Legislative buildings at Queen’s Park in 2014.
In 1827, a royal charter was granted by King George IV for the establishment of an Anglican university—the University of King’s College. Bishop Strachan arranged for property to be purchased for the university in 1828; the site chosen was to the northwest of the town. It included the land that today encompasses Queen’s Park and the Provincial Legislature.
In 1847, a bill was signed in the legislature declaring that King’s College was to be secular. Bishop Strachan relocated his faculty to a site inside today’s Trinity Bellwoods Park, and named the institution Trinity College. In 1849, King’s College changed its name to the University of Toronto. In 1853, the provincial government took possession of a portion of the university’s property as a site to erect new legislative buildings. In 1859, the university leased a section of its grounds to the City of Toronto for a period of 999 years. A public park, Queen’s Park, was created and officially opened by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) on September 11, 1860. The legislative buildings were eventually referred to by their location within this park — “Queen’s Park.”
Between 1879-1880, the legislature, then located on Front Street, authorized a design contest for new legislative buildings and 13 architects competed for the contract. However, the lowest bid was $613,000, which the legislature deemed too expensive. As a result, they postponed the project.
In 1885, Richard Waite, an Englishman by birth who was living in Buffalo N.Y. was given the contract. His price was $750,000, which was considered acceptable considering the previous bids. It is interesting to note that the eventual price was $1,227,963. Construction commenced in 1886. Waite chose the Richardsonian Romanesque style for the building, similar to Toronto’s old City Hall.
The buildings at Queen’s Park contained massive stone blocks, creating the appearance of an heavy fortress, with Roman arches and domed towers that were ornamented with carvings and intricate trim. The pink sandstone for the walls was quarried in the Credit River Valley, the larger blocks carried by horse and cart to the grounds and carved to fit on-site. The roof was covered with slate from Vermont and the domed roofs on the towers were sheathed with copper. In the interior, the panelling and floors were oak, the columns of cast iron. The building possessed a centre block, with wings on the east and west sides. It was completed in 1892, and the first session of the legislature was held on April 4, 1893, with Premier Oliver Mowat officiating.
In 1909, a fire severely damaged the buildings. E. J. Lennox, who designed the Old City Hall, was hired to design the restoration. He added two extra floors to the west wing to create more office space, and changed its hipped roof to a gabled roof. He also added a north wing to the building.
The author is grateful to discoveryport.ontla.on.ca for details about the materials employed in creating the legislative buildings.
Legislature 1891-1893 (Toronto Archives, F1478, id.0004(1)
View of the buildings in 1913, after it was restored following the fire of 1909, the west wing (to the left of the centre block) then containing a roof with gabled windows. Photo from Library of Congress, 18546(1)
View of the legislative buildings, gazing northwest from the Toronto General Hospital on College Street in 1913. The north wing on the back of the buildings is evident. Toronto Archives. F1231, it 0208
View of the legislative chamber in 1929. Toronto Archives, S0071, it.6939
View c. 1900 gazing south on University Avenue from the doorway of the legislative buildings. At the turn of the 20th century, University Avenue had not been widened and was flanked by mature chestnut trees. Photo from Ontario Archives, 10014189
View gazing north on University Avenue from near College Street in 1959. Photo from the author’s collection, from an Ektachrome 35mm. slide.
Picnic on the lawns in front of the Ontario Legislature on July 1, 1974. Photo from author’s collection, from a Kodachrome 35mm. slide.
Romanesque tower on the west side (left photo) of the centre block, and on the east side (right photo).
View from the second floor of the open three-storey covered courtyard in the interior that resembles a Roman peristyle. It creates the appearance of a reflecting pool.
View of a hallway on the ground-floor level, the oak floors and panelling evident.
The legislative chamber, with a view of the spectators’ gallery on the upper left. (Photo May, 2015)
Desks of the members of the provincial parliament (MPPs) in the chamber.
Room within the lieutenant governor’s suite that is employed for hospitality.
Fireplace in the room used for hospitality at Queen’s Park
View of Queen’s Park in November 2014.
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To view previous blogs about movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern
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.
To place an order for this book:
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)