tallest free-standing structure in the Ontario capital. It was more than capable of holding its own, signal-wise, against what was emanating from Buffalo.

On Sept. 8 of that year, English-language Canadian television essentially got its start at the tower, beginning at 7:15 p.m. with a transmission of a weather report, followed by a puppet show starring Uncle Chichimus and Pompey.

The inaugural broadcast evening ended about two hours later with a concert by an all-female choir, then a news broadcast by Lorne Greene, who would soon become a staple of CBC-TV's Sunday evening programming playing Ben (Pa) Cartwright in the network's rebroadcast of NBC's Bonanza.

A mass of approximately 1,000 iron girders held together with 10,000 bolts, the CBC-TV tower rose from a base of 5.9 square metres located between the old Havergal Ladies College, which CBC bought for about $120,000 in 1944-45, and historic Northfield House built in 1856 on Jarvis Street north of Carlton.

The tower is coming down to make way for two condominium towers, collectively called Radio City, and the new headquarters, parking space, residences and studios of the National Ballet School.

The actual dismantling and demolition are expected to take five weeks.

A crew of seven will start at the very top, taking it down section by section, much like lumberjacks slicing off sections of tree trunks.

There was talk of using a helicopter to haul off pieces, stage by stage, but this was scotched when it became clear that it would be too time-consuming to secure air rights for such a tight space and forest firefighting might limit the number of available helicopters.

One man who recognizes the piquancy of it all is J. P. (Jim) Shea, who has lived in a condominium across the street from the tower for the past eight years. He has spent the past two years photographing it in all its moods, in all kinds of weather, at all times of the day.

An exhibition of 14 of his photographs opens tomorrow evening at Northfield House at 372 Jarvis St.

The show's title, "Eiffel on Jarvis," is taken from a description of the tower in a Toronto newspaper in 1952 calling it "a little like the Eiffel Tower in Paris" -- although the Eiffel, opened in 1889, is more than twice its height.

Mr. Shea, 41, knows that the transmission tower never came close to that stature.

For one thing, visitors couldn't climb its orange-and-white girders to various observation decks (although this didn't stop a Quebec nationalist from scaling it in the early seventies to plant the Quebec flag.)

The site also lacked sufficient "breathing space" to achieve true monumentality in the urban topography.

When it came time to paint the tower -- it usually took two weeks each summer -- brushes were used instead of spray-cans to prevent orange paint from splattering passersby, cars and apartments.

Still, it had "a certain presence" in the Jarvis/Carlton/Wellesley neighbourhood, Mr. Shea observed, and, from his balcony at least, a sort of majesty.

The CBC stopped using the tower and switched to the CN Tower in the late seventies (it also transmitted for Radio-Canada; the Ontario Education Communications Authority, the precursor to TVOntario; and Ryerson University's CJRT).

The tower's demise appeared likely in 1993 when CBC left Jarvis Street to merge its broadcast operations under one roof; it became inevitable in 2000 when Heritage Minister Sheila Copps announced plans to sell half of the Jarvis site to the ballet school for $1.

"Now that it's going, I feel this need more than ever to capture its image," Mr. Shea said.

His pictures, all shot with a digital camera, are at once a salute to "a very ordinary, yet extraordinary urban industrial structure" and a meditation on "the passing of the analog era by the onset of digital technology." Eiffel on Jarvis is at Northfield House, 372 Jarvis St., Toronto, Friday 1-7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 1-4 p.m. both days.

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