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Monthly Archives: July 2016

Toronto’s Yonge Street Arcade (demolished)

1885- pictures-r-1494[1]

      The Yonge Street Arcade in 1885, Toronto Public Library r- 1494

When the Yonge Street Arcade was built, it presented a revolutionary concept in the retailing history of Toronto. It was inspired by the 19th-century glass-roofed gallerias of Europe, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan, Italy, being one of the prime examples. By the 1880s, Toronto’s retail trade was increasingly dominated by three highly successful stores — the Golden Lion, Eaton’s, and Simpsons. Smaller merchants had difficulty competing as there were few downtown rental spaces that were affordable. The Canadian Loan and Investment Company realized that this presented an opportunity for a profitable enterprise. It purchased land on the east side on Yonge Street, at 131-139 Yonge Street, opposite Temperance Street. The site extended east from Yonge to Victoria Street, where its postal address was 18-26 Victoria Street.

On the land, they proposed erecting a shopping arcade with multiple small-sized retail spaces. Charles A. Walton, an architect born in Leeds, England, was hired to design the building. He created a four-story structure on Yonge Street, its facade of red bricks and Ohio sandstone. Similar to most 19th-century architecture, it contained classical ornamentation, including Corinthian pilasters (three-side columns). On the north and south ends of the facade facing Yonge Street, atop the fourth floor, there were small ornate towers, and a taller tower in the centre position. The enormous arched entranceway, two storeys in height, led to a galleria behind the four-storey structure.

The galleria, 267 feet in depth, was three storeys in height. The roof was crowned by a cast-iron frame that supported sheets of plate glass. It was 35 feet wide, and soared 120 feet above the ground floor. It flooded the interior with natural light, the building’s steam heating protecting shoppers from Toronto’s bitter winter weather. The galleria was similar in concept to the Eaton’s Centre and Brookfield Place of today, although the latter two have the benefit of air conditioning.

The Yonge Street Arcade was the first structure in Toronto that resembled a shopping mall, though it was much smaller than those of today. Construction commenced in 1882, and it was officially opened in the summer of 1884 as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the city’s incorporation (1834-1884). The ground floor contained 32 shops. Wide staircases and hydraulic elevators permitted shoppers to access the second floor, where there were 20 more shops, connected by a balcony. On the third floor, there were artists’ studios and an assortment of offices. The shops were only 12 feet in width, although those on the first floor possessed full basements. The leases signed by the retailers stipulated that shops were not allowed to duplicate products and items that other merchants sold. This was to ensure as much variety as possible for shoppers.

I remember visiting the Yonge Street Arcade in the early 1950s as there was a philatelic (stamp) shop on the ground floor, near the Yonge Street entrance. I was an avid stamp collector at the time. Collecting stamps was a highly popular hobby in those years, as it provided an opportunity to collect authentic souvenirs from countries throughout the world. This hobby has now been eclipsed by more modern collectables, although philatelic shows still exist. 

By 1950, because the Arcade had not been well maintained, it was deteriorating. In 1953, there were two fires in the building, their causes never determined. In January 1954, merchants were ordered to vacate the premises. It was not demolished until 1955, when the site became a paved parking lot. In 1960, a ten-storey building was erected on the site. It contained retail shops on the ground floor, and above them, mainly offices. In 2008, vertical rows of LED light were installed on its west facade. 

It is a pity that Toronto lost this historic structure to the wrecker’s ball.

Sources: www.blogTo.com   torontoist.com  thenandnowblogspot.com  William Dendy, “Lost Toronto”

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Google map of the site of the Yonge Street Arcade on Yonge Street.

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A booklet prepared for the official opening of the Arcade in 1884. Toronto Public Library, r- 1520

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Interior view of the Arcade in 1885. The gentlemen in the photo are standing on the balcony that connected the 20 shops on the second-floor level. On the ground floor, the Yonge Street entrance is visible at the mall’s west end. Toronto Public Library, r-1493.

Ont. Archives, 1911-1913- I0009549[1]

View looking north on Yonge Street from near Adelaide Street c. 1912. The four-storey Arcade building on Yonge Street is visible, and behind it, the cast-iron three-storey galleria with the glass roof. To the north, in the far upper left-hand corner of the photo, is the Confederation Life Building at Yonge and Richmond Streets, constructed on 1890.  Ontario Archives, 10009549.

btw, 1911-1913, Ont Archives I0009551[1]

The camera is pointed south on Yonge, from near Richmond Street, between the years 1911 and 1913. Ontario Archives, 10009551.

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View of the ground-floor level of the Arcade in 1952,Toronto Public Library r-1478.

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View of the ground-floor level of the Arcade in 1952, Toronto Public Library, r-1480

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View looking south on Yonge Street in 1952. Toronto Public Li8brary r-1481.

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View of the Arcade, gazing east from Temperance Street in 1952. Toronto Public Library, r-1484.

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Gazing east on Temperance Street at the ten-storey building that was constructed on the site of the Yonge Street Arcade. On the left is the restored Dineen Building, on the northwest corner of Yonge and Temperance Streets. Photo taken on July 26, 2016.

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Gazing north on Yonge Street from Adelaide Street. The ten-storey white office building is on the site once occupied by the Yonge Street Arcade. The Confederation Life Building can be seen to the north of it. Photo taken July 26, 2016.

Photo of the Yonge Street Arcade taken by Luis Fernandes on October 8, 2010. View looks east on Temperance Street.

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

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2016/03/02/tayloronhistory-comcheck-it-out/

The publication entitled, Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” was written by the author of this blog. It 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 by 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 Shop, and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

                                 image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb    

Another book on theatres, published by Dundurn Press, is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It contains over 125 archival photographs and relates interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating histories.

The book is available at local book stores throughout Toronto or for a link to order this book: https://www.dundurn.com/books/Torontos-Local-Movie-Theatres-Yesteryear

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

Another publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. For further information follow the link to Amazon.com  here  or contact the publisher directly by the link shown below:

http://www.ipgbook.com/toronto–then-and-now—products-9781910904077.php?page_id=21

 

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Toronto’s Bluebell ferry (decommissioned in 1955)

1920- Tor. Lib.  964-6-41[1]

The Bluebell in 1920, in Toronto Harbour, photo from the Toronto Public Library, 964-6-41 

The Bluebell was built at the Polson Iron Works, located on The Esplanade between Frederick and Princess Streets. Constructed in 1906, the ferry was a double-decked, double-ended vessel that accommodated 1450 passengers. It was the largest in the fleet of eight Toronto island ferries owned by the Toronto Ferry Company. Two enormous side paddles propelled it forward, powered by steam generated by its coal furnaces.

In the first decade of the 20th century, when the Bluebell was launched, automobiles were beyond the means of most families, as were journeys by bus out of the city. In summer, Torontonians flocked to the city’s parks, especially Sunnyside and Scarborough Beach. The temperatures beside the water were comfortable compared to the hot city streets. Travelling to Centre Island, Hanlan’s Point and Ward’s Island was considered a special treat, the ferry ride across the harbour a major part of the enjoyment.   

My earliest recollection of the Bluebell was in the 1940s, when my family journeyed to Centre Island for picnics. My father always took my brother and me below deck, where there was a large window that allowed passengers to peer into the engine room. On these occasions, I gazed in wonder at the enormous pistons that turned the side paddles, mesmerised by their size, the loud thumping and swishing sounds adding to the thrill. However, we usually did not remain below deck long, as it was hot and stuffy, and we returned to the open deck above to enjoy the refreshing breezes of the lake.

On one of the voyages on the Bluebell, my uncle, George Brown, who was the captain of the Bluebell, invited us to climb to the top deck where the wheelhouse was located. I remember gripping the iron ladder so tight that my knuckles turned white, my heart pounding in my chest. I felt that I was danger of falling into the lake, as the ladder extended out from the side of the vessel, the threatening water swirling directly below me. The view from the wheelhouse was magnificent, but when we descended the ladder to return to the passenger deck, it was even more frightening than when we had climbed up. I was about five years old at the time, and being suspended in space from a great height was a terrifying experience. 

When the Bluebell was christened in 1906, because of its size, it was employed to transport passengers to Hanlan’s Point, where the city’s main baseball stadium and an  amusement park were located. It was not until 1928 that it commenced ferrying passengers to Centre Island and Ward’s Island. Due to increased crowds journeying to Hanlan’s Point, a sister ship, the Trillium, joined the fleet in 1910. The Trillium cost $75,000, so it is likely that the Bluebell’s construction entailed a similar amount.

By the 1950s, more people were purchasing automobiles and traffic to the islands began to diminish. The demise of the baseball stadium and amusement park at Hanlan’s Point caused a further decease in the number of passengers crossing the harbour. The Bluebell was decommissioned in 1955. Its superstructure was removed, and its hull converted into a scow to haul garbage out into the Lake, where the trash was dumped. Finally, the hull of the Bluebell was sunk to create a breakwater at Tommy Thompson Park, near the eastern gap.  The ferries that replaced the Bluebell, which remain in service today, were diesel powered.

Polson Iron Works, 1926 - pictures-r-4418[1]

The Polson Iron Works in 1926, on the Esplanade, between Frederick and Princess Street, where the Bluebell was constructed. Toronto Public Library, r-4418 

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Launching of the hull of the Bluebell in 1906. Toronto Public Library, el-25h

Chuckman's POSTCARD - TORONTO - HANLAN'S POINT - FERRY BLUEBELL - CROWD OF PASSENGERS - NICE VERSION - 1909[1]

View of the Bluebell at Hanlan’s Point in 1909, from Chuckman’s postcard collection.

Bluebell, June 6, 1927.   s0071_it4964[1]

The Bluebell on June 6, 1927. Toronto Archives, S0071, Item 4964

Bluebell, June 11, 1932.  s0071_it9259[1]

The Bluebell at the Toronto ferry docks on June 11, 1932. Toronto Archives, S0071, Item 9259

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The Bluebell in 1942, Toronto Public Library, 964-40 

Aug., 1943 Uncle George  photo_26[1]

This photo was taken in August, 1943, by my cousin, whose father was the Captain of the Bluebell. She wrote the word “dad” on the photo to draw attention to her father, who was standing on the top deck, to the right of the wheelhouse.

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Toronto Island ferries in 1952, the Bluebell in the foreground. In the background is the Queen’s Quay Terminal Building. Toronto Public Library, S1-1419.

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The Bluebell in 1956, the year after it was decommissioned. Toronto Public Library, 1-3544.

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The Bluebell in 1957, after its superstructure was removed to convert it into a scow. Toronto Public Library, 1-3544.

           1957, during convertion to a scow--s1-4166c[1]

Below the deck of the Bluebell in 1957, when it was being converted to a scow. Toronto Public Library, S1-4166.

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

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2016/03/02/tayloronhistory-comcheck-it-out/

The publication entitled, “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” was written by the author of this blog. It 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 by 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 Shop, and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

                                 image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[1]    

Another book about the old theatres, which has been published by Dundurn Press, contains 80 of Toronto’s former movie theatres. It is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It contains over 125 archival photographs and relates interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating histories.

Link to order this book: https://www.dundurn.com/books/Torontos-Local-Movie-Theatres-Yesteryear

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

Another publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. This book will be released in June 2016. For further information follow the link to Amazon.com  here  or contact the publisher directly by the link shown below:

http://www.ipgbook.com/toronto–then-and-now—products-9781910904077.php?page_id=21.

 

 

 

 

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Toronto’s “World’s Biggest Book Store” (demolished)

Full side view of the World's Biggest Book store on Edward Street – April 16, 1981

World’s Biggest Book Store on Edward Street on April 16, 1981. Photo from the Toronto Archives, F1526, Fl001, Item 2.

I attended high school in the 1950s, when the Ontario Government did not pay for high school texts. On the Tuesday following Labour Day, my friends and I attended Vaughan Road Collegiate to discover which homeroom form we had been assigned, and to pick up a list of the texts that were required for the year’s studies. Following this, we visited the Coles Book at 720 Yonge Street. Coles possessed the largest supply of secondary school texts in the city, so it was possible to purchase all the books we needed in a single visit. The other advantage, was that Coles purchased used texts and resold them at a discount price. This often saved us money.

In 1953, I had a summer job at the Imperial Bank near Yonge and Bloor Streets, next door to the Pilot Tavern. On my lunch hour, I often strolled south on Yonge to the Coles store at 720 Yonge Street. I soon discovered that in the section displaying art books, there were photographs of naked figures, which art students employed for drawing the human form. Being a teenager, I was far to embarrassed to ever buy one of the books, but they were great to peruse for a cheap thrill. I always gazed around to be certain that no one was aware of the books I was looking at.

Coles was a vital part of Toronto during the days before e-books. In 1935, Carl E. Cole and his brother Jack, opened a second-hand bookstore near Bloor Street and named it Cole Books. In 1937, they purchased the Robert Barron property at 720 Yonge Street and opened a larger store. In 1948, they began publishing Coles Notes, which provided detailed and simplified notes about various topics that related to the secondary school curriculum. Student who had failed to keep proper notes during classes often bought them when exam time arrived. This is why they were often referred to as “cheat books.” Eventually, Coles Notes covered about 120 titles. Due to increased book sales, in 1952, they extended the store into the shop next door, and eventually opened other stores across Canada.

In 1974, the Barron Building that housed the store, was declared a Heritage building, as it had been built in 1889.

In 1980, Coles opened a 67,000 square-foot book store at 20 Edward Street, a short distance west of Yonge Street. They named it, “The World’s Biggest Book Store,” and though its name was not truly accurate, it was one of Canada’s first book superstores. It had previously been the site of the Olympic Bowling Alley, which was architecturally an enormous box-like structure. The store contained two storeys, was brightly lit, and had garish yellow walls. Despite these features, it contained small intimate areas, where customers could examine books before deciding whether or not to purchase them. It’s a pity that the store at 720 Yonge Street did not possess these spaces when I was a teenager ogling nudie books.

Because the store remained open late into the evening hours, people sometimes browsed for an hour or more. The store was located not far from A&A Records and Sam’s Records, which also attracted late-night customers. Thus, the World’s Biggest Book Store was an integral part of the night scene on Yonge Street. I personally liked the store as I was able to find books by authors that other stores did not stock. I also purchased many books that were deeply discounted. The store had large bins with books that were half-price or more, and clearance sales were frequent. The store eventually carried gift cards, souvenirs, stationery, and even toys.       

In 1995, Coles Books and W. H. Smith books merged to form a new company named Chapters. The following year, Chapters merged with Indigo Books to create Chapters/Indigo. However, with the introduction of the internet and the rise of e-books, the store on Edward Street was too large to remain profitable. It is a wonder that it lasted as long as it did. The building was sold to a real estate developer in February 2013, and the store was closed on March 30, 2013. The building was demolished to create a row of restaurants.

Personally, I felt that the city was diminished when The World’s Biggest Book Store closed. I spent many happy hours wandering its aisles. I now have a large selection on books on Toronto, many of which were bought in the store. However, after reading some of the comments posted online about the store, I realize that some people were pleased to see it close. Pity!

Sources: www.toronto.ca, urbantoronto.ca 

The  Star.com bookstoreturn.jpg.size.custom.crop.1086x753[1]

The camera is pointed west on Edward Street. Photo from the Star.com

CBC. worlds-biggest-bookstore[1]

Gazing west on Edward Street at the store. Photo from the CBC.

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Looking west on Edward Street at night, photo from blogTo – 2014225

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Interior of the store, photo from Metro News (the Star) dc_062012_04881e.

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The store during demolition, photo from Commercial Daily News.com, 002_RBI

empty lot, Sept. 19, 2016

The empty lot where the World’s Biggest Book Store was located. Photo taken on September 19, 2016.

Urban Toronto.ca 21238-72974[1]

The Robert Barron Building at 720 Yonge Street, which was once a Coles Book Store, photo from Urban Toronto.ca. In 1995, it became a Shoppers Drug Mart. The building is presently being restored as it is a heritage property.

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

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2016/03/02/tayloronhistory-comcheck-it-out/

The publication entitled, “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” was written by the author of this blog. It 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 by 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 Shop, and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

                                 image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb    

Another book, published by Dundurn Press, contains 80 of Toronto’s former movie theatres. It is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It contains over 125 archival photographs and relates interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating histories.

Link to order this book: https://www.dundurn.com/books/Torontos-Local-Movie-Theatres-Yesteryear

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

Another publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. This book will be released in June 2016. For further information follow the link to Amazon.com  here  or contact the publisher directly by the link shown below:

http://www.ipgbook.com/toronto–then-and-now—products-9781910904077.php?page_id=21.

 

 

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