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Monthly Archives: February 2013

Toronto’s old movie houses—the Rio on Yonge Street

                   Rio Theatre

The Rio Theatre was one of the first movie houses opened in Toronto. Located at 373 Yonge Street,  a short distance south of Gerrard Street, it opened in 1913 as “The Big Nickel.”  In the late 1930s, it was renamed “The National,” and in 1943 became “The Rio.”

To the best of my knowledge, I never attended “The Rio. This was because in the 1950s, I was a suburban kid, and if I travelled all the way downtown to attend a movie house, it was because I wished to see the latest films that Hollywood offered. The movies at “The Rio” were several years old, and if I wanted to view these films, there were several neighbourhood theatres to fulfill this need.

In the latter years of the Rio’s existence, it showed four films consecutively, before repeating the sequence, beginning at 9 am and continuing until 4 am. Because the admission price was cheap and the long hours it remained open, it became a favourite place for the homeless to escape the cold or for people to recover from the results of inebriation before they returned to the street. Thus, it had gained a reputation as a hangout for “Rubbydubs,” as teenagers referred to drunks in that decade. The theatre deteriorated to such an extent that prior to its closing in 1991, the seats were extremely tattered and material was falling from the ceiling.

One of the reasons that I remembered “The Rio” was because it was across the street from the Swiss Chalet Restaurant, which in the 1950s was highly popular. The chain commenced in 1954, its first location at 234 Bloor Street. I believe that the Yonge Street restaurant was the second one they opened. There are now over 200 locations.  As a teenager, I felt I was dining at the Ritz when I ordered a half-chicken dinner at the restaurant. “The Rio” has now disappeared from the Yonge Street strip. On the premises is now an adult video and novelty store. However, the Swiss Chalet remains and is popular as ever, although its original location on Bloor Street has now been demolished for a condo. 

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The Rio in 1913, when it was named “The Big Nickel.” The second floor was rented for other purposes, which was typical in this era, as it provided extra income. This was especially important on Yonge Street, where property prices and rental charges were expensive. Photo is from the web site of Christopher Walczak.

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“The Rio” in 1950, featuring the film “Captain Boycott,” released in 1947. It was typical to show films at “The Rio” that were several years old. Notice that in this photo, one of the original windows can be seen on the second floor, from the days when the theatre was “The Big Nickel.” (City of Toronto Archives)

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The Rio in the early 1970s, when the Yonge Street Mall was in operation. (City of Toronto Archives)

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The site of “The Rio Theatre” today, where an adult movie and novelty shop is located.

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The second-floor level of “The Rio” that originally provided extra income for the owners. The windows over-looking the street from the days when the theatre was “The Big Nickel,” have disappeared except for the one that is in the centre position, and it is covered over.

Rio Theatre

This undated photo from the City of Toronto Archives shows “The Rio” and the surrounding buildings on Yonge Street.

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

To view previous blogs about other old movie houses of Toronto

The Ed Mirvish Theatre (Pantages, Imperial, Canon)

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/02/27/torontos-architectural-gemsthe-ed-mirvish-theatre-pantages-imperial-canon/

The now demolished Downtown Theatre on Yonge Street south of Dundas

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/02/26/torontos-lost-movie-theatresthe-downtown-theatre-on-yonge-st-south-of-dundas/

The Orpheum Theatre on Queen St., west of Bathurst

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/02/07/torontos-old-movie-theatres-the-orpheum-on-queen-st-w/

The Bellevue Theatre on College Street that became the Lux Burlesque Theatre

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/01/14/the-bellevue-theatre-lux-burlesque-theatre-on-college-street/

Old movie houses of Toronto

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2011/06/27/old-movie-houses-of-toronto/

The Odeon Carlton theatre on Carlton St., east of Yonge St.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2011/07/02/colour-photo-of-the-odeon-carlton-in-1956-a-marilyn-monroe-film-playing/

2011/07/02/colour-photo-of-the-odeon-carlton-in-1956-a-marilyn-monroe-film-playing/https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

The Victory burlesque and movie theatre on Spadina at Dundas:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/09/08/the-sinful-victory-burlesque-theatre-at-dundas-and-spadina/

The Shea’s Hippodrome Theatre on Bay St. near Queen

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2011/07/04/sheas-hippodrome-theatre-where-the-nathan-phillips-square-exists-today/

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2011/09/07/photographs-from-the-1950s-of-sheas-hippodrome-theatre-located-on-the-site-of-torontos-new-city-hall/

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/03/06/old-movie-houses-of-toronto-fond-memories-of-sheas-hippodrome/

Attending a matinee in the old movie houses of Toronto during the “golden age of cinema”

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/attending-a-movie-matinee-in-toronto-during-the-golden-age-of-cinema/

The University Theatre on Bloor St., west of Bay Street.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/the-opening-of-torontos-university-theatre-on-bloor-street/

Archival photos of the Imperial and Downtown Theatres on Yonge Street

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/02/04/archival-photos-of-torontos-old-theatres-give-reality-to-historical-novel/

The Elgin/Winter/Garden Theatres on Yonge Street

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/05/31/torontos-architectural-gemsthe-elgin-winter-garden-theatres/

The now vanished Avon Theatre at 1092 Queen Street West

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/12/10/torontos-lost-movie-theatresthe-avon-at-1092-queen-west/

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2013 in Toronto

 

Remembering the Imperial Theatre ( Pantages, Canon, Ed Mirvish)

                  Imperial

The Imperial Theatre on Yonge Street in 1972. Photo, City of Toronto Archives

During the 1950s, I worked as a “parcelling-boy” at the Dominion Store on Eglinton Avenue, west of Avenue Road. This statement truly identifies me as “overly mature,” since not only has  the name “Dominion Store” been put out to pasture, but supermarkets today no longer hire teenagers to parcel the customers’ groceries. Each Saturday evening, after the store closed at 6 pm, a friend and I journeyed downtown to attend a movie. One of our favourite theatres was the Imperial. This was during 1950s, and the Imperial was not the grand, gold embossed, pristine theatre that patrons attend today to view the live stage productions of David Mirvish. The Imperial had become tarnished over the years. The ornate plaster trim, gold leaf, and faux marble columns from its former days of glory were either painted over or darkened by the passage of time.

In the 1950s, I don’t remember ever seeing the magnificent ceiling of the Imperial Theatre, as the auditorium was darkened whenever we entered. There were no intermissions between film showings. Similar to most people, we arrived at the theatre when it was convenient, unlike today, when patrons enter at the beginning of the film. As a result, only those who entered prior to the start of the day’s screenings, ever caught a glimpse of the ceiling. Thus, a large lobby was not required as people were entering and departing continuously. During the 1920s, when the theatre was built, the vaudeville acts and films were also continuous, so similarly, a large lobby was not needed. This explains why the Ed Mirvish Theatre of today has such a small lobby area.

 During the 1950s, my friend and I were attracted to the Imperial because it featured recently released films and its enormous size meant that good seats were readily available.  We preferred to sit in the balcony, as it was huge and offered a superb view of the screen, one of the largest in the city. Despite the fact that the glory days of the theatre had ended, the Imperial still managed to create a feeling of grandeur, especially the entrance hallway from Yonge Street.

The films that I remember the most at the Imperial during the 1950s were those that starred Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, such as “Scared Stiff” and “The Caddy,” both released in 1953. Being teenagers, we found their zany antics endlessly funny.

In the 1920s, it was complicated to assemble the land to construct the theatre, because the site had three different owners. However, through a complicated set of leases and purchases, the land was finally acquired. The separate ownerships of the land were to haunt the owners of the theatre in the decades ahead. Similar to today, in the 1920s, property prices on Toronto’s main street were extremely expensive, so it was necessary to construct the auditorium on Victoria Street, with simply an entrance on Yonge Street. This was important as Yonge was where the major foot-traffic of the city passed by. The theatre’s entrance from the west was at 263 Yonge Street, and on its east side at 244 Victoria Street. 

When the theatre opened on Saturday, April 27, 1920, it was named “The Pantages.” The theatre was owned by Famous Players,  but it was managed by the Pantages organization of Alexander Pantages, and theatre was named after him. He also handled the bookings of the vaudeville acts. The program for the opening of the theatre was listed in the newspapers:

Doors open at 7 p.m.

Promenade Concert at 8 p.m.

Singing of “God Save the King.”

Address by Mayor Tommy Church

“Pantages Pictorial Revue” 

The theatre was closed on the following day, as it was a Sunday, when theatres were not allowed to be open. On the Monday following the opening, shows were continuous from 12 noon until 11 p.m. Matinee prices were 25 cents and evening performances were 45 cents. The 3373-seat vaudeville and movie house was the largest in Canada at that time. The day the theatre opened, an article in the Globe and Empire newspaper stated that the theatre was the largest in the British Empire, that its stage decorations were outstanding, and its stage decorations possessed gorgeous colours. The newspaper also stated that the “drop sets” provided novel backgrounds for the vaudeville acts.

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The above drop sets are from the 1920s from Loew’s Yonge Street Theatre (today’s Elgin) but are typical of those used for vaudeville in that decade. (photos taken in 2013) 

The Pantages Theatre was designed by the architect Thomas W. Lamb (1871-1942). Born in in Scotland, he immigrated to New York City as a boy. He had a distinguished career in his adopted city, where he designed 48 theatres. He  also the architect of the Boston Opera House that remains in use today. In Toronto, he designed the Elgin-Winter Garden complex, as well as the Pantages. One of his trademark features was to attach white or cream-coloured terra cotta tiles onto the facades of his theatres. Most of these tiles have disappeared from the Yonge Street facade of the Ed Mirvish Theatre of today, the result of the many alterations throughout the decades. However, they remain on the east facade on Victoria Street.

My father immigrated to Toronto in 1921, a year after the Pantages opened. He fell in love with the city’s theatre scene, one of his favourites being the “The Pantages.” As a child, I heard him tell stories of the great theatre and its risqué comedians. My father enjoyed retelling the corny jokes, even when he was over eighty years of age. He also described the auditorium, with its ornate classical designs on the ceiling, which soared high above the seats like the vaulted canopy of a great palace or cathedral.

The year my father arrived in the city, there was a parrot in a cage on the mezzanine level of the Pantages that possessed only one eye. It was a cantankerous bird that squawked and scolded those who came near it as it cracked sunflower seeds. Sometimes a child or mischievous teenager would try to steal it or poke it with a pencil, causing the bird to raise a raucous. The parrot remained a fixture at the theatre for twenty years.  

In 1930, the name of the Pantages was changed to The Imperial, but remained under the ownership of Famous Players. The reason for the change was that Alexander Pantages had been convicted of raping a 17-year-old chorus girl the previous year. His name was removed from all the theatres that his company had managed.

On May 29, 1931, Duke Ellington and his Cotton Club Orchestra had its debit appearance at the Imperial. In 1933, the movie star George Raft, who often played gangsters in films, made a personal appearance at the theatre. The Evening Telegram newspaper reported on March 6, 1950 that when a movie starring Gregory Peck was playing, a thief snatched $1500 from an usher of the Pantages who was transferring the cash from the box office to the main office inside the theatre. The thief escaped among the Saturday-night crowds on Yonge Street.

In 1972, following a 9-month run of “The Godfather,” the theatre closed for renovations. When it reopened the following year, the magnificent theatre had been divided into six separate auditoriums and renamed “The Imperial Six.” The architect for the conversion of the theatre into a multiplex venue was Mandel Sprachman, a graduate of the University of Toronto School of Architecture. The balcony had been of sufficient size to create a separate enormous auditorium.

In 1986, Darth Drabinsky, the CEO of Cineplex Odeon, purchased  the property. He reopened the theatre on December 12, 1987, and for a brief period continued to show movies. However, he dreamt of restoring the property as a venue for live theatre and wished to return it to its former glory. This was when the complicated land ownerships from the 1920s caused difficulties. Fortunately, these were eventually settled and Drabinsky was free to proceed with his ambitions. The last film screened before it was closed for restoration was “Die Hard,” starring  Bruce Willis.

Under Drabinsky’s supervision, the theatre was meticulously restored. The seating capacity was reduced from 3373 to 2200. The soot and grime, as well as the many layers of paint that obscured its original beauty were removed. Backstage areas were improved and computerized stage lighting added, as well as a new sound system.

When it reopened in 1989, with Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Musical “Phantom of the Opera,” theatregoers were once more able to enjoy the opulence of the original Pantages. The musical was to remain on stage for over ten years, attracting crowds from all over Ontario and the United States. I saw “The Phantom” three times during its long run. However, the first time was the most memorable, since it was when I first glimpsed the theatre after its restoration. I thought of the stories my father had told me, and realized that his descriptions of the “Pantages” had indeed been accurate. Even today, when I attend the theatre, at intermission I walk down an aisle toward the stage area to view the vaulted ceiling. I recall how my dad had described it, in all its glorious splendour.

After Darth Drabinsky’s theatrical empire collapsed, the Pantages was purchased by Clear Channel Entertainment and became the Canon Theatre. Following a legal battle, David Mirvish purchased the theatre, and it was renamed the “Ed Mirvish Theatre” on December 6, 2011.

Although many of the structures from North America’s golden age of theatre-building have been demolished, the Empress of Canadian Theatres—the Ed Mirvish—continues to offer live performances, reminding us of the days when such entertainment venues were referred to as “movie palaces.” There could never be a more fitting tribute to one of the city’s most generous benefactors—Ed Mirvish—the King of Retail.

                     Series 1287, File 87, Sept 1930

Hallway leading from the Yonge Street entrance to the auditorium, in 1930. Toronto Archives, Series 1287, File 87

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The staircase in the Pantages, leading from the Yonge Street entrance. Toronto Archives, Series 881, File 265 

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  Auditorium of the Pantages, Toronto Archives, Series 1278, File 87

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   The Imperial Theatre in 1930, Photo, Toronto Reference Library

Imperial 1935

The above photo from the City of Toronto Archives gazes south on Yonge Street from near Dundas Street, on December 21, 1935. The Imperial Theatre is on the left-hand side of the street. The theatre’s marquee is similar to the one that exists today on the Ed Mirvish Theatre. The banner strung across the street advertises the visit of “The Weaver Brothers,” a comedy team that starred in thirteen movies. They began their careers in vaudeville and specialized in playing unusual instruments. They were the first musicians to employ a handsaw to play a melody.

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The staircase and rear of the auditorium of the Imperial in November, 1947. Toronto Archives, Series 1287, File 87.      

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The Imperial Theatre in 1972, the final year that it operated as a single theatre, before being divided into six auditoriums and renamed “The Imperial Six.” The Downtown Theatre at Yonge near Dundas is visible further north up Yonge Street. 

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The theatre in 1973 or 1974, after it became the Imperial Six in 1972. This photo from the City of Toronto Archives was taken when Yonge Street was a pedestrian mall.

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View of the auditorium in the Imperial Six that had formerly been the balcony of the Imperial, City of Toronto Archives, Series 122, File 881, It. 241

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The foyer of the Imperial Six, showing the staircase that led to the downstairs theatres, City of Toronto Archives, Mendel Sprachman Collection

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The theatre in the summer of 2012, after it became the “Ed Mirvish Theatre.” The canopy over the entrance is similar to that of the old Pantages and once more there are rows of white terracotta tiles on the facade. In 2012, there was a partial pedestrian mall on Yonge Street.

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“The Ed Mirvish Theatre” and the surrounding buildings on Yonge Street in the summer of 2013. The building to the right of the theatre, constructed in 1874, was there when the Pantages opened in 1920.

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The Victoria Street facade of the Ed MIrvish Theatre, containing sections of cream-coloured terra cotta tiles on the walls, as designed by Thomas W. Lamb. 

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Ornate designs on the canopy of the Victoria Street facade of the theatre.

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A view of the Victoria Street (east) facade of the Pantages in 1930. Photo gazes north on Victoria Street. Toronto Archives, Series 1278, File 87.

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This photo of the theatre, taken in 2013, on Victoria Street, the view gazing south.

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               The Victoria Street entrance to the theatre in 2013.                               

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The Yonge Street entrance to the theatre and the grand staircase that leads to the upper lobby. The ceiling is particularly noteworthy. Photo from the City of Toronto Archives.

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The canopy over the doorway on the east facade of the theatre. Large Corinthian pilasters are attached to the brickwork above the canopy.

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

To view previous blogs about other old movie houses of Toronto

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/torontos-old-movie-theatrestayloronhistory-com/

To view links to Toronto’s Heritage Buildings

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/01/02/canadas-cultural-scenetorontos-architectural-heritage/ 

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 also relates anecdotes and stories from those 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 .

 

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Toronto’s old movie theatres—the Downtown Theatre on Yonge St. south of Dundas

               Downtown

The Downtown Theatre in 1972, the year it was demolished. The height of the building indicates the size of the interior auditorium.  The marquee in the above photo advertises two horror films, “The Death Master” was a tale of a hippie vampire. Photo from City of Toronto Archives.

The Downtown Theatre, now demolished, was at 285 Yonge Street, on the east side of the street, south of Dundas Street. Today, the site forms the southern portion of the Yonge-Dundas Square. The Downtown Theatre opened in 1948, the architects being Mandel Sprachman and Harold Solomon Kaplan. Though it was never one of Toronto’s premier movie houses, along with the Biltmore, it offered a choice to those theatre patrons who wished to view a double feature, as opposed to the Imperial and Loew’s Downtown that offered only one feature.

When I was a child, the week before Christmas, my brother and I journeyed downtown with my mother. Darkness had settled over the street by the time we returned home. I remember viewing the lights of the old theatre through the window of a Peter Witt, Yonge Street streetcar. The magnificent marquee and flashing sign of the Downtown Theatre soared high into the sky. Its sparkling neon lights dominated the street, along with similar displays such as those of Loew’s Downtown, the Imperial, and the Biltmore theatres. I longed for the day when I was of age to travel downtown on my own to attend one of these humongous theatres. Our local movie house was the “Grant” at Vaughan and Oakwood. It was puny in comparison.

Another fond memory of the Downtown Theatre is of the horror films that I viewed on its enormous screen. I remember sitting in the 1059-seat Downtown Theatre, entranced by the B-Grade horror films  and pseudo-horror movies such as  “Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy.”  The famous comedians were very funny, but the mummy was terrifying. Life did not offer anything better than this until I was of age to attend restricted movies.

When the Downtown Theatre was demolished in 1972, lost forever was the light-show that performed on Toronto’s main street each evening to the delight of those who passed by on the street.  I  miss the Downtown and the other great movie houses that once graced the Yonge Street strip. With the demise of the magnificent neon sign on the store of “Sam the Record Man,” the best neon sign that remains on the strip today is that of the Zanzibar Tavern.

To link to a previous post about “Sam the Record Man” store on Yonge Street:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/12/04/a-and-a-records-and-broadway-shows-on-vinyl/

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This photo from the City of Toronto Archives shows where the Downtown was located in relation to the Imperial (Pantages) to the north. The old Imperial is now the Ed Mirvish Theatre. The film showing at the Imperial in this photo is the 1972 movie, “The Godfather.”

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I took this photo of the marquee and sign of the Downtown in 1956, with a 35mm Kodak Pony camera. “Rock Pretty Baby” was one of the first rock movies and today is still considered the best of those that were produced in the 1950s. Sal Mineo played drums in the film and John Saxon was on guitar.

Downtown Ont. Archives

The Downtown in 1949, the year after it opened. The sports drama, “Kid from Cleveland” is playing, starring Russ Tamblyn, who later starred in “West Side Story” and “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers”. The street in the foreground is Yonge Street, and the street extending eastward along the side of the theatre is Dundas Square, formerly named Wilton Street. Today, Dundas Square forms the southern boundary of the Yonge –Dundas Square. Notice that the second feature was a western romance: “Massacre River,” starring Guy Madison and Carole Lombard.

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These superb photos of the Downtown were taken in March of 1972 by John Wallington. The film “Tales from the Crypt” starred Peter Cushing and Joan Collins.

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This spectacular visual of Dundas Square in May of 2010 is from the Wikimedia Commons site. It looks north from where the old Downtown Theatre once stood. The Eaton Centre is on the left-hand side.

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

To view previous blogs about other old movie houses of Toronto

The Orpheum Theatre on Queen St., west of Bathurst

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/02/07/torontos-old-movie-theatres-the-orpheum-on-queen-st-w/

The Bellevue Theatre on College Street that became the Lux Burlesque Theatre

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/01/14/the-bellevue-theatre-lux-burlesque-theatre-on-college-street/

Old movie houses of Toronto

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2011/06/27/old-movie-houses-of-toronto/

The Odeon Carlton theatre on Carlton St., east of Yonge St.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2011/07/02/colour-photo-of-the-odeon-carlton-in-1956-a-marilyn-monroe-film-playing/

2011/07/02/colour-photo-of-the-odeon-carlton-in-1956-a-marilyn-monroe-film-playing/https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

The Victory burlesque and movie theatre on Spadina at Dundas:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/09/08/the-sinful-victory-burlesque-theatre-at-dundas-and-spadina/

The Shea’s Hippodrome Theatre on Bay St. near Queen

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2011/07/04/sheas-hippodrome-theatre-where-the-nathan-phillips-square-exists-today/

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2011/09/07/photographs-from-the-1950s-of-sheas-hippodrome-theatre-located-on-the-site-of-torontos-new-city-hall/

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/03/06/old-movie-houses-of-toronto-fond-memories-of-sheas-hippodrome/

Attending a matinee in the old movie houses of Toronto during the “golden age of cinema”

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/attending-a-movie-matinee-in-toronto-during-the-golden-age-of-cinema/

The University Theatre on Bloor St., west of Bay Street.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/the-opening-of-torontos-university-theatre-on-bloor-street/

Archival photos of the Imperial and Downtown Theatres on Yonge Street

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/02/04/archival-photos-of-torontos-old-theatres-give-reality-to-historical-novel/

The Elgin/Winter/Garden Theatres on Yonge Street

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/05/31/torontos-architectural-gemsthe-elgin-winter-garden-theatres/

The now vanished Avon Theatre at 1092 Queen Street West

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/12/10/torontos-lost-movie-theatresthe-avon-at-1092-queen-west/

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2013 in Toronto

 

Toronto’s architectural gems—the Masonic Temple at Davenport and Yonge

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The Masonic Temple, at 888 Yonge Street, was constructed in 1917, during the chaotic days of the First World War. Today, the building is appreciated by those interested in the city’s architectural heritage, but judging by comments posted on the internet, it is viewed by some as an ugly structure of brick and limestone that is not worth preserving. Despite one’s view of the building, it has a rich heritage, and I believe that it is worthy of being saved from demolition. To aid in its preservation,  in 1974 the Masonic Temple was designated a Heritage Property.

Designed in the Italian Renaissance Revival Style by architect W. J. Sparling, the six-storey  structure contains an auditorium that has hardwood flooring and a decorated ceiling. It seats 1200 persons, including the wrap-around gallery. The Masonic Society (Freemasons) included the ballroom/concert hall in their new building as a means to raise revenue from rentals to support the costs of maintaining the premises.

John Ross Robertson (1841-1918) was a prominent Mason, and founder of the now defunct Toronto Telegram newspaper. He was one of the prime motivators behind the construction of the building, located on the northwest corner of Yonge Street and Davenport Road. When the Masons chose this site, a church was located on the property. It was estimated that the cost of the Temple would be $175,000, but by the time it was completed, the cost was $220,864. After the church on the site was demolished, construction began. The final stone for the new Temple was put in place on 17 November 1917 and the structure was consecrated with corn, oil, and wine. The first lodge meeting was held on 1 January 1918.  On the upper floors, which were reserved solely for the use of the Masons, there were patterned tiled flooring and many Masonic carvings.  

During the 1930s, the Masonic Temple was one of the most popular ballrooms in Toronto. Every New Year’s Eve, tickets disappeared long in advance of the date. Bing Crosby once crooned within its walls, and Frank Sinatra hosted an event there. Throughout the years, many famous entertainers have performed in the hall—Tina Turner, The Ramones, David Bowie, and Led Zeppelin, who held their first Toronto concert there in 1969. In 1970, it was leased by a company known as the “Rockpile.” During the 1980s, it was rented by various groups, but the income never exceeded the costs of maintaining the building. In 1998, the property was sold to CTV, for use as a TV studio. The show, “Open Mike with Mike Bullard” was broadcast from the premises. In 2006, it became home to Bell Media (MTV), but they departed in 2012.

During the 1950s, I was in the Masonic Temple on several occasions to attend events. The view from the gallery, looking down onto the stage area was quite impressive. I remember the ornate plaster trim around the auditorium and the ornate carvings that decorated the space. As a teenager, I considered any event held within the walls of the Temple to be a special occasion, especially since the restaurants on Yonge Street were within walking distance. In that decade, the “Pickin’ Chicken,” south of College Street, Fran’s at Yonge and College, and Basil’s Restaurant at Yonge and Gerrard, were the gastronomic highlights of the “the strip.” Walking south from Davenport and Yonge to below College Street was less of a problem for me in those years, especially when my teenage hunger could be satiated by “chicken in a wicker basket with fries” at the PIckin’ Chicken, a toasted club sandwich at Basil’s, or rice pudding at Fran’s. Julia Child, eat your heart out!   

Yonge Street has greatly changed today, although I am not certain that the culinary level of the avenue has improved much. However, the Masonic Temple remains, proudly resisting the onslaught of the modern era. I sincerely hope that a modern role will be found for the building, and that it will not be demolished. It would be a pity to have its ornate facade become a mere shell to add dignity to another faceless high rise condominium of glass and steel, lacking any value beyond the price of the suites per square foot.

                      f1231_it0755[1]  1918

The Masonic Temple in 1918. In this year, Davenport Road, west of Yonge Street, remained a narrow roadway. The shop visible in the bottom, left-hand corner of the photo was demolished when the street was widened. Photo is from the City of Toronto Archives.

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                           The Masonic Temple today.

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The entrance to the Masonic Temple on Yonge Street, its ornate portico containing Doric columns.

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                  Detailed carvings on the southeast corner of the building

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               Corinthian pilaster on the south facade of the Masonic Temple

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

Links to other posts about the history of Toronto and its buildings:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/links-to-historic-architecture-of-torontotayloronhistory-com/

Links to posts about Toronto’s movie houses—past and present.

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 also relates anecdotes and stories from those 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 .

      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), thePhotodome, 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 (Lux, Elektra, Lido), Kingsway, Pylon (Royal, Golden Princess), Metro

Chapter Five – Theatres in the 1940s – The Second World War and the Post-War Years

University, Odeon Fairlawn, Vaughan, Odeon Danforth, Glendale, Odeon Hyland, Nortown, Willow, Downtown, Odeon Carlton, Donlands, Biltmore, Odeon Humber, Town Cinema

Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres

Savoy (Coronet), Westwood

Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes

Cineplex Eaton Centre, Cineplex Odeon Varsity, Scotiabank Cineplex, Dundas Square Cineplex, The Bell Lightbox (TIFF)

 

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Toronto’s architectural gems—Queen’s Quay Terminal

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When the Queen’s Quay Terminal at Toronto’s Harbourfront was constructed in 1927, it was the only large building on the western shoreline of the harbour. It was built as a result of the expansion of shipping on the lake and the increase in rail traffic during the 1920s. The architects were Moores and Dunford of New York  City, a firm that  specialized in warehouse buildings. The eight-storey structure at 207 Queen’s Quay began life as the Terminal Warehouse. It possessed dry-storage for general merchandise and cold storage facilities. It is reputed to have been the first poured-concrete building in Canada, although I have been unable to substantiate this claim.

However, it is definitely one of the largest buildings in the Art Deco style ever constructed in the city. The walls are of concrete, with metal-sash windows arranged vertically.  The facade on Queen’s Quay has a tower with Art Deco detailing and a clock.  The warehouse was renovated in 1983 by Zeidler Roberts Partnership. The southwest section of the terminal, which aesthetically was an attractive part of the building, was demolished. The name of the building was changed to Queen’s Quay Terminal, and it is now a multi-use complex containing shops, restaurants, and condos in the top four floors, which were added during the remodelling. The building also houses the Premier Dance Theatre.

f1568_it0456[1]view from tower-1930

This photo was taken in 1931, from the Observation Gallery of the Bank of Commerce Building on King Street. On the shoreline is the Terminal Warehouse, built four years before the picture was taken.  The western wing of the building, which was later demolished, can be seen. The Toronto Islands are visible in the background. The Harbour Commission Building is isolated, amid open spaces and parking lots. Today, the building houses “The Harbour 60 Steakhouse,” at 60 Harbour Street. Prior to landfill being dumped into the harbour, this building was located beside the water.

 

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Harbour Commission  Building in 1917, when it was beside the waters of the harbour

For a link to further information about this building:

 https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/07/29/digging-at-torontos-harbourfront-uncovers-citys-ancient-past/

f1244_it1439[1]  from Royal York. 1929

View of the Terminal Warehouse in 1929, taken from the top of the Royal York Hotel. This photo also shows the now demolished southwest section of the terminal.

f1257_s1057_it0128[1]  1930s

View c. 1935 from the lake, showing the Terminal Warehouse, the Royal York Hotel, and the Bank of Commerce Building.  This photo also reveals the unattractive southwest section of the terminal.

f1231_it0390[1]   1936

Unloading cargo on the east side of the Terminal Warehouse in 1936. Railcars are positioned beside the terminal, ready for unloading.

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The original schooner the “Bluenose,” moored beside the Terminal Warehouse in 1933. This is the famous ship from Nova Scotia that appears on the back of the Canadian dime. The “Bluenose” that now visits Toronto every few years is a replica of this ship.

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      A Canada Steamship Lines vessel at the Terminal Warehouse

f1257_s1057_it0108[1]  pre-1980

    Terminal Warehouse and a sailing boat with its masts flat against the hull

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         The Terminal prior to the renovations of the 1980s.

            Series 1465 - Urban Design photographs

Artist’s sketch of the Terminal Warehouse after renovations, with condos built on the top. After remodelling it was renamed the Queen’s Key Terminal.

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The Art-Deco clock tower on the north side of the Terminal as it appears today.

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The east facade of the Terminal, after the renovations. It has landscaping and attractive shops on the ground-floor level.

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                   Modern windows installed on the east facade.

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                   The southwest corner of the Terminal

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                                Shops in the interior on the first-floor level

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One of the multi-level atriums in the interior of the Terminal, with the skylight allowing natural light to enter the building.

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                     North and east facades of the Queen’s Quay Terminal

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

To view other posts about Toronto’s architectural gems:

The Bank of Commerce Building in Commerce Court on King Street West.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/02/18/torontos-architectural-gemsthe-bank-of-commerce-cibc-on-king-street/

The Waverly Hotel at Spadina and College

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/02/16/toronto-architectural-gemsthe-waverly-hotel-484-spadina/

The Bellevue Fire Station on College Street

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/02/14/torontos-architectural-gems-bellevue-fire-station/

The Postal Delivery Building, now a part of the Air Canada Centre (ACC)

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/02/12/torontos-architectural-gemsthe-postal-delivery-building-now-the-acc/

The Art Deco bus terminal at Bay and Dundas Streets.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/01/17/torontos-architectural-gems-art-deco-bus-terminal-on-bay-street/

Photos of the surroundings of the CN Tower and and the St. Lawrence Market in 1977

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/10/18/photos-of-the-surroundings-of-the-st-lawrence-market-and-cn-tower-in-1977/

The old Dominion Bank Building at King and Yonge Street

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/06/08/the-old-dominion-bank-buildingnow-a-condo-hotel-at-one-king-st-west/

The Canada Life Building on University and Queen Street West.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/06/13/exploring-torontos-architectural-gemsthe-canada-life-building/

Campbell House at the corner of Queen Street West and University Avenue

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2011/08/18/a-glimpse-at-the-interior-of-campbell-house-at-university-avenue-and-queen-street/

A study of Osgoode Hall

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/04/12/enjoying-torontos-architectural-gems-osgoode-hall/

Toronto’s first City Hall, now a part of the St. Lawrence Market

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/04/21/torontos-first-city-hall-now-a-part-of-the-st-lawrence-market/

Toronto’s Draper Street, a time-tunnel into the 19th century

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/05/23/torontos-draper-street-is-akin-to-a-time-tunnel-into-the-past/

The Black Bull Tavern at Queen and Soho Streets, established in 1822

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/enjoying-torontos-historic-architectural-gems-queen-streets-black-bull-tavern/

History of the 1867 fence around Osgoode Hall on Queen Street West at York Street

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/04/14/enjoying-torontos-architectural-gems-the-cast-iron-fence-around-osgoode-hall/

Gathering around the radio as a child in the 1940s

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/listening-to-the-radio-as-a-child-in-the-1940s-the-lone-ranger-the-shadow-etc/

The opening of the University Theatre on Bloor Street, west of Bay St.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/the-opening-of-torontos-university-theatre-on-bloor-street/

122 persons perish in the Noronic Disaster on Toronto’s waterfront in 1949

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/01/25/122-perish-in-torontos-noronic-disaster-horticultural-building-at-cne-used-as-morgue/

Historic Victoria Memorial Square where Toronto’s first cemetery was located, now hidden amid the Entertainment District

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/01/09/victoria-square-in-torontos-entertainment-district-is-a-gem/

Visiting one of Toronto’s best preserved 19th-century streets-Willcocks Avenue

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/09/20/visiting-torontos-best-preserved-nineteenth-century-street-willcocks-street/

The 1930s Water Maintenance Building on Brant Street, north of St. Andrew’s Park

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/12/06/torontos-architectural-gemsthe-water-maintenance-building-on-richmond-street-west/

Toronto’s architectural gems-photos of the Old City from a book published by the city in 1912

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/12/06/torontos-architectural-gemsthe-old-city-hall-photographed-in-1912/

Toronto’s architectural gems in 1912

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/12/04/torontos-architectural-gems-in-1912/

Toronto’s architectural gems – the bank on the northeast corner of Queen West and Spadina

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/12/02/torontos-architectural-gemsbank-at-spadina-and-queen-west/

Photos of the surroundings of the CN Tower and and the St. Lawrence Market in 1977

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/10/18/photos-of-the-surroundings-of-the-st-lawrence-market-and-cn-tower-in-1977/

The St. Lawrence Hall on King Street

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/04/28/enjoying-torontos-architectural-gems-the-st-lawrence-hall/

Toronto’s streetcars through the past decades

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/03/26/memories-of-torontos-streetcars-of-yesteryear/

History of Trinity Bellwoods Park

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/04/09/the-history-and-beauty-of-trinity-bellwood-park/

A history of Toronto’s famous ferry boats to the Toronto Islands

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/remember-the-toronto-island-ferries-the-bluebell-primroseand-trillium/

Toronto’s Old City Hall at Bay and Queen Streets

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/04/22/enjoying-torontos-architectural-gems-old-city-hall/

The Reading Building, a warehouse loft on Spadina Avenue

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/01/20/torontos-architectural-gemsthe-reading-building-on-spadina/

The Darling Building on Spadina Avenue

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/01/19/torontos-architectural-gemsthe-darling-building-on-spadina/

The amazing Fashion Building on Spadina Avenue

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/01/12/torontos-architectural-gemsthe-amazing-fashion-building-on-spadina/

Toronto’s architectural gems – the Tower Building at Spadina and Adelaide Street

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/01/09/torontos-architectural-gemstower-building-at-spadina-and-adelaide/

The Balfour Building at 119 Spadina Avenue

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/07/20/enjoying-torontos-architectural-gemsthe-balfour-building-at-spadina-and-adelaide

The Robertson Building at 215 Spadina that houses the Dark Horse Espresso Bar

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/01/24/torontos-architectural-gemsrobertson-building-dark-horse-espresso-bar/

An architectural gem – Grossman’s Tavern at Spadina and Cecil Streets

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/11/08/architectural-gem-grossmans-tavern-at-377-9-spadina/Historic

History of the house that contains the Paul Magder Fur Shop at 202 Spadina

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/08/07/exploring-torontos-architectural-gemsthe-paul-magder-fur-shop-at-202-spadina-avenue/

An important historic building that disappeared from the northeast corner of Spadina and College

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/09/26/a-historic-building-that-disappeared-from-the-northeast-corner-spadina-and-college/

Historic bank building on northeast corner of Spadina and Queen West

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/12/02/torontos-architectural-gemsbank-at-spadina-and-queen-west/

History of the Backpackers’ Hotel at King and Spadina

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/03/31/history-of-the-backpackers-hotel-at-king-and-spadina/

Hamburger corner – Spadina and Queen Streets

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/10/10/torontos-hamburger-cornerwhere-is-it-and-why/

Lord Lansdowne Public School on Spadina Crescent

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/01/22/torontos-architectural-gems-lord-lansdowne-school-on-spadina-cres/

The Victory Burlesque Theatre at Dundas and Spadina

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/09/08/the-sinful-victory-burlesque-theatre-at-dundas-and-spadina/

The Dragon City Mall on the southwest corner of Dundas and Spadina

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/08/25/torontos-heritage-the-southwest-corner-of-queen-and-spadina/

Buildings on the west side of Spadina a short distance north of Queen Street.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/08/30/torontos-architectural-historyspadina-north-of-queen-kings-court/

History of the site of the Mcdonalds on northwest corner of Queen and Spadina

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/08/27/mcdonalds-at-queen-and-spadina-on-an-historic-site/

A former mansion at 235 Spadina that is now almost hidden from view.

ttps://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/07/04/torontos-architectural-gems-is-this-one-a-joke/

Military hero of the War of 1812 lived near corner of Spadina and Queen West.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/12/01/military-hero-of-war-of-1812-lived-near-mcdonalds-at-queen-and-spadina/

 

 

 

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Toronto’s architectural gems—the Bank of Commerce (CIBC) on King Street

Although the Art-Deco Bank of Commerce building in Commerce Court is no longer the tallest structure in Toronto, it remains one of the most impressive buildings in the city and deserves recognition for its architectural excellence. Plans to erect it commenced in 1927, amid the optimism that dominated the Roaring Twenties. In that era, economic horizons appeared limitless, and the Bank of Commerce, as it was then called, wanted a headquarters that reflected its financial importance in the community. They hired the architectural firm of  Darling and Pearson, assisted by the firm of York and Sawyer of New York City. Darling and Pearson also designed the Summerhill Train Station, that is today an LCBO outlet.

The site of the bank tower, at 25 King Street West, was at the corner of King and Jordon Streets. The bank had occupied this site for many years. However, in the early days of the town of York, the first Methodist Church had been located there. The church was eventually to become Metropolitan United Church, at Queen Street East and Church Street.

Plaque- Bank of Com      DSCN7521 

The plaque on the Bank of Commerce Building (CIBC) today, which commemorates the historic importance of the site where the skyscraper is located. The plaque is attached to the east facade of the building, on Jordon Street.  The left-hand picture is an artist’s sketch of the church of 1818.

Construction on the new bank building began on 19 June 1929. In the year construction commenced, the tallest structure in Toronto was the 120-metre Royal York Hotel, the largest hotel in the British Empire. New York City’s buildings surpassed those of its neighbour to the north, so in Canada, the word “tallest” was often applied within the context of the British Empire, to give the word significance. Toronto residents watched in fascination as the tower rose, until it reached its ultimate heights of 141 metres—34 storeys.  When the structure was completed in January of 1931, it was the tallest building in the city and the tallest in the British Empire. It was to maintain this distinction until 1962. 

The building’s  steel and concrete frame was clad in limestone. Its style was mainly Art Dec, though some believed it to be more Beaux Arts. The tower contained set-backs at various levels and the facades possessed Romanesque Revival detailing, The long vertical rows of windows rose in orderly rows from above the six-story base, ascending to the top of the building.  

f1244_it3181[1]   1930

The Bank of Commerce and its surroundings in 1931. The view looks to the northeast. The square-shaped spire of Metropolitan United Church at Queen and Church Streets is visible in the upper-left-hand corner of the picture.

f1231_it0081[1]  1936

King Street West looking east in 1936, toward Yonge Street. The Bank of Commerce is on the right-hand side of the street.  

f1568_it0456[1]view from tower-1930

View in 1931, from the Observation Gallery on the 32-floor of the Bank of Commerce, looking south to the railway lands and the Toronto Islands. The Warehouse Terminal on Queen’s Quay is the only large building beside the lake.  The Harbour Commission Building sits alone, amid open spaces and parking lots. Union Station is in the right-hand bottom corner of the photo. The Observation Deck, where this photo was taken, is no longer open to the public.

s0648_fl0007_id0001[1] view from B of C, 1957

View from the Observation Gallery in 1957, gazing north across the downtown area. The Old City Hall Tower on the left, dominates the scene. The Simpson’s Store (now The Bay) at Queen and Yonge Streets is in the foreground. The canyon of Yonge Street begins in the bottom right-hand corner of the photo. If the eye follows the street northward, the old Heintzman Piano building is visible, a short distance north of Queen Street. Further north, the Westbury Hotel, which opened the year this photo was taken, and Eaton’s College Street (now College Park) are visible. In the upper left-hand corner of the picture is the Legislature at Queen’s Park. 

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The Commerce Court Building on the south side of King Street West today, the view facing west along King Street toward University Avenue.

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The top of the Bank of Commerce Building, where two of the massive carved-stone heads gaze out across the city. The heads represent Courage, Observation, Foresight, and Enterprise. The rich ornamentation of the tower is also clearly evident.

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The huge Banking Hall on the first floor of the building. It soars 6-storeys in height, its ceiling resembling a cathedral, although some believe that it was inspired by the ancient Baths of Caracalla in Rome. The vault in the basement extends the equivalent of four storeys below the ground.

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The ornate ceiling of the Banking Hall and the support rod for the chandelier. The medallion around the rod has the words, “Integrity, Prudence, Commerce, and Industry.”

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The Bank of Commerce Building today, now a part of Commerce Court, headquarters of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC).

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

To view other posts about Toronto’s architectural gems:

The Waverly Hotel at Spadina and College

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/02/16/toronto-architectural-gemsthe-waverly-hotel-484-spadina/

The Bellevue Fire Station on College Street

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/02/14/torontos-architectural-gems-bellevue-fire-station/

The Postal Delivery Building, now a part of the Air Canada Centre (ACC)

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/02/12/torontos-architectural-gemsthe-postal-delivery-building-now-the-acc/

The Art Deco bus terminal at Bay and Dundas Streets.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/01/17/torontos-architectural-gems-art-deco-bus-terminal-on-bay-street/

Photos of the surroundings of the CN Tower and and the St. Lawrence Market in 1977

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/10/18/photos-of-the-surroundings-of-the-st-lawrence-market-and-cn-tower-in-1977/

The old Dominion Bank Building at King and Yonge Street

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/06/08/the-old-dominion-bank-buildingnow-a-condo-hotel-at-one-king-st-west/

The Canada Life Building on University and Queen Street West.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/06/13/exploring-torontos-architectural-gemsthe-canada-life-building/

Campbell House at the corner of Queen Street West and University Avenue

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2011/08/18/a-glimpse-at-the-interior-of-campbell-house-at-university-avenue-and-queen-street/

A study of Osgoode Hall

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/04/12/enjoying-torontos-architectural-gems-osgoode-hall/

Toronto’s first City Hall, now a part of the St. Lawrence Market

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/04/21/torontos-first-city-hall-now-a-part-of-the-st-lawrence-market/

Toronto’s Draper Street, a time-tunnel into the 19th century

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/05/23/torontos-draper-street-is-akin-to-a-time-tunnel-into-the-past/

The Black Bull Tavern at Queen and Soho Streets, established in 1822

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/enjoying-torontos-historic-architectural-gems-queen-streets-black-bull-tavern/

History of the 1867 fence around Osgoode Hall on Queen Street West at York Street

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/04/14/enjoying-torontos-architectural-gems-the-cast-iron-fence-around-osgoode-hall/

Gathering around the radio as a child in the 1940s

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/listening-to-the-radio-as-a-child-in-the-1940s-the-lone-ranger-the-shadow-etc/

The opening of the University Theatre on Bloor Street, west of Bay St.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/the-opening-of-torontos-university-theatre-on-bloor-street/

122 persons perish in the Noronic Disaster on Toronto’s waterfront in 1949

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/01/25/122-perish-in-torontos-noronic-disaster-horticultural-building-at-cne-used-as-morgue/

Historic Victoria Memorial Square where Toronto’s first cemetery was located, now hidden amid the Entertainment District

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/01/09/victoria-square-in-torontos-entertainment-district-is-a-gem/

Visiting one of Toronto’s best preserved 19th-century streets-Willcocks Avenue

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/09/20/visiting-torontos-best-preserved-nineteenth-century-street-willcocks-street/

The 1930s Water Maintenance Building on Brant Street, north of St. Andrew’s Park

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/12/06/torontos-architectural-gemsthe-water-maintenance-building-on-richmond-street-west/

Toronto’s architectural gems-photos of the Old City from a book published by the city in 1912

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/12/06/torontos-architectural-gemsthe-old-city-hall-photographed-in-1912/

Toronto’s architectural gems in 1912

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/12/04/torontos-architectural-gems-in-1912/

Toronto’s architectural gems – the bank on the northeast corner of Queen West and Spadina

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/12/02/torontos-architectural-gemsbank-at-spadina-and-queen-west/

Photos of the surroundings of the CN Tower and and the St. Lawrence Market in 1977

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/10/18/photos-of-the-surroundings-of-the-st-lawrence-market-and-cn-tower-in-1977/

The St. Lawrence Hall on King Street

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/04/28/enjoying-torontos-architectural-gems-the-st-lawrence-hall/

Toronto’s streetcars through the past decades

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/03/26/memories-of-torontos-streetcars-of-yesteryear/

History of Trinity Bellwoods Park

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/04/09/the-history-and-beauty-of-trinity-bellwood-park/

A history of Toronto’s famous ferry boats to the Toronto Islands

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/remember-the-toronto-island-ferries-the-bluebell-primroseand-trillium/

Toronto’s Old City Hall at Bay and Queen Streets

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/04/22/enjoying-torontos-architectural-gems-old-city-hall/

The Reading Building, a warehouse loft on Spadina Avenue

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/01/20/torontos-architectural-gemsthe-reading-building-on-spadina/

The Darling Building on Spadina Avenue

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/01/19/torontos-architectural-gemsthe-darling-building-on-spadina/

The amazing Fashion Building on Spadina Avenue

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/01/12/torontos-architectural-gemsthe-amazing-fashion-building-on-spadina/

Toronto’s architectural gems – the Tower Building at Spadina and Adelaide Street

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/01/09/torontos-architectural-gemstower-building-at-spadina-and-adelaide/

The Balfour Building at 119 Spadina Avenue

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/07/20/enjoying-torontos-architectural-gemsthe-balfour-building-at-spadina-and-adelaide

The Robertson Building at 215 Spadina that houses the Dark Horse Espresso Bar

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/01/24/torontos-architectural-gemsrobertson-building-dark-horse-espresso-bar/

An architectural gem – Grossman’s Tavern at Spadina and Cecil Streets

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/11/08/architectural-gem-grossmans-tavern-at-377-9-spadina/Historic

History of the house that contains the Paul Magder Fur Shop at 202 Spadina

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/08/07/exploring-torontos-architectural-gemsthe-paul-magder-fur-shop-at-202-spadina-avenue/

An important historic building that disappeared from the northeast corner of Spadina and College

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/09/26/a-historic-building-that-disappeared-from-the-northeast-corner-spadina-and-college/

Historic bank building on northeast corner of Spadina and Queen West

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/12/02/torontos-architectural-gemsbank-at-spadina-and-queen-west/

History of the Backpackers’ Hotel at King and Spadina

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/03/31/history-of-the-backpackers-hotel-at-king-and-spadina/

Hamburger corner – Spadina and Queen Streets

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/10/10/torontos-hamburger-cornerwhere-is-it-and-why/

Lord Lansdowne Public School on Spadina Crescent

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/01/22/torontos-architectural-gems-lord-lansdowne-school-on-spadina-cres/

The Victory Burlesque Theatre at Dundas and Spadina

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/09/08/the-sinful-victory-burlesque-theatre-at-dundas-and-spadina/

The Dragon City Mall on the southwest corner of Dundas and Spadina

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/08/25/torontos-heritage-the-southwest-corner-of-queen-and-spadina/

Buildings on the west side of Spadina a short distance north of Queen Street.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/08/30/torontos-architectural-historyspadina-north-of-queen-kings-court/

History of the site of the Mcdonalds on northwest corner of Queen and Spadina

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/08/27/mcdonalds-at-queen-and-spadina-on-an-historic-site/

A former mansion at 235 Spadina that is now almost hidden from view.

ttps://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/07/04/torontos-architectural-gems-is-this-one-a-joke/

Military hero of the War of 1812 lived near corner of Spadina and Queen West.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/12/01/military-hero-of-war-of-1812-lived-near-mcdonalds-at-queen-and-spadina/

 
1 Comment

Posted by on February 18, 2013 in Toronto

 

Toronto’s architectural gems—the Waverly Hotel 484 Spadina

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The Waverly Hotel at 484 Spadina is located north of the CIBC, on the northwest corner of Spadina and College. Next to hotel, on its north side (right-hand side in the photo) is the hotel’s Silver Dollar Room. Although not truly an architectural gem, the site and building have a rich history.

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This photo shows west side of Spadina Avenue in 1870, looking northwest toward  Spadina and College. This corner was the first location of the Waverley Hotel. The land was originally part of a market garden that extended north of College Street, on the west side of Spadina Avenue.

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Close-up view of the northwest corner of College and Spadina in 1870. These cottages were demolished in 1882 to accommodate the construction of a three-storey building for the YMCA.

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Northwest corner of College and Spadina in 1893, and one of the first electric streetcars in Toronto. The building in the background was the YMCA, which contained a branch of the Bank of Commerce (later renamed the CIBC). A shop shares the ground-floor, facing Spadina, with the bank. To the north of the shop, mostly hidden by the larger building, was the residence of the Griffiths family.  When the YMCA relocated, the building became the first site of the Waverley Hotel.

In 1900, J. J. Powell built the Waverley Hotel of today, after the YMCA building was demolished. The Bank occupied the corner location, and the hotel was to the north of it. Powell increased the size of the hotel in 1925. In 1955, the lounge in the hotel received a liquor license. The Silver Dollar room was added to the Waverly in 1958.

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This photo gazes south on Spadina in 1927, the Waverly Hotel on the right, to the north of the bank. The spelling of the name of the hotel contains an “E,” which has since disappeared. In this photo, the Bank of Commerce occupies the corner site, and the Waverly Hotel is to the north of it.

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Gazing northwest in 1937 at the corner of Spadina and College. The streetcar tracks were being repaired when this photo was taken.

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                            East facade of the hotel today, on Spadina Avenue.

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A view of the north facade of the hotel, showing the Silver Dollar Room and the additions added to the rear of the hotel. The sign on the north wall contains the original spelling of the name of the hotel.

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                                             The Silver Dollar Room on the north side of the hotel.

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An historic plaque on the wall of the Waverly Hotel. Milton Acorn was born in PEI. He was severely wounded in the Second World War, and suffered from being bipolar. However, he became known as the People’s Poet and won the Governor General’s Award in 1976 for a collection of his poems entitled, “The Island Means Minago.” In 1984, the National Film Board produced a film of his life entitled, “In Love and Anger–Milton Acorn-Poet.” The NFB produced another film about him in 1988 – “A Wake for Milton Acorn.”

The poem below is from a web site about the poet.

I’ve Tasted My Blood”

If this brain’s over-tempered
consider that the fire was want
and the hammers were fists.
I’ve tasted my blood too much
to love what I was born to.
But my mother’s look
was a field of brown oats, soft-bearded;
her voice rain and air rich with lilacs:
and I loved her too much to like
how she dragged her days like a sled over gravel.
Playmates? I remember where their skulls roll!
One died hungry, gnawing grey porch-planks;
one fell, and landed so hard he splashed;
and many and many
came up atom by atom
in the worm-casts of Europe.
My deep prayer is a curse.
My deep prayer the promise that this won’t be.
My deep prayer my cunning,
my love, my anger,
and often even my forgiveness
that this won’t be and be.
I’ve tasted my blood too much
to abide what I was born to.

[Milton Acorn, 1963]

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

To view other posts about the history of Toronto and its buildings:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/links-to-historic-architecture-of-torontotayloronhistory

To view previous blogs about movie houses of Toronto—old and new

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

Book published in 2014 about Toronto’s old movie theatres, which explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It also relates anecdotes and stories from those who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

“Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen”

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To place and order for this book, either in electronic or hard copy format, follow the link below.

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

        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 (Lux, Elektra, Lido), Kingsway, Pylon (Royal, Golden Princess), Metro

Chapter Five – Theatres in the 1940s – The Second World War and the Post-War Years

University, Odeon Fairlawn, Vaughan, Odeon Danforth, Glendale, Odeon Hyland, Nortown, Willow, Downtown, Odeon Carlton, Donlands, Biltmore, Odeon Humber, Town Cinema

Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres

Savoy (Coronet), Westwood

Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes

Cineplex Eaton Centre, Cineplex Odeon Varsity, Scotiabank Cineplex, Dundas Square Cineplex, The Bell Lightbox (TIFF)

 

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