The restored 19th-century-style building on the southwest corner of Elm and Bay Streets is an excellent example of the architectural gems from the past that are scattered throughout Toronto’s downtown. I have not discovered any archival photographs of the building and information about its history is scarce. The only facts I was able to uncover were in the Toronto Directories.
In 1883, the Directories reveal that there were three residences on the site of the building at Bay and Elm Streets. The postal addresses of the residences were numbers 51, 53, and 55 Terauley Street. The latter number was the address of the residence on the corner. In the 1880s, Bay Street ended at Queen, and the portion of the Bay Street of today, that extended north of Queen was named Terauley. The Terauley Hydro station on the west side of Bay Street, a short distance south of Dundas West, retains the old name, as when it was built, it was on Terauley Street. Today, the postal address of the above building is 650 Bay Street.
In 1895, the building on the corner (#55) was the J. C. Lawson Eating House. The addresses 51 and 51 remained residential. It is difficult to determine when the building in the above photo was built, but it was likely in the closing years of the 19th century, and possibly as late as 1910. When completed, the building possessed shops on the first floor and apartments on the floors above. The Directories continue to list the occupants of the site on the corner, but it is not clear when they incorporated it into the larger building. Between 1902 and 1911, the site at #55 was occupied by J. G. Adams, dentist. In 1919, Jacob Cohen was on the site, and in 1919, it was Arthur Lipman, druggist. In 1928, the property was vacant. In 1930, Vincent Dinorcia, a grocer and butcher, occupied the corner store at the address of 650 Bay Street. He remained the occupant until at least 1942.
The building became a hotel during the late 1940s. As I remember, it was a low budget hotel, offering cheap daily and weekly rates. The entire structure was painted white, which partly hid the sight of the bricks that were crumbling. The web site of the company that restored the building in 2013, lists the previous use of the structure as a “limited service economy hotel.” This is a generous description, as the hotel was definitely “seedy.” The web site also states that the building is to be a trendy boutique hotel with a rooftop patio. The name of the new boutique hotel is “Be SixFifty Hotel. It is commendable that the company responsible for the restoration has rescued this exceptional fine architectural gem. Having seen the structure in its previous state, it required great courage to believe that a gem could be resurrected from such a building. However, it is an attractive addition to the downtown scene.
After placing this post on the blog, a reader contacted me and questioned whether or not the bricks on the building today are the original or are faux-brick replacements. I had the opportunity to interview the foreman who worked on the restoration and he assured me that the bricks are the original.
The corner shop of the former hotel on the southwest corner of Bay and Elm streets. The red bricks of the three-story building have been cleaned and restored. The sandwich shop on the corner is called “Sliced.”
The attractive red bricks and windows with their white-brick trim. The windows on the third floor have Romanesque-style arches over them. The second-floor windows are rectangular.
The east facade of the building at 650 Bay Street. Photo taken in August of 2013.
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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:
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)
3 thoughts on “Toronto’s architectural gems—the former hotel at Bay and Elm Streets”
I don’t disagree that it looks … better… than its previous state, both inside and outside. But I do have doubts about the ‘restoration’ that occurred on the exterior. Those ‘attractive red bricks’ were actually painted on, one by one, over a light base. (if you don’t believe it, visit the structure and take a close look at the bricks). In other words there’s some ‘building cosmetology’ going on here.
Like many other observers I find the base quite discordant with the above brickwork in terms of style.
Hi again Nathan,
I visited the site of the former hotel at Elm and Bay Streets and examined the bricks on the facades. They appeared to be the original. By pure luck, I was able to chat with the foreman who worked on the restoration. He stressed that other than cleaning, no other cosmetics were employed.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. it’s always great to check details for accuracy. I’d also like to express my appreciation again for your web site that allows me to easily access of maps of Toronto0. I use it frequently.
The bricks are still original, but they were not really ‘restored’ — merely painted over to look nice. It’s only two years later from our comments above, and the cosmetic paint on the bricks is visibly peeling off (particularly on the east side); the building is starting to look shabby again. The boutique hotel/diner unfortunately did not appear to succeed.