The above picture is from a 1950s post card. On the reverse side of the card is a purple 4-cents stamp with the image of a young Queen Elizabeth ll. The card was mailed in 1955, just two years after the Queen’s coronation. The hospital was a popular choice for post cards in that year as the facility had opened only four year earlier, its impressive symmetrical facade and enormous size greatly admired by Torontonians.
However, there was a Sick Children’s Hospital that preceded the one on University Avenue. The idea of creating a medical facility that catered to the needs of children commenced in 1875, and was contained in an eleven-room house. The following year, due to the increasing demands of a rapidly growing city, larger premises were found, which accommodated sixteen beds.
By 1891, the need for paediatric care had grown to the extent that funds were raised to construct a larger building. The new facility was to be on the southeast corner of Elizabeth and College Streets, near the University of Toronto. The building was designed by the firm of Darling and Curry, constructed from red sandstone, likely quarried from the Credit River Valley. The style was Richardsonian Romanesque, similar to the Old City Hall on Queen Street West. The base of the structure contained massive stones, and over the entranceway was a great Roman arch. The building had a gabled roof and a cupola. The hospital officially opened in May 1892, and was named the Victoria Hospital for Sick Children. It was the first hospital in Canada built for the sole purpose of meeting the Health needs of children.
The Victoria Hospital for Sick Children that opened in May of 1892. Photo taken in 2013.
The entrance to the hospital (left) and the intricate carvings above it (right)
View of the gabled roof, with terracotta tiles, and a small cupola at the top.
View of the upper portion of the south facade that fronts on College Street. By the late 1940s, it was obvious that the size of the Victoria Hospital was inadequate. After securing government grants, supplemented by considerable fund raising, property was purchased at 555 University Avenue, on the east side of the street, a short distance south of College Street. The architectural firm of Goven, Ferguson, Lindsay, Kaminker, Maw, Langley and Keenleyside were hired. Patients were transferred to the new hospital on February 4, 1951. The Victoria Hospital was occupied by the Canadian Blood Services but they have since vacated the premises.
The site of the new hospital on University Avenue was where the house was located where Mary Pickford was born. Mary Pickford was Hollywood’s greatest star in the era of silent films. Her real name was Gladys Marie Smith, but she changed it to Mary Pickford when she appeared on Broadway in 1907. She became known as “America’s Sweetheart” and was the first truly international star of the silver screen. Her career in films began in 1909 and her final silent film was in 1927. In 1929, in a “talkie,” she won the Oscar for best actress at the Academy Awards of 1929 for her role in “Coquette.” She was one of the founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which was (and still is) responsible for the Academy Awards. Mary Pickford was also one of the creators of United Artists Studios, along her husband Douglas Fairbanks, in partnership with Charles Chaplin and W. D. Griffiths. Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks were the first stars to officially place their footprints in cement in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Mary Pickford died in 1979.
The site of the new Sick Children’s Hospital on University Avenue in 1925. The house to the right of the small one-storey house is where Mary Pickford was born. In this year, the postal address was 211 University Avenue. Photo from the City of Toronto Archives, Series 71, S 0071, It. 3734.
The Pickford home shortly before its demolition. Photo from City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, S 1057, It. 3999.
Mary Pickford as a young actress (left) and in the 1930s (right).
Mary Pickford on March 24, 1924, in front of the house on University Avenue where she was born in 1893. Photo from the City of Toronto Archives.
The Pickford Theatre, on the northwest corner of Spadina and Queen Street, named after Mary Pickford. The building was later occupied by Bargain Benny’s. Today, a McDonald’s restaurant is on the site.
The Sick Children’s Hospital on University Avenue in 1955.
Today, there is an historic plaque and a sculpture in front of the Sick Children’s Hospital, commemorating the birthplace of Mary Pickford on University Avenue.
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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)