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Monthly Archives: July 2014

The Steele Briggs warehouse at 49 Spadina Ave.,Toronto

49 Spadina

The five-storey warehouse on the east side of Spadina Avenue, between Front Street and Clarence Square, was built in 1913, the year before the outbreak of the First World War. It was constructed for the Steele Briggs Seed Company, founded in 1873 by Richard Steele and Sylvester Briggs. The warehouse was needed to consolidate the company’s operations within a single building. Previously, their offices and storage facilities had been in several locations in the downtown area.

In the early decades of the 19th century, seed production was an enormous business. Canada was a rural nation, the number of families who farmed the land a far greater a percentage of the population than today. The rural areas of the provinces, especially in Western Canada, were the company’s largest customers. As well, homes in cities across the nation maintained gardens to grow vegetables and herbs for their kitchens. The mail-order seed catalogues published each year in late-winter or early spring were eagerly sought. Purchasing seedlings from growers was considered too expensive for most families, so they bought seeds. Nurseries that sold plants were rare, although town markets sold seedlings. In Toronto, people could purchase them at the St. Lawrence Market.

The Toronto Directories reveal that in 1912, the land on the east side Spadina Avenue, between Front Street and Clarence Square, remained empty fields. It was an ideal location for a warehouse as it was close to the rail lands. After the Steele Briggs building was erected, it built its own private railway siding. The tracks for the siding remain visible today in the parking lot on the south side of the building. The company shipped seeds all over Canada, its success partially due to the fact that it developed seeds that were acclimatized specifically for Canada’s growing season. In 1961, the Steele Briggs Company purchased the William Rennie Seed Company. This company was important in the history of Toronto.

William Rennie was born in in Scarborough in 1832. In 1860, he moved his family to a farm in Markham, Ontario. However, in 1870 he rented out his farm and moved to Toronto, where he founded the William Rennie Seed Company. For the next 91 years, the company’s business activities centred around Adelaide and Jarvis Streets. In the early days, many of the seeds that the company sold were grown on Rennie’s five-acre farm on the east side of Grenadier Pond. His homestead was also in this location. Seeds not grown on his farm were imported from Scotland—oats, barley and wheat. As his business grew, he also imported bulbs from Holland. William Rennie was influential in the creation of the Toronto Industrial Exhibition of 1873, which in later years became the Canadian National Exhibition. He also helped found the first annual “fat-stock show,” the forerunner of the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. A Toronto Island ferry, the Thomas Rennie, was named after one of his sons, who became a prominent businessman in his own right.

The red-brick Steel Briggs warehouse at 49 Spadina Avenue remains as impressive today as when it was constructed. In 1913, its address was 2 Clarence Square, and even today, its alternate name is the Clarence Square Building. When it was built, the lower portion of Spadina Avenue, below King Street, was industrial and dominated by the railroads. The entrance to the building was on the north side, facing Clarence Square.

The cornice on the top of the Steele Briggs Building is plain, the facades containing few ornamentations. On the north and south facades there are pilaster (faux columns), constructed with the same red bricks as the facades. They rise from the ground level to the top of the second storey, where they are capped with stone. They then continue on the third and fourth storeys, and are again capped with stone. On the fifth floor, stone blocks have been inserted above and below the windows. Though the building has few architectural details, its facades are symmetrical and orderly. It is a handsome structure that enhances the avenue.

When the Steele Briggs building was erected, five storeys was considered ideal, as if more floors were added, it required more expensive structural supports. The wood support beams in the building are reduced in size on the upper floors, as they support less weight. Containing high ceilings, the warehouse is a typical brick and beam construction. The support timbers remain today, visible on each floor. On the ground floor, large oak doors on three sides of the buildings open onto loading platforms, where horse carts, and later in the 20th century, trucks could pull up to unload sacks of seeds. The platforms on the south side of the building allowed the sacks of seeds to be loaded onto railway cars and shipped across the nation. The loading and unloading of the large sacks were done by hand, assisted by pulleys.

Today, the warehouse contains offices and is considered one of the city’s most prestigious rental accommodations as it is an attractive heritage building. 

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View of the loading platform on Peter Street on December 30, 1926, the Steele Briggs building in the background. City of Toronto Archives, Series 372, S 0079, It. 0176.

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This photo was taken about 1913, the year the Steele Briggs Building was constructed. Behind the Steele Briggs Building (upper right-hand corner) can be seen the trees in Clarence Square. The photo gazes north on Spadina. In the foreground, the demolition work on the Spadina Wharf is being completed. In the top left-hand corner of the picture are the towers of the old Union Station of 1884. The old bridge over the railway lines, south of Front Street, is also visible.  City of Toronto Archives, Series 1244, It. 0235

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View gazing north on Spadina from near the bridge at Fleet Street, on June 28, 1925. The Steele Briggs warehouse is on the right, and it has a water tower on its roof. The towers on the old Union Station of 1884 are on the far left. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1580, It. 0090

Series 372, Subseries 58 - Road and street condition photographs 

Gazing north on Spadina on June 16, 1946, from the intersection at Front and Spadina Streets. The Steele Briggs Building is on the right.

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The north facade of the Steele Briggs Building, facing Clarence Square. (photo, 2014)

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The west facade (left-hand side of picture) on Spadina and and south facade (right-hand side) of the building.

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                    Architectural details on the north facade.

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Tracks of the railway siding on the south side of the building (photo taken 2014)

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   Wooden beams in the lobby of the structure (photo 2014)

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Doors that open onto a loading platform on the south side that was used to load the railcars.

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Interior of one of the loading platforms on the south side of the building. (photo 2014)

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      The Steele Briggs Building, viewed from Spadina and Front Streets.

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[1]

                         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 .

 

 

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Remembering Toronto’s Teck Theatre on Queen St. East

f1231_it0641[1] Teck Theatre, Queen E.

Teck Theatre in 1932. The film on the marquee is “Delicious,” a George Gershwin romantic musical comedy. The photo gazes east along Queen Street East toward Broadview Avenue. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Fl. 1231, It. 0641

The Teck Theatre is a rarity in the history of Toronto movie houses, as it’s life as a theatre was one of the shortest on record. It opened in 1931, during the Great Depression. Perhaps the harsh economic times of the 1930s led to its early demise. However, most theatres survived the Depression, as despite people having very little money, attending movies was relatively cheap. The Teck Theatre was owned by Jerry and Michael Shea, two Ontario-born brothers who moved to Buffalo N.Y. They had built Sheas Hippodrome on Bay Street in 1914, one of Toronto’s great movie palaces of the early 20th century. Thus, the Teck had investors of substance behind it. This makes its all the more surprising that it closed after such a short time. 

The building that contained the Teck was unpretentious, its facade symmetrical, with few architectural details. The box office was in a central position, outside the small lobby. However, the canopy over the entrance was quite ornate, the only impressive feature of the theatre when it was viewed from the street. Its auditorium had faux windows on the east and west walls, as well as a fake wall at the base of the stage, which created the impression that a person viewing the screen was peering over a low wall.

The theatre was located at 700 Queen Street East, a few doors west of Broadview Avenue, in the Riverdale District. It was on the north side of the street. The Jewellery shop to the west of the theatre paid rent to the owners of the theatre. The shop was run by Karl Minoff until 1958. To the east of the theatre was the old Broadview Hotel, where the popular bar Jilly’s was located in the decades ahead. Jilly’s is to be closed (2014) and the hotel redeveloped for other purposes. The shop to the east of the Teck was located inside the Broadview Hotel, allowing the hotel to receive rental income, taking advantage of its frontage on Queen East.

The Teck was open during the years that theatres were transitioning from silent movies to sound films (“talkies”). The web site @tosilentfilm provides information about one of the piano players who performed the background music for silent films at the Teck. He was the father of Jack Turner, and children delighted in gathering around the piano when he played. They enjoyed listening and watching his hands fly over the keys.

The theatre closed in 1933, after having been opened for only two years. The site was renovated and employed for other commercial purposes.    

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The Teck Theatre in 1932, gazing west along Queen Street East. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, File 1231, Item  0623

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Auditorium of the Teck.  Photo is from the Toronto Reference Library.

Feb. 69 price $75,900

Real Estate photo of the site of the Teck Theatre, in February 1969, when it was for sale for $75,900.

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The Broadview Hotel at Queen East and Broadview, the site of the Teck Theatre the small white building to the left of the hotel. (Photo taken 2014)

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Similar view as the above photo, of the northwest corner of Broadview and Queen, c. 1945. The site of the Teck is devoid of the theatre, as it closed in 1933.  (Photo, City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, S.1057, It.0518) 

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The site of the Teck Theatre in September, 2014. The top of the building again resembles the old Teck Theatre.

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

To view previous posts about other movie houses of Toronto—old and new

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/torontos-old-movie-theatrestayloronhistory-com/

To view links to Toronto’s Heritage Buildings

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/01/02/canadas-cultural-scenetorontos-architectural-heritage/ 

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 .

 

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Odeon Theatre in Parkdale—Toronto

Odeon Theatre, 1913, at 1558 Queen West

The Odeon Theatre in 1919. The featured movie is Cecil  B. DeMille’s film, “Don’t Change Your Husband,” a silent comedy released in 1919. Photo from the City of Toronto Archives, Series 1231, Fl. 231, It. 0758

The Odeon Theatre at 1558 Queen Street West was an architectural gem in the former village of Parkdale, which was annexed to the city in 1889. The theatre opened in 1919, shortly after the end of the First World War. It undoubtedly provided a welcome relief to the war-weary people of the community, providing an evening’s entertainment and an opportunity to forget the horrors of battle from the previous years. The Odeon was likely the first theatre in the neighbourhood, as its competitor, the Parkdale Theatre, did not open until the spring of the following year. The Odeon Theatre had no connection to the British Odeon theatre chain that began building theatres in the city in the 1940s. The word “Odeon” was derived from the name of an ancient Greek theatre, the Odeon Herodes Atticus, in Athens, built in 161 CE (AD). It was located on the south side of the Acropolis, and still exists today.

The Odeon Theatre in Parkdale was a two-storey red brick building, with a residential apartment on the second floor. Its symmetrical facade was formal and dignified, the stone trim adding architectural detailing to the facade. The cornice was plain, with a narrow parapet to increase the size of the south facade when viewed from Queen Street.

The theatre’s auditorium possessed two aisles, with a centre section and aisles on either side of it. There were no side aisles, so seats were crammed against the side walls. It had a sloped floor that extended from where the screen was located to the rear wall, the back rows accessed by stairs. The auditorium walls were plain with very few decorative details, although there were attractive designs surrounding the screen. When the theatre opened in 1919, there would have been a stage and an area for a piano or a few musicians, as it offered vaudeville, live theatre, and silent movies.

A letter in the files at the Toronto Archives confirms that the theatre closed in October 1968. However, the building remains on Queen Street today, and contains a fruit market.

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         Interior of the Odeon Theatre, Ontario Archives, AO 2303

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      View of the stage area of the Odeon Theatre. Ontario Archives, AO 2304

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                   The site of the Odeon Theatre as it appeared in 2013.

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                Architectural detailing on the facade of the theatre

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View of the site of the former theatre, gazing east along Queen West, in the spring of 2013.

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

To view previous posts about other movie houses of Toronto—old and new

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/torontos-old-movie-theatrestayloronhistory-com/

To view links to Toronto’s Heritage Buildings

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/01/02/canadas-cultural-scenetorontos-architectural-heritage/ 

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 .

 

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Toronto’s Empire (Rialto, Palton) Theatre—Queen St. East

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The Imperial Theatre, which later became the Empire, in January 1919. Photo from Salmon Collection in the Toronto Archives, Series 1278, File 88.

The Theatre that many people remember as the Empire, was originally named the Imperial. It opened in 1915 in a newly completed building named the Shepherd Refuge Building. When it opened it featured vaudeville and silent “moving pictures.” Located at 408 Queen Street East, it was on the north side of the street, between Parliament and Sackville. It contained 762 wooden seats and no balcony or air conditioning.

In 1922 its name was changed from the Imperial to the Palton, and in 1925, was renamed the Rialto. In February 1936, a report stated that there was no urinal in the men’s washroom, but only a toilet. The washroom was located at the bottom of the stairs, with only a flimsy wooden frame partition around it. The floor in it was wet and there was a bad smell. To make matters worse, the basement was often dark as teenage boys were constantly turning off the light switch as a prank. This made descending the wooden old stairs difficult. The inspector insisted that the light switch be protected so it would be accessible only to employees.

In 1942, the theatre was renovated and in that year its name remained the Rialto. A report in the Toronto Archives states that someone remembered that during the war years, “God Save the King” was played on a scratchy recording. In 1953, a candy bar was added to the theatre by removing seven seats in the back row of the auditorium, and in that year, the theatre’s name was the Empire. I was unable to discover the exact year that it became the Empire.

I discovered a reference to the Empire Theatre on the web site “Long Gone Movie Theatres from Toronto’s East End,” www.oocities.org/hollywood/club/7/400/2003theatres.htm/  The writer stated that the Empire Theatre was “    . . . the worst dump I had ever seen  . . . it was easy to sneak in but it was rumoured to be infected with rats and I had a morbid fear of rats, though I had never seen one.” These remarks likely applied to the theatre in the 1950s, towards the end of the theatre’s life.

The theatre closed in the early 1960s.

1278-10 Photo, Tor. Telegram, Oct 11, 1956

The Empire Theatre on October 11, 1956, Photo from the Toronto Telegram, City of Toronto Archives, Series 1278 File 10

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Plans for the renovations to the theatre in 1942. City of Toronto Archives.

 

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The building containing the Empire Theatre in January 1959. City of Toronto Archives, Series 1278, File 10

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The site of the Empire Theatre. City of Toronto Archives, Series 1278, File 88 

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

To view previous posts about other movie houses of Toronto—old and new

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/torontos-old-movie-theatrestayloronhistory-com/

To view links to Toronto’s Heritage Buildings

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/01/02/canadas-cultural-scenetorontos-architectural-heritage/ 

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 .

 

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Toronto’s King Theatre on College St. at Manning

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Sketch of the facade of the King Theatre for the renovations in 1932, by the architect Saxon H. Hunter 

The King was among the first silent “moving picture” theatres that opened in Toronto. The plans were submitted to the City of Toronto in December 1914, shortly after the outbreak of the First World War. The theatre was long and narrow, extending back from the street a considerable distance. Located at 565 College Street, it was on the southwest corner at Manning Street. It contained a stage and an orchestra pit, similar to most theatres in the early decades of the 20th century, since it featured vaudeville and live theatre. It was not until the mid-1930s that motion pictures became the predominant attraction in theatres in Toronto.

When the King opened in 1914, it contained 347 seats. There was a centre aisle only, as the theatre was too narrow to accommodate a second aisle. Because the auditorium’s extreme length, the back rows were a considerable distance from the stage and screen. The rows of seats on the left-hand (west) side of the aisle were interrupted in two places to provide emergency exits, similar the bulkhead seats on airplanes today. The washrooms were in  the basement, accessed by stairs off the small lobby.

In January 1930, a fire occurred in the projection room, which overlooked the auditorium at the rear of the theatre, behind one of the apartments on the second floor. It was quickly extinguished by the manager, who employed  a “chemical fire apparatus” (fire extinguisher). However, the fire department had been called, and the firemen entered the theatre by a side door to avoid alarming those attending the show. There was no need for their services, as the fire had already been put out. The fire occurred during a matinee, when there were mostly children in the theatre. They were not aware that anything had occurred, as there was only a short break in the screening.

In 1932, there were major alterations to the King Theatre, employing plans designed by Saxon H. Hunter, who was also the architect of the Family Theatre on Queen Street east. His residence was at 122 Waverley Rd, near Queen East and Woodbine Avenue.

Essentially, Saxon rebuilt the theatre, since land had been purchased to allow the auditorium of the theatre to be widened. This meant that a new facade was required. The new auditorium had two aisles and its seating capacity was increased to around 600 seats. The centre section contained seven seats, and there were four seats in each of the side sections. The apartments above the theatre were enlarged. On the second floor, one of the apartments was where the theatre’s owner resided. On the third floor, the more spacious apartment had several bedrooms.

On November 27, 1933 the manager of the theatre, George A. Lester, was badly beaten, while he was inside the theatre. Two men from Detroit were arrested for the crime on December 5th. They said that they had been hired as “muscle men” by a rival theatre owner, and paid $50. Because they were contacted by a go-between, the person who placed the contract was never identified. It was said that the improvements to the King Theatre in 1932 had increased the King’s business, to the detriment of the other theatres in the area and this was the reason for the mugging.

In 1942, the King Theatre’s license was transferred from Angel Lester to Odeon Theatres.

In September 1946, the theatre was purchased by Norman Clavir from Odeon Corporation. He changed the name of the theatre to the Kino, and  it then specialized in foreign films. It was the second theatre in Toronto to adapt this format, the other being the International Cinema. The first foreign film screened at the Kino was “Russia on Parade” and the second film was “Hello Moscow”; both of them were Artkino Productions. At the same time, the International Cinema was showing Shakespeare’s “Henry V.”

In 1948 or 1949, the theatre’s name reverted again to the King, but continued to screen foreign films.

A letter in the files at the Toronto Archives, dated September 24, 1951, confirms that the name of the theatre was changed to the Studio. The same year, the theatre was again under renovation, this time according to plans created by Kaplan and Sprachman. A candy bar that sold popcorn was added to the right-hand side of the foyer.

Inspectors’ reports continued to be filed until 1969, and then they ceased. I assumed that this was the year that the theatre closed, but in a recent email from J. Holt, who lived across from the theatre, I was informed that the theatre did not close until the early 1880s. I am grateful to have received this information.

The theatre was demolished and a three-storey office building constructed on the site.

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On the sketch the name of the theatre is shown as “King’s” and the address is listed as 347 College. However, it is the same theatre as it states that it is at College and Manning. The postal number was changed at some time, as happened frequently in the early decades of the 20th century. This sketch was drawn by Saxon H. Hunter in 1932, and it shows the interior of the theatre as it appeared in 1914, prior to being rebuilt and expanded. 

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The auditorium of the King Theatre after it was rebuilt in 1932, with an expanded auditorium and two aisles.

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Plans for the 1932 renovations and reconstruction of the entrance and lobby of the King Theatre. 

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The King Theatre c. 1942, the movie on the marquee being “The Gay Sisters.”

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The site of the King Theatre after the theatre was demolished. City of Toronto Archives.

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

To view previous posts about other movie houses of Toronto—old and new

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/torontos-old-movie-theatrestayloronhistory-com/

To view links to Toronto’s Heritage Buildings

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/01/02/canadas-cultural-scenetorontos-architectural-heritage/ 

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 .

 

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Toronto’s Eastwood Theatre on Gerrard St. East

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          The Eastwood Theatre in 1948, Ontario Archives AO 2055

The Eastwood Theatre was one of the largest theatres built in the 1920s that was east of Yonge Street. The original plans for the theatre were submitted to the city in November 1926. Located at 1430 Gerrard Street East, it was constructed in the Beau Arts style. Its facade was symmetrical, with an extremely plain cornice, although the trim below the cornice was slightly more elaborate. Faux arches on either end of the facade actually contained balcony railings. The three windows located behind the marquee complemented the faux arches as they were also topped with Roman arches. Beneath the cornice were rectangular inserts that resembled stone blocks, though they were likely cement. Small circles on either side of the faux arches were the only other ornamentations on the facade.

Its auditorium contained almost 900 wooden seats with leather backs, including a small balcony, and a stage to accommodate vaudeville and live theatre. There were box seats on both sides of the stage, an orchestra pit, and ornate chandeliers on the ceiling. Similar to most theatres in that decade, facing the street were shops, on either side of its entrance, which were rented to increase revenues.

Between the years 1944 and 1945, the theatre was managed by the B&F chain. In January 1946, a “Sold Out” sign was placed in the box office window. Because of the full house, it was found that 21 children were seated on the edge of the orchestra pit. This had occurred because while they were in the washroom, other patrons had taken their seats. A complaint was registered, but the manager stated that there were no problems as there were five ushers on duty, as well as a matron. The authorities did not take the matter any further.

The same year (1946), an inspector visited the Eastwood and wrote an unfavourable report. Apparently, the only access to the projection room was via a circular “ship’s ladder”staircase. He reported that when he ascended the stairs, the door to the projection room was locked. This was against fire codes. He also reported, “There was no drinking water available in the theatre, other than the water in the toilet boxes.” I find it odd that the inspector considered the water in the toilet boxes as a possible source of drinking water. Was he kidding?

In February 1945, a court summons was issued to the theatre’s manager as he had allowed too many patrons to stand behind the back rows of the auditorium, and they had blocked the aisles. This was a serious offence as it was against fire regulations. However, when the case was heard before a judge, the manager was fined $20, even though the maximum penalty was $200. The inspector who laid the charges was heard declaring that the penalty was too light. In 1961, another inspector complained that the theatre was in poor condition, attendance was low, and that many repairs were needed.

At one time, the theatre was managed by Bill Summerville, whose brother was Don Summerville, a mayor of Toronto. For a few years, the theatre screened Italian films. Unfortunately, the theatre closed in 1966. Fortunately the building was saved and converted into an East Indian centre.

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          Auditorium of the Eastwood, Ontario Archives AO2058. 

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This photo of the marquee and entrance of the Eastwood dates from the 1930s, and is one of the earliest photos of the theatre. In this photo, the windows above the marquee are clearly visible.

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Lobby and entrance to the Eastwood Theatre, Ontario Archives, AO 2057

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                 The Eastwood when it screened Italian movies.

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                   The Eastwood after it ceased showing films.

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

To view previous posts about other movie houses of Toronto—old and new

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/torontos-old-movie-theatrestayloronhistory-com/

To view links to Toronto’s Heritage Buildings

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/01/02/canadas-cultural-scenetorontos-architectural-heritage/ 

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 .

 

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The Crown Theatre, Toronto, on Gerrard St. East

Crown, NE6-1458, Aug. 1956

The Crown Theatre in August 1956, City of Toronto Archives, NE6-1458

The Crown Theatre at 587-91 Gerrard Street East was one of Toronto’s earliest movie theatres. Plans for its construction were submitted to the city of Toronto in July 1916. In that year, it was a vaudeville house that supplemented its performances with silent films. The theatre was built for H. P. Redway and R. S. Richardson. The theatre was located a short distance east of Broadview Avenue. It was a small neighbourhood theatre, containing 666 leatherette seats in an auditorium with two aisles and no balcony. The washrooms were located on the second floor.

I was unable discover any photos of the theatre that were pre-1936, when the theatre was renovated by Kaplan and Sprachman. However, the above photo depicts architectural details that are consistent with the First World War period. The facade is symmetrical, with pilasters (faux columns) of brick that rise from  above the canopy to the cornice, which is simple and unadorned. Kaplan and Sprachman usually preferred Art Deco styles, and there do not appear to be any traces of this in the photo of the 1956 facade. Therefore, it is likely that plans submitted for the 1936 alterations involved only the entrance of the theatre and the area surrounding it. Perhaps the interior of the theatre was also renovated at the same time. 

One of the films on the marquee in the above photo is the “Rains of Ranchipur,” starring Richard Burton and Lana Turner. I saw this film at Sheas Hippodrome in 1955. A friend and I sat in the enormous balcony and thoroughly enjoyed the movie, especially its hot romantic scenes. Being teenagers, we thought they were quite steamy. I am certain that teenagers had similar thoughts when they viewed the film at the Crown in 1956.

The “Rains of Ranchipur” was among the last movies screened at the Crown, as the theatre closed in 1956, the year the film was shown. The theatre was placed on the real estate market, the asking price being $65,000.  The building was later renovated and it became a small complex that housed an Asian shops and a market. 

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Plans for the renovations of the Crown Theatre, submitted by Kaplan and Sprachman and approved by Henry Dobson. They were submitted in March 1936, and were to be completed by July of the same year. In the 1956 photo, the entrance of the theatre reflects this plan.

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The site of the former Crown Theatre on Gerrard Street East. Photo, City of Toronto Archives, Series 1278, File 55

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

To view previous posts about other movie houses of Toronto—old and new

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/torontos-old-movie-theatrestayloronhistory-com/

To view links to Toronto’s Heritage Buildings

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/01/02/canadas-cultural-scenetorontos-architectural-heritage/ 

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 .

 

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