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The small building at 241 Yonge, on the east side of the street, between Dundas and Shuter Streets, is sandwiched between other structures on a particularly busy section of Yonge Street. However, it is worthy of being noticed. Similar to many other shops on Yonge, the building is narrow and extends a considerable distance back from the street. In past decades, this was the result of the high price of land on the city’s main thoroughfare. The land remains expensive today.

When researching 241 Yonge Street, I had difficulty determining when a building first appeared on the site. During the 1850s, the postal addresses on Yonge Street ended at # 207, and the houses north of this were without numbers. In the 1860s, there was a modest shop on the site, occupied by Henry Mathews, a broker by profession. In 1902, the Toronto Directories states that 241 Yonge was occupied by Brenton and Company, upholsters, and that 241 and 1/2, was the shop of  V. E. Van Zant, who sold novelties. It is amazing that such a small shop was sub-divided to create two different retail enterprises.

The premises remained as two shops when John Britnell opened a book shop at 241 Yonge in 1903. At 241 1/2 was McLaren and MacLaren, who were dentists. The fact that their names are spelled differently might have been an error in the directories, or they were in fact from different families. In 1905, Britnell Books took over the entire ground floor at 241 Yonge Street, occupying both 241 and 241 1 /2. The shop was managed by John Britnell and William Britnell. Their homes were side by side at numbers 93 and 95 Summerhill Avenue, respectively. 

In 1911, the old structure on the location was demolished. The Brtinell Book Shop relocated further north on the street, to a site near Yonge and Bloor Streets. Today, the site is is a Starbucks Coffee Shop. 

The building that remains on the site at 241 Yonge Street dates from 1911. The architects were Mitchell and White. It became the location of Art Metropole Ltd., which sold artists’ materials. This is not to be confused with Art Metropole, an artists’ supply and book outlet that was founded in 1972.  


The four-story building at 241 Yonge Street in July of 2013. The facade has exceedingly large windows and classical designs that add elegance to the structure. The designs were created by employing glazed terracotta tiles. These were very popular in this era for decorations on buildings.


The window on the top floor has a Roman arch, surrounded by glazed terracotta tiles. The cornice above it contains small lion heads. Below the lion heads is a row of dentils (teeth-like structures). 


This view of the cornice reveals the lion heads and the row of teeth-like dentils. Above the dentils is a row of the classical Greek design, the “egg and dart” pattern. Below the cornice are terracotta tiles, with a white glazed finish. They have worn well considering that have suffered the harshness of the Canadian climate for over a century


This enchanting pattern is located on the facade between the second and third floors. The letters A and M are visible (Art Metropole) in the centre of the design.


                 The terracotta tiles surrounding the windows.


     241 Yonge Street on the evening of 4 July 2013


The book store of Albert Britnell at 765 Yonge Street, near Bloor Street. The old book shop is now a Starbucks. 

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

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


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


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.  


                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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2 thoughts on “Toronto’s architectural gems—241 Yonge St.—south of Dundas

  1. Let me correct a small error. Your caption for the photo at the end of the post reads “The book store of Albert Britnell at 675 Yonge Street”. It should say 765, not 675. It’s confusing because 675 Yonge is also now a Starbucks (Yonge & Charles). But the Starbucks near the Central Reference Library, which used to be Britnell’s, is 765 Yonge.

  2. During the 1970’s and till mid 80’s the 3rd and 4th Top floors were rented to Important Canadian Artists the Top floor to Canadas top Video Artist Colin Campbell for live in studio as well as Performance Artist David Buchan in the front part with the semi circular window .
    On the floor below the important Artists General Idea lived there and began Canadas first Art Bookstore called Art Metropole in honour of the building itself .
    This was a hotbed of Avant Garde Art in Canada for a brief time .

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