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.
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.
Doorway of the Birkbeck Building
View of the ornamentations above the doorway
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.
View of the building looking east along King St. East
Buildings at the CNE designed by George W. Gouinlock.
Fire Hall at CNE The Press Building
The Arts and Crafts Building
The Music Building
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To view the links to posts that rediscover Toronto’s old movie houses:
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)