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Monthly Archives: September 2015

Plans for Waterworks Building at 505 Richmond Street West

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View of the Waterworks building, gazing north on Brant Street toward Richmond Street West. The structure’s east facade and a small portion of the south facade are visible (photo, September 2015)

The Waterworks Maintenance building at 505 Richmond Street West is an architectural gem that has survived for over eighty years in the heart of downtown Toronto. Because it is a designated Heritage Site, despite the many condos erected in the area, is has escaped the wrecker’s ball. There are now plans to restore and revamp the structure to contain facilities that will benefit many residents living in downtown Toronto.

The building hearkens back to an era when great care was lavished on public buildings, even though their main purpose was utilitarian.  The complex was constructed in 1932, on the site of the former St Andrew’s Market, which was established in 1837. For a link to the history of the Waterworks Maintenance Building and St. Andrew’s Market: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/12/06/torontos-architectural-gemsthe-water-maintenance-building-on-richmond-street-west/ 

When the city vacated the Waterworks building a few years ago, it opened the possibility of it being redeveloped for other purposes. The Waterworks complex actually consists of nine buildings of different heights — single storey, two storey, and three. When it was occupied by the Waterworks, the “Pattern Storage and Shop” occupied the three-storey section, while the “Machine Shop and Heavy Storage” were in the one-storey section, which possessed an extra-high ceiling. This was necessary as it contained moveable cranes. The facades of the buildings vary in design, but do not exhibit much symmetry. They are faced with a pleasing yellow bricks, except one building on the south side that has red bricks. The trim is limestone, quarried in Queenston, Ontario. Limestone also comprises the base of the facades that face outward toward either the street or the park. 

When the buildings were erected in the 1930s, they were considered a new architectural style, one that emphasized the horizontal rather than the vertical. This was viewed as revolutionary, since during the previous two decades of the 20th century, commercial builders had been obsessed with reaching for the skies, each commercial structure in the downtown stretching higher than its predecessor. However, in the early-1930s, some architects felt that horizontal buildings were the way of the future. They reasoned that because the decade was an era of increasingly numerous passenger flights, tall buildings would threaten aircraft. Constructing them horizontally would reduce this risk. The idea may appear quaint today, but it was a serious consideration in that decade. The Waterworks was one of the buildings that reflected this concept. No architect in the 1930s could ever have imagined that increased land prices would make this idea totally impractical, or that technology would remove the danger of aircraft flying over skyscrapers. 

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The left-hand photo is of a one-storey building in the complex. It has no limestone on its base as it faces the interior courtyard. The right-hand photo is of a building that is three-storeys. It faces Richmond Street.

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                               Two-storey section on Brant Street. 

The following quote is from the book “Smart Address, Art Deco, Style Moderne, and their Contemporaries in Toronto.” Published in 2013 by the Toronto Architectural Conservatory. Article is by K. S. Gillies and the Staff of the City of Toronto, Departments of Buildings, Architects.

“The Waterworks Maintenance Buildings comprising office buildings, heavy, medium and light storage buildings, machine and repair shops and storage, garage, paint, salvage and miscellaneous storage, are a step in the right direction. Though built for a civic department they are with the exception of the office building, industrial in character and use but there is little of the stereotype factory building about them. Both in mass and in detail they show a rather welcome freedom from hackneyed repetition. In the detail one is conscious of an earnest effort to break new ground, to substitute simplicity of line and form for the so often unnecessary ornamentation of the traditional styles, styles which do not seem suitable for the time or use to which these buildings are put.”

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         View of the building from the corner of Brant and Richmond Streets.

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View of the two-storey south section of the complex, with St. Andrew’s Playground to the south (left-hand side) of it. The vertical windows have dogtooth-brick patterns on either side. It is one of the few deviations from the simplicity of form that the building displays. However, the pattern is not particularly noticeable, so the overall appearance remains true to the original concept of being unadorned.

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Close-up view of the dogtooth brick patterns beside the windows on the south facade of the building, overlooking St. Andrew’s Playground.

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This entrance on the north side of the Waterworks Building, facing Richmond Street, is perhaps the one small area where there is a little exuberance in the architectural style. The doorway is surrounded by Queenston Limestone, and the design is symmetrical. The latter feature is not common throughout the buildings. 

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View of the wrought iron gates at the exit from the centre courtyard in the complex. It leads to Maud Street.

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Other areas of the structure where Queenston Limestone is employed for trim.

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Construction of the Waterworks Building on May 6, 1932. The view gazes northeast toward Richmond Street. The buildings on the north side of Richmond, on right-hand (east) side of Augusta Avenue, is where the condo 500 Richmond is located today. The building in the top right-hand corner of the photo is the first Salvation Army Citadel erected in Toronto.  Photo Toronto Archives, S0372, SS0001, item 1117.

April 30, 1931. s0372_ss0001_it1116[1]

View gazing west toward Maud Street of the site of the Waterworks Maintenance Building in April 1932. On the wall that is supported by timbers, blocks of Queenston limestone have already been placed under the windows, which will face the inner courtyard. The houses in the distance, on Maud Street, have since been demolished, but the large building, E. Pullan Paper Stock at 20 Maud Street, still exists today, though it has other occupants. Toronto Archives, S0372, SS0001, Item 1116.

April 16, 1932  s0372_ss0001_it1111[1]

This view also gazes east, on April 16, 1932. The spire of St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church at Bathurst and Adelaide Street is visible. Toronto Archives, S0372, SS0001, Item 1111. 

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View gazes south on April 30, 1932, from the Richmond Street side of the construction site. In the upper left-hand side of the photo is Brant Street School. Toronto Archives, S0372, SS0001, Item 1115.

May 6, 1032. s0372_ss0001_it1118[1]

View of the construction gazing west toward Brant Street on May 6, 1932. Camden Street is also visible, stretching east toward Spadina. The photo provides a good view of the south side of the Waterworks Building, overlooking St. Andrew’s Playground. In the photo, the windows extend closer to the ground than today, as the lower portions of them were later bricked-in. In the distance, the large buildings are 460 Richmond Street, and the Fashion Building at Spadina and Camden. On Brant Street are the houses that were demolished to create a parking lot, where eventually the condo  50 Camden Street was erected. On the right-hand side of the photo is St. Andrew’s playground, where there is a wading pool and a pavilion, the latter containing washrooms and indoor space for special events. Toronto Archives, S0372, SS0001, Item 1118.

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Photo shows the windows on the south side of the Waterworks complex, facing St. Andrew’s Playground in September 2015. The lower portion of the windows are bricked-in. Future plans for the building include reopening these windows and extending them to ground level to allow pedestrian access to the building from the park.

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View of the buildings gazing north on Brant Street toward Richmond, with St. Andrew’s Playground on the left.

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Interior of the south building of the Waterworks complex. The door at the far end opens on to Camden Street. Photo, September 2015.

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Interior view of the south building, revealing the skylights and the enormously high ceiling.

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The south building has a Heritage Floor that consists of wooden blocks. They are in poor shape but will be restored.

The following is a quote from a bulletin that Counsellor Joe Cressy published online. It provides information about one of the proposals for the future of the Waterworks Maintenance Building.

The proposed YMCA will be located in the Waterworks building at 505 Richmond Street West, a designated Heritage structure and BUILD Toronto property.  BUILD has been working over the past few years to develop a holistic plan for the property, which will include residential development, heritage restoration, and a link to the neighbouring Saint Andrew’s playground.  The new 50,000 square foot YMCA facility, which will include program space and a full-size swimming pool, has been included in the overall plan for the building.

On  the east side of the Waterworks building, the space will altered to facilitate “Phoenix Rising,” which offers courses and accommodation for at-risk youths, providing courses that teach skills to allow the youths to re-integrate into the community.

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Space on the east side of the Waterworks building that will be occupied by Phoenix Rising. Photo taken 2015.

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     Plans for the space that Phoenix Rising will occupy in the Waterworks Building.

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Councillor Joe Cressy who spoke at the community meeting in the spring of 2015 that announced the plans for Phoenix Rising. He is the city counsellor for Ward 20, where the Waterworks building is located and has spent many hours on this project. Mayor Tory was also in attendance.

To read more about the proposals for the Waterworks Building, follow this link: http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2015.EX8.15

To contact Counsellor Joe Cressy’s office for further information: www.joecressy.com/contact

The Garden District web site also provides information about the Waterworks building; www.GDNAToronto.org


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View of the Waterworks from the corner of Maud and Richmond Streets.

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

To view previous blogs about movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern—and Toronto’s Heritage Buildings:

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Balcony (container) gardening in Toronto

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The photo of my terrace was taken in mid-September of 2015. Container gardening is tricky at the best of times, as Toronto’s summers are short and wintering plants is difficult. However, I ignore the drawbacks, as I consider the terrace similar to a cottage, a retreat from the busy world, but without the bother of facing the traffic on Ontario’s highways. We owned a cottage for many years, but being older, a terrace more than compensates for the lost pleasures of a retreat in the country. This would not be true for everyone, but it suits me admirably. Because container gardening requires less labour than either a cottage or a backyard garden, I have more time to sit on the terrace reading a book on my Kobo, enjoying dining outdoors, or simply relaxing and with a glass of wine. Almost no weeding is required when growing plants in containers and I have an automatic watering system, which I purchased at Canada Blooms for less than $150. It has worked well for the past 12 years, so after the garden is planted in late-May, I have very little work.

The percentage of Toronto’s population living in condominiums and apartments increases annually. Growing plants in containers is big business, with tomatoes, basil and other herbs particularly popular. I have been container gardening for over 40 years, and though I am certainly not an expert, I thoroughly enjoy it. I faithfully attend Canada Blooms each spring, but I am always disappointed that so little attention is given to container gardening.

I am fortunate that my terrace faces south, but in Toronto during the summer months, even a northern exposure provides much sunlight. Fifteen year ago, when I chose containers for the terrace, I purchased the largest pots and planters that were practical for the size of my outdoor space. It is 200 square feet, so is perhaps larger than some condos, but my previous condo balcony was only 48 square feet, and I took great delight in planting it each spring as well. However, I had hanging baskets on it and placed planter boxes on the railing as the floor space was quite limited.

I enjoy including perennials in my terrace garden, particularly evergreens as they offer greenery during the winter months. On the advice of the nurseries, I purchased Alberta spruce and boxwood. I also purchased a chokeberry bush as they bloom in early spring. They told me that if they lasted five years in pots, I was doing well. Mine have lasted much longer, with great care given to wintering them. Our climate is very hard on plants in containers, particularly the last few winters, as  they were exceptionally cold. Each autumn, I place mulch around the perennials. However, the side of the evergreens that is exposed to the wind tends to dry out and they lose leaves (or needles). Burlap can protect them, but I am rather lazy and cannot be bothered. This winter I intend to spray them in November with “Wilt Pruf,” as I am told that it prevents this from happening. I bought it in a nursery and will give it a try.  

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I have found that double-potting plants helps maintain perennials during the winter. Both pots are plastic, the outer pots being white to reflect the winter sun. The inner pots can be any colour, as they are not exposed. The air space between the pots helps insulate the inner pots from thawing on mild days. Employing this technique, I have been very successful with hosta. It is the alternate freezing and thawing of the roots of the plants that kills them. 

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I have two Alberta Spruce, which are also in double pots. The winter of 2016 will be their fifth winter. Alberta spruce tend to become root-bound after a few years and eventually lose needles. I will not purchase any more of them when the two trees that I presently have die off. 

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This boxwood plant has survived twelve winters in a planter box that is of sufficient size that the soil does not thaw during mild spells in winter. It stays green all year so is ideal.

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This chokeberry bush has survived five winters, and is also in a large planter. It has white blossoms in spring and produces purple berries in late-August.

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The berries on the chokeberry bush are the colour and size of blueberries, but are more sour. They would be good for jams or jellies. I cut them off and discard them, as when they fall to the decking they stain it. I do not care to make either jam or jelly. You guessed it. I am too lazy!

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For the last three years I have planted grafted tomato plants, their commercial name being “Mighty Mato.” They are tomato plants that have been grafted onto a stronger variety. They tend to be expensive ($12.00 per plant) but for me, they are worth the price. My tomato plants this year were seven feet tall and yielded an abundance of tomatoes. I bought only two plants, and placed them in the largest pot I own. During the growing season, I trimmed the leaves to allow more light to penetrate to the interior. This produced more fruit and because the air circulated well around the leaves, there was no blight. The above photo was taken on September 18, 2015.

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Last fall, I collected the seeds from a snapdragon plants that I particularly liked. I planted them indoors last April and transplanted the seedlings in late-May. I placed them at the back of my boxes, as I knew they would grow tall. 

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I planted sweet alyssum as a border and was surprised when they became trailing plants that covered sides of the boxes. It was perfect, as they did not compete with the begonias for sunlight, and they bloom until late in the season. I chose begonias as my main annual this year as they do not require dead-heading, bloom the entire summer, and their leaves do not turn brown in August. I like petunias and verbena, but the leaves at the bottom of the stems turn brown in August.

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I planted only yellow and red begonias this year. They were spectacular, growing beside the while alyssum. These photos were taken on September 20, 2015.

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I reserve one section of my garden for herbs. I prefer the perennial variety and all of them have survived for the last ten years, despite the previous two bitter winters. The plant in the foreground is tarragon, to the right of it is garlic chives, and behind them are chocolate mint and thyme. 

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This rosemary plant is ten years old. It is in a pot, which I bring it indoors each autumn. The plastic pot has no bottom, as I used a strong pair of scissors to cut it out. Each year, I bury the rosemary in the soil in the large container box. It grows roots in the soil all summer. In the autumn, I pull up the pot, cut off the summer’s growth of roots, and bring the plant inside. This stunts its growth, so it is like having a “bonsai” rosemary bush. Even after ten years, it is an appropriate size for indoors and provides rosemary all winter.

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Basil and parsley are the only annual herbs that I grow. I prefer Italian basil as it has a stronger, more pungent taste. This is the result of two small plants purchased at a corner store in the Kensington Market. I usually place a few flowers around the basil plants to add colour, though they are not visible in this photo.

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I always buy curly parsley and plant it among the flowers. It is quite showy. I thin it regularly so that sunlight is able to reach the interior of the plant. This promotes growth and prevents the inner leaves from turning yellow.

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The dark-red coleus plants in the pot in the centre of the table are from cuttings that I kept in a jar of water all winter. I have kept cuttings from this variety for the last 20 years. It is particularly hardy and very aggressive. The other colours of coleus I purchased last spring.   

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Last September (2014) I purchased two pots of purple asters at a store on Queen Street and planted them in the soil in the boxes to provide autumn colour. To my delight, they came up in the spring. I transplanted them to the rear of the boxes as I knew they would become quite tall. I went on-line and discovered that in mid-June, I should cut the plants in half. They re-grew during July and August, and now (September), I have a great display of blossoms. Photo taken September 20, 2015.

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On the east side of the terrace there is an unsightly wall of cement blocks from the building next door. Engelmann ivy is fast growing and soon covered the wall beautifully. This ivy is now twelve years old. Planted among the ivy there are three clematis, which add colour to the wall of greenery. They had finished blooming when this photo was taken in mid-September. The herb section and the pot of rosemary are in front of the ivy. In the corner is an ornamental grass.

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Clematis covers the west side of the terrace, visible in the background of the picture, growing against the metal balcony divider. It is supported by a trellis. I purchased clematis varieties that were hardy to zones 3 or 4. If they are zone 5 or above, I have had no success in wintering them in containers. They are also in large container-boxes to prevent their roots from thawing in mild spells during the winter. Two years ago all my clematis died because of the severe winter. I believe it was the ice storm that killed them. The clematis in the photo are now two years old. The ones that were killed were ten years old.

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        This photo was taken in July when the clematis were in full bloom.

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                      The west side of the terrace on September 18, 2015.

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I planted ornamental grasses this year to replace two Alberta spruce that were almost dead. The ornamental grasses are very hardy and grow tall to provide great background for the annuals. The grass that I selected was North Sea Wild Oats. It is a perennial and hardy to –40 degrees Celsius. The seeds from the grasses provide food for the birds in winter.

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Photo of the west side of the terrace. In the centre of the photo (in the corner), is a clump of North Sea Wild Oats.

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

 

 

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Toronto’s first bank—the Bank of Upper Canada

1851- b2-11a[1]

The Bank of Upper Canada, Toronto’s first bank, was chartered on April 21, 1821, only 25 years after Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe departed the tiny settlement of York. In that year, the town possessed approximately 2000 inhabitants, with 209 houses, 27 shops, and 5 storehouses. It was realized that for the town to grow further, it was necessary to have a local bank, to eliminate the need to journey to Montreal or New York to secure loans. In response to the need, a group of wealthy and influential businessmen created the Bank of Upper Canada. Many of the residents of York were not too pleased that all the directors of the new bank were Tories, and thus closely aligned with the Family Compact. Undeterred, the businessmen elected William Allan as the first president of the bank. He was among the wealthiest men in the province and highly regarded by his peers. The above sketch of the second building of the bank is from the collection of the Toronto Reference Library (B2 11a).

The Bank of Upper Canada opened in July 1822, in converted store on the southeast corner of  Frederick and King Street East. In 1827, it relocated to the northeast corner of George and Duke Street (now named Adelaide Street), on land purchased from Sir William Campbell, whose mansion was on Duke Street. The new premises were two and a half storeys, built in the neo-classical style, constructed of white stone blocks. Its impressive porch was designed by John G. Howard, who in later years donated to the city the land that became High Park. The porch of the bank was added in 1844, in the classical style, supported by four large Doric columns on its south side. Its door possessed rectangular sidelight windows, with a semi-circular transom window above it. Above the porch there was a balcony. The interior of the bank was trimmed with mahogany.

In 1841, Upper and Lower Canada became the Canadas (Canada West and Canada East). In 1849, because of the riots in Montreal, the capital of the Canadas was moved from Montreal to Toronto. The same year, the Bank of Upper Canada was granted the right to mint copper coins.

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A one-penny token issued by the Bank of Upper Canada in 1857. (Photo from www.coinquest.com)

The bank was successful and assisted greatly in financing projects that helped the town to grow. It instituted the branch system of banking, assuring that Toronto would become the financial centre of the province. It also protected people’s savings, though it offered no interest on the customers’ accounts. It had no rivals in York until the 1830s, when other banks were formed or banks from other cities opened branches. They commenced paying interest on customers’ deposits, and the Bank of Upper Canada was forced to follow their example. In 1857 the decimal system for currency was introduced, based on the American system, replacing pounds with dollars.

However, in 1857 there was an economic crisis. The Crimean War ended the year before and lucrative war contracts disappeared. This greatly affected the bank, but it continued offering loans to land speculators, particularly those investing in land for railways. The situation improved when the American Civil War commenced in 1861, as merchants in Toronto sold supplies to the North, even though Britain had recognized the South. When the war ended in 1865, there was another business slump. In 1866, the combination of bad loans, a poor economy, and competition from rival banks, of which there were now eleven, caused the Bank of Upper Canada to fail.  

In 1870, the building was purchased by the De La Salle Institute, a Roman Catholic school for boys. They constructed a three-storey building with a Mansard roof on the east side of it and joined the two structures to create a single building. In 1874 they bought Toronto’s first post office next door to it, adding it to the other two buildings. Mansard roofs were added to the bank and the post office to create the appearance that the three buildings were all one structure.

The school remained on the premises until 1913. In 1914, the former bank building housed the Royal Flying Corps Recruiting Centre. After the war, the three buildings were purchased by Christie Brown and Company, Canada’s largest baking company. In 1956, the bank building was empty and during the next few years it began to  deteriorate. Finally, it was purchased by Sheldon Godfrey and his wife Alice, who restored it. In 1978, the bank building was designated a National Heritage Site.

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The Bank of Upper Canada building in 1872, on the corner (on the left-hand side of the photo), when it was owned by the De La Salle Institute. The school’s new building is next door to it, on the right-hand side. Photo Toronto Reference Library, r. 2858

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Photo taken prior to 1874 as there are no Mansard roofs on either the Bank of Upper Canada building or the three-storey Toronto’s first post office (right-hand side). Ontario Archives, 10002092.

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Diagrams of the railings above the bank’s porch, as shown in Eric Arthur’s book, “No Mean City.”

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              Diagram of the porch as shown in Eric Arthur’s book, “No Mean City.”

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The buildings in the 1960s, prior to restoration, the Bank of Upper Canada on the far left-hand side. Toronto Archives, F0124, fl 2, id. 19.

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View of the porch from its west side in 1978, Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, item 40.

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Gazing east along Adelaide Street at the buildings in July 1978. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, fl 0053, id. 49.

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The three combined buildings in 1978, prior to restoration. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, fl. 0053, id. 0053.

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Same view in September 2015, the planted trees having matured, partially obscuring the buildings.

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The doorway in January 1978, Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, Fl.0053, id 0035.

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     The porch and doorway of the former bank on September 15, 2015.

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                                      The portico in September 2015.

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View of the Bank of Upper Canada Building erected in 1827, in September 2015.

The author is grateful for the information contained in www.lostrivers.ca and www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca

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

 

 

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Toronto’s first Post Office

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Near the northeast corner of Adelaide and George Streets, at 252 Adelaide Street West, is one of the city’s most historic structures — Toronto’s first post office. Erected in 1833, it was an important commercial and social centre for the town of York, in the days when it was in a remote colonial province of the British Empire. Despite its isolation, York was a bustling settlement as it was the capitol of the colony of Upper Canada. Postal service was vital as it was the town’s only connection to the outside world, especially to relatives overseas.

In the 1830s, Canada did not have its own postal system. The delivery of mail was controlled by the imperial government in London, which appointed a Post Master General for British North America, who was responsible for the various local postmasters. Only a man of considerable financial means was capable of fulfilling the duties of a local postmaster. This was because the position required that the person pay out of his own pocket for the construction and maintenance of the building that housed the post office, the salaries of the employees, and for any equipment and supplies required.  

Despite these drawbacks, James Scott Howard was proud to be appointed the postmaster for York in 1828, as the position was lucrative and it gave him considerable prestige within the town. Born in Ireland in 1798, he had immigrated to Upper Canada in 1820. Working at first from log cabin, he prospered and was eventually appointed the postmaster, even though he was not considered a member of the elite of the town. This was because he was a Methodist, not an Anglican as were the members of the Family Compact. However, his reputation for integrity and hard work earned him the position. 

Howard purchased land from the Bank of Upper Canada and erected a fine Georgian building on Adelaide Street, which was then named Duke Street. At a cost of 2400 pounds, it was a three-storey structure of red bricks, with a plain symmetrical design. In that era, it was common for merchants to live in the same building as their business enterprises. To accommodate this arrangement, the post office contained two entrances, one on the west that allowed access to the postal facilities, and another doorway on the east that led to the family residences on the upper floors.

The Bank of Upper Canada was to the west of the post office, a vacant lot separating the two structures. The stately home of Chief Justice William Campbell was to the east of the post office. The St. Lawrence Market was nearby, allowing families and farmers who attended the market to easily retrieve their mail. The new building was the fourth such facility that had served the postal needs of the town. When York was incorporated as a city and renamed Toronto in 1834, Howard’s building became the city’s first post office.

Following the Rebellion of 1837, Howard was accused of being a rebel sympathizer. Because of these unsubstantiated rumours, he was dismissed from his position in 1838, even though no charges were ever laid and nothing was ever proven. The fact that he was not a member of the elite group of the city, undoubtedly influenced this decision.

During the years ahead, the building had many different occupants. In 1870, the De La Salle Institute, a Roman Catholic boys’ school, purchased the Bank of Upper Canada building and the vacant lot to the east of it. The school erected a three-storey building on the vacant lot, with a Mansard roof, and altered the roof of the former Bank of Canada to match it. In 1874, they bought bought the old post office and added a Mansard roof to it as well. The three structures were joined to create a single building. The school operated on this site until 1913.

The last occupants of the joined buildings departed in 1956. The old post office, which occupied the eastern portion of the structure was empty, along with the two adjoining structures. They soon began to deteriorate and were in danger of being demolished. Fortunately, the structures were eventually purchased by Sheldon Godfrey. The old post office was rediscovered and restored. It was designated a National Historic Site in 1978. Today, it is a museum, but is also a fully functioning post office.

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The above picture depicts a section of a model of the town of York that is on display in Toronto’s first post office on Adelaide Street. The building on the left is the Bank of Upper Canada, and to the right of it is a vacant lot. Toronto’s first post office, with its two entrances, is to the right of the vacant lot. To the right of the post office is a brown structure. To the right of it is the home of Chief Justice William Campbell. The latter building was relocated in 1972 today is situated on the northwest corner of University Avenue and Queen Street.

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A watercolour by Owen Staples that today is in the Baldwin Room of the Toronto Reference Library. It was painted from a photograph of the building taken in 1869.

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The building as it appeared in September 2015. The Mansard roof on the structure was added in 1874, when De La Salle Institute purchased it.

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Toronto’s first post office on the north side of Adelaide Street (on the right), the De La Salle Institute building to the left of it, and the Bank of Upper Canada building to the left of it, hidden behind the trees.

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    Portrait of James Scott Howard, on display today in the post office. 

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The left-hand photo is of the entrance to the post office, on the west side of the building. The right-hand photo is of the east entrance, which gave access to the residence of the family on the floors above. 

                   March 1982, f1526_fl0053_it0059[1]

The doorway of the post office in March 1982, the year prior to it opening as a museum. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, It.59

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The restored building opened as a living museum in 1983, and is today a functioning post office. It is the oldest surviving such facility in Canada as it is from the British colonial period.

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The reading room in the post office was where people opened and read their mail, and then, composed a reply and mailed it. This was necessary as many customers travelled considerable distances to retrieve their mail, and a return visit might entail a journey of several hours or sometimes an entire day. If a person were illiterate, a staff member at the post office would read the letter to its recipient and also write a reply for them.  

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      A desk in the reading room with the necessary equipment to write a letter.

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Photo of the building that was the De La Salle Institute, taken in 1978, prior to its restoration. The Bank of Upper Canada is the western (left side) of the structure, the centre section was constructed by the Institute, and the first post office is to the right of it, on the eastern side.  The three buildings appear as if they are a single structure, as the Mansard roofs unify them. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, Item 30.

c. 1900  I0002092[1] 

Gazing east on Adelaide Street from near George Street, prior to 1874, as neither the post office (far right) or the Bank of Upper Canada (foreground) have  Mansard roofs in this photo. Photo from Ontario Archives, 10002092.

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                                 Toronto’s first post office in 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[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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