RSS

Monthly Archives: December 2013

Toronto’s old movie theatres—the Royal Theatre (the Pylon)

Royal

The Royal Theatre at 608-610 College Street, near Clinton Avenue, is in the heart of Little Italy, although the area also has a substantial Portuguese community as well. When the Royal opened in October in 1939, it was named the Pylon, and was located in a community that was predominately British. The choice of the name Pylon is unknown, but in ancient Egypt it was the name given to the entrance of a grand temple. Perhaps the owner of the Pylon Theatre wished to portray that when people attended the theatre, they were in a place of significance.

The builder of the theatre was a woman named Ray Lewis. She was determined to create a venue that would truly be the entertainment centre of the community. To accomplish this aim, she included a roller-skating rink at the rear of the theatre and a dance hall on the second floor. Ray Lewis was born Rae Levinsky, in Toronto in 1883.  She was the editor-in-chief of the “Canadian Moving Picture Digest,” and eventually became its owner. Ray Lewis was influential in the Toronto theatre scene in an era when it was not common for a woman to engage directly in owning and managing a company.

The architect of the 749-seat theatre was Benjamin Swartz, who designed the old Mount Sinai Hospital on Yorkville Avenue, as well as many homes, factories and apartment buildings throughout Toronto. The Pylon was built in the Art Deco style, with a yellow-brick facade. On the facade were raised columns of bricks (pilasters), which rose from the second-floor level to the cornice atop the building. The cornice and the rows of bricks were crowned with stone. The rows of bricks created strong vertical lines that dominated the facade. The windows on the second floor were inserted between the raised bricks. Today, the theatre retains its original marquee, though the sign above the marquee has been changed. As well, the sign now reads “Royal” instead of “Pylon.”

During the 1940s, the theatre held matinees for children, pioneering the idea of encouraging adults to attend, though they were seated in a separate section of the auditorium. The management claimed the idea worked well, although I find this difficult to believe. However, there is no doubt about the success of the theatre’s children’s parties, held for Jewish and Roman Catholic organizations. In the evenings, during this decade, amateur talent nights were offered as well as short-subject films. The name of the theatre was changed from the Pylon to the Royal at some time after the old Royal Theatre at Dundas and Dufferin closed.

In the late 1950s and 1960s, the demographics of the neighbourhood surrounding the theatre changed. The owner of the Bar Cafe Diplomatico on College Street, Rocco Mastrangelo, purchased the theatre. He also bought the St. Clair Theatre and showed Italian films at both venues. Interestingly, the Bar Cafe Diplimatico survives to this day (2014). In the 1990s, the theatre was renamed the Golden Princess and screened Asian films.

The theatre eventually became part of the Festival chain of theatres and reverted to its original name, the Royal. In 2006 the chain folded and the theatre became independently owned. Today, it is an integral part of the scene in Little Italy, screening recent films, second-run features, and independent art films. During the day, it is rented for studio and rehearsal space. 

                  erudit_erudit.cine41.cine1199.013051arf002n[1]

The original owner of the Pylon Theatre, Miss Ray Levinsky (Ray Lewis). Photo from the Globe and Mail, January 8, 1915. (Source, City of Toronto Archives)

                       881- 350

The Royal (Pylon) c. 1940, when it screened Hollywood films. Photo, City of Toronto Archives, M. Sprachman Collection.

S 1107

The Royal Theatre, when it was named the Pylon, in the 1970s when it featured Italian films. Photo, City of Toronto Archives, Series 1278, fl. 1197

B&F M. Sprachman

The Pylon Theatre on College Street, with its original marquee and signage. Photo, City of Toronto Archives, M. Sprachman Collection.

                   Royal, C of TO SC 23-110

The old Royal Theatre at Dundas and Dufferin Streets. The Pylon adopted its name after it closed.

                   Royal on College 2

     The Royal Theatre on College Street during the summer of 2013.

Royal on College

                                              The Royal, summer 2013.

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

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

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

To view links to other posts placed on this blog about the history of Toronto and its buildings:

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

                           cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852

                 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)

 

Tags: , , ,

Toronto’s old Willow movie theatre at 5269 Yonge St.

Series 1278, File 8, AO 2312

    The Willow Theatre, c. 1948. City of Toronto Archives (Series 1278, File 8).

The Willow was located at 5269 Yonge Street, in Willowdale. It was on the east side of Yonge Street, at the corner of Norton Avenue, between Shepherd and Finch Avenues. Built in the late-1940s, it was constructed to serve the needs of the new suburban residential area that was developing after the Second World War, on the north part of Yonge Street. The proposal for the theatre was submitted to the city in the autumn of 1945, by the architect, Herbert George Duerr, but the theatre did not open until June 18, 1948. Duerr designed many theatres throughout Ontario, including the Hollywood and the Scarboro Theatres in Toronto. He was also well known for designing the Village Apartments at 404 Spadina Avenue, in the Forest Hill Village.

The Willow Theatre’s post-war architecture was modern, similar to other theatres constructed in this decade in the suburbs and downtown Toronto. The architectural lines were plain, with an unadorned cornice, its facade mostly cement. However, it possessed an enormous glass-brick window on the ground floor, to the left of the row of glass doors. The decorative art on the facade, to the right of the marquee, was similar to the art on the walls of the auditorium. The theatre contained almost a thousand seats, but there were only two aisles, situated against the side walls, the rows containing 34-35 seats across. If someone were sitting in the middle of the theatre, it would have been difficult to enter or depart the theatre when it was crowded. However, as if to compensate, there were 40 inches between the rows, which allowed extra leg room. The theatre boasted that is possessed “continental seating.” It was a landmark in the community because of its yellow marquee and the prominent yellow signage above it, which created an island of colour on north Yonge Street.

I was never in the Willow theatre, but as a young boy, the father of a friend of mine was constructing a house in the area where it was located. On long summer evenings, I accompanied the friend when his father drove in his truck to Willowdale to work at the home. The friend and I played in the fields near the theatre. In the 1940s, empty building lots were common in the area. It was during these visits that I caught a glimpse of the Willow Theatre. I can still picture it and remember thinking that wished I could have attended a matinee there.

As a boy, I was enthralled by Saturday afternoon matinees.  At that age, I thought that stink-bombs in theatres were hilarious. However, I knew that adults took quite a different view. In March 1957, a “stink-bomb” problem developed during the Friday evening shows at the Willow. It continued for three weeks, until the police arrested a 17-year-old boy. Such problems were common in theatres in this era.

In December 1958, the film “Peyton Place” was screened at the Willow. In the 1950s, it was considered a shocking film. There was considerable outcry from the citizens of “Toronto the Good” against the movie when it played at theatres across the city. When it was screened at the Willow, the situation was viewed as even more outrageous as the second feature was, “And God Created Woman.” However, the manager said that there were no problems during the screenings, although he did receive a card written by the “Legion of Decency.” On the card was scribbled, “This is not family entertainment.” In fairness, I doubt that many families attended the screenings, as after all, the films were not exactly of the Walt Disney variety. I remember seeing the film Peyton Place when I was a teenager. I thought it was pretty tame, although some of the scenes with Lana Turner were really “hot.”

The Willow continued screening films longer than most neighbourhood theatres of the city, but with diminished attendance and the increase in land prices, the property was sold in 1987. The theatre was demolished, a condo and offices now located on the site.

 Ao 2316

Photo, Ontario Archives AO 2316. The auditorium of the Willow with its wide rows of seats, 34 or 35 seats across. The only aisles were located against the side walls. The walls were decorated with modern art, similar to the art on the facade.

Ao 2313

The lobby of the Willow, the candy bar with a popcorn machine on the left-hand side. Photo from Ontario Archives AO 2313.

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

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

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

To view links to other posts placed on this blog about the history of Toronto and its buildings:

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

                           cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[2]

                 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)

 

 

Tags: ,

Toronto’s Oddfellows Hall at 2 College St.

DSCN0460

The ornate red-brick building at 2 College Street (450 Yonge Street) is on the northwest corner of Yonge and College Streets. Constructed between the years 1891 and 1892, its architects were Norman B. Dick and Frank W. Wickson, who designed the old club house for the Royal Canadian Yacht Club on the lakeshore, at the foot of Lorne Street. It was demolished around the year 1950, but many of the houses and offices these architects created survive to this day.

The building at Yonge and College was constructed for the Independent Order of the Oddfellows. Even today, the structure today inspires images of mystical secret rites, which might have been performed within the wall of this building in the 19th century. Its architecture is a fanciful mixture of Romanesque and Gothic, with many of the ornamentations being Gothic. The fourth floor on the south side has pointed gables, similar to a French chateau, and there are octagonal towers on both corners of the east facade that faces Yonge Street.

In the 19th century, many men belonged to secret organization, fraternal societies or clubs. They were places to socialize and create business contacts in an age without electronic communication. Many of these organizations erected buildings to create places to hold their meetings, and it was customary to include auditoriums or offices that could be rented to generate income to offset the expenses of maintaining the premises. Some of the structures these organizations constructed are today among Toronto’s finest heritage buildings.

It is hoped that the structure at College and Yonge will not be demolished and replaced with a faceless, undistinguished tower of glass and concrete. Because it is located at a busy intersection, on the corner of two of Toronto’s main streets, it is in danger of being demolished to create a taller building. If this were to occur, likely only the facades would be maintained. This would be a true pity, as it is an excellent example of Toronto’s 19th-century buildings.

DSCN0465

The east facade of the Oddfellows Hall, facing Yonge Street.

DSCN0462  DSCN0466

The tower on the southeast corner of the building, with the ornate trim at the top.

                  DSCN0469

           A window with its Gothic tracery in the upper portion.

DSCN0471   DSCN0498

The base of the hall, on the southeast corner, which contains the heavy foundation stones and the plaque with the College Street address.

DSCN0468   DSCN0499

The doorway on the Yonge Street side (left) and on the College Street side (right).

DSCN0501

The south facade of the building, facing College Street, across from College Park (the old Eaton’s College Street store.)

DSCN0457

Gazing north on Yonge Street from south of College Street. The building in the foreground is College Park, and the Oddfellows Hall is visible in the distance, at the corner of Yonge and College.

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

To view links to other posts placed on this blog about the history of Toronto and its buildings:

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

To view the links to posts that rediscover Toronto’s old movie houses:

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.  

                           cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[1]

                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)

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

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

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/

 

Tags: ,

Toronto’s old movie theatres—the Kingsway Theatre on Bloor West

DSCN1419

The Kingsway Theatre at 3030 Bloor Street West is in the attractive Kingsway Village, a short distance west of Royal York Road and the Royal York subway station. It is an ideal location, as the street in front of the theatre has much vehicle and pedestrian traffic. The community is fortunate that this historic theatre has survived for over seventy years. However, its survival has not occurred without considerable effort on the part of its present-day owner, Rui Pereira. And best of all, the theatre features first-run films, as opposed to screening movies that are readily available on DVDs, Ipads or other electronic formats.

The 700-seat Kingsway Theatre opened its doors in 1939, the year the Second World War commenced. Its facade contains elements of Art Deco, particularly evident in the parapet that rises above the simple cornice at the top of the building. Near the mid-way point of the facade, there is a horizontal row of cut stone (it’s possible it is concrete), which has been inserted into an otherwise plain, yellow-brick facade. The pilasters (fake columns) constructed from bricks, ascend from above the marquee to the roof line, and are capped in the same material as the parapet. The impressive marquee is positioned flat against the facade. The theatre originally had an enormous marquee, triangular in shape, which covered most of the facade. I have been unable to discover when the present-day sign was added or when the marquee was changed to one that possesses curved lines.

In 1954, the Kingsway’s theatre license was transferred to Twinex Century Theatre Company. In this year, the staff consisted of a manager, two ushers, a doorman, a matron (required by law) and three candy girls. The theatre was taken over by the Festival Chain of theatres, which also owned the Fox, Revue, and the Royal. This company folded in 2006, and the Kingsway remained vacant for two and a half years. It was purchased  by Rui Periera, who renovated the old theatre. Carpets were replaced, seats reupholstered and the washrooms refurbished. The front doors were replaced and a new candy bar installed. Several letters in the large neon sign on the theatre’s facade were repaired as they were broken. The theatre reopened on January 2, 2009. 

To attend the Kingsway Theatre today is to experience a piece of living history, harkening back to the days when local theatres were the centre of entertainment in communities throughout Toronto. People walked to them, visiting at least once a week and sometimes several times. It was the glorious era of the silver screen, an age when you chatted with your neighbours and made friends at the local cinema.

f1257_s1057_it7997[1] The Kingsway

The section of Bloor West where the Kingsway Theatre is located, c. 1960. The large marquee is triangular in shape and covers most of the facade. It would appear that the letters were removed from the top of the marquee in the photo and placed on the marquee that exists today (2014). Photo, City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, S 1057, It. 799.

DSCN1416

The marquee that is flat against the wall, situated above the curved canopy above the entrance of the Kingsway Theatre. (Photo, July, 2013)

DSCN1420

            A section of the parapet on the roof of the theatre.

                     DSCN1423

                          The box office of the Kingsway

DSCN1422

                            The theatre’s lobby, July 2013

DSCN1425

                               The candy bar of the Kingsway

DSCN1421

           The Kingsway Theatre in the picturesque Kingsway Village

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

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

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

To view links to other posts placed on this blog about the history of Toronto and its buildings:

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

                           cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[1]

                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)

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

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

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/

 

Tags: , , ,

Toronto’s Birkbeck Building at 8-10 Adelaide St. East

                    DSCN9413

The Birkbeck Building at 8-10 Adelaide Street East is an Edwardian architectural gem that today is surrounded by faceless modern towers of glass and concrete. However, the city is enriched by the survival of this fine office building, constructed between the years 1907 and 1908 for the Canadian Birkbeck Investment and Savings Company. It was designed by George W. Gouinlock, who was the architect of the Temple Building, at the corner of Richmond and Bay Streets. The Temple Building was Toronto’s first real skyscrapers, although sadly, the structure was demolished. However, five of Gouinlock’s buildings survive within the grounds of the Canadian National Exhibition—the Horticultural Building, the Arts and Crafts Building (now Medieval Times), as well as the Press and Music Buildings and the Fire Station. Gouinlock’s son was one of the architects of the Sunnybrook Hospital.

The Birkbeck Building has a symmetrical facade with ornate designs in the classic revival tradition. The windows on the second floor have Roman arches above them. When the Birkbeck Investment Company occupied the site, the first floor contained a two-storey banking hall. This is evident today when viewing the height of the windows on the ground floor. The frame of the building has structural steel, constructed in an era when commercial buildings were changing from timber supports to more modern materials. The building is an excellent example of office buildings that small financial institutions constructed in the early decades of the 20th century. At one time, many of them were scattered throughout Toronto’s financial district. Most of them have since been demolished.

The Birkbeck Building was restored and renovated in 1987-1988 by the Ontario Heritage Foundation. Today, it houses cultural organizations of the province of Ontario.

DSCN0982

The Birkbeck Building on the north side of Adelaide Street East. To the right (west) of it is the Lumsden Building, on the northeast corner of Adelaide and Yonge streets.

                      DSCN0988

                               Doorway of the Birkbeck Building

DSCN0976

                View of the ornamentations above the doorway

                DSCN0979

One of the windows on the south facade, which allowed light to enter the banking hall. On either side of the window are Corinthian columns.

DSCN0986

                  View of the building looking east along King St. East

Buildings at the CNE designed by George W. Gouinlock.

DSCN9661  DSCN9670

             Fire Hall at CNE                                  The Press Building

DSCN9684

                                The Arts and Crafts Building

DSCN9660 

                                                 The Music Building

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

To view links to other posts placed on this blog about the history of Toronto and its buildings:

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

To view the links to posts that rediscover Toronto’s old movie houses:

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.  

                           cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[1]

                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)

 

Tags: ,

Toronto’s old movie theatres—the Regent (the Belsize, the Crest)

800px-Regent_Cinema,_Toronto[1]

The Regent Theatre at 551 Mount Pleasant Road is an old neighbourhood theatres that has survived into the modern era. The theatre opened in 1927 as an entertainment and movie venue. Its architect was Murray Brown, a Scotsman by birth who opened a practice in Toronto in 1914. He designed many theatres in the city, such at the Park Theatre (Bedford) on north Yonge Street. Murray Brown is not to be confused with Benjamin Brown, who was the architect of several Art Deco warehouse lofts on Spadina Avenue, as well as the Victory Theatre at Dundas and Spadina. The Victory was one of the city’s notorious burlesque theatres.

In the 1920s, the city was expanding northward, and the empty fields and dirt roads of the Mount Pleasant/Eglinton area were disappearing due to a residential building boom. It soon became obvious that it was an ideal location for a neighbourhood theatre. When the Regent Theatre opened in 1927, it was a part of the Famous Players Chain. Its original name was the Belsize, likely after the well-known residential area in London. The theatre possessed an impressive lobby and a single screen, set amid an opulent interior that contained decorative arches, ornate plaster trim, and small Venetian-style balconies with box seats. The auditorium included a stage area to accommodate live theatre as well as movies. The Belsize had 726 leatherette seats and an additional 205 in the balcony.

The facade of the Regent Theatre is symmetrical. On the second floor there are large windows, topped by Roman arches. Stone trim was added to the facade to create a formal but attractive appearance. In the middle of the pediment, below the peaked roof, there is a large stone crest. I was unable to discover its origin or meaning. The roof contains terracotta tiles.

In 1953, the Belsize ceased screening movies. It was renovated and reopened as the Crest, a venue for live theatre. In the 1950s, the only theatre offering live stage performances was the Royal Alexandra, which featured plays and musicals from the American touring companies. Many people felt that a theatre that featured Canadian talent was needed in the city, and the Crest was renovated to fulfill this need. For a few years, during the 1960s, it was well known for a revival of the annual satirical  review—“Spring Thaw.” I attended “Spring Thaw” several times during that decade, and immensely enjoyed the shows. It was there that I saw Barbara Hamilton on stage. In 1968, I attended the play, “Jack Brel is Alive and Living in Paris,” on the stage at the Crest. At one time, only the Royal Alexandra Theatre surpassed the Crest in importance in Toronto’s live theatrical scene.

In March of 1971, the theatre commenced screening films once more. In 1988, it was again extensively renovated and reopened as the Regent. The name Regent had been employed by two of Toronto’s earlier theatres. One of them was on the southwest corner of John and Adelaide Streets. However, it retained the name between the years 1884 and 1890 only, and then became the Majestic. It was demolished in 1930. Another Regent Theatre was at 225 Queen Street East, west of Sherbourne, but it too was demolished.

Thankfully, the Regent on Mount Pleasant Avenue has survived into the modern era. The old Belsize Theatre lives on.

DSCN3589

The Belsize (Regent) Theatre on Mount Pleasant Avenue in the late-1920s. City of Toronto Archives, Series 1278, file 27

1278 - 27

The interior of the theatre, with its Venetian-style balconies on the sides and its ornate decorations surrounding the stage/screen. City of Toronto Archives, Series 1278, File 27.

Regent4[1]

The impressive lobby of the Belsize (now the Regent) Theatre, with its terrazzo floor and richly decorated ceiling. The mouldings are also noteworthy. City of Toronto Archives, Series 1278, Fl. 27

1278 - 27

View of the interior lobby from the second-floor level of the Belsize Theatre. Photo, City of Toronto Archives

1278 - 27  (2)

This photo was taken in the early 1950s, when the theatre was the Crest. City of Toronto Archives, Series 1278, File 27

                DSCN0780

                 The Regent Theatre during the summer of 2013

DSCN0786

The lobby of the Regent, August 2013. The rich detailing of the former Belsize theatre has disappeared.

DSCN0776

          Ticket booth and entrance of the Regent, in August of 2013.

DSCN0781

      The Regent Theatre on a quiet Sunday morning in August of 2013.

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

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

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

To view previous blogs about Toronto’s heritage buildings and the city’s history:

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

                           cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[1]

                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)

 

Tags: , , ,

Toronto’s 7th Post Office on Toronto St.

DSCN7795

Toronto’s Seventh Post Office, located at 10 Toronto Street, remains as impressive today as when it was built between the years 1851 and 1853. The architects were Cumberland and Ridout, who also designed St. James Cathedral on King Street East and the old Normal School on Gould Street. Only the facade of the Normal School remains today as the building was demolished. However, the main entrance to it was preserved and now is an entranceway to the campus of Ryerson University.

The Toronto Seventh Post Office, in the Neo-Classical style, cost $16,000 to construct. When completed in 1853, the second floor was rented as office space and was considered one of the most eagerly-sought locations in the city. This remains true today, as the formal symmetrical design of the facade creates an aura of dignity and prestige. The narrow porch attached to the front of the building is supported by four ionic stone columns. On either side of the columns are square-shaped Doric pillars. The cornice is exceedingly plain, but atop it is the royal coat of arms of Great Britain—prominently displaying the lion and the unicorn.  

The building was an active post office until 1873, when it was occupied by government offices. In 1937, it was sold to the Bank of Canada, and later was purchased by the Argus Corporation.

DSCN7796 

The royal coat of arms of Great Britain atop the old Toronto Seventh Post office.

DSCN7804

View of the top of one of the Iconic columns that support the portico on the front of the building. 

                    DSCN7798

The impressive entrance to the old post office. Above the doorway is a fan-shaped transom window that allows light to enter the interior. The hand-carved ornamentations surrounding the doorway add to the grandness of the entrance. The Ionic columns frame the door, and in the stonework above the door is a row of dentils. 

DSCN7799

View of the transom window above the door and the intricate carvings around the entranceway.

DSCN7802

The rear of the post office, with its rounded corners. The shape accommodated the curved carriageway that surrounded the building in the 19th century, when horse-drawn wagons delivered the mail to the premises.

DSCN7803

                        The rear entrance of the post office.

DSCN7805

The south facade of the former post office and the laneway beside it (photo taken August 2013).

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

To view links to other posts placed on this blog about the history of Toronto and its buildings:

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

To view the links to posts that rediscover Toronto’s old movie houses:

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.  

                           cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852

                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)

 

Tags: ,