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Monthly Archives: May 2012

Memories of Loew’s Downtown and Winter Garden Theatres

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The magnificent theatre complex on Yonge Street, a few doors north of Queen Street was erected in 1913. Though it was a project of considerable size and complexity, the construction was completed in only eight months. Designed by the architect Thomas W. Lamb, it was intended as the Canadian flagship theatre for the expanding chain of vaudeville and film theatres of Marcus Loew from New York City. For his new theatre, he purchased only a small amount of land facing Yonge Street, as real estate price on the city’s main thoroughfare were astronomical. The narrow strip that he bought was $600,000, and the concrete reinforced building cost him an additional $300,000. It contained two full-sized theatres, one located above the other. Less than a dozen of these “stacked” theatres were built in North America, and the one on Yonge Street is only one in Canada that remains today. Two survive in the United States.

The lower theatre was named “Loew’s Yonge Street Theatre.” It opened on December 15, 1913 and was the larger of the two theatres in the complex, seating 2149 patrons. For its inauguration, celebrities arrived from New York, including Marcus Loew, architect Thomas Lamb and Irving Berlin, who introduced a new song for the occasion. The vaudeville team of “Weber and Fields” was featured. 

The narrow, elegant hallway that gave access to the theatre from the Yonge Street entrance was aligned west-east, and the auditorium within was aligned north-south, parallel with Victoria Street. This arrangement reduced the need for a large portion of the site to actually be on Yonge Street. The elongated entrance hallway gave access to the theatre, which was set back a distance from Yonge Street. The hallway also was useful in providing shelter for line-ups on rainy days or during the winter season. The hallway was decorated in the classical style, similar to a great European palace. It contained enormous panels covered with damask fabric, pilasters with ornate capitals, rich Edwardian colours and Victorian murals. Only the radiator caps and baseboards were real marble, the remainder being faux-marble moulded from plaster. Even today, patrons are impressed with the grand entrance hallway as they enter the theatre, which is now named the Elgin.

The ornate auditorium of the Loew’s Yonge Street Theatre (Elgin) was intended to add to the patrons’ pleasure of attending its performances, making the theatre’s splendour an integral part of the experience. It featured gilded plaster ornamentations, faux marble finishes and damask wall fabrics. The colour that predominated was gold, the ceiling also swathed in gold as well as being richly ornamented.

In 1913, tickets were ten cents and twenty-five cents. By comparison, a ticket at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in that year was two dollars. With the opening of Loew’s Yonge Street, with its increased prices, the nickelodeon became a thing of the past. Within two years, almost all the theatres throughout the city had raised their prices. A typical show at Loew’s consisted of eight to ten vaudeville acts, interspersed with a silent movie and a newsreel. The theatre was nicknamed “The Grind House,” as it “ground out” continuous shows that commenced daily at 11 a.m.

On December 19, 1929 Loew’s Yonge Street Theatre screened its first talking picture titled,“His First Glorious Night,” starring John Gilbert. The advertising for the film declared: “You’ve seen him make love, now hear him in his greatest romance.” The movie also starred Hedda Hopper, its director being Lionel Barrymore.

In 1939, “Gone With the Wind” and “The Wizard of Oz” had their Toronto premiers at the theatre. During the screening of “Gone With the Wind,” small coin-operated machines were installed on the backs of the seats. Patrons inserted ten cents, turned the knob, and candy dropped from the slot. They were mini-versions of the bubble-gum machines that became popular during the 1940s and 1950s. 

In 1960, the theatre was renovated to accommodate “Cinerama,” which required three projectors. To be able to install the expansive curved screen, the opera boxes and the proscenium arch were removed. However, the theatre owners later changed their minds and Cinerama was never shown, but the damage to the interior of the auditorium had already been done. It was not repaired but covered over with curtains. When I was a teenager in the 1950s, I attended the theatre many times. In those days it was named Loew’s Downtown. Two of the most memorable films I saw there were “The “Student Prince” and “The Great Caruso,” both, featuring the voice of Mario Lanza.

In 1978, it was renamed the Elgin. However, by this year the theatre had deteriorated and was showing soft-porn movies.

The Winter Garden Theatre

The Winter Garden Theatre, which was seven storeys above “Loew’s Yonge Street Theatre,” seated 1410 theatre goers. It opened on February 16, 1913. It offered the same shows as the downstairs theatre, but all seats were reserved, at a cost of twenty-five or fifty cents. It featured only one performance per evening, which consisted of eight to ten vaudeville acts, interspersed with a silent movie and a newsreel. This was similar to the theatre below it.

The decor of the theatre created the appearance of an English garden. The ceiling of the auditorium attempted to replicate a rooftop garden in full bloom, as it was decorated with cotton blossoms and real beech leaves dipped in preservatives. The walls contained hand-painted scenes of gardens and its support columns resembled tree trunks. The ceiling and balconies also contained lanterns.

Although vaudeville remained popular throughout the 1920s, by the end of the decade, movies became the most sought-after means of entertainment, and it was no longer profitable to operate two theatres on the premises. In 1928, after fifteen years in operation, the Winter Garden shut its doors.

Threatened with Demolition, the Two Theatres are Saved.

Television caused attendance at the Elgin to dwindle. However, both theatres were saved from demolition by the Ontario Heritage Foundation, which purchased them in 1981. The last film screened at the Elgin was titled, “What the Swedish Butler Saw.” By the standards of today, he did not see very much.

The theatre complex was closed for restoration in 1981. The old Loew’s Yonge Street required considerable work and was reopened in 1985 featuring the musical “Cats,” which played for two years. The Winter Garden remained closed for restoration, but it was in reasonably good shape as the heating had never been turned off. It remained almost untouched by time. It was fully restored and reopened on December 15, 1989. 

Photos of Loew’s Yonge Street Theatre (the Elgin, Loew’s Downtown) 

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The staircase in Loew’s Yonge Street in 1922. It led to the Winter Garden Theatre, seven stories above. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1278, It. 100

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The palatial hallway that led from the Yonge Street entrance to the auditorium within. City of Toronto Archives, Series 1278, It. 100 

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Marquee and entrance of the Loew’s Yonge Street (Elgin) Theatre in 1934, City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1278, It. 100

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Gazing north on Yonge Street from Queen Street in 1935, Loew’s Theatre is on the right. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1278, File 100

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Looking north on Yonge Street c. 1937, the marquee of Loew’s Yonge Street on the east side of the street.

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Loew’s Yonge Street theatre c. 1941. The film “Smin’ Through” was released in 1932 and “Tanks A Million” in 1941.

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           Loew’s Yonge Street Theatre in 1941. Photo, Toronto Reference Library

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                                            Loew’s Theatre in 1952

                                  1913 opaque glass doors

                  Original 1913 doors with opaque glass. (photo 2013)

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Grand staircase leading from the ground floor in the Elgin to the Winter Garden above (photo taken in 2013).

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The Elgin Theatre in 1985, when “Cats” was playing at the Elgin. City of Toronto Archives. 

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The Elgin in 1992 when “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” was playing. Toronto Archives, Series 881 It.63

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View of the Elgin from the balcony. Toronto Archives, Series 881 File 53

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View of the Elgin from the stage, City of Toronto Archives, Series 881 File 57

              The Winter Garden Theatre

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The stage area of the upstairs Winter Garden Theatre in 1922. City of Toronto Archives, Finds 1278, It. 100

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Box seats of the Winter garden to the left of the stage area in 1922. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1278, It. 100

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View of the Winter Garden Theatre from the stage, City of Toronto Archives,  Series 881 File 57

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View from the balcony, the preserved beech leaves on the ceiling visible, City of Toronto Archives, Series 881 File 53

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Painted scenery employed for live performances at the Winter Garden, photo taken in 2013

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Ceiling of the Winter Garden with its preserved beech leaves, Photo, Toronto Archives.

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     The restored Elgin-Winter Garden complex in the summer of 2013.

Note: Many of the colour photographs are from the Mandel Sprachman Collection at the Toronto Archives. 

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2016/03/02/tayloronhistory-comcheck-it-out/

              Books by the Author

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“ Lost Toronto”—employing detailed archival photographs, this recaptures the city’s lost theatres, sporting venues, bars, restaurants and shops. The richly illustrated book brings some of Toronto’s most remarkable buildings and much-loved venues back to life. From the loss of John Strachan’s Bishop’s Palace in 1890 to the scrapping of the S. S. Cayuga in 1960 and the closure of the HMV Superstore in 2017, these pages cover more than 150 years of the city’s built heritage to reveal a Toronto that once was.

 

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Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories by the author and others who personally experienced these grand old movie houses. To place an order for this book, published by History Press:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in most book stores such as Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox and AGO Book Shop. (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2) and may also be purchased on Amazon.com.

 

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“Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again” explores 81 theatres. It contains over 125 archival photographs, with interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating histories. Note: an article on this book was published in Toronto Life Magazine, October 2016 issue.

For a link to the article published by Toronto Life Magazine: torontolife.com/…/photos-old-cinemas-dougtaylortoronto-local-movie-theatres-of-y…

The book is available at local book stores throughout Toronto or for a link to order this book: https://www.dundurn.com/books/Torontos-Local-Movie-Theatres-Yesteryear 

 

 Toronto: Then and Now®

“Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. It contains archival and modern photos that allow readers to compare scenes and discover how they have changed over the decades. Note: a review of this book was published in Spacing Magazine, October 2016. For a link to this review:

spacing.ca/toronto/2016/09/02/reading-list-toronto-then-and-now/

For further information on ordering this book, follow the link to Amazon.com  here  or contact the publisher directly by the link below:

http://www.ipgbook.com/toronto–then-and-now—products-9781910904077.php?page_id=21

 

 

 

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Travel on Toronto’s great streetcars

When I was a child, because my family possessed no automobile, we travelled everywhere by streetcar. Obviously, we made no trips beyond the boundaries of the city. Thus, as a child I associated streetcars with travelling to exciting destinations – High Park, the Toronto Islands, Sunnyside, and Kew Beach. When I was in my teens, I acquired a driver’s license, and my dad drove us to exotic far-away places like Lake Simcoe, Musselman Lake, and Niagara Falls. When I purchased my own car, I journeyed to Florida, Canada’s West Coast, and California. Later, I journey all over the world by plane. Now, I am retired. I still own a car, but travel to most places by streetcar. I love the Toronto streetcars, and look forward to the day my car rusts to nothing and I am once more solely a streetcar passenger.

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The first streetcar I boarded as a child was the Rogers Road car, which took us to church in the Silverthorne District. They were the old Birney cars, and also travelled on Oakwood Avenue.

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Next, I journeyed on the Bay streetcars to travel downtown to Eaton’s and Simpson’s. These were the Peter Witt cars, which began service in Toronto in the 1920’s.

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Then I rode the PCC streetcars throughout the city.

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Finally, I was able to ride the “Red Rockets” of today. These streetcars are soon to be replaced by a sleek modern streetcars that will better accommodate today’s riders.

A PROPOSAL

I hope that the TTC is able to keep a sufficient number of the old streetcars and run them on a designated streetcar route for the summer months. From 24th of May weekend until Thanksgiving would be ideal. This would be a great tourist attraction. I would suggest the Spadina Line, as it is a short route and passes along one of the most interesting and colourful streets of the city. It goes through Chinatown. Of course, the main obstacle to this proposal is “money.”

I also wish that the tourism industry would better advertise the fabulous streetcar lines in our city. The King car is just one of these routes. It circles the inner city, providing a glimpse of some of our most interesting neighbourhoods. Beginning at the Dundas West subway station, it proceeds southward through the Roncesvalles area (a Polish community), then turns east along King Street, where one has excellent views of Lake Ontario and the old houses of Parkdale. It then continues eastward through Liberty Village, Kings West, the Entertainment District, the Financial District, Yonge Street, St. James Cathedral and the St. Lawrence Market area, King Street East, and The Don River. The streetcar then turns north and rambles through the Asian District at Broadview and Gerrard. One has an excellent view of Riverdale Park. Finally, the streetcar enters the Broadview Subway Station, where one can return to where the journey started.  All this is for the price of one streetcar ticket or subway token. Even if you are a native of Toronto, this route is worth travelling as the areas have changed so much during the last year.

I have spent much of my adult life researching and photographing Toronto. I love the city and enjoy exploring it through my writing. One of the books, “The Villages Within”, was nominated for the Toronto Heritage Awards. If interested in novels with a Toronto setting, descriptions of the books are available by following the link: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/03/22/toronto-author-publishes-seventh-novel/

They can be purchased in soft cover or electronic editions. All books are available at Chapters/Indigo and on Amazon.com. The electronic editions are less that $4 on either Kobo or Kindle. Follow the links:

There Never Was a Better Time: http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000056586/THERE-NEVER-WAS-A-BETTER-TIME.aspx

Arse Over Teakettle: http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000132634/Arse-Over-Teakettle.aspx

The Reluctant Virgin; http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000188306/The-Reluctant-Virgin.aspx

The Villages Within: http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000175211/The-Villages-Within.aspx

Author’s Home Page: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

Authors can be contacted at: tayloronhistory@gmail.com

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2012 in Toronto

 

Thoughts on “Doors Open” Toronto and supporting “Heritage Toronto”

This year I visited a dozen of the sites that were featured on “Doors Open.” The volunteers and staff that welcomed visitors, provided guided tours, and gave information were friendly and knowledgeable. They created an atmosphere in which you felt that they were truly grateful for your visit. The weather cooperated and the two days I spent touring the sites were meaningful and extremely enjoyable. 

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Banking Hall at #I King Street West (old Dominion Bank Building), now a restaurant

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Grand staircase in the Elgin Theatre that gives access to the Winter Garden Theatre

Some sites I enjoyed more than others, but all of them were worthwhile. The Old City Hall was a disappointment. I can understand not allowing photographs when people are attending the courts, but the courts were closed. Surely for Doors Open they could have made an exception. In addition, very little of the building was open to the public. Sad!

On the other hand, I really enjoyed my visit to the New City Hall. Pictures were allowed even in the Mayor’s Office. The view from the observation deck on the 15th floor was amazing, and great for photographing.

The tour of the Princess of Wales Theatre was also disappointing. The staff were friendly, but no photographs were allowed in the auditorium.  Having one of the horse-puppets on stage to allow a close-up view would have been interesting. However, they were backstage out of view. This is a pity, as the opportunity for free publicity for the show was lost.

Another site I found disappointing was the picture collection in the Queens Quay Terminal. It was hung from the ceiling, so people could not view the pictures close-up. The Bay Store at Queen and Yonge only allowed exterior tours of the building. This was also a missed chance for the store to gain publicity.

The sites I enjoyed the most were the Design Exchange (the old Stock Exchange), The Winter Winter Garden Theatre, the Canada Life Building, and the Hotel Victoria on Yonge Street. All of these locations were friendly and informative. They also gave full access to their sites (within reason).

If you enjoyed the Doors Open weekend, you might consider supporting Heritage Toronto. It is an excellent organization that “interprets and advocates for our cultural, architectural, archaeological, and natural heritage.” They perform a vital role in all these pursuits, and also research and arrange for the historic plaques to be erected throughout the city. They also sponsor many events, including the Toronto Heritage Awards, which encourage authors who publish books about Toronto’s history. Their walking tours are exceptional.

The Heritage Toronto’s web page is : www.heritagetoronto.org

I have spent much of my adult life researching and photographing Toronto. I love the city and enjoy exploring it through my writing. If interested in novels with a Toronto setting, descriptions of the books are available by following the link: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/03/22/toronto-author-publishes-seventh-novel/

They can be purchased in soft cover or electronic editions. All books are available at Chapters/Indigo and on Amazon.com. The electronic editions are less that $4, available on either Kindle or Kobo. Follow the links:

There Never Was a Better Time: http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000056586/THERE-NEVER-WAS-A-BETTER-TIME.aspx

Arse Over Teakettle: http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000132634/Arse-Over-Teakettle.aspx

The Reluctant Virgin; http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000188306/The-Reluctant-Virgin.aspx

The Villages Within: http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000175211/The-Villages-Within.aspx

Author’s Home Page: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

Authors can be contacted at: tayloronhistory@gmail.com

 
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Posted by on May 28, 2012 in Toronto

 

A disrespectful and mercifully short account of the 1837 Rebellion in Toronto

The mood of Toronto became ominous in the autumn of 1837, with political opinions hardening on both sides – those who clamoured for reform against those who favoured the status quo. Discontent eventually exploded into open conflict, which once more thrust James Fitzgibbon on the central stage of Upper Canada. Fitzgibbon had been a hero during the War of I812.  However, in some respects, the rebellion was to be more of a musical comedy than an opera. There was no fat lady, no chorus crooning in the background, nor big-bosomed women strutting past the scenery.

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Fitzgibbon was fully aware of the situation. He was one of the few who was prepared to take action. He had experienced first-hand the explosive personality of the leader of the rebellion, William Lyon Mackenzie. Fitzgibbon warned the governor,  Sir Francis Bond Head, whom the colonists often referred to as Bone Head, of the impending danger. Some of the Executive Council accused Fitzgibbon of being an alarmist and over-anxious to be embroiled in a conflict. Bond Head listened to his ill-informed advisors, and sent most of the troops to Lower Canada to help crush the rebellion in that province. Even in those days, the needs of Quebec took precedence in Canadian politics. However, as a precaution, Bond Head appointed Fitzgibbon as Adjutant-General of the Militia.

The evening following his appointment, Fitzgibbon sent a group of militiamen north of the city. They situated themselves behind a fence on Yonge Street, near where today Carlton Street is located. In the darkness, the troops under the command of Sheriff William Jarvis, confronted a band of rebels marching south to Toronto to join with other sympathizers. A few shots were fired, and in the ensuing confusion, both sides feared for their lives and fled. It is a pity that Maple Leaf Gardens had not been built. The combatants could have entered the arena and settled the fight with hockey sticks. In a civilized manner, they could have checked each other into the boards and cracked a few heads. Perhaps the Leafs of today might have inherited more of a fighting tradition if the battle had ended in this manner.

The next skirmish occurred on a cold December day. Fitzgibbon led the loyalist troops up Yonge Street to Montgomery’s Tavern, to disperse the rebels. The revolting farmers fled. Besides, the supply of beer had run out so there was no reason to stay. This effectively ended the Rebellion, and greatly enhanced Fitzgibbon’s reputation.

In 1838, Fitzgibbon served as Judge Advocate during the trials that followed the insurrection. Hanging usurpers by the neck (for more information Google “well-hung” heroes of Canada) was far more satisfying than shooting them. Hangings lasted longer, allowing a person sufficient time to knit while heads rolled (Google “Madame Defarge”). These events were the highlight of Fitzgibbon’s career. By the time the executions ended, he had completed two sweaters, five scarves, and ten pair of gloves. There was no “partridge in pear tree,” but there were many “Lords-a-leapin’” among the aristocracy, as they approved of hanging rebels who were disloyal to the crown.

In the years ahead, Fitzgibbon struggled to gain recognition, in the form of compensation, for his role in saving the colony of Upper Canada for the British Empire. His requests were ignored. He had won the battles, but lost the pension. He was never admitted to the famous old boys club, which remains in existence today——“The Pensions and Prostates Club.”

Meanwhile, the debts of his family increased each year. By 1843, the Bank of Upper Canada threatened court action to force him to repay his outstanding loans. Fortunately this was never done. Today, in America, the same legal action has been applied to the CEOs of failing banks.

Note: the above picture is of Sir Francis Bond

The above quote is from the book “The Villages Within,” which contains an irreverent account of the history of Toronto.

I have spent much of my adult life researching and photographing Toronto. I love the city and enjoy exploring it through my writing. One of the books, “The Villages Within”, was nominated for the Toronto Heritage Awards. If interested in novels with a Toronto setting, descriptions of the books are available by following the link: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/03/22/toronto-author-publishes-seventh-novel/

They can be purchased in soft cover or electronic editions. All books are available at Chapters/Indigo and on Amazon.com. The electronic editions are less that $4. Follow the links:

There Never Was a Better Time: http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000056586/THERE-NEVER-WAS-A-BETTER-TIME.aspx

Arse Over Teakettle: http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000132634/Arse-Over-Teakettle.aspx

The Reluctant Virgin; http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000188306/The-Reluctant-Virgin.aspx

The Villages Within: http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000175211/The-Villages-Within.aspx

Author’s Home Page: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

Authors can be contacted at: tayloronhistory@gmail.com

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2012 in Toronto

 

Toronto’s Draper Street is akin to a time tunnel into the past

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                                        Draper Street

Draper Street is one block west of Spadina, extending from south Wellington Street West to Front Street. To visit it is like entering a time tunnel into the past. It was named after William Henry Draper (1801-1877), a jurist and politician, as well as the Chief Justice of Upper Canada during the years 1863 to 1869. Today, his portrait in oils hangs outside the second-floor library of Osgoode Hall.

The land occupied by Draper Street, once a part of the military reserve attached to Fort York, was annexed to the city in the 1830s. It appears on the city’s maps in the year 1857, though the exact year it was cut through the woods is unknown. In the 1880s, when houses were constructed, it became a working man’s community, unlike Wellington Place at its north end.

The following is a list of the occupations of the residents of the street in 1892: telegraph operator, policeman, plumber, bookkeeper, labourer, machinist, insurance agent, jeweller, passenger agent, traveller, painter, printer, fireman, employee of Toronto Water Works, stonemason, clerk, engine driver, tax collector, conductor, and Grand Trunk Railway employee.

With few exceptions, Draper Street retains its nineteenth century streetscape. In 1984, in celebration of the city’s one hundred and fiftieth anniversary, the city designated all of the houses as “Heritage Properties.” In 1999 the residents applied for “Historic Designation” and now the façades of the houses cannot be altered without permission.

The first houses appeared on the east side of the street in 1881 (numbers 11-29), and on the same side (numbers 3-9) in 1884. In 1886 houses were built on the west side (numbers 4-18). The four southern lots, two on either side, closest to Front Street, did not have dwellings until 1887. The two on the west side have since been demolished and replaced by a commercial building of cement blocks. House numbers 19 and 21 were knocked down in the 1930s, as they were in a very poor state of repair. The site where they were located is today a small park. It is used for Draper Street’s annual street party. On the west side, at the north end of Draper, there are seven three-storey “Bay and Gable” homes. They were built in 1890 on the site of Benton’s Lumber Yard.

The majority of the houses are small two-storey row houses that were originally workmen’s houses. Some of the lower-ranking officers stationed at Fort York also lived in the these houses. The homes have Mansard roofs and large bay-windows on the first floor levels.  They were built using red bricks, trimmed with yellow bricks. Some of the houses contain plaques on their facades that indicate the year they were built and the original occupants. The house at 17 Draper Street is particularly noteworthy. At the north end of the street there are three-storey Victorian “bay and gable” dwellings, their gables stretching from the ground level to the third storey. Their porches are particularly attractive.

Strolling along Draper Street is a pleasant experience at any time of the year, but it is particularly pleasing when the cherry trees are in bloom on the lawn of several of the houses.

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                Two-storey workmen’s houses with their Mansard roofs

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              Two semi-detached houses on Draper Street

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                 Bay and gable-style houses on Draper Street

I have spent much of my adult life researching and photographing Toronto. I love the city and enjoy exploring it through my writing. One of the books, “The Villages Within”, was nominated for the Toronto Heritage Awards. If interested in novels with a Toronto setting, descriptions of the books are available by following the link: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/03/22/toronto-author-publishes-seventh-novel/

They can be purchased in soft cover or electronic editions. All books are available at Chapters/Indigo and on Amazon.com. The electronic editions are less that $4. Follow the links:

There Never Was a Better Time: http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000056586/THERE-NEVER-WAS-A-BETTER-TIME.aspx

Arse Over Teakettle: http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000132634/Arse-Over-Teakettle.aspx

The Reluctant Virgin; http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000188306/The-Reluctant-Virgin.aspx

The Villages Within: http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000175211/The-Villages-Within.aspx

Author’s Home Page: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

Authors can be contacted at: tayloronhistory@gmail.com

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2012 in Toronto

 

Toronto murder/mystery exposes the damage inflicted by churches’ views on gay issues

Reluc. Virgin

The recently published murder/mystery, “The Reluctant Virgin,” is a chilling and brutal story of a serial killer on the loose on the streets and in the ravines and back alleys of 1950s Toronto. The murders have a great impact on the lives of a group of teenagers, as the killer’s first victim is a teacher at their high school. The solving of the murders and the changes in the lives of the teenagers unfold simultaneously, allowing the reader to gain insight into the lives of the book’s characters. Because the 1950s was an era when homosexuality was against the law, one of the characters in the story is bullied because of his suspected sexual persuasion. The results are disastrous.

The role the church plays in the tragedy is exposed, as its unbending attitude on gay issues helps ruin the life of a young boy. The church had been his refuge, but when he needed it the most, it failed to show the love and compassion that he deserved. The unfolding of the events surrounding the destruction of the boy’s life is perhaps the most gripping section of the book. In some respects, it even over-shadows the capture of the serial killer.

The book also tackles other social issues of the decade, as well as the era’s religious bigotry among various faiths. Thus, although the murder/mystery is the vehicle that transports the story toward its dramatic climax, the struggles of the characters to cope with the problems created by societal attitudes play a major role in the tale. 

Author’s Note:

I have spent much of my adult life researching and photographing Toronto. I love the city and enjoy exploring it through my writing. One of the books, “The Villages Within”, was nominated for the Toronto Heritage Awards. If interested in novels with a Toronto setting, descriptions of the books are available by following the link: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/03/22/toronto-author-publishes-seventh-novel/

They can be purchased in soft cover or electronic editions. All books are available at Chapters/Indigo and on Amazon.com. The electronic editions are less that $4. Follow the links:

There Never Was a Better Time: http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000056586/THERE-NEVER-WAS-A-BETTER-TIME.aspx

Arse Over Teakettle: http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000132634/Arse-Over-Teakettle.aspx

The Reluctant Virgin; http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000188306/The-Reluctant-Virgin.aspx

The Villages Within: http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000175211/The-Villages-Within.aspx

Author’s Home Page: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

Authors can be contacted at: tayloronhistory@gmail.com

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2012 in Toronto

 

Celebrating Victoria Day in 1922

Victoria Day is the oldest official holiday in the Canadian calendar, instituted before Confederation. First declared in 1845, it was celebrated every May 24th until the monarch’s death in 1901. The following year, they continued the holiday but it was to honour the queen’s son, King Edward VII, even though he was born in the month of November.  This continued until his death in 1910. It then became Empire Day. In 1952, the date was changed to the Monday prior to the 24th of May.

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         Monument to Queen Victoria in Queen’s Park in Toronto today 

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Ceremony at the monument to Queen Victoria at Queen’s Park in 1911, the Duke of Connaught in attendance.

City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 8063

In 1922, Tuesday, 23 May, was Empire Day in the schools, when children would learn about the patriotic ideals of the British Empire. Children gazed intently at a map of the world depicting the far-flung Empire vividly in red. Many schools began the day with outdoor pageants in parks, schoolyards, or parade grounds. Wand drills and precision marching were important parts of the celebration. There was a Girl Guide procession on University Avenue, the participants attired in navy skirts and white blouses. When the parade arrived at Queen’s Park, marchers placed wreaths at the monument to Queen Victoria to the southeast of the legislative buildings. At the Grandstand of the CNE, children performed in an all-school spectacular concert. There were also band programs in some of the parks and a military drill at Fort York. Patriotism was unbounded.

The students of the Niagara Street School marched to the grounds where fallen soldiers of the War of 1812 had been buried—a small park at Wellington and Portland Streets. It had been created by Governor Simcoe as a cemetery in 1793—a burial ground for his infant daughter. Today, the park is called Victoria Memorial Square.

In this park, following the Empire Day ceremony, the principal dismissed the pupils. Screams of delight filled the air as the freed inmates raced excitedly from the scene, enthused that the following day would contain no reading, writing, or arithmetic. They chimed, with disrespectful glee, “No more teachers, no more books, no more teachers’ dirty looks!”

In the evening, at an Empire Day concert at Massey Hall, seven hundred schoolchildren performed the anthem “Rule Britannia.” The music soared majestically to the heights of the ornate ceiling of the great hall. In the 1920s, Canadian identity was ill-defined, as British pride remained the dominant emotion. In the decades that followed, truly Canadian sentiments would increasingly ring out across the dominion.

The following day was 24 May—Victoria Day, which most children referred to as “Firecracker Day.” Though the queen had long since passed away, citizens had not forgotten her.

Victoria Day was not an occasion for grand parades and festivals, but a quiet day for family activities. It also provided an opportunity to plant gardens, to prepare lawns for the forthcoming season, or to have a picnic. People flocked to High Park, the Humber and Don River Valleys, Kew Gardens, Sunnyside, and the Toronto Islands. The entire lakeside was crowded, from Scarborough Beach in the east to Long Branch in the west. Sunburn, gritty sandwiches, overexcited youngsters, slopped lemonade, and dripping ice cream cones led to many irritated parents. For the children, however, it all marked the beginning of the true summer, strong and free.

I have spent much of my adult life researching and photographing Toronto. I love the city. It has provided the background for my books, one of which, “The Villages Within”, was nominated for the Toronto Heritage Awards. If interested in novels with a Toronto setting, descriptions of the books are available by following the link: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/03/22/toronto-author-publishes-seventh-novel/

They can be purchased in soft cover or electronic editions. All books are available at Chapters/Indigo and on Amazon.com. The electronic editions are less that $4. Follow the links:

There Never Was a Better Time: http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000056586/THERE-NEVER-WAS-A-BETTER-TIME.aspx

Arse Over Teakettle: http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000132634/Arse-Over-Teakettle.aspx

The Reluctant Virgin; http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000188306/The-Reluctant-Virgin.aspx

The Villages Within:  http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000175211/The-Villages-Within.aspx 

Author’s Home Page: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

Authors can be contacted at: tayloronhistory@gmail.com

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2012 in Toronto

 

Visit Toronto’s first cemetery – Victoria Memorial Square

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                              Victoria Memorial Square today

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      Victoria Memorial Square on 14 October 1913 (City of Toronto Archives)

            The Garrison Burying Ground

Toronto’s first cemetery, the Garrison Cemetery, today named Victoria Memorial Square, is located in the Kings West District. It is one block south of King Street, between Bathurst and Spadina.

To clear the land for the cemetery, trees were cut down by Simcoe’s troops. When the first internment occurred in 1794, it was entirely surrounded by dense forest. Governor Simcoe’s daughter, Katherine, only fifteen months of age when she died, was the first to be buried in the cemetery. During the years a head many more were placed within its grounds, including at least one of the soldiers who perished defending York in the American invasion of 1813. During the War of 1812, York was a medical centre where they brought those who had been injured in battles on the Niagara frontier. Reverent John Strachan reported that in 1813 he officiated at the funerals for six to eight men a day.

In the 1830s, when the land was surveyed and streets laid out, the small square was bounded on the north by Stewart Street, on the south by Niagara Street, the east by Portland Street, and to the west by Bathurst Street. During the years ahead, houses were erected on its western section (on Bathurst Street), reducing the size of the Square. Thus, the open space was larger in the nineteenth century than it is today. The east side of the cemetery was where the street known as Wellington Place ended. Eventually a street was cut through the square but was named Douro. Douro and Wellington Place were eventually combined and renamed Wellington Street West, as it is today.

The boundaries of the burial ground within the square formed a rectangle, with the corners pointing to the four cardinal points of the compass. This was unusual as it was the custom of the day to align plots parallel to the grid. Almost all streets were also planned according to the grid lines. The reason for the unusual configuration of the cemetery is today unknown. At that time, the only other site in the community that was positioned in a similar manner was “Bell Vue,” the home of the Denison Family, located in Denison Square in the present-day Kensington Market area.

It is estimated that from the time of its inception in 1794 until the final interment in 1863, about four hundred bodies were placed within the grounds. In the years ahead citizens of the town were also buried here, though after 1807 many were placed in the churchyard of St. James, on King Street East. With the closing of the First Garrison Burying Ground, another cemetery was created to the northwest of Fort York, on Dufferin Street, near the present-day Canadian National Exhibition grounds.

It is worth mentioning a few of those who were buried in the Garrison Cemetery. Most of the names that follow were identified by John Ross Robertson during visits to the cemetery in the 1870s. They were recorded in his book “Landmarks of Toronto, Volume 1.”

Christopher Robinson, died 1798, father of John Ross Robertson.

Benjamin Hallowell, a relative of Chief Justice Elmsley, died Thursday, March 28, 1799, age 75.

John Edward Sharps, infant son of J. E. and M Sharps, died at 9 months on August 8, 1813.

Captain McNeal killed in the Battle of York, 1813, during the American invasion of Toronto.

Charlotte, wife of John Armitage, died April 8, 1819.

John Saumariez Colbourne, died May 1, 1826, three-year-old son of Sir John Colbourne.

Mackay John Scobie, died August 26, 1834, age 18, and his brother Kenneth Scobie, age 25, died in 1834. Their father was Captain John Scobie of the 93rd Highlanders.

Margaret Ryan, wife of William Ryan of the Canadian Rifles, died 1835.

Lieutenant Zachariah Mudge, private secretary to Sir John Colbourne (Lord Seaton), committed suicide by placing a gun to his chest. He died at age 31 on June 10,1831.

Barbara Mary, daughter of Reverend J. Hudson, died July 17, 1831.

Archibald Currie of Glasgow, Scotland. Robertson states that the stone was too corroded to decipher any other details.

Final burial in the Garrison Cemetery was Private James McQuarrick in 1863.

An interesting notation claims that Captain Battersby, a British soldier, when ordered back to Britain following the War of 1812, shot his two horses and buried them in the cemetery, rather than part with them by selling them to someone else. Thankfully, he did not plan a similar fate for the friends he left behind in tiny York.

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                        Restored headstones in Victoria Memorial Square today

I have spent much of my adult life researching and photographing Toronto. I love the city. It has provided the background for my books, one of which, “The Villages Within”, was nominated for the Toronto Heritage Awards. If interested in novels with a Toronto setting, descriptions of the books are available by following the link: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/03/22/toronto-author-publishes-seventh-novel/

They can be purchased in soft cover or electronic editions. All books are available at Chapters/Indigo and on Amazon.com. The electronic editions are less that $4. Follow the links:

There Never Was a Better Time: http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000056586/THERE-NEVER-WAS-A-BETTER-TIME.aspx

Arse Over Teakettle: http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000132634/Arse-Over-Teakettle.aspx

The Reluctant Virgin; http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000188306/The-Reluctant-Virgin.aspx

The Villages Within:  http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000175211/The-Villages-Within.aspx 

Author’s Home Page: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

Authors can be contacted at: tayloronhistory@gmail.com

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 12, 2012 in Toronto

 

View sculptures in Toronto today by the creator of Vimy Ridge Memorial.

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Walter Allwards’s South African (Boer War) Memorial at University and Queen Streets.

Walter Allward, one of Canada’s most prominent sculptors, was born in Toronto on November 18, 1876. As a boy of 14, he worked with his father, who was a carpenter. He attended Central Technical School and studied under well-known Canadian sculptors William Cruikshank and Emmanuel Hahn, as well as in London and Paris. He apprenticed with the architectural firm of Gibson and Simpson, and later employed at the Don Valley Brick Works, where he modelled architectural ornaments.  His first important commission was in 1895, to design a figure of “Victory” on a memorial to commemorate the Northwest Rebellion. It was located at the southeast corner of the grounds at Queen’s Park.

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Allward’s figure of “Peace” on the monument erected in 1895 to commemorate the Northwest Rebellion of 1885. This was Allward’s first major commission.

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The Memorial to those who died in the War of 1812. It is located in Victoria Memorial Square at Portland and Stewart Streets.

In 1903, Allward created the monument in Victoria Memorial Square that honours those who lost their lives defending York (Toronto) in the War of 1812 (1812-1815). The ceremony to unveil the memorial was held on July 1, 1902 as a part of the Dominion Day (Canada Day) celebrations. The regiments that served in the conflict and the names of the battlefields are listed on plaques attached to the monument.

In 1906, Walter Allward added a  sculpture to the top of the War of 1812 memorial. Named the “Old Soldier,” it represents a veteran of the war. The balding soldier appears to glance upward, a weary expression on his face. He is attired in a military uniform that displays his war medals, and in his right hand is his hat. His left arm has no hand, suggesting that he suffered a casualty during a battle. In Katherine Hale’s book, “Toronto, Romance of a Great City,” she states: “ . . . the soldier has an unusual face—strong, rapt and dedicated.” The stone base of the monument in Victoria Memorial Square is similar in design to the one at Queenston Heights to commemorate the deeds of Laura Secord, a heroine of the War of 1812.

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                  The monument to honour those who died in the Boer War

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(Above) One of the figures on the monument to those who lost their lives in the Boer War. The monument is located at University Avenue and Queen Street West. Walter Allward created the South African monument in 1910. When the year the monument was dedicated, mature chestnut trees flanked the broad avenue that led to Queen’s Park.

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The bust of William Lyon Mackenzie was unveiled in 1936. It is located on the west side of the Legislative Buildings at Queen’s Park. Many feel that this bust is among the finest of Allward’s sculptures, as it vividly captures the essence of the fiery rebel, Mackenzie.

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The statue to Governor John Graves Simcoe, dedicated in 1903. He was the first Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada (Ontario). The monument is located to the south of the Legislative Buildings at Queen’s Park.

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                                                The Vimy Ridge Memorial

Allward is best known as the creator of the Vimy Ridge Memorial in France, built to honour the memory the 3600 Canadians who died in the Battle of Vimy Ridge, April 9-13 in 1917. Allward’s design was chosen by the Federal Government from among 160 entries. From the beginning of the project in 1921, until it was completed in 1936, he worked full time on the monument. He rented studio space in London in 1922, and toured Europe for two years searching for the correct stone to fulfill his vision of the monument. He found it in Croatia, in an ancient quarry that had supplied the material to build the Roman Emperor Diocletian’s Palace. Over 6000 tonnes of seget limestone were shipped by boat to France, and then transported by rail to Vimy Ridge. When it was unveiled by King Edward VIII in 1936, over 100,000 people attended the ceremony.

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

To view previous blogs about movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/links-to-toronto-old-movie-housestayloronhistory-com/

Recent publication entitled “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” by the author of this blog. The publication explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories of the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

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   To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Store and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791

Theatres Included in the Book:

Chapter One – The Early Years—Nickelodeons and the First Theatres in Toronto

Theatorium (Red Mill) Theatre—Toronto’s First Movie Experience and First Permanent Movie Theatre, Auditorium (Avenue, PIckford), Colonial Theatre (the Bay), the Photodrome, Revue Theatre, Picture Palace (Royal George), Big Nickel (National, Rio), Madison Theatre (Midtown, Capri, Eden, Bloor Cinema, Bloor Street Hot Docs), Theatre Without a Name (Pastime, Prince Edward, Fox)

Chapter Two – The Great Movie Palaces – The End of the Nickelodeons

Loew’s Yonge Street (Elgin/Winter Garden), Shea’s Hippodrome, The Allen (Tivoli), Pantages (Imperial, Imperial Six, Ed Mirvish), Loew’s Uptown

Chapter Three – Smaller Theatres in the pre-1920s and 1920s

 Oakwood, Broadway, Carlton on Parliament Street, Victory on Yonge Street (Embassy, Astor, Showcase, Federal, New Yorker, Panasonic), Allan’s Danforth (Century, Titania, Music Hall), Parkdale, Alhambra (Baronet, Eve), St. Clair, Standard (Strand, Victory, Golden Harvest), Palace, Bedford (Park), Hudson (Mount Pleasant), Belsize (Crest, Regent), Runnymede

Chapter Four – Theatres During the 1930s, the Great Depression

Grant ,Hollywood, Oriole (Cinema, International Cinema), Eglinton, Casino, Radio City, Paramount, Scarboro, Paradise (Eve’s Paradise), State (Bloordale), Colony, Bellevue

 

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The “redbud” is in bloom in Toronto’s historic St. Andrew’s Park

It’s spring! The redbud are in bloom in parks and gardens throughout the city. The  large shrub (small tree) is a native species that grows as far south as Florida, its range extending north to southern Ontario. During the last decade, with the warming of the Toronto winters, it has become more common in the parks and gardens throughout the city. Its showy flowers range from light pink to dark purple. The 1/2 inch long flowers appear in clusters on the bare branches before the leaves appear. Its scientific name is “cercis canadensis.” The species that grows in Toronto is the “eastern redbud.”

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                          Redbud trees in St. Andrew’s Park

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The redbud tree at the corner of Brant and Adelaide Streets in St. Andrew’s Park

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                                 St. Andrew’s Park (May- 2012)

When visiting St. Andrew’s Park, it is worth stopping for a few moments to read the historic plaque at the northeast corner of the square. It contains several photos from earlier decades and outlines a brief history of the park.

A history of St. Andrew’s Park, site of Toronto’s third farmers’ market square

During the late 1830s, it was becoming obvious that the St. Lawrence Market was too distant to serve the needs of the residents of Toronto who were living to the west of Peter Street. A new market square was planned, and the land grant was dated May 22, 1837. The northern end of the square was to be 337 feet long, fronting on Richmond Street, and the depth was to be 173 feet. The site consisted of one and three-quarters acres. The eastern limit of the square was Brant Street, directly across from where the condominium “50 Camden Street” would one day appear. The market square was bounded on the west by Maud Street and on the south by Adelaide. The new market was named the “West City Market.” Although this event did not illuminate the city like the lights of the West End of today’s London, it promised a sunny future for the nineteenth century community residing near the market square.

Finally, a few homes were built in the surrounding area. Most homes were of wood, but more brick dwellings were being constructed. On Queen Street, to the east of Spadina, rows of two-storey buildings appeared, possessing shops on the street level, and residences on the floors above. Along the waterfront were many fine homes. Since its incorporation three years earlier, the city was rapidly expanding.

It is not certain when the citizens of York commenced attending the West City Market. However, it is likely that sometime during the 1840s, a small, seasonal market occurred on Saturday mornings, attended mostly by women, as the majority of the men were required to work at their places of daily employment, Saturday being a work-day. Slowly the market grew in size, and in 1850, the city hired the architect Thomas Young to design a frame building to protect shoppers from the weather. Young, born in England in 1805, had previously designed King’s College, Toronto, and the wooden building for the St. Patrick’s Market on Queen Street.

The wooden St. Andrew’s Market building was constructed in the centre of the market square and contained generous interior space for stalls. A police station and a fire bell were also within the building. Along the out-side walls were produce stands, with canvas awnings sheltering the patrons from the hot summer sun and the rains of spring and autumn, as well as the snows of winter. At the south end of the square, on Adelaide Street, they erected a shelter to protect the horses from the elements. The remainder of the square was green space to accommodate carts, wagons, and the Saturday-morning shoppers. Friends greeted friends, in the background the sound of neighing horses and rumbling wagon wheels.

In 1857, they changed the name of the market to St. Andrew’s Market, as the site was in St. Andrew’s Ward, Queen Street being the northern boundary line. There were now three markets within the city, the other two being the St. Lawrence (1803) at King and Jarvis Streets, and the St. Patrick’s Market (1836) on Queen Street, between McCaul and John Streets. The St. Lawrence Market remains popular today, and the St. Patrick’s Market still exists on Queen Street West, although the present building dates from the year 1912.

St. Patrick’s Market was eventually renamed the Queen Street Market. The small square to the north of the market building retains the former name of St. Patrick’s. During warm weather, people sit in this secluded park to drink coffee, chat, or suck on tobacco smoke. Others enjoy a sandwich or slice of pizza. From the square, a little of the Toronto of old remains visible, the houses and laneways clearly portraying the historic lineage of the area.

In 1857, only the St. Lawrence at King and Jarvis Streets exceeded the importance of the St. Andrew’s Market. On a busy Saturday morning, the carriages and horses, as well as the numerous carts of the citizens of Toronto, crowded St. Andrew’s Market. It was a gathering place to socialize and chat with friends and neighbours. Housewives purchased vegetables, grains, meat, and fish.

A resident of Toronto wrote, “At Christmas time, the abundance of the market would do credit to any city in the world.” Though this was exaggeration, it expressed the writer’s pride as he gazed at the abundance, where many rows of dressed fowl were hanging from numerous poles suspended above the stalls and shops, whole pigs and sides of beef adding to the display. Counters with an array of beef, pork, and lamb greeted the eyes, alongside baskets of fresh eggs. Bushels of root vegetables were positioned side by side and in some shops were stacked against the rear walls. At Christmas, even the fish stalls managed to display fresh product. It was an amazing Yuletide scene.

I have spent much of my adult life researching and photographing Toronto. I love the city. It has provided the background for my books, one of which, “The Villages Within”, was nominated for the Toronto Heritage Awards. If interested in novels with a Toronto setting, descriptions of the books are available by following the link: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/03/22/toronto-author-publishes-seventh-novel/

They can be purchased in soft cover or electronic editions. All books are available at Chapters/Indigo and on Amazon.com. The electronic editions are less that $4. Follow the links:

There Never Was a Better Time: http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000056586/THERE-NEVER-WAS-A-BETTER-TIME.aspx

Arse Over Teakettle: http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000132634/Arse-Over-Teakettle.aspx

The Reluctant Virgin; http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000188306/The-Reluctant-Virgin.aspx

The Villages Within:  http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000175211/The-Villages-Within.aspx 

Author’s Home Page: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

Authors can be contacted at: tayloronhistory@gmail.com

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 9, 2012 in Toronto