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Toronto’s Gooderham (Flatiron) Building on Wellington and Front Streets

21 Jan

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The red-brick Gooderham Building at 49 Wellington Street East is located at the confluence of Wellington Street East, Front Street East, and Church Street, in the St. Lawrence Market area. The present-day building is the second structure that has existed on this small triangular piece of land. The original building on the site was constructed in 1845, and was smaller than the one that exists there today, it having only three-storeys. It was a part of the Wellington Hotel on nearby Church Street, and was referred to as the Coffin Block as the land on which it was built was similar to that of a coffin. The odd shape occurred because the streets of the early-day town of York (Toronto) had been laid-out on a grid pattern, but the straight lines were slanted to accommodate the curve of the shoreline of Lake Ontario.

Fonds 1244, Item 7335

This photograph from the City of Toronto Archives (Series 1244, It. 7335-1) was taken in 1883. It shows the original three-storey Coffin Block, built in 1845. There is a three-storey bank across the street from the building, on the right-hand side of the photo. It is the structure with the imposing portico.

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This is the building that is presently on the site. The photo from the City of Toronto Archives (Fonds 124, Fl.0124, Id.0065) was likely taken in the early 1970s, since one of the towers of the TD Centre is evident in the background. The top of the Royal York Hotel is on the left-hand side of the picture. There is no CN Tower visible, as it was not completed until 1976.

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This photo from the City of Toronto Archives (Fonds 124, Fl.0124, Id.0025) gazes east along Front and Wellington Streets. In the picture, the Gooderham building is isolated. Beside it on its western side, there are only parking lots, and where the condo Market Square now exists, is another large parking lot. The St. Lawrence Hall is in the upper left-hand corner of the picture. The South Market Building of the St. Lawrence Market can be seen on the south side of Front Street. The old North Market Building is also evident, which was demolished in the late-1960s.

The Story of The Gooderham Building

In 1837, William Gooderham and his brother-in-law William Worts founded a distillery. By the 1890s, it was the largest  producer of spirits in Canada. In the early 1890s, George Gooderham, the eldest son of William Gooderham, purchased the Coffin block to construct a new headquarters for the Gooderham and Worts Distillery. He ordered that the building on the old Coffin Block be demolished. He hired David Roberts Junior (1845-90) as his architect, and at a cost of $18,000, instructed that a four-storey building be erected, which was completed in 1892. In the basement, the windows were partially above ground, creating an extra level. The design of Gooderham’s building was the inspiration for the famous Flatiron Building in New York City, built in in 1902.

Toronto’s Gooderham Building is Romanesque in design, with traces of Gothic. The cornice above the fourth floor has a wealth of intricate Romanesque designs. Above the cornice is a steeply-sloped roof that was originally covered with copper, although the copper has since been removed. The roofline is broken by eight peaked gable windows, four on the north side of the building and four on the south. On the east side, the apex of the triangular shape is rounded and topped with a pointed tower, its top still sheathed in copper. The building has several entrances, but the main entrance is on its north side, on Wellington Street. 

Interestingly, a tunnel was built under Front Street that connected the Gooderham Building to the bank across the road on Front Street. It allowed large amounts of cash to be safely transferred between the buildings without being seen from the street. The bank building can be seen in one of the above pictures placed in this post. Also, the first manually-operated Otis elevator was installed in the Gooderham Building.    

The Gooderham Building was the headquarters of Gooderham and Worts Distillery until 1952. In 1975, it was officially declared a Heritage site. The building was restored in the late-1990s, and remains coveted as office space. Its rooms, with their 12-foot ceilings, are ideal for companies that wish to rent space in an historic property.

                     April 2013

View of the Gooderham Building in April of 2013, gazing west along Front Street.

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Views of the apex of the triangular building, the top crowned with a copper-sheathed tower.

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The Front Street facade, the iron fire escape attached to the red-brick wall. In the basement, which is partially above ground, there is a pub. (Photo, July 2013).

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View of the top of the building, with the ornate cornice and the copper-sheathed pointed tower.

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                    The Romanesque ornamentations in the cornice.

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Impressive main entrance on Wellington Street, with its Romanesque surround.

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Architectural detailing on the building, with the date of its completion.

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The west facade of the Gooderham Building, containing the mural by Derek Besant, painted in the autumn of 1980. It is a mirror image of the Perkins Building across the street. It creates the illusion that there are windows on the west facade of the Gooderham Building.

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                View facing west along Front Street in July 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.  

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   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)

 

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