Toronto’s architectural gems—131 John Street which houses the Jack Astor’s Bar and Grill


One a hot summer nights, crowds flock to the Jack Astor’s Bar and Grill at 131 John Street, on the northeast corner of John and Nelson Streets. This large house, with the impressive Mansard roof, was constructed in 1890, on property formerly owned by Miss Elizabeth Dale. It was once the home of Edward (Ned) Hanlan, the famous oarsman. Born in Toronto of Irish parents, Ned Hanlan lived with his family on the Toronto Islands. As a boy, he learned to row by crossing Toronto harbour each morning to attend George Street Public School on the mainland. As a young man, he won many races as an oarsman, and was soon considered the city’s greatest sculler.

In 1874, he turned professional and three years later, he became the Champion Sculler of Canada. The same year he married Margaret Sutherland of Pictou Nova Scotia. In 1888, he became Champion Sculler of the United States. In 1880, he became World Champion and held the title until 1884. In total, he participated in 300 races, only losing six.  In 1890, he moved into the house at 131 John Street, and remained in residence there for four years.  His father John Hanlan lived with him. John Nanlan had been the proprietor of the Homestead Hotel on Hanlan’s Point, which had been named after him.

Ned Hanlan was the first head coach of the University of Toronto Rowing Club (1897-1900). After he retired from sports, he became a hotelier on Hanlan’s Point and later was elected an alderman. In 1926, a bronze statue of him was erected in the CNE grounds. In 2004 it was relocated, and today is situated near the ferry docks at Hanlan’s Point,

In 1986, a film was made about his life, starring Nicolas Cage as Ned Nanlan. It was entitled “The Boy in Blue,” as Hanlan had been known during his career as an oarsman. 

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Statue of Edward (Ned) Hanlan in front of the Manufacturers’ Building at the CNE in 1946. Photo, City of Toronto Archives.

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The tug “Ned Hanlan” in Toronto Harbour during the winter of 1934, the Queen’s Quay Terminal in the background. Photo, City of Toronto Archives.

                         John St. Mansard roof  

View of the house at 131 John Street, city sky-scrappers in the background

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(left photo) the tall chimneys inset into the Mansard roof—(right photo) the patterns of the slate tiles on the Mansard roof 


                            The view of the 1890 house from Nelson Street

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

The Heintzman Building on Yonge Street, next to the Elgin Theatre

The tall narrow building at 242 Yonge Street, south of Dundas

Toronto’s first Reference Library at College and St. George Streets.

The Commodore Building at 315-317 Adelaide St. West

The Graphic Arts Building (condo) on Richmond Street

The Art Deco Victory Building on Richmond Street

The Concourse Building on Adelaide Street

The old Bank of Commerce at 197 Yonge Street

The Traders Bank on Yonge Street—the city’s second skyscraper

Toronto’s old Union Station on Front Street, built in 1884

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church at King and Simcoe Streets.

The row houses on Glasgow Street, near Spadina and College Streets

The bank at Queen and Simcoe that resembles a Greek temple

The cenotaph at Toronto’s Old City Hall

The magnificent Metropolitan Cathedral at King East and Church Streets

St. Stanislaus Koska RC Church on Denison Avenue, north of Queen West

The historical St. Mary’s Church at Adelaide and Bathurst Streets

The Bishop’s (St, Michael’s) Palace on Church Street, Toronto

The Union Building at Simcoe and King Street West

The Ed Mirvish (Pantages, Imperial, Canon) Theatre, a true architectural gem on Toronto’s Yonge Street

The Waverly Hotel on Spadina near College Street.

The Art Deco Bank of Commerce building on King Street West.

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

The Bellevue Fire Station on College Street

The Bank of Nova Scotia at King and Bay Streets

Toronto’s old Sunnyside Beach

Toronto’s architectural gems—the Runnymede Library

Spadina Avenue – sinful, spicy and diverse

The Reading Building, a warehouse loft on Spadina Avenue

The Darling Building on Spadina Avenue

The amazing Fashion Building on Spadina Avenue

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

The Balfour Building at 119 Spadina Avenue

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

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

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

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

Historic bank building on northeast corner of Spadina and Queen West

History of the Backpackers’ Hotel at King and Spadina

Hamburger corner – Spadina and Queen Streets

Lord Lansdowne Public School on Spadina Crescent

The Victory Burlesque Theatre at Dundas and Spadina

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

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

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

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


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

The Art Deco bus terminal at Bay and Dundas Streets.

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

The old Dominion Bank Building at King and Yonge Street

The Canada Life Building on University and Queen Street West.

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

A study of Osgoode Hall

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

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

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

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

Gathering around the radio as a child in the 1940s

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

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

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

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

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

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

Toronto’s architectural gems in 1912

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

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

The St. Lawrence Hall on King Street

Toronto’s streetcars through the past decades

History of Trinity Bellwoods Park

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



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