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Monthly Archives: May 2015

History of the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)

Fonds 1244, Item 3058

Gazing north on Queen’s Park Crescent in 1930. To the north of the museum is the Park Plaza Hotel. Toronto Archives,  Fonds 1244, Item 3058.

My earliest memories of the Royal Ontario Museum date from the 1940s, when my father took my brother and me downtown to view a parade on University Avenue. When it started to rain, he decided that we should go into the museum. I was a young boy at the time, and the dinosaurs, the Egyptian mummy, and the mounted animals in the natural history section fascinated me. The other item that I vividly remember from this visit is the tall totem pole in one of the stairwells. From the basement level, it towered skyward to near the roof. Today, these same exhibits thrill children and adults alike.

The Royal Ontario Museum has a history that spans over a century. It began in the early 20th century, at a time when Toronto was growing rapidly and the need for a world-class museum was clearly evident. A small group of influential people sought funding from the Ontario Government and the University of Toronto. As a result of their efforts, the Ontario Legislature passed The ROM Act on April 16, 1912, and the long history of this venerable institution commenced.

The facade of the new museum was to face Philosophers’ Walk, near the intersection of Bloor and Queen’s Park Avenue. The architects for the building were Darling and Pearson. The walls of the structure were covered with pale chalk-coloured bricks and terracotta. The entrance was on the north side, facing Bloor Street. It was officially opened on March 19, 1914, by the Duke of Connaught, Canada’s governor general.

An addition was added to the museum 19 years later, opening on October 12, 1933. The original section of the museum became the west wing. The addition faced Queen’s Park Crescent, the building occupying the southwest corner of Bloor West and Queen’s Park Crescent. Its walls were faced with pale-yellow bricks and Ontario limestone. The architects were Chapman and Oxley, who chose the Beau-Arts style, with richly detailed classical symbols. The main entrance was on Queen’s Park Crescent, the combined structures creating a U-shaped building.

In 1967, the museum severed its connection with the University of Toronto and became a separate entity. The ROM, as most people refer to it today, was renovated in 1984, at a cost of $55 million. It was officially reopened by Queen Elizabeth II. The next major change to the museum occurred in 2007, when another wing was added, named the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, at a cost of $320 million. Its architect the world famous Daniel Libeskind, who relocated the main entrance to Bloor Street. The museum has in its possession 6 million artefacts and attracts visitors from all over the world, as well as those living in Toronto and the surrounding area. 

Fonds 1244, Item 3046

The original Royal Ontario Museum, facing Philosophers’ Walk, in 1913. Toronto Archives, F.1244, It.3046 (1)

Oct. 15, 1929--s0071_it7253[1]

The museum facing Philosophers’ Walk on October 15, 1929. Today, it is the west wing of the ROM. Toronto Archives S0071, It. 7253 (1)

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The 1933 addition to the ROM, facing Queen’s Park Crescent, photo taken the year it opened. The street in front of the museum is considerably narrower than it is today. Toronto Archives, F1244, It. 1140 (1) 

                        Aug. 1935.  f1231_it0683[1]

Main entrance to the ROM, facing Queen’s Park Crescent. The photo was taken in 1935. Toronto Archives, F1244, It. 0683 (1)

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The same entrance to the museum in 2012, after the entrance was relocated to Bloor Street West.

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The east facade of the ROM, facing Queen’s Park Crescent on May 28, 2015.

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View gazes west  on Bloor Street, the 1933 addition to the ROM visible, as well as the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal.

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             The Michael Lee-Chin Crystal facing Bloor Street. May 28, 2015.

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Entrance to the ROM on Bloor Street, in the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, May 28, 2015.

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      The court on the ground-floor level, inside the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, May 2015.

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 Photodrome, 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

 

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Toronto’s Boer War Monument

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Gazing north on University Avenue from south off Queen Street West on June 23, 1939. The Boer War monument is visible. The monument in the foreground is to Sir Adam Beck. Toronto Archives Fonds 1231, Fl1231, It1983.

The Boer War in South Africa commenced in 1899 and ended in 1902. It was the last of the great imperial wars fought by the British Empire. Between 6000 and 8000 Canadians volunteered to fight for Great Britain against the Afrikaners, who were settlers of Dutch heritage. The war was mainly fought against two Boer republics—the Orange Free State and the Transvaal Republic. About 90 Canadians were killed in combat and approximately 180 died of disease.

To honour those who had perished, Toronto officials chose Walter Allward to design a memorial. He was one of Canada’s most prominent sculptors. Born in Toronto on November 18, 1876, as a boy of 14, he worked with his father, who was a carpenter. Walter Allward attended Central Technical School and in Toronto studied under well-known Canadian sculptors William Cruikshank and Emmanuel Hahn. He later studied in London and Paris. Returning home, he apprenticed with the architectural firm of Gibson and Simpson. While in their employment,  he worked at the Don Valley Brick Works, where he modelled architectural ornaments. His first important commission was in 1895, to design a figure of “Victory” on a memorial to commemorate the Northwest Rebellion. The monument was located on the southeast corner of the grounds at Queen’s Park and can still be seen today.

In the first decade of the 20th century, mature chestnut trees flanked University Avenue, the broad roadway that led to Queen’s Park. Walter Allward’s South African monument was located at the south end of avenue, which terminated at Queen Street. It was not extended further south until the 1930s. When the monument was dedicated in 1910, Sir John French officiated. He unveiled a monument that possessed a granite column, at its base three figures cast in bronze. Two them were Canadian soldiers and the third was a symbolic representation of Mother Britain. At the top of the monument was a winged figure holding a golden crown. Crowds lined University Avenue for the occasion. On the east side of the avenue, a short distance north, was the Toronto Armouries, imposing a military presence at the scene. The armouries have since been demolished.

Allward was later to design the great memorial at Vimy Ridge to commemorate the First World War battle of April 1917, in northern France. The monument was dedicated in July 1936 by King Edward VIII.

unveiling by Sir. John French f1568_it0526[1]

Unveiling of the Boer War Monument by Sir John French in 1910, Osgoode Hall in the background, Fl 1568, It.0526

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The monument c. 1930, the Canada Life Building on the left and the Toronto Armouries in the distance of the right. Toronto Archives, Fl 1257, S.105, It 0191

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Walter Allwards’s South African (Boer War) Memorial in 2012, at University and Queen Streets.

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Allward’s three bronze figures at the base of the granite monument. The names of the battles in the Boer War are carved into the granite column.

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     The earnest faces of the soldiers at the base of the monument.

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                 The bronze figure representing Mother Britain.

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Winged figure holding a golden crown, at the top of the granite column.

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   The Boer War monument on University Avenue on May 18, 2015.

gazing south in 1931, Market Gallery

Gazing south from the Boer War monument on University Avenue in 1931. In that year, University Avenue terminated at Queen Street. The houses in the sketch, on the south side of Queen Street, were expropriated to extend the avenue further south. The Royal York Hotel is visible in the background. Sketch from the Market Gallery, Toronto.

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 Photodrome, 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

 

 

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History of Toronto’s CN Tower

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The CN Tower is perhaps Toronto’s most recognizable landmark, visible from almost any viewpoint in the downtown. Whether a person is entering the city from the east or the west, it is easily seen. Gazing at the city from the deck of a Toronto Island ferry, the tower dominates the skyline, towering above the tallest skyscrapers. Perhaps the most spectacular views are after dark, when 1300 LED lights illuminate the tower. These were installed in June 2007, the colours varying to suit the seasons, special events or holidays. On Canada day it is bathed in red and white, at Christmas in green and red, Halloween in orange, and the rainbow colours the week of gay pride. Throughout the year, the tower reflects the life and activities of the city.

The reason for its construction was to accommodate the communication needs of the city. By the 1970s, a tower with great height was needed as the tall buildings in the downtown core were interfering with communication signals. The initial drawings for the CN Tower were created by the architectural firm of  Baldwin and Franklin. However, the final designs were by Webb, Zerafa, Menkes, and Housden Partnership. Its cost was estimated to be between $50 and $60 million.

Built by CN Railways, its construction began on  February 6, 1973. For the foundations, over 50 metric tonnes of soil were removed, as it required digging down to the bedrock. The height of the tower was to be 1815 feet (553 metres), the equivalent of an 147-storey skyscraper. The shaft was 1100 feet (335 metres) high, topped by a seven-storey pod that would contain a revolving restaurant able to accommodate 400 guests. Inside the pod there was to be an observation deck that would provide a magnificent 360 degree view, stretching across Lake Ontario and the surrounding city on the other three sides. The final sections of the antenna were lifted into place by a Sikorsky helicopter nicknamed “Olga.” Construction was completed on April 2, 1975 and it was opened to the public on June 26, 1976. In that year, it was the tallest free-standing structure in the world, and maintained this distinction for 31 years. In 2007, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai surpassed it in height. 

In 1986, the world’s first flight simulator-ride experience opened in a complex at the base of the tower. In 1995, the tower was declared one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers. The others modern wonders were the Chunnel under the English Channel, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, the Panama Canal, the Empire State Building, Itaipu Dam in Brazil, and the North Sea Project off the coast of Europe. This

In 1996, two  elevators were added to the original four, all of them capable of whisking customers from the ground to the pod in less than a minute. In 1997, a 9000-bottle wine cellar was installed for the 360 Restaurant, creating the world’s highest wine cellar. The same year, Toronto-based Trized Hahn, a real estate conglomerate, began operating and managing the tower.  A 75,000 square-foot shopping and attractions complex was added at the base of the tower in 1998. In 2011, Edgewalk was built around the pod, a 1.5 metre ledge that encircled the structure. It allowed visitors to appreciate the 360-degree view while dangling outside the pod.

In 2014, Ripley’s Aquarium opened near the tower. Each year, the CN Tower attracts more than 2 million visitors.                 

              Fonds 1526, File 47, Item 3 

View from Front Street West on September 10, 1973. Toronto Archives, Fl.1526, fl 0047, It. 0003

2011915-cn-tower-construction-s1465_fl0240_it0091[1] mid-1970s

The tower is in the upper left-hand corner of this photo, taken in October 1973. City of Toronto Archives, S 1465, Fl 0240, It. 0091

                 Fonds 1526, File 47, Item 5

View on November 26, 1973, Union Station in foreground with smoke rising from its roof. Toronto Archives, Fl. 1546, Fl 0047, It. 0005

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           The construction of the tower in 1974, photo from CN Tower

                Fonds 1526, File 47, Item 10

“Olga,” the Sikorsky helicopter lowering the sections of the antenna on March 16, 1975. Toronto Archives, Fi 1526, Fl 0047, It.0010 

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Olga” the Sikorsky helicopter and the tower on March 23, 1975, Toronto Archives, Fi 1526, Fl0047, It. 0022 (1)

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The tower and its surroundings in 1977, a year after its completion. Photo, Brian Wilcox.

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“Top of the Universe”, the world’s first flight simulator-ride experience, Photo CN Tower.

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                             Sky pod and antenna in 2014.

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                      Tower from a downtown terrace, October 2014.

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Gazing south on Spadina Avenue from south of Queen West, October 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.  

                      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 Photodrome, 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 Gurney Stove Foundry, King Street West

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The Gurney Iron Foundry on King Street West on April 13, 1927. Toronto Archives, S0071, It.4812 (1)

The magnificent Victorian buildings, constructed of red and yellow brick, are among the oldest industrial structures in the city. The building on the east (closest to Spadina) is the oldest. With a history that spans almost a century and a half, the E. C. Gurney Company, originated in Hamilton, Ontario. Edward and Charles Gurney manufactured stoves and general castings. When business expanded, the Gurney brothers opened a retail store in Toronto at 91 Yonge Street. Edward Gurney Junior relocated to Toronto to manage the family business in the provincial capital, purchasing a residence at 209 Jarvis Street for his family.

During the 1870s, much of the land along King Street West was vacant, although it was privately owned. Children in the area ran freely in the fields, kicking a ball and shouting to friends to join in their game. In autumn, the grasshoppers flew in clouds as the children raced along the paths among the fields. In winter, they built snow forts, engaged in snowball fights, and employed creative cursing when they received a direct hit in the face. However, it was soon to change, as the natural playground was to be buried beneath an enormous industrial complex.

Intending to build a factory in Toronto, in 1872, the Gurney Company bought several of the lots on King, west of Spadina, and erected a four-storey building. Located on the east side of the property, its brick walls were particularly attractive, especially the yellow-brick designs above the windows and the yellow-brick pilasters (fake columns) that commenced at the ground level and rose to the top of the building. In 1872, the postal address of the factory was 356 King Street, but today it is 500–510 King Street West. They also constructed more buildings to the north of the King Street structures, but they have not survived into the modern era.

When  the building that today has the postal address 500-510 King Street opened, a newspaper advertisement stated, “Gurney Stove Foundry, manufacturing agent for the famed Buttan Heater.”

The business expanded and in 1887 they constructed a three-storey building to the west of the original site. Its address today is 522 King Street. A narrow laneway separated the two structures. During the following years, other buildings appeared to the north of the original two, but these have since been demolished.

The buildings deteriorated throughout the years ahead and their attractive facades were covered with a tin siding. In the modern era, when its owners decided to restore the buildings, they removed the tin, revealing the attractive brickwork. It now appears as it did in yesteryear. During the restoration, they replaced the cornices on both structures with metal trim.

In the laneway between the two surviving buildings on King Street, they erected a connecting passageway at the second and third-floor levels. Thankfully, it matches the two existing buildings. Today, multiple tenants are located within. With its polished original oak floors and massive wood beams of old-growth Canadian pine, it possesses some of the most handsome nineteenth-century rental spaces in the city.

Viewing these restored buildings today, it is difficult to imagine them being a part of a bustling, sooty, industrial complex, with hundreds of workers labouring in hot, fetid conditions to tend the furnaces, shovelling coal to keep the fires alive. It was an era when workers possessed few rights. Wages were poor and hours were long, usually nine or ten hours a day, six days a week. Lung disease and work-related illnesses were common.

To the modern eye, these factories appear pristine and quaint, their patterned brickwork attractive to behold. The massive pine pillars within them inspire awe, as no trees remain in Ontario to obtain such magnificent giants ever again.

No trace remains of the hardworking labourers who once worked on these premises. Evidence of their joys and sorrows has long departed the scene. Only the rattle of the streetcars on the street or the shout of a truck driver remind us of earlier days, when this was a busy industrial complex. The past has departed forever, but evidence of earlier days remains through the presence of these attractive historic buildings.

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The buildings that were formerly the Gurney Iron Foundry. Photo May 2015.

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                    Old Gurney Iron Foundry Building in 2015.

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              Passageway that was built to joint the two buildings together.

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South facade of the two buildings that were jointed by the passageway.

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 Photodrome, 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 historic Royal Alexandra Theatre

Tor. Pub. Lib. pictures-r-4963[1]

The Royal Alexander Theatre in August, 1955 , Toronto Public Library, r-4963-1

In the 19th century, King Street was one of the most fashionable residential streets in Toronto, as well as its most important business thoroughfare. Government House, the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario was located at Simcoe and John Streets, the location of today’s Roy Thomson Hall. The prestigious private school, Upper Canada College, was at one time located at the same intersection, on the northwest corner.

In the first decade of the 20th century, a group of business men, its most important member Cawthra Mulock, decided to finance the construction of a theatre to showcase legitimate theatrical productions. Most of them would be touring shows from London and New York. They purchased an 100-foot-wide lot at 260 King Street West, on the north side of the street, between Simcoe and John Streets. It had at one time been part of the previously mentioned campus of Upper Canada College.  

The syndicate hired the architect John M. Lyle, who in later years was to design Union Station on Front Street. For the theatre, Lyle chose the style that he preferred and had specialized in—Beaux-Arts classicism. It was constructed on a steel frame, which was not common in that decade. The exterior walls and floors were reinforced concrete, over two feet thick, and the walls were covered with yellow bricks. It had a Mansard roof with eye-windows inserted in it on three sides. The balconies were constructed of reinforced concrete on steel frames. There were no internal pillars, so no seat in the theatre would have an obstructed view. Sandstone blocks were placed on the facade facing King Street to create an imposing dignified appearance. The theatre was electrified so that no candles or gas lamps were required for stage or house lights, reducing the risk of fire. The stage’s fire curtain contained asbestos, woven on steel wire. There was also an automatic sprinkler system, its water supply contained in a cistern on the roof. There were sprinklers in the ceiling of the auditorium, as well as encircling the stage area and around the curtains. When it was built, it was the only truly fire-proof theatre in North America, setting the standard for theatres throughout the continent.

The stage was 45 feet wide and 35 feet in depth. The 17-foot wings were of sufficient size for the demands of most productions. Behind the stage were dressing rooms and washrooms. The space above the stage possessed extra height to accommodate most scenery and stage sets. Though the theatre was smaller than those in London and New York, the Royal Alex was a “road house,” meaning that touring groups arrived with their own scenery, which tended to be on a smaller scale than in-house productions. In the two balconies and box seats on the sides, as well as in the orchestra sections, there were plush comfortable seats. Every detail was observed to create excellent acoustics, and the auditorium was shaped according to these principles. In summer, storage spaces under the floor contained blocks of ice, so that in hot weather, vents in the floor allowed cool air into the theatre. This was in the days prior to air conditioning.

Royal permission was granted to name the theatre after the consort of King Edward VII, Queen Alexandra. It opened on August 26, 1907 with the musical production “Top O’ Th’ World,” starring  Harry Fairleigh and Anna Laughklin. During the many decades ahead, productions of Oklahoma, Kiss Me Kate, The King and I, Call Me Madam, and the Wizard of Oz had their Toronto premiers at the “Royal Alex,” as theatregoers usually refer to it. As well, Gilbert and Sullivan Operas and productions from New York’s Metropolitan Opera have been featured at the theatre.

By the late-1950s, the area surrounding the theatre had deteriorated and it was in danger of being demolished for a parking lot. In 1963, Ed Mirvish purchased the theatre for $215,000. He was quoted as saying that any real estate deal where the asking price was less than the value of the land alone, was a great buy. Mirvish restored the theatre to its early-twentieth- century grandeur and reopened it on September 9, 1963, featuring the play, “Never Too Late.” It was the beginning of the renaissance of King Street West. Today, the Bell Lightbox and Princess of Wales Theatre complement the historic Royal Alexander. It is one of the oldest continuously operating theatres in North America.

Note: I am grateful for the information contained in the book, “The Royal Alexandra Theatre” by Robert Brockhouse.

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                                                The theatre in 2012.

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                     The canopy of the theatre on King Street West.

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                                        Entrance doors on King Street.

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                             Architectural detailing of the cornice.

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                                      Interior view from the stage.

May 2012

              View of the theatre from David Pecaut Square in May 2012.

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 Photodrome, 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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Old Bank of Montreal—Queen and Yonge

December 30, 1913  f1231_it2036[1]   1913

The former Bank of Montreal at 173 Yonge Street on December 30, 1913. Toronto Archives F 1231, It. 2036.

In the first decade of the 20th century, the podium of the office tower on the northeast corner of Yonge and Queen was the site of a branch of the Bank of Montreal. When it was built, it was at one of the city’s most important intersections, sharing its advantageous location with Toronto’s two largest retailers— Eaton’s and Simpson’s. The Simpson Store is now The Bay and the site of Eaton’s is incorporated within the Eaton Centre.

The Bank of Montreal was built in 1910, designed by the architects Frank Darling and John Pearson. They chose the Italianate Renaissance style, containing a myriad of classical detailing. The windows and the doorway facing Yonge Street were richly ornamented with garlands, leaves and wreaths. The west and south facades were clad with terracotta tiles that imitated carved stone; they were supplied by Doulton and Company. The building was designed with a heavy cornice at the top, with large modillions (brackets) beneath it.

In the banking hall, in the interior, the ornate classical designs displayed on the facade were continued. Marble trim and intricate plaster mouldings added to the impressive space. The support beams in the ceiling were covered with plaster representations of flowers, fruits, and ornamental leaves. In its day, bank customers were greatly impressed by the grandness of the building, both interior and exterior.

At the beginning of the 21st century, rather than demolish the bank, its facades were restored and the interior renovated to create an entrance to the Yonge Subway. The banking hall was converted into a pedestrian space to accommodate those entering or departing the subway. Fortunately, the marble trim and classical designs were retained. A cafe was also included, where customers were able to appreciate the craftsmanship that the building displays.

Because of the bank’s excellent location, to make better use of the site, on top of the old bank they constructed an office tower of glass and steel. Despite the changes that the many decades have imposed, the bank remains an important architectural feature of  the intersection, similar to when the bank was the only building located on the northeast corner of Yonge and Queen Streets.

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Gazing north to the intersection of Yonge and Queen at noon on August 31, 1929. The bank is partly obscured by a Queen streetcar. Toronto Archives, Series 71, S0071, It.7132

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The former Bank of Montreal building in 2014, the sunlight and shadows on its facades appearing as attractive as when it was built.

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The west facade of the bank in the summer of 2014, when there was a pedestrian area on Yonge Street with planter boxes.

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The bank’s doorway on Yonge Street (left) and a close-up view of the trim surrounding it (right).

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Intricate designs in the overhanging cornice, the space beneath it, and the detailing above the doorway.

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The former banking hall in 2014, where there is now a pedestrian space for people entering and departing the subway. The cafe is visible on the right-hand side of the photo.

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Arches in the ceiling covered with plaster containing intricate designs of flowers, fruit and leaves.

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                  Large south windows of the banking hall in 2014.

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   The bank and office tower that was built above it. Photo taken in 2014.

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               The bank on a summer night in 2014.

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                        The former bank and the tower above it in 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.  

                      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 Photodrome, 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

 
1 Comment

Posted by on May 13, 2015 in Toronto

 

Toronto’s historic Fairmount Royal York Hotel

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The Fairmount Royal York Hotel, at 100 Front Street between Bay and York Streets, is one of Toronto’s outstanding architectural gems. The land where the hotel is located has played an important role in the life of city since the early decades of the 19th century. When the first buildings on the property were constructed, the site was close to the shoreline of Lake Ontario. In the ensuing years, the city pushed the water’s edge further south by dumping landfill into the lake.

The first buildings on the site appeared in 1838, when Captain Dick, a wealthy steamboat captain, constructed four brick townhouses, which he named the Ontario Terraces. In 1844, Knox College purchased the properties and renovated them to contain classrooms and administrative offices. In 1856, Mr. Sword  bought the houses and joined them into a single building to create a hotel, which he named after himself. He managed it until 1859, when Captain Dick again purchased it and renamed it the Queen’s Hotel. He modernized the property, added an extension on the north side, and placed a cupola on the roof. It was soon the city’s most elite hostelry and dining establishment, renown for its furnishings and gourmet cuisine. At one time, it was the only hotel in Toronto with steam heating. Because the establishment was not far from the third Provincial Parliament Meeting, located at Front and Simcoe Streets, legislators used the hotel as a home away from home. In the hotel, meetings attended by Sir John A. Macdonald were instrumental in leading to confederation in 1867. The future King George V stayed at the Queen’s, as well as several American presidents. The Queen’s closed in 1927, heralding the end of an era.

Oct. 15, 1915--f1231_it1108a[1]

   The Queen’s Hotel on October 15, 1915. Toronto Archives, F.1231, It. 1108a

The venerable Queen’s Hotel was demolished in 1927 and the construction of a new hotel commenced the same year. It was to be premier hotel in the chain of Canadian Pacific Hotels, a division of the Canadian Pacific Railways. When completed, it was the largest hotel in the British Commonwealth and the tallest building in the city. This remained true until the following year, when the Bank of Commerce on King Street claimed the title. The hotel’s architects were Ross and Macdonald, with the firm of Sproat and Rolph. They chose the “Chateau Style, reflecting the Art Deco trends of the 1920s. The facade facing Front Street was symmetrical. The Royal York possessed a copper roof and touches of the Romanesque in its many arched windows.

When it opened on June 11, 1929, it boasted 28 storeys, with 1048 rooms, including a library, ballroom (concert hall), ten elevators, and many other luxurious amenities. It was in one of the most advantageous locations in the city, as it was directly across from Union Station, in an age when railways were the major means of long distance travel.

When the east wing was added to the Royal York in 1958, it increased the number of rooms to 1600. The CP Hotels joined with the Fairmont Hotels in 1959, and today the  hotel is known as the Fairmont Royal York Hotel.

Fonds 1266, Item 14885

The Royal York viewed from York Street on September 17, 1928, when the hotel was under construction. Toronto Archives, F1266, It.14885 (1)

Fonds 1266, Item 18046

The Royal York, viewed from the CP Railroads roundhouse on September 26, 1929. City of Toronto Archives, F1266, It.18046 )1)

Fonds 1244, Item 259B  

The S. S. Cayuaga entering Toronto Harbour in 1931, the Royal York Hotel the dominating the skyline. Toronto Archives. F1244, It.0259B .

                Fonds 1266, Item 16910 

The ballroom on opening night of June 11, 1929. Toronto Archives, F1266, It.6910(1) 

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             Lobby of the Royal York during the Christmas season of 2014.

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                  View of the Royal York in 2014, gazing east on Front Street.

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The upper portion of the hotel, containing the copper roof and ornate architectural detailing that was typical of the Chateau Style.

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Touches of Romanesque architecture, with rounded arches above the windows. There are Corinthian plasters inserted between the windows.

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                  The south facade of the hotel 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.  

                      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 Photodrome, 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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