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Monthly Archives: March 2014

The Empress of Ireland tragedy—May 29, 1914

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The HMS Empress of Ireland sank in 14 minutes in the St. Lawrence River in the early-morning hours of 29 May 1914, after it was rammed by smaller ship loaded with coal. Some refer to the tragedy as Canada’s Titanic. The parallels to the fabled ship are appropriate, as 1012 people lost their lives on the Empress. On the Titanic, 807 passengers drowned—the Empress’ death toll was 840 passengers. The final death count was higher on the Titanic, as more of its crew perished.

Aboard the Empress were many passengers from Toronto, including the Canadian Staff Band of The Salvation Army. Most of its musicians perished. The congregation that lost the most members was Toronto’s Earlscourt Corps, which lost ten members. This church has since relocated from the Earlscourt District to Highway 401 and Yonge Street. It is now named the Yorkminster Corps.

The year 2014 is the 100th anniversary of the sinking, Canada’s worst maritime disaster. Toronto is the only city in Canada that holds a memorial service each year on the anniversary of the sinking to commemorate the event. In 2014 it will be held on Sunday, May 25th, in Mt. Pleasant Cemetery. For details, contact The Salvation Headquarters at 1-800-725-2769. The CBC will be broadcasting a special program about the Empress of Ireland. A part of this broadcast will feature the 2013 memorial service.

The photos in this post are from the George Scott Railton Heritage Centre of The Salvation Army in Toronto. 

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The Storstad entering Montreal harbour after its collision with the Empress of Ireland.

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                     The kitchen of the Empress of Ireland

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        Passengers on the Empress of Ireland engrossed in a game of cards.

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                     One of the dining rooms aboard the Empress.

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                                          A deck of the Empress.

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               A cabin on the ship, the bed turned down for the night.

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View from the bow of the HMS Empress of Ireland on a trans-Atlantic crossing.

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                               First-class lounge on the ship.

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Passengers in a lounge, a man reading to his son, and a woman at a writing desk.

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View toward the bow, with passengers engaged in a game of shuffleboard.

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                  Interior view of the Empress

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                  Shovelling coal in the boiler room of the Empress. 

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                            Postcard of the Empress of Ireland.

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

To view previous blogs about the 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/

 

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2014—The 100th Anniversary of Sinking of Empress of Ireland

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Postcard of the Empress from the collection of the George Scott Railton Heritage Centre of The Salvation Army

Some historians refer to the sinking of the Empress of Ireland in the St. Lawrence River as Canada’s Titanic. The parallels to the Titanic are appropriate, as 1012 people lost their lives on the Empress during the early-morning hours of May 29, 1914. On the Titanic, 807 passengers drowned—the Empress’ death toll was 840 passengers. The final number of those who lost their lives on the Titanic was greater as more of its crew perished.

The question sometimes asked is—why is the sinking of the Empress so relatively unknown? By contrast, almost everyone is familiar with the story of the Titanic. There are several reasons for this, but none provides a satisfactory explanation. The Empress deserves a more prominent place in our history than it has received.

One of the reasons that the Empress fell into obscurity was that two months after it sank in the frigid waters of the St. Lawrence River, Canada entered the First World War. The latter event eclipsed the maritime disaster, pushing all other stories from the pages of the newspapers. When the war ended, four years had passed, and remembering those who had paid the supreme sacrifice in Europe became more prominent.

Some suggest that because the passenger list of the Empress did not contain the rich and famous, the public lost interest in the disaster. Whether this is true or not, it is a fact that the majority of those aboard were middle-class citizens or those who earned their living through manual labour. The first-class cabins of the ship were sparsely occupied.

Perhaps another reason that the Empress has not captured the imagination of the world at large is that it plunged to the bottom in a mere fourteen minutes, after a Norwegian collier, the Storstad, rammed into its starboard side. The event did not readily allow authors or filmmakers much opportunity to create imaginary heroes and romantic scenes compared to the Titanic, which took several hours to sink to its watery grave. There was no time aboard the Empress, as illustrated by the fact that the crew managed to lower only four of the ship’s forty lifeboats into the water. When the Storstad struck the Empress, the collision killed or maimed many passengers, while trapping scores of others below deck. Many perished before the ship sank.

I find it strange that some authors consider a tragedy that begins and ends within fourteen minutes as lacking literary appeal. I believe that the story of the Empress is intensely dramatic. The heartrending catastrophe deserves a more prominent place in our history.

The above quote is from the recently published novel that includes the sinking of the Empress, “When the Trumpet Sounds.”

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Photo of the funeral march on Toronto’s Yonge Street in 1914. Flatbed wagons pulled by horses transported the coffins to Mt. Pleasant Cemetery. Photo from George Scott Railton Heritage Centre of The Salvation Army.

“When the Trumpet Sounds” is the dramatic tale of a British family that immigrated to Canada in the first decade of the 20th century. The story chronicles their joys and sorrows in their adopted land as they mingle with diverse and humorous characters in the Earlscourt District of Toronto. The family’s oldest son is a mischievous lad, often involved in fist-fights. Eventually, he trades his fists for a cornet, joins a Salvation Army Band and as he matures, becomes its star player. When the band travels to England to participate in an international gathering, events sweep the young man and members of his family along a fateful path that leads to the decks of the Empress of Ireland. The story climaxes with the sinking of the magnificent ocean liner in the icy waters of the St. Lawrence River in the early-morning hours of May 29, 1914.

Though this is not a religious book, it explores many spiritual ideas. Why would God allow such a tragedy to occur? Where was God when the trapped passengers on the ship prayed for help? How does a mother explain the tragedy to her young children and answer their questions as to why their loved ones will never return home?

The characters in the story are fictional, but much of the information is based on real people. The author had access to the files, photos and letters of a family that lost a loved one on the ship. The details uncovered during the research add a degree of realism to the story that would have otherwise been impossible. The book includes descriptions of early-day life in Toronto, accompanied by over 70 archival photographs of the city in that era. The band that travels to England is based on the true story of the Canadian Staff Band, which lost most of its members on the Empress in 1914.

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“When the Trumpet Sounds” is available in an electronic edition for e-readers on Amazon.com and the Chapters/Indigo web sites, at a cost of $7.99. It is over 400 pages and can also be ordered in soft and hardcover editions from local book stores.

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

To view previous blogs about the 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 heritage buildings:

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

 

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Toronto’s architectural gems—College Park (the Carlu, Eaton’s College Street)

April 2013

Construction on the seven-storey Eaton’s College Street, on the southwest corner of College and Yonge Streets, commenced in 1928 and was completed in 1930. Covering an entire city block, the retail store was officially opened on October 30th of that year, Lady Eaton and her son John David Eaton officiating at the ceremony. The magnificent structure, the jewel in the crown of the retail empire of the T. Eaton Company, was designed by the firm of Ross and Macdonald, in association with Sproatt and Rolph.

Unfortunately, by the time Eaton’s College was completed, the Great Depression had descended across the nation. The 40-storey skyscraper, planned for the western side of the building, was never completed. However, the interior of the section that was finished was perhaps the most magnificent retail store in Canada at that time. Its interior was trimmed with marble and granite, especially on the first-floor level. Most of the store’s interior was designed by Eaton’s own architect, Rene Cera. The brown granite was from Gananoque and the black granite from Mount Joseph, Quebec. Marble for the exposed pillars and the colonnade in the interior were imported from Europe. In stores across Canada, Eaton’s carried its own brand of products, labelled “Etonia.” However, the higher-class goods at Eaton’s College Street were to possess their own trademark—“Haddon Hall.” The store specialized in high quality furniture.

As a teenager in the 1950s, I remember that each Christmas season, the east hallway on the first floor level contained a vast display of Xmas decorations. It was a sight to behold, as it extended for almost a city block. In those years, I worked for the British American Oil Company (BA Oil), its head office located on the northwest corner of Bay and College Streets. BA Oil was later taken over by Gulf Oil. When I worked at BA Oil, at lunch hour in inclement weather, I often crossed over to the southeast corner of the intersection and walked through Eaton’s College to reach Yonge Street, on the far east side of the store.

Even today, the building that was Eaton’s College Street, is one of the grandest structures in the city. The cladding on the building is ivory-coloured Tyndall limestone from a quarry east of Winnipeg. The north and east facades continue to dominate the intersection of College and Yonge Streets with their displays of elegant Art Deco trim and classical ornamentations, which include Greek and Roman designs as well as floral motifs. However, I believe that the overall effect is pleasing rather than fussy.

The two top floors are recessed back from the street, allowing cornices to be placed above the fifth floor. These cornices have unadorned straight lines, but possess intricate detailing below them, as well as ornate metal railings of nickel and copper. They are similar to the cornices at the roofline of the building, and equally impressive. Tall pilasters of limestone rise vertically from the second floor to the cornices above the fifth floor. The large rectangular windows are situated between these pilasters. The windows allow generous light to enter the interior, which was ideal for the enormous retail areas that at one time occupied the various floors. At the street level, the display windows are enormous. Today, the window on the northeast corner is of sufficient size to contain a Tim Horton’s coffee shop.

On March 26, 1931, on the top floors of Eaton’s College, the 1300-seat concert hall, Eaton’s Auditorium, opened to the public. It was the creation of the French architect Jacque Carlu, famous for having designed the dining rooms of the great ocean liners—the Normandie and the IIe de France. Under his supervision, the concert hall, with its elegant lobby, the auditorium with its superb acoustics and the exclusive restaurant named the Round Room, showcased the latest styles of the decade. Many famous personalities entertained audiences in the great hall, including Frank Sinatra and Duke Ellington. It was also the favourite recording venue for Glenn Gould.

As a young man, I was in this auditorium on several occasions and was always impressed with its luxurious surroundings and the warmth of the sound. I seem to recall that the plush seats were grey in colour.

When the Eaton Centre, further south at Queen and Yonge Streets opened in 1977, the Eaton’s Store on the north end of the Eaton Centre contained sufficient display space to accommodate the downtown requirements of the company. The College Street store closed in 1977. It was sold to developers and renamed College Park. The new owners divided the building into small retail spaces on the ground floor, with offices on the higher floors. Space was also rented for courtrooms.

In 1978, luxury condos were constructed on top of the low-rise (southern) portion of the building. However, the opening of the Art Deco concert hall, originally known as Eaton’s Auditorium was delayed as the new owners disputed the protection it received because of the Heritage designation of the building. The difficulties were eventually resolved. It was restored and renamed the Carlu, in honour of its designer. Unfortunately, the court battles delayed its reopening until 2003. 

The building remains a designated Heritage site under the Ontario Heritage Act.

Note. Some of the information in this post was obtained from, “The Eatons,” by Rod McQueen, Stoddard Publishing Company, 1998.

If you enjoy discovering Toronto’s heritage buildings and neighbourhoods, the following blog is an excellent source of reference about the history of the Parkdale community: pvhs.info

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When the Eaton’s College Street store closed in 1977, I visited the store to purchase a keepsake. The above photo is of a sketch of Eaton’s College that appeared on a shopping bag that Eaton’s provided for the closing sale. I kept it as I considered it as valued a keepsake as the item that I purchased. 

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The reverse side of the same shopping bag, depicting the old Queen Street store that was demolished to built the Eaton Centre.

Carlton St, lloking east to Yonge, 1958

A view gazing east along College Street toward Yonge Street. I took this photo in 1958 from the roof of what was then the British American Oil building, located on the northwest corner of College and Bay Streets.

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An architect’s drawing of the Eaton’s College Street store as it was originally conceived. Because of the Great Depression, the tower was never built.  Source of photo, City of Toronto Archives.

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Lady Eaton and her son John David Eaton at the opening of the Eaton’s College Street Store in 1930. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, It. 1637.

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The corner of Bay and College Streets on April 24, 1930. The view gazes south on Bay Street, the Eaton’s College Street Store under construction on the southeast corner (upper left-hand corner of the photo). City of Toronto Archives, Series 71, It. 7579.

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Gazing east on College Street from Bay Street in 1954. The Eaton’s College Street Store is on the southeast corner of Bay and College Streets (right-hand side of the photo).

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This undated photo is from the City of Toronto Archives (Fonds 124, Fl. 003, Id. 0062). The view gazes north on Yonge Street toward College Street. The shadows in the photo indicate that it was taken on an early-morning in winter, as the sun is illuminating the south and east facades of the building. This also explains why there is very little traffic.

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The grand entrance to Eaton’s College on Yonge Street, south of College Street. Today it is one of the entrances to College Park. Photo taken in 2013.

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The east facade of the old Eaton’s Store, now College Park. The view gazes north on Yonge Street toward College Street. Photo taken in 2013.

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A section of the east hallway of the old Eaton’s College store, now College Park. Photo taken in 2013. 

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A view of College Park, gazing east on College Street toward Yonge Street. Photo taken in 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 previous blogs about old movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern

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)

 

 

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Toronto’s Capitol Building at 366 Adelaide West

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The Capitol Building at 366 Adelaide Street West is on the north side of the street, a short distance to the east of Spadina Avenue. Completed in 1920, it was one of a group of warehouse lofts built to accommodate the needs of Toronto’s garment industry. Originally, it was named the Hobberlin Building. Constructed in 1920, its architects were Yolles and Rotenberg.

The seven-storey structure was one of the largest buildings constructed in the city in this style. The side walls contain structural steel, which was unusual for this decade. The yellow-brick facades are attractive, the seventh floor containing terracotta tiles with Art Deco designs. Strong vertical lines dominate the south facade facing Adelaide Street. Large rectangular windows allow much light to enter the interior, providing ideal work space for those who laboured in the garment industry. When built, it contained a sprinkler system, which was not common in the 1920s.

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The large rectangular windows and strong vertical lines on the south facade of the Capitol Building.

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Art Deco designs on the top of the southwest corner of the building.

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Windows and designs on the southeast corner of the Capitol Building.

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               Entrance to the Capitol Building on Adelaide Street West.

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The Capitol Building, located to the west of the popular Tutti Matti Restaurant on Adelaide Street West, a short distance east of Spadina Avenue.

Note: some of the information for this post was obtained from “Toronto Architecture” by Patricia McHugh.

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

To view previous blogs about old movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern

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)

 

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Toronto’s old movie theatres—the Family Theatre on Queen East

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The Family Theatre was located at 2173-75 Queen Street East, the second building to the east of Lee Avenue. I never attended this theatre or knew it existed until I commenced researching the old movie theatres of the city. The above photo from the City of Toronto Archives (Series 1278, File 70), reveals that it was a modest two-storey building, with the theatre on the ground floor and residential apartments on the second storey. Apparently there was also a billiard room. There was an existing building on the site prior to the theatre being built, which was gutted and renovated to create the theatre. The blueprints for the theatre are dated February-March 1919, and reveal that it was built for W.F. Sexton, who resided at 122 Waverley Road. It is assumed that the theatre likely opened the following year—1920. I was unable to confirm this date.

There is an anecdote in the files in the Toronto Archives that tells about a projectionist who worked a the theatre in the 1920s. He often brought his young son to the theatre and seated the boy in the auditorium to watch the movies while he worked in the projection booth. When the man went home for dinner, he left the lad in the theatre. After the evening meal, he returned, completed his night’s work, and retrieved his son. Apparently, the boy was delighted with the arrangement.

The theatre contained a wooden floor with 546 seats, purchased from the Globe Furniture Company. The Family Theatre’s auditorium was intimate, with nine seats in the centre section and four on either side. At the front of the theatre, there were shops on both side of the entrance. In 1931, when the theatre was renovated by the architect Saxon H. Hunter, the owner remained W.F. Sexton. In 1935, the shops at the front of the theatre were eliminated to install washrooms on the ground-floor level and an office for the manager.

In 1937, the family Theatre was cited for having an untidy cellar. Where the furnace and the fuel room were located in the basement, cardboard signs, rags and wrapping paper were strewn over the floor. In December of 1948, two rows of seats at the rear of the auditorium were removed to install a candy bar. However, sales at the new confectionary stand did not last long, as the theatre a few weeks later. It seems strange that it met its demise at a time when the movie business was thriving. I have been unable to discover why it was shuttered. 

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Architects drawing for the family Theatre (City of Toronto Archives).

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This undated photo from the City of Toronto Archives (Series 1278 Fl. 70) was likely taken after the renovations in 1931, as the seating capacity has been increased to ten seats in the centre section. The faux windows on the side walls of the auditorium create the appearance that patrons were sitting in a living room in a home.

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This undated photo from the Toronto Archives depicts the site after the Family Theatre closed.

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)

 

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Toronto’s old Brighton Theatre on Roncesvalles Ave.

Brighton, 127 Roncesvalles, Oct. 63, real estate photo  price $83,000

City of Toronto Archives, Series 1278-Fl. 10

When it opened, the Brighton was an intimate theatre with slightly more than 400 wooden seats, the backs of the seats covered with leatherette. Located at 127 Roncesvalles, on the northeast corner of Galley and Roncesvalles Avenues, the Brighton was an integral part of the community for many decades. A two story building, with three apartments on the third floor, the auditorium of the theatre was the equivalent of two storeys, its floor sloped toward the screen. There was no balcony. The red-brick structure possessed a rather unadorned cornice on its west facade, facing Roncesvalles, though it possessed a row of large modillions (bracket-like ornamentations). The cornice on its south facade, on Galley Avenue, was even less detailed, with straight simple lines. The third-storey apartments enjoyed much sunlight in winter as they contained windows that faced south.

The Brighton was originally licensed to Clarence and William Welsman. The ticket office was to the right of the lobby. The women’s washrooms were located to the right, off the foyer, with stairs on the left leading to the men’s in the basement. There was no air-conditioning, but it possessed fans on either side of the screen that circulated the air. A file in the Toronto Archives states that for many years, prior to the beginning of the evening’s first film, a recording of “God Save the King” was played.

After the theatre closed, the ground-floor premises were remodelled to create retail space. In 2014, a grocery store occupied the ground floor of the building where the old Brighton Theatre once welcomed its patrons for a night’s movie entertainment.

        Series 1278, File 33   

This undated photo from the City of Toronto Archives (Series 1278 fl.33) depicts the theatre on a winter day.

Series 1278, File 33 AO 2268

Auditorium of the Brighton,  with a piano inserted in the space under the screen. It was employed to supply music to accompany silent films. The City of Toronto Archives, Series 1278 Fl. 33, Ontario Archives, AO 2268.

               Series 1278, File 26  AO 1267 c. 1940

The lobby of the Brighton, c. 1940. City of Toronto Archives, Series 1278 fl.33, AO 2267.

 

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The site of the Brighton Theatre in 2013, the canopy of the old theatre basically unchanged, although the vertical marque with the theatre’s name has been removed.

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The theatre’s facade in 2013, looking south on Roncesvalles Avenue. The doors of the grocery store on the site appear similar to when the building was an active theatre.

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The arched window above the old theatre’s canopy and the west-facing windows of the apartments on the third floor. Photo taken in 2013.

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            The west (front) facade of the old Brighton Theatre in 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)

 

 

 

 

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The Reid Building at 266-270 King West

King and Duncan

There are several historic buildings on King Street West that will be demolished if the Mirvish Condo project is approved by the City of Toronto. The Reid Building at 266-270 King Street West is one of them. Located on the northeast corner of Ed Mirvish Way (a part of Duncan Street), the facades of the building are today covered with white-grey paint, which obscures the beauty of the bricks, wood and stone of which it is constructed.

The Reid Building is in reality three separate buildings, joined to create a single complex. The first building was constructed in 1904, and is on the corner of the intersection. It was built after the Great Fire of that year, which occurred on April 19, a bitterly cold spring night. Burning for over nine hours, it destroyed over 100 buildings in the downtown core. Though it did not spread as far as King Street West, the building codes instituted to prevent another such disaster, influenced the construction of the Reid Building. When completed, the Reid Building contained the most up-to-date fire prevention technology of the decade. The building was among the first of the warehouses that appeared on the north side of King Street. It was preceded by the Gillett Building at 276 King Street  (1901) and the Eclipse Whitewear Building (1903) at 322 King Street, farther to the west. 

In the first few decades of the 20th century, King Street was a prime location for businesses, since the home of the Lieutenant Governor was situated on spacious grounds on the southwest corner of King and John Streets. This site is today where the Roy Thomson Hall is located.  When the Reid Building was constructed, businesses were eagerly seeking building sites on this section of King Street, as they profited by being in the prestigious neighbourhood. Adding to the appeal of the neighbourhood was the opening of the Royal Alexandra Theatre in 1907. It was capable of seating almost 1500 theatre patrons and is today one of the oldest theatres in Canada in continuous use.     

The Reid Building was named after Alexander T. Reid, who financed its construction. He was the manager of the Featherbone Novelty Manufacturing Company, for which the building was constructed. It was situated on land that had formerly been Russell Square, the original site of Upper Canada College. The first structure that became part of the Reid Building, has massive brick pilasters, which are bricks that are raised on the facade to resemble pillars. They rise from the first-floor level to the unadorned cornice above the fifth storey. The pilasters segment the south facade into three distinct parts, the windows recessed between the various sections. There are five storeys, and a basement level that is partially above ground. The architect for the Reid Building was A. Frank Wickson, who is best known as one of the architects who designed the original Toronto Reference Library at 244 College Street, at St. George Street. The building is now the Koffler Student Services Centre of the University of Toronto.

In 1909, a second building was added to the north side of the Reid Building, on Ed Mirvish Way. Then, in 1913, another building was added to its east side, along King Street. The three separate building, with their Edwardian Classical styling, compose the complex that is today the Reid Building. They appear as a single structure as they are unified in design and detailing.  

In 1913, the year that the third building was added, the complex became the head offices for the McLelland and Stuart Publishing Company. However, following the Second World War, the area around King Street, where the Reid Building was located, declined as an industrial district. Seeking cheaper land prices, companies relocated further away from the downtown core. The Reid Building is presently owned by David Mirvish and is rented to various retail enterprises, the upper floors containing offices. 

It would truly be a pity to lose this excellent example of an early-20th century industrial warehouse.

Note: some of the information for this post was obtained from a City of Toronto Web site—Public Notice—Heritage Lands.

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The Reid Building on a frigid December day in 2013. The photo gazes east along King Street, a short distance west of Ed MIrvish Way, which is the south section of Duncan Street.

 

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The south facade of the 1904 section of the structure (left-hand side) and the 1913 addition (on the right-hand side). The windows differentiate the 1904 section from the 1913.

King and Duncan 2

Gazing north on Ed Mirvish Way, which is a section of Duncan Street. The west facade of the 1904-section of the Reid Building is in the foreground, and the 1909 section, is on the north side of it. 

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Detailed view of the windows of the Reid Building on the south facade that faces King Street. A row of dentils (teeth-like ornamentations) can be seen above the rectangular windows of the second and third floor (the bottom rows of windows in the photo). The windows on the fourth and fifth floors are separated into three sections, the top of the windows curved. 

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The south facade of the Reid Building viewed from inside Metro Hall, December 2013.

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

To view previous blogs about old movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern

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)

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