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Monthly Archives: February 2015

Toronto’s old Odeon Humber Theatre—Part II

Odeon Humber, Photo Gilbert A. Milne, 51618

The Odeon Humber Theatre in 1993, after it had been divided into two auditoriums. One of the movies on the marquee is Woody Allen’s “Manhattan Murder Mystery.” Photo City of Toronto Archives, Gilbert A. Milne 51618

The Odeon Humber was one of the local theatres that I often attended when I was a teenager. Of the five original Odeon theatres, it is the only one that remains today, all the others having been demolished.

My family relocated in 1954 from the Fairbank District, where we lived near the Rogers Road-Oakwood area. Our new home was near Jane Street and Lambton Avenue, in the west end of the city. In that year, the TTC service did not extend beyond Jane and Annette Streets, so to travel to the Humber Theatre we journeyed on the privately-owned Roseland Bus Lines to Jane and Annette Streets, and then, to reach Jane and Bloor we boarded an Annette Trolley bus.

The Humber Theatre was located in the Bloor West Village. It was only a few doors to the west of the intersection of Bloor and Jane Streets, on the north side of the street, at 2442 Bloor Street West. In the 1940s and 1950s, it was in an area that possessed much pedestrian traffic, since it where the Bloor streetcars looped before travelling east as far as Luttrell Avenue. This was prior to the opening of the Bloor /Danforth Subway in 1966.

Map of 2442 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6S 1R1

                      Location of the Odeon Humber Theatre.

Designed by Jay Isadore English (1903-1947), at a cost of $400,000,  the Humber Theatre opened on January 27, 1948. My first visit to the Humber was in 1954, the year that Hurricane Hazel devastated the city, causing much destruction and loss of life, when the Humber and Don Rivers flooded their banks. The Odeon Humber was a large theatre, containing 1200 seats. It was constructed by the British Odeon Chain, a subsidiary of the Rank Organization. At the beginning of Rank movies, I remember that a well-muscled man struck a huge gong at the opening of each film and the words, “J. Arthur Rank Presents” appeared on screen.

One Saturday evening, when I was in my late-teens, I attended the Odeon Theatre accompanied by a friend. After we arrived, two couples from my high school entered the theatre and sat behind us. They teased us about not having  girl friends to take to the theatre on a Saturday night. Being teenagers had its embarrassing moments, which we thought were disasters.

I purchased my first car in 1967, a bright-red Acadian Pontiac, at the astronomical price of $3300. During the next few years, I often visited the Odeon Humber, parking in the Green-P parking behind the theatre, entered by the street to the west of the theatre—Riverview Gardens.

The Odeon Humber Theatre was split into two auditoriums in 1975. One theatre was on the ground floor and the other was in the space that had previously been the balcony. It received a $400,000 renovation in 1999, when larger seats, digital sound and a new concession stand were installed. It was eventually owned by Cineplex Odeon Corporation, but the company closed it in 2003. The building was empty for several years and was in danger of being demolished for condominiums. However, it was rescued by Rui Pereira, owner of the Kingsway Cinema, who reopened as a multiplex theatre named the Humber Cinemas. It now contains five auditoriums. The theatre space in the balcony remains in tact, but the ground-floor area now contains four small theatres.

It is hoped that the Humber Cinemas survives in the years ahead, as it representative of the local theatres that at one time were in almost every community across the city.

Odeon Humber  OA 2152

         The Odeon Humbers auditorium, Ontario Archives, AO 2152

800px-Humbercinema[1]

The Odeon Humber after it was converted to the Humber Cinemas, photo taken in 2013.

DSCN8393

   Entrance of the Humber Cinemas during the summer of 2013. 

DSCN8396

                                Lobby of the Humber Cinemas.

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

To view previous blogs about 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 relates anecdotes and stories of the author and others 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 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Store and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791

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), the Photodome, 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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Capturing a Toronto winter on canvas

                       179.  16x20  2006

Capturing a Toronto winter on canvas is a daunting task. I prefer to sketch directly onto the bare canvas, placing an easel on the sidewalk, but this is not possible for winter scenes. For these paintings, only quick sketches were completed on site, the scenes then transferred to canvas and finished in my studio. Photos were employed to provide details. Many Canadians dread winter, but it also has its beautiful side, especially when the sun bursts forth in a clear blue sky following a snow storm. Even storms have a beauty, when the city is hushed and the noise of traffic dimmed.

Painted in 2006, the above view gazes toward the southeast corner of Spadina Avenue and King Street West. The painting is 16” x 20”, acrylic on stretched canvas. This is one of the scenes that has now disappeared. The car rental company on the southeast corner of the intersection, on the north side of the Winners Store, now contains an LCBO outlet. It is soon to be demolished to construct a high-rise condominium. The assortment of buildings to the right of the CN Tower has also changed greatly, with many more structures having been added to the skyline. When I painted this canvas, I had no idea that the view would disappear so quickly. I merely considered it a dramatic view of the CN Tower that I wished to preserve.  

                         144.  16x20 massonite 2008  looking south toward King W.

Painted in 2008, this scene is a view gazing south on Simcoe Street, from a short distance north of King Street West. The CN Tower and Ritz Carlton Hotel are evident in the background, behind the Roy Thomson Hall. The painting is 16”x 20”, on Masonite board.

157.  16x20  1991 Cecil St.

View of Cecil Street in the College and Spadina area. Painted in 1991, it depicts a man hauling home a Christmas tree. A young child bubbles with excitement at the sight of the tree. The painting is 16” x 20”, acrylic on stretched canvas. 

    73.  8x10  canvasboard  1975 McKenzie House, Bond St.     269.  11x14  2000  Mckenzie House

Mackenzie House on Bond Street, the home of Toronto’s first mayor. It is now an heritage property and operates as a museum, furnished in the style of the 1860s when the Mackenzie family lived in it. The left-hand painting is acrylic on canvas board, 8” x 10”, painted in 1975. The right-hand painting is 11”x14” on stretched canvas, painted in 2000.

                      206  24x36  2005 Queen West and John St.

  A streetcar travelling east on Queen Street West, the view gazing south on John Street. In the background, a partial view of the Chapters Book Store at John and Richmond is visible. The store closed in 2014. The painting is 24” x 36”, on Masonite, painted in 2005.

219.  8x10  2003  Queen &Spadina

This blustery winter scene gazes east on Queen Street West from Spadina Avenue. The tower of the Canada Life Building on University Avenue can be seen in the distance through the swirling snow. The Letteiri Restaurant on the southeast corner of the intersection is now gone and a Hero Hamburger outlet is on the site. Painted in 2003, it is 8” x 10” on stretched canvas. 

5. 16x20 --2003  View fro, Penthouse 4, 50 Camden St.

These snow-laden roof tops were on the north side of Adelaide Street West, between Brant Street and Spadina Avenue. View is from an apartment building on Camden Street, one block north of Adelaide. In the distance a westbound streetcar can be seen on King Street West. Almost all these buildings have been demolished to create the condominium, Brant Park. Painting is 16” x 20 “ on stretched canvas, painted in 2003.

261.  8x10  2002  Houses, Bellevue St.

View of houses on Bellevue Street, opposite Denison Square, in the Kensington Market. The Toronto Western Hospital is evident through the alleyway between the houses. Painted in 2002, the canvas is 8” x 10”, on stretched canvas.

262.  8x10  2004  Kensington Avenue

View gazing north on Kensington Avenue following a heavy snow fall in 2004. European Meats is evident at the head of the street, on Baldwin Avenue. Since this painting was completed, the European Meat Market has departed the scene. Painting is 8” x 10” on stretched canvas.

254  8x10  1999  High Park

   Sledding in High Park in 1999. Canvas is 8” x 10” on stretched canvas.

280.  8x10  2001

View of the Grange from Grange Park, 8”x 10”, on stretched canvas, painted in 2002.

In a previous post, I shared paintings that stimulated memories of my boyhood. For a link to this post:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2015/02/23/capturing-torontos-past-through-paintings/

For a link to paintings of the Kensington Market: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2015/02/26/capturing-torontos-kensington-market-in-art/

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

To view previous blogs about 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 relates anecdotes and stories of the author and others 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 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Store and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791

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), the Photodome, 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 Vaughan Theatre—Part II

OA 2194

The Vaughan Theatre c. 1947. Photo from the Ontario Archives, AO 2194.

When I was a young boy, the Grant and Colony Theatres were my local hangouts, in the days when my parent allowed me to attend only those theatres within walking distance of our house on Lauder Avenue. However, when I was ten years old, my parents purchased a newspaper route for me and I commenced delivering the Toronto Star to over sixty customers on our street. Papers sold for 3 cents, and I considered the profits from my business enterprise to be substantial.

A bus fare was three cents cash or four tickets for a dime. Having obtained great affluence, I pleaded with my parents for permission to travel on the bus to theatres on St. Clair Avenue West. The St. Clair Theatre I was able to walk to, but the Vaughan was too far away. With my money and parents’ permission, my first goal was to attend the Vaughan Theatre at 542 St. Clair West, a few doors west of the intersection of St. Clair and Vaughan Road.

Because I had newspapers to deliver, it was important that I return home by 5 pm. However, I must admit that after attending a matinee at the Vaughan, my customers sometimes waited longer than usual for their papers. I never explained to them why I was late, for fear that my reason might appear trivial. However, visiting the Vaughan Theatre on hot summer’s day was worth risking the wrath of my customers.

The feature of the theatre that I remember the most was its air conditioning system. It was cooler than the older theatres that I was accustomed to, as the theatre had opened in 1947 and was spanking new. The refreshing temperatures were a welcomed treat after travelling on the hot Vaughan bus. As we liked to say as kids, “It was Popsicle Cool.” In the 1940s, air conditioning was only available at Eaton’s, Simpsons, movie theatres and a few wealthy homes in Forest Hill or Rosedale. I felt the cool air against my face the instant I opened one of the modern glass doors of the theatre.

After I entering the lobby, I walked down several carpeted steps to the candy bar, situated in front of me, along the north wall. To enter the auditorium I walked up one of the gently sloped ramps on the east and west sides of the lobby. The auditorium contained almost a thousand seats, arranged in rows in the “stadium seating” style, as it is referred to today.  Designs on the walls and ceiling contained simple vertical line. Generous layers of drapery surrounded the screen, creating a luxurious appearance, especially when the curtains swept open at the beginning of a film.

I attended the Vaughan Theatre often, until our family relocated to the west end of the city in 1953. The theatre eventually closed and was demolished in the 1980s. Today, the site contains some undistinguished buildings that add nothing to the streetscape.

As a kid I had no interest in the history of the theatre, but recently, when researching  the theatre, I learned that plans for the Vaughan were approved by the city in May 1946, and the pouring of the concrete commenced in October the same year. The theatre opened on November 27, 1947. The architects, Kaplan and Sprachman, designed a modern yellow-brick structure with a sign above the marquee that soared high into the air, the letters B&F at its pinnacle. B&F was the name of the company that managed the theatre. This company was formed in 1921, when Samuel Fine and Samuel Bloom formed a partnership. They eventually operated 21 theatres. In 1927, the company became a subsidiary of Famous Players Corporation. B&F pioneered the ideas of screening double-bill (two movies) shows for a single admission price. This allowed smaller theatres to compete with the larger downtown theatres that showed recent releases. In 1923, they featured this concept for first time at the Christie Theatre on St. Clair, near Wychwood Avenue. B&F also pioneered the idea of midnight showings to attract the late-night crowds.

I remember the Vaughan as an exceptionally attractive structure. When it closed and was demolished, I felt that the city lost an important part of its theatrical heritage.

Map of 544 St Clair Ave W, Toronto, ON M6C 1A5

Location of the Vaughan Theatre at 542 St. Clair West.

Vaughan Mandel S.

Interior of the Vaughan Theatre, Photo from the City of Toronto Archives, the Mandel Collection.

Vaughan, Series 881, File 350

Lobby and candy bar of the Vaughan Theatre, City of Toronto Archives, Series 881 File 350

SC 488-7340

The Vaughan Theatre in 1947, the film :”Framed” with Glenn Ford on the marquee. City of Toronto Archives, Series 488 File7340.

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

To view previous blogs about 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 relates anecdotes and stories of the author and others 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 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Store and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791

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), the Photodome, 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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Capturing Toronto’s Kensington Market in art

147.  20x24  2003  Kensington amd Baldwin

The Kensington Market is the subject of the above painting. Entitled, “Early morning—the corner of Kensington Avenue and Baldwin Street—Kensington Market,” it is 20” x 24” on stretched canvas, painted in 2003. The European Meat Market, on the right-hand side of the picture, vanished from the market several years ago. In the background, the Western Hospital is visible. The painting depicts a large delivery truck blocking the street, its cargo of boxes and crates strewn across the roadway. The painting depicts a typical scene in Toronto’s Kensington Market.

During the summer of 2005, I spent the summer painting in the Kensington Market, preserving on canvas images of my favourite shops. Only a few of these stores remain in existence. In some instances, the shops still exist, but the store-fronts and signage have been altered. The canvases were sketched and painted on location, setting up an easel on the sidewalk. I met some very unique and interesting people who chatted with me as I painted. The canvases recreate memories of a summer that has passed into the depths of time, recalling a market that in some ways no longer exists. 

The paintings contain vivid colours, created in a hurried, rough style, almost appearing unfinished. Unsophisticated, they reflect a naive, simple quality that suits the subject. Kensington is indeed a fast-moving collage of of colour, activity and eccentricity. To paraphrase Ed Mirvish (Honest Ed), the Kensington is a place that may imitated, but never duplicated.

 

136.  20x24  2005 Moon Bean, St. Andrew's Ave.

The Moonbean Coffee shop on St. Andrew’s Street is contained within one of the oldest houses in the market, built in 1873. When completed, Thomas Peters, a labourer, moved into the house, likely as a renter. The painting captures a little of the diversity of people in the market—a punker, young children, housewives and shoppers.  

1. 8 x10-2002- Baldwin Street -

This small painting, 8” x 10” on stretched canvas, captures the bright signage and colourful awnings that were a hallmark of Market, the two fish stores being excellent examples. Many of the flamboyant signs on the fronts of the stores have since disappeared. This is a pity, as some of them were works of art. The Seven Seas Fish Company is now (2015) a clothing store. The Coral Sea fish market still exists, but its signage is no longer as bright and colourful, having been faded by the summer sun. 

137.  20x24 2005 Max ans Son, Balwin St.

The building where this shop was located was constructed in 1930.Max and Son” was one of the last of the Jewish businesses to survive from the earlier days of Kensington, when it was primarily a Jewish market. Max Stern’s son, Saul (Solly) came to work in his father’s meat market in the 1950s, after he graduated from high school at 16 years of age. He spent his entire working life in the store, retiring from the shop in 2009. I always purchased my Christmas and Thanksgiving turkeys from Sol. The only times that Sol’s wife assisted in the store were the last few days before the 25th of December. I often chatted with Sol when I shopped for my daily needs throughout the year. He was an interesting and intelligent man, with an understated sense of humour.  

The painting was created on a sunny July afternoon, the shadows betraying that the shopping hours were drawing to a close. The heat of the late-day sun bathes the buildings, awnings and sidewalk in golden light, the summer sun baking the concrete.     

139.  20x24  2005  Mt Market Bakery, original location, Baldwin St.

In 2006, this bakery contained one of the most colourful signs in the market. The painting is 16”x20”, acrylic on stretched canvas. It depicts the shop when it was located  at 172 Baldwin Street, prior to it relocating further west along the street to 184 Baldwin Street. Fortunately, the sign was relocated along with the business. The “My Market Bakery” closed in 2014 and another bakery now occupies the premises. Fortunately, the colourful sign was retained, although it is now badly faded. The building is an example of a store being constructed at the front of a residence. In 1921, it was the home of Mr. S. Libowitz, who later operated a dry goods store on the premises.

The location of the above scene is the north side of Baldwin Street, early on a July morning. A hint of the forthcoming heat is already evident on the morning breezes. Two women sit on a bench to chat and enjoy an ice cream, considering it too hot to indulge in coffee. A corpulent man passes them, silently lamenting that the cool treat is not included in the diet his doctor has imposed. A cyclist, her bicycle not included in the scene, rests before continuing her daily exercise. Only one person walks in the sun. Lost in thought, she seems unaware of the cooler path in the shade of the buildings, the woman with the umbrellas also ignoring the shade. 

141.  20x24  2005 St. Andrew's and Kensington Ave.

The Kensington Fruit Market is on the northeast corner of Kensington and St. Andrew’s Avenues. It is where I shop regularly for my fresh fruit and vegetables. I usually shop early in the day, before the market becomes crowded. The painting reflects this habit, the shadows revealing the time of day. A young boy, on his way to summer school, chooses an apple to consume later in the day. The worker in the shop surveys the scene, knowing that as the day progresses, he will not have the time to pause and reflect.

142.  20x24  2005 Akram's, Balwin St. origina building

This scene of Akram’s Shop, which specializes in Middle-Eastern delicacies, no longer exists. When attempting to add a third floor to the structure, the building collapsed. Prior to this tragedy, the signage on the shop was a colourful display that added much character and delight to the market scene. The store was rebuilt and remains a thriving business, but alas, the colourful signage was never restored. However, the hummus, baba ghanoush and other treats remain as delicious as ever. 

In the painting, a shopper departs the store, the only other person visible a punker on his way to Denison Square to enjoy the morning’s indulgence of a shared “joint.”   

135.  20x24  2005  New Seaway, Balwin St.

The New Seaway Fish Market is another shop that has departed the scene. Theodore, a Greek by birth, laboured many years in the Kensington Market. He finally sold the business and retired to the land of his birth, in the Greek Islands of the Aegean Sea. This was my favourite fish market when I first relocated to within walking distance of the market in 2000, until the New Seaway closed in 2011. The painting depicts one of Theodore’s employees holding the door for a customer, while a small boy strolls past, talking on a cell phone.  

138.  20x24  2005  Europen Meats, Baldwin St.     l

In 1959, “European Meats” arrived in the Kensington Market, but only occupied the premises at 178 Baldwin Street. In 1985 the business expanded into the other shops (#176, #174). The famous meat market was then contained within two of the old row houses, and the original site (#178) was used as the cutting and preparation room.

When this painting was completed in 2005, the store’s methods of operations had changed little from the earlier days of the Kensington Market. Transactions were conducted in metric and in Imperial measure. It required three members of staff to complete a transaction. Customers took a number from a dispenser located on the right hand side, near the door. They carried it to the counter and handed it to an employee, who lined-up the number sequentially on the top of the counter, and then, shouted the numbers in the order in which they were to be served. When a customer’s number was called, it was then handed to another employee, who filled the order. When completed, the customer walked to the front of the store to the cashier, who accepted the money and placed the meat in a plastic bag. The transaction was then completed.

This system was a part of the Europe of earlier days, but was amazingly efficient. Sign language was often employed by the customers to denote the number of pounds, or a half pound, as on a busy day the store was so crowded that it was impossible to be heard above the clamour of voices.

The store had excellent strip-loin steaks. The back-bacon, hams, and cold cuts were truly great. People came from all over the city to purchase meat there. On a Saturday it was jammed, and at Christmas time the crowds were unbelievable. Shopping there was an experience to be savoured, not a chore to be endured.

After the European Meat Market closed in 2013, Sanagan’s Meat Locker occupied the site. I must admit that I miss the bright-red sign that is evident in the painting. It is the loss of bright colours that I miss most from the Market that existed in the early years of the 21st century.

 

133.  18x24  2005  Kensington and St. Andrew's

The view gazes north on Kensington Avenue from St. Andrew’s Street. At the north end of Kensington Avenue is Baldwin Avenue. It is early morning and the fruit and vegetable stalls are being stocked and arranged for the day. A small boy pleads with his father to visit the ice cream shop on Baldwin Street, despite having finished his breakfast only an hour earlier. 

146.  18x24  2005 Kiever Synagogue, Ken. Market

On the northeast corner of Denison Square Avenue and Bellevue Avenue is the Kiever Synagogue. It was constructed as a place of worship by Jewish immigrants who fled to Canada to escape religious persecution in the Ukraine. Many of them settled in Toronto in “The Ward,” a district to the east of University Avenue. In 1912, they commenced worshipping in a house. In 1917, they relocated to the Kensington Market, on the present-day site of the Kiever Synagogue, where at the time there was a small house.

In 1927, they demolished the house and constructed the synagogue that exists there today. Designed by Benjamin Swantz, the Kiever Synagogue combines Romanesque and Byzantine architecture. It has two domed towers on the front, and another at the northwest corner, each topped with a Star of David. No tower was built on the northeast corner of the building, as this corner was not visible from either of the streets that surround the synagogue. Four different styles of windows grace the facade, and though they vary in size, all have Romanesque arches over them. There are separate doors for men and women, which lead to separate seating areas inside the sanctuary, which in the traditional manner, faces Jerusalem.

The painting depicts a Saturday afternoon, when the streets surrounding the market are crammed with the cars and vans of the shoppers that descend on the market on weekends.  

                      143.  20x24  2005  Sea Kings, Balwin St.

The Sea King’s Fish Market at 195 Baldwin Street, had one of the most colourful signs in the market. The sign that replaced it is considerably less colourful. After the New Seaway Market closed, I commenced purchasing my seafood here. In the painting, a young couple converse intimately in a shaded spot in the left-hand corner of the picture, while a woman and her grandson sit in the shade to rest. The boy’s dog barks to inform them that it is time to move on.

148.  20x24  2004 Augusta and Nassau

This busy scene is the intersection of Augusta Avenue and Nassau Street.

149.  8x10  2001 Nassau and Augusta

A close-up view of the shoppers at the market, on the southeast corner of Nassau and Augusta.

The appearance in 2015 of a few of the shops captured on canvas in 2005.

DSCN6388  DSCN6394

Sanagan’s, where European Meats was located (Left), and the Coral Sea fish shop on Baldwin Street (right).

DSCN6396

Shop where “Max and Son Meat Market” was located, which is now a fish market—”Hooked.” 

DSCN6392   DSCN6393

Sea Kings Fish Market in 2015 (left) and Akram’s Shoppe the same year (right)

                                     * * *

The Kensington Market has a fascinating history. In the 1790s, the site where today’s Market exists was within two parcels of land granted by Governor Simcoe to influential friends. The grants were referred to as “Park Lots,” Alexander Grant owning one of them and the other owned by Major E.B. Littlehayes. The name Littlehayes survives to this day in the name of a small laneway that extends north from Baldwin Street, east of Augusta Avenue.

The story of Kensington begins with George Denison, who in 1806 purchased a large parcel of land in the area and constructed a grand home, which he named Bell Vue. Bellevue Avenue was named after this dwelling. When the home was built, the Denisons were the only people living in the area. Their home was surrounded by dense forests, among the trees a few open meadows where in summer months wild flowers grew in abundance.

Bell Vue was on the site that the Kiever Synagogue occupies today, near the northwest corner of Bellevue Square Park. Denison ordered that the land in front of Belle Vue be cleared of trees to create an open square where his family could stroll. The promenade also provided an impressive setting for the home. Because Denison was a colonel in the militia, the square was employed occasionally for drilling troops or staging military parades.

In the ensuing years, the Denisons sold much of the land they owned to raise money for living expenses. Soon, streets were carved out of the wilderness and residential development followed. Because the land was located to the northwest of the downtown area, it was ideal for housing as it was within easy reach of the shops in the core of the city, but away from the city’s busy traffic and noise. Torontonians, mostly of British origins, purchased the houses.  

As the 19th century progressed, newer residential districts opened to the north and west of the KensingtonBy the dawn of the 20th century, the British immigrants who resided in the home surrounding the area where the Denisons had lived, relocated to the newer districts, on streets such as Palmerston and Euclid Avenues. Belle Vue was sold in 1889 and demolished the following year. The descendants of George Denison donated the square in front of their home to the city and today it exists as Bellevue Square Park. It is in the heart of the modern-day Kensington Market, and is the scene of many community events. 

Though there were Jewish families living in Toronto before the turn of the twentieth century, they were relatively few in number. After 1900, this slowly changed as Jewish immigrants from Europe increased in numbers. Many were from Poland and Russia. Most arrived with little more than the clothes on their backs, their meagre possessions contained within a few suitcases. In this decade, Toronto’s population was predominately of British, Protestant origins. It was an era when religious and ethnic tolerance was not a well-developed concept in society. As a result the Jews were mostly excluded from the mainstream institutions of the city, and thus marginalized.

Securing employment in the factories and shops of Toronto was not easy for Jews. To maintain a job in a Gentile workplace, it was necessary to labour on Saturdays. If they took time off work to worship on their Sabbath, they would lose a day’s income, though not necessarily their source of livelihood. Thus the Jewish immigrants preferred to earn a living in a manner in which they were independent.

In the second decade of the twentieth century, when Anglos moved out of the homes in the Kensington area, Jewish immigrants purchased the properties. Kensington was close to the garment shops on Spadina, where many of the Jewish immigrants had found employment. The small homes of the area, built on narrow streets, were inexpensive compared to other areas. To garner extra income, they constructed extensions on the rear of the houses and rented the space to other immigrants. Single-family homes were often subdivided to provide space for several families, thus providing assistance with the mortgage.

For many Jewish immigrants, the first method of starting a business was to sell goods from a knapsack on their backs, walking the streets to reach customers. When funds were available, a push-cart was acquired, allowing larger amounts of merchandise to be carried. Many chose the “rag trade,” because it was considered by others to be a difficult way to earn a living, so there was not much competition. Others earned cash by gathering bottles, cleaning them, and reselling them to factories. Others collected old sewing machines, repaired them, and resold them. They collected anything of value available and disposed of it for whatever price they could obtain. Some sold fruit and vegetables from their carts. All these enterprises required almost no capital to commence, and allowed the vendors to be free to worship on the Sabbath.

When they possessed the funds, some built stalls at the front of their small homes. Others opened stores in a front room in their house. While the men pushed their carts through the streets, in weather that was often inclement, the women sold goods from the make-shift shops and stalls to earn extra income for the family.

Eventually modest extensions were constructed on the front of the homes to create small stores, replacing the temporary stalls and shops. The Kensington Market was born. Merchants and their families lived above the stores or in rooms located behind them. Slowly, the district was transformed from a quiet residential community into a vibrant shopping area with a European “shtetle” atmosphere. Despite its similarity to ethnic or economic enclaves in other cities, such as the Lower East Side in New York, or London’s Whitechapel, Kensington was unique, “one of a kind,” and it remains that way.

Today, in the Market, many Victorian homes remain behind the storefronts. They can be seen if a person gazes upward at the peaked roofs and ornate trim of the old houses that still exist, though many have been severely altered. Augusta Avenue, Baldwin Street, St. Andrew’s Avenue, and Kensington Avenue all contain examples of storefronts that extend from the front of the houses to the edge of the sidewalks.

Today, the Jewish market has disappeared and the small shops of yesteryear have become ethnic stores—West Indian, Asian, Latino, Caribbean, East Indian, and Portuguese. There are also many “cool” shops that specialize in “twice-loved” (second-hand) clothing.

Note: much of the information for this post was derived from the book “The Villages Within.” It was published in 2010, but due to the rapid changes in the market, it is now in need of updating. Details of this book are available on the Home Page for this blog.

In a previous post, I shared paintings that stimulated memories of my boyhood. For a link to this post:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2015/02/23/capturing-torontos-past-through-paintings/

For a link to paintings of the Kensington Market: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2015/02/26/capturing-torontos-kensington-market-in-art/

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

To view previous blogs about 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 relates anecdotes and stories of the author and others 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 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Store and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791

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), the Photodome, 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 old Odeon Theatre in Parkdale—Part II

Odeon Theatre, 1913, at 1558 Queen West

The Odeon Theatre in 1919, located on Queen St. West in Parkdale. City of Toronto Archives.

The Odeon Theatre at 1558 Queen Street West, was located in the former village of Parkdale, annexed to the city in 1889. The theatre opened in 1919, a year after the end of the First World War. The film being screened in the 1919 photograph is “Don’t Change Your Wife,” starring a 20 year-old Gloria Swanson as a foolish wife.

Map of 1558 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6R 1A6

            Location of the Odeon Theatre at 1558 Queen Street West.

The year it opened, the Odeon undoubtedly provided much needed relief to the war-weary people of the community, creating an opportunity for them to forget the horrors of the news from the battle front of the previous year. 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 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, built in 435 BC in Athens. The theatre was located on the south side of the Acropolis, and still exists today. Its name became synonymous with entertainment.

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, reflecting more of the Edwardian period, as opposed to the newer trends that were to develop in the 1920s. Stone blocks that rose from the the ground-floor level to the lower cornice, created pilasters (faux-columns). They were an impressive addition to the facade. The upper cornice was plain, with a narrow parapet (wall) 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. There were no side aisles, meaning that seats extended within inches of the east and west walls. It had a sloped floor, extending from where the screen was located to the rear wall. The back rows were elevated and 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, it possessed a stage and space to accommodate a piano and a few musicians, as it offered vaudeville and live theatre, as well as 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.

                        DSCN1296

                The site of the former Odeon Theatre during the summer of 2014.

DSCN1300  DSCN1294

         The upper section of the facade of the Odeon on Queen West. 

DSCN1295

                The fruit market on the site of the Odeon Theatre.

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

To view previous blogs about 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 relates anecdotes and stories of the author and others 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 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Store and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791

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), the Photodome, 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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Capturing Toronto’s past through art

26.  18x24  1995 Yonge and Queen in 1948.

Gazing north on Yonge Street from Queen Street in 1948, acrylic on stretched canvas, 18” x 24”, painted in 1995.

Toronto is one of the fastest changing cities in the world. I observe this phenomenon with a sense of pride, but at the same time lament that as the city grows vertically and expands its borders, much of its architectural history is being obliterated. Many years ago, in an attempt to preserve the images of my youth, I commenced sketching and painting city scenes, in acrylic, watercolour and oil. The above painting depicts the intersection of Queen and Yonge as I remember it as a boy, when my brother and I accompanied my mother on the old Peter Witt streetcars to visit Eaton’s during the Christmas season. By the time we departed from the store, darkness had fallen. Of course the highlight of the excursion was Eaton’s Toyland, on the fifth floor of the old Eaton’s store. To create the painting, I supplemented my memories with historic photographs from the City of Toronto Archives and sketches of the facades of the two buildings that remain at the intersection today. 

I commenced my Toronto paintings in the 1970s, and a few years later, I began retaining the city’s history by researching and writing. My books, fiction and non-fiction, are steeped in Toronto’s past. As I work, I am continually reminded that no matter how much I learn, there is so much more to discover. It is an humbling experience. I often wonder how researchers in London, Paris or Rome cope with the seemingly endless layers of history of these cities, which extend through thousands of years. My research has also caused me to greatly appreciate the writings of Bruce Bell and Mike Filey, who have expertly chronicled Toronto’s past. These historians have truly contributed much to the citizens of this city.

Below are a few more paintings that attempt to recreate scenes from past. Buildings and streetcars dominate most of them, the human figures inserted to animate the scenes or simply to provide foregrounds. Thus, they are not depicted in great detail. In all of the painting, I have employed bright vivid colours, often brushing them on the canvases without blending or mixing. The effect may be jarring to some viewers, but it is how I remember these scenes from my boyhood. When we are young, our world is bright and colourful; it is aging that dim’s our visions.   

104.  12x16  1997  Queen at Yonge looking west in 1948

Painted in 1997, the painting entitled, “Christmas Eve—1948,” is my favourite among those in this series. It most accurately reflects my boyhood memories of blustery evenings when we departed the old Eaton’s Store at Queen and Yonge Streets. It was often after 5pm, when the sun had plunged beneath the horizon and the lights of the city sparkled in the December darkness. It was on occasions such as this that my fascination with streetcars commenced and it has never departed.

The view in the painting gazes west from Queen Street East toward Yonge Street. The Christmas wreaths in the windows of the Bank of Montreal, on the northeast corner, and the decorated trees in the windows of the Simpson’s Store (now The Bay), on the southwest corner, create yuletide warmth on a snowy winter night, the wind whipping the thick flakes of white around the brightly-lit buildings. As a child, I thought it was magical. 

198.  18x24  1995 College and Yonge in 1948    

The intersection of Yonge and College (Carlton) Streets in 1948. The large building on the right-hand side is the old Eaton’s College Street Store. The painting is 18”24,” acrylic on stretched canvas, painted in 1995. Compared to the previous painting, the scene is calm, the wind more gentle, the dominance of blue hinting at  the bitterly cold temperatures, despite the bright red of the streetcars and the sign on the Kresge Store.  When writing this post, I noticed that “Kresge” is misspelled in the painting.

                    90.  20x24  1990 Bay St. in 1934

View gazing north on Bay Street in 1934, acrylic on stretched canvas, 18” x 24”, painted in 1990. This painting is not from the memories of my youth. I was fortunate to locate a copy of the book that the City of Toronto published in 1934 to commemorate the centennial of the incorporation of the city. In the book was a small black and white sketch of Bay Street. It was the inspiration for the painting, supplemented with archival photos and sketches done on location of the old buildings that remained on Bay Street in 1990. 

151.  18x24  1990 Qunne gazing toward Yonge in 1908

This is painting was created through archival photographs. The scene gazes east on Queen Street toward Yonge Street, c. 1918. The Eaton’s and Simpson’s (now the Bay) stores are visible. The Bank of Montreal, on the northeast corner of Yonge and Queen can also be seen. This building now contains an entrance to the Yonge Subway. The painting is 18”x20”, acrylic on stretched canvas, painted in 1990.

          55.  11x14  1992  Queen and Yonge in 1948

This colourful winter scene, painted in 1992, depicts shoppers boarding a Yonge streetcar to return home on “Christmas Eve in 1948.” The warmth of the family kitchen and loved ones awaiting them is foremost in their thoughts. The shoppers ignore the biting December winds, thinking of the happiness the contents of the bulky parcels that they carry will create when Christmas morning dawns. As the scene unfold, stores are being shuttered, the frantic yuletide shopping having ended, winter’s darkness quietly descending around them. The Yonge streetcar in the painting will circle Union Station at its south terminus and on its northern route travel as far as the city limits, on the brow of the hill overlooking Hogg’s Hollow. The TTC streetcar contained a small stove, fuelled by coal, to warm the passengers. Christmas morning would descend in a few hours, a time span that excited children considered a lifetime.

This scene is pure fantasy, the streetcar much larger than reality, occupying a greater portion of Yonge Street than is possible. The bright solid colours generate warmth on a cold winter canvas. As a child, I thought streetcars were larger than ocean liners, magical vehicles that transported me to wondrous locations like Kew Gardens, Woodbine Beach, the Humber River Valley, High Park and the ferry docks to journey to Centre Island.

The exaggerations of memory are a vital part of our past. Reality is something that awaits us when are older or have become teenagers, which when we were young children, meant the same. Anyone in their teens was an older person.

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

To view previous blogs about 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 relates anecdotes and stories of the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

              Note: This is a book of memories.

                      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 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Store and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791

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), the Photodome, 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 St. Clair Theatre—Part II

Series 2182, A-35099-1   DSCN0127

          The St. Clair Theatre c. 1950. City of Toronto Archives, Series 2182 

The St. Clair Theatre, at 1154-1156 St. Clair Avenue West, was a few doors east of the intersection of Dufferin Street and St. Clair Avenue West. I first caught a glimpse of this movie house in the early-1940s, when I was a child and accompanied my mother when she went shopping on St. Clair. The shops along the avenue were a great attraction for her as the alternative was to travel downtown on a Bay streetcar. For me, the big attraction was the huge German Shepherd in the Bell’s Shoe Store. The dog was featured on the cover of the scribblers given to children who visited the store. On the back cover were copies of the multiplication tables. It was a promotional technique that was highly effective. Today, such advertising gimmicks appear as if they belong in the Mediaeval ages.

Map of 1154 St Clair Ave W, Toronto, ON M6E 1B3

                               Location of the St. Clair Theatre

I also remember my father talking about the St. Clair Theatre. After he immigrated to Toronto in 1921, it was a favourite hangout for him and his six brothers since they were living nearby, on Earlscourt Avenue. On hot summer evenings, they often cruised along St. Clair Avenue, trying to catch the eye of a pretty young woman. If my dad were successful, he invited the gal to attend the St. Clair Theatre. During the show, somehow his arm found its way around her shoulder. Perhaps my grandmother overheard my father’s stories about the theatre and this was one of the reasons she objected to movie theatres, fearing that they promoted promiscuous behaviour.

In 1948, my family began attending a church located near Dufferin and St. Clair and I strolled past the theatre on my way to Sunday school. On these occasions, I remembered my dad’s stories about his youthful indiscretions and longed to be of sufficient age to perform a few of my own. Alas, I was forced to be content with the Sunday school teacher’s version of Sampson and Delilah. I was certain that a film version of this tale would be much more risqué. Unfortunately, when “Sampson and Delilah”was released in January 1950, it was an “adult” film and I was too young to purchase a ticket. In 1953, I saw the film “Salome,” starring Rita Hayworth, and my suspicions about bible stories were confirmed.

The St. Clair Theatre was built by the Allen brothers in 1921. They already owned Allen’s Danforth, Allen’s (Tivoli) at Adelaide and Victoria, Allen’s Bloor (Lee’s Palace) and Allen’s Parkdale (The Parkdale). The architect of the St. Clair was C. Howard Crane, at the time employed by the firm of Hynes, Feldman and Watson. The St. Clair’s yellow-brick facades on the south and east were unadorned, except for decorative stone detailing below the cornices. However, similar to other Allen theatres, the interior was tastefully extravagant, especially the high ceiling with its ornamental plaster trim and classical detailing. The theatre successfully displayed the luxury that Allen patrons expected.

However, in the 1920s the theatre possessed no air conditioning, which was uncomfortable during Toronto’s hot summer days and evenings. When my father said that he had “hot times” in the back rows of the St. Clair Theatre, perhaps I misunderstood what he meant. The St. Clair has the distinction of being the only theatre in the world visited by my grandmother. She saw the movie “Captains Courageous” in it in 1937. She lived to be 96 years old and never again darkened the doors of a theatre. Perhaps my grandfather should have sat with her in the back row and cuddled her during the suspenseful parts of the film. On the other hand, she might have considered this to be “Promiscuous behaviour.”

The theatre was extensively renovated in 1950, when new seats were installed. The popularity of the St. Clair Theatre remained throughout the 1950s, but when television caused attendance to dwindle in the 1960s, the theatre was no longer profitable. The wonderful auditorium the Allen brothers had created was divided into two screening spaces. For a few year, Italian films were shown, but this venture also eventually came to an end. The property along St. Clair had greatly increased in value and developers were anxious to purchase the building. It was sold and the space divided into shops. Fortunately, the building survives to this day, though few would ever guess that it was once a highly popular movie house.

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March 15, 1920, streetcar on St. Clair, with Allen’s St. Clair Theatre visible in the background. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1251, file 231, It. 0226

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         Auditorium of the St. Clair, Ontario Archives AO 2178

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Canopy and marquee of the St. Clair, with the entrance and box office visible. Ontario Archives AO 2181

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View of the auditorium from the stage area, revealing the magnificent ceiling and the large balcony. Ontario Archives, AO 2179

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      The site of the former St. Clair Theatre during the summer of 2014.

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

To view previous blogs about 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 relates anecdotes and stories of the author and others 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 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Store and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791

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), the Photodome, 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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