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Monthly Archives: October 2016

History of Toronto’s Swiss Chalet

Series 1465, File 280, Item 19

Toronto’s first Swiss Chalet on Bloor Street West, the entire block of buildings in the photo demolished in 2002. Photo from the Toronto Archives, taken between the years 1980 and 1998, Series 1465, File 10280, Item 0019.

The first Swiss Chalet opened in 1954 at 234 Bloor Street West, near the northeast corner of Bloor and Bedford Road. It was the beginning of a restaurant chain that was to become an icon of Canadian family-style dining. It became so popular that it was reported that a Canadian once jokingly quipped, “If America is such a great country, why don’t they have a Swiss Chalet?” This was prior to the chain opening outlets in the United States.

The founder of the chain of restaurants was Maurice Mauran of Montreal, in partnership with another businessman. In 1948, before opening in Toronto, Mauran introduced his barbequed-style chicken in Montreal, in his Chalet-Bar-B-Q restaurants. Apparently he was inspired by the Swiss method of cooking chickens, which consisted of skewering the birds on a spit and roasting them over an open flame. Because the birds rotated on the spit, they cooked in their own juices.

The first Swiss Chalet was located on busy Bloor Street, in close proximity to Varsity Stadium and Varsity Arena. As it was an instant success, two more restaurants were opened. One of them was at 362 Yonge Street, which still exists, and another one was on Yonge Street south of St. Clair.  The decor in the dining room of the restaurant on Bloor Street contained carved dark-wood panelling, dark ceiling beams, and small fake windows with frilly cotton curtains. It was an attempt to create the appearance of a Swiss mountain hideaway, such as in the children’s story, “Heidi,” by Joanna Spyn.

As a teenager in the 1950s, I dined in all three of these sites, mainly when attending movie theatres located within walking distance of them. The chickens were barbequed in an oven containing glowing charcoal, which imparted their unique taste. The prices were reasonable, and being teenager with a bottomless gut, I always ordered the half-chicken dinner. The restaurant on Bloor Street also had a banquet room in the basement level, for private functions. I was in this space on one occasion, with a group that performed in Varsity Arena, later in the evening. There were about 35 of us, and we enjoyed the meal immensely.

Before cooking, the chicken were rubbed with salt, and then, roasted for an hour and fifteen minutes. At the Bloor Street site, in the 1950s, the chicken was served with fries or  a baked potato, the fries cut daily rather than previously frozen. The meal also included dipping sauce and half of a toasted hamburger bun. A small bowl of water, with pieces of lemon in it, allowed a patron to rinse the fingers after eating. There were no ribs or other items on the menu; these were added during the years ahead.

I enjoyed the chicken immensely. However, I recently read some online reviews, and although there were many who enjoyed the meals, there were some that did not. However, I did not read any comments that indicated that the reviewers were aware that the chicken was roasted over real charcoal. Some compared it with St. Hubert chicken, which was roasted, not barbequed, and the sauce was more like home-style chicken gravy. I enjoyed it as well, but I preferred the chicken at Swiss Chalet.

I found it interesting that Maurice Mauran was also the creator of Harvey’s Hamburgers. His first location opened in 1959, on the southeast corner of Yonge and Observatory Lane in Richmond Hill. Similar to his Swiss Chalet, the burgers were flame grilled, and said to be the first in Toronto to employ this method. An article in the Telegram newspaper reported that Mauren had intended to name his hamburger restaurant “Henry’s.” However, while flipping through the telephone directory, he noticed an ad for John Harvey Motors at 2300 Danforth Avenue, known as Harvey’s. He liked the sound of the name, and decided to call his restaurant “Harvey’s.”

In 1963, Mauran opened a Harvey’s on Bloor Street, a few doors west of his Swiss Chalet. In 1977, the chain was bought by Cara Foods, and was operated by Toronto-based Foodcorp Limited, a subsidiary of the parent company. In 2002, there were 190 outlets in North America.

Mauran later became a highly successful mutual funds manager, possessing residences in England, Monaco, and Ft. Lauderdale.

The entire block of buildings where the first Swiss Chalet was located was demolished in 2010 to erect a 32-storey condominium named 1 Bedford. It overlooks the rebuilt Varsity Stadium. As a footnote, Cara Foods purchased St. Hubert Chicken in 2016 for $577 million. That was certainly not “chicken feed.”

Sources: everything2.com, www.thestar.com (Bill Taylor) and www.blogto.com (Chris Bateman).

c. 1912  2011713-varsity-stadium-1906-10-f1244_it0528[1]

View gazing east on Bloor Street c. 1912, the north side of the street (left-hand side of photo) containing large residential homes. Bedford Road is directly across from Varsity Stadium. Structures were added across the front of these homes, where the lawns were, to convert them into commercial premises. The building containing the first Swiss Chalet does not appear to be in one of them. It is likely that the home on the site was demolished to create a new building. Toronto Archives, Fond 1244, Item, 0528. 

  Series 1465, File 280, Item 19

The surroundings of the first Swiss Chalet at Bloor and Bedford Road. The roofs of some of the old homes remain visible. Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 10280, Item 0019.

                           DSCN1121

Gazing toward the northeast corner of Bloor and Bedford Road in October 2016. The 32-storey condo (1 Bedford) occupies the block where the Swiss Chalet and the Harvey’s were located. 

DSCN8176

The Swiss Chalet at 362 Yonge Street, which was among the first outlets in Toronto. Photos taken in 2014.

DSCN8175

 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/

Books by the Blog’s Author

Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” 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, published by History Press:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in most book stores such as Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox and AGO Book Shop. It can also be ordered by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

                                 image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[2]    

Another book on theatres, published by Dundurn Press, is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It explores 81 theatres and contains over 125 archival photographs, with interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating histories. Note: an article on this book was published in Toronto Life Magazine, October 2016 issue.

For a link to the article published by |Toronto Life Magazine: torontolife.com/…/photos-old-cinemas-dougtaylortoronto-local-movie-theatres-of-y…

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. It contains archival and modern photos that allow readers to compare scenes and discover how they have changed over the decades. Note: a review of this book was published in Spacing Magazine, October 2016. For a link to this review:

spacing.ca/toronto/2016/09/02/reading-list-toronto-then-and-now/

For further information on ordering this book, follow the link to Amazon.com  here  or contact the publisher directly by the link below:

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

 

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St. George the Martyr, Anglican, destroyed by fire 1955

                      1909, ,  f1244_it2162[1]

The Anglican Church of St. George the Martyr, view gazing north on John Street (Toronto) from Queen Street in 1909. In the distance is the Grange, now part of the Art Gallery of Ontario. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 2162.

The Anglican Church of St. George the Martyr at 197 John Street dates from 1844. Located on the northeast corner of Stephanie and John, it was built when Toronto’s population was only 18,000. Land for the church was donated by the Boulton family, which resided at the Grange. The land was part of their estate, which had been Park Lot #13, granted to Charles Wilcox in 1793 by Lieu. Governor Simcoe.

The architect chosen for the church was Henry Bower Lane, who designed Toronto’s first City Hall on Front Street, which is today incorporated into the St. Lawrence Market. Bower also worked on additions to Osgoode Hall on Queen Street West. For the new church on John Street, he chose the Gothic style, which was very popular for sacred structures in that decade. The congregation named the church St. George the Martyr, the patron saint of crusaders, as well as of England, Portugal, Germany, Aragon, Catalonia, Genoa, and Venice. 

The church possessed a large nave, with a balcony at its west end, the seating capacity being 750 people. The Gothic spire that towered above the entrance on John Street reached 150’ into the air. It was said that it aided ships sailing into the harbour.

In the decades after it was consecrated, the congregation continued to increase, resulting in a parish school being constructed in 1857. The rectory was added in 1865, and the parish hall in 1876. The church ministered to the community surrounding it, its two Sunday schools accommodating 400 children each Sunday. Congregants paid a fee to reserve a pew for morning services, but during evening services, pews were free for everyone. This was a common practice in many churches in the 19th century.

At the turn of the 20th century, the neighbourhood near the church began to change and attendance slowly dropped. Finally, St. George the Martyr amalgamated with the congregation of St. Margaret’s, on Spadina south of Queen Street, with the understanding that all pews were henceforth to be free. During World War I and World War II, the congregation greatly supported the troops overseas, making a considerable contribution. On the honour roll, denoting those who gave their lives in the wars, there are 280 names. In 1945, the church celebrated its 100th anniversary of faithfully serving the community.

During the early morning hours of February 13, 1955, a fire demolished much of the church, only the rectory, the tower and its bell, and the parish hall surviving. The cause of the fire was never determined. From the ruins, six men removed the altar from the interior, which was covered with ice from the water from the firemen’s hoses. Remarkably, the silver, brass, and some of the linens were also rescued.     

The congregation decided that rebuilding the church was not possible due to the enormous costs. The ground floor of the minister’s home (the rectory) was altered and employed for services. In 1957, renovations of the parish hall had been completed and it was then used for services, concerts, and other community events. The same year, the area where the nave had been was a garden. In 1985, a two-story cloister was built, containing offices, the Fellowship Room and apartments. It surrounded the garden planted on the site of the old nave.

Today, St. George the Martyr remains a vibrant church community that continues to minister to downtown Toronto.

Sources: stgeorgethemartyr.ca, www.geraldrobinson.ca    

water colour, 1851,  pictures-r-403[1]

Water colour painted in 1851, the view looking north on John Street from Queen. The spire of St. George the Martyr is prominent. From the collection of the Toronto Public Library, r-403.

                     1867, Ont. Archives  I0005287[1]

      St. George the Martyr in 1867, Ontario Archives, 10005287.

water colour, St. Pat's market, 1912. pictures-r-5352[1]

Water colour of the St. Patrick’s Market on Queen Street, east of John Street, in 1912. The spire of St. George the Martyr can be seen behind the market building, which was demolished. Toronto Public Library, r- 5352.

image

St. George the Martyr following the disastrous fire of February 1955. Toronto Public Library, r-195.

pictures-r-358[1]

Fire truck on Stephanie Street in 1955. The south facade of the church is visible. Toronto Public Library, r- 358.

1956,  pictures-r-185[1]

The church in 1956, the year after the fire, when only the tower was left standing. Prior to the fire, the spire on the tower had already been removed. I was unable to discover when this occurred. Toronto Public Library, r-185.

            DSCN1753         

                The tower in the spring of 2012.

                DSCN0952

The east side of the tower, in the foreground, the garden area where the nave was once located. Photo taken October 2, 2016. 

DSCN0948

View of the two-story cloister that was built in 1985. It surrounds the garden area on the north and east sides. 

image

The former parish hall that became the sanctuary in 1957, the view facing east.  Photo taken in 2016. 

  DSCN0958  DSCN0959

(left) the east window over the altar, and (right), the west window. 

DSCN0963

The 1845 tower of St. George the Martyr, now set amidst Toronto’s modern downtown towers.

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/

Books by the Blog’s Author

Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” 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[1]

   To place an order for this book, published by History Press:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in most book stores such as Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox and AGO Book Shop. It can also be ordered 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 on theatres, published by Dundurn Press, is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It explores 81 theatres and contains over 125 archival photographs, with interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating histories. Note: an article on this book was published in Toronto Life Magazine, October 2016 issue.

For a link to the Toronto Life article: torontolife.com/…/photos-old-cinemas-dougtaylortoronto-local-movie-theatres-of-y…

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. It contains archival and modern photos that allow readers to compare scenes and discover how they have changed over the decades. Note: a review of this book was published by Spacing Magazine, October 2016. For a link to this review:

spacing.ca/toronto/2016/09/02/reading-list-toronto-then-and-now/

For further information on ordering this book, follow the link to Amazon.com here  or contact the publisher directly by the link below:

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

 

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Great photo of Toronto in 1952

1952, Ont. Archives I0005533[1]

While examining files in the Ontario Archives (#10005533), I discovered this photo, dated 1952. The camera is pointing north on Yonge Street, from south of Dundas Street.  

During the 1950s, Yonge Street was the city’s entertainment district, with its bars, restaurants and theatres. It was the last decade that the street’s movie theatres were “the kings” of entertainment. By the 1960s, they were beginning to suffer from lower attendance due to television.

In the photo, the marquees of the Imperial Theatre (Ed Mirvish) and the Downtown Theatre (demolished) are prominently visible on the east (right-hand) side of the street. The site of the Downtown Theatre is now a part of Dundas Square.

If you know where to look, you will see the rounded facade of the Brown Derby Tavern at Yonge and Dundas and the red-brick Ryrie Building on the northeast corner of Yonge and Shuter Street. This is where the Silver Rail Tavern was located. The building still remains today, although the Silver rail is gone. The clock tower on the St. Charles Tavern is visible. The building was a fire station that became a tavern (bar, restaurant, night club) and is now a condo.

In the distance, Eaton’s College Street can be seen, as well as the Toronto Hydro Building at Yonge and Carlton. The dome on the roof of Maple Leaf Gardens is to the east of the Hydro Building.

In examining the photo, I found it remarkable that so many of the 19th-century building on Yonge Street have survived. In most instances, additions have been constructed across the front of them for commercial purposes. Many of the old buildings remain today, functioning as modern shops.

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/

Books by the Blog’s Author

Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” 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, published by History Press:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in most book stores such as Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox and AGO Book Shop. It can also be ordered 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 explores 81 theatres and contains over 125 archival photographs, with interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating histories. Note: an article on this book was published in Toronto Life Magazine, October 2016 issue.

For a link to the article published by Toronto Life Magazine: torontolife.com/…/photos-old-cinemas-dougtaylortoronto-local-movie-theatres-of-y…

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. It contains archival and modern photos that allow readers to compare scenes and discover how they have changed over the decades. 

Note: a review of this book was published in Spacing Magazine, October 2016. For a link to this review:

spacing.ca/toronto/2016/09/02/reading-list-toronto-then-and-now/

For further information on ordering this book, follow the link to Amazon.com  here  or contact the publisher directly by the link below:

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

 

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The 62nd anniversary of Hurricane Hazel—Oct. 15, 2016

                  19. Oct. 18, 1954  Hurricane Hazel

On Hurricane Hazel’s 62nd anniversary, I remember the most devastating storm that ever hit Toronto. It struck during the overnight hours of Friday October 15, 1954, flooding the Humber and Don River Valleys, causing the authorities to declare the bridges that spanned the rivers unsafe. Toronto became an island, residents unable to travel either east or west of the city.

During the late hours of the Friday evening, I remember watching the rain pelt the windows of our home. The water gushed down the glass in torrents, the houses across the road rendered invisible. Close to midnight, when I went to bed, I had no idea what would occur throughout the city during the early-morning hours. In Toronto’s two main river valleys, flood waters rose so swiftly that many had no time to reach safety before their dwellings were either swept away or they were underwater. The worst hit was Raymore Drive, near Lawrence Avenue West and Scarlett Road, where almost 40 people perished.  

The Saturday editions of the newspapers were already in print before the disastrous details of the storm were known, and in this decade, there were no Sunday newspapers. The newspapers on Monday were the first opportunities to relate the events. The following photographs are from the Toronto Daily Star of Monday, October 18, 1954.

2 houses collide, one of Raymore and the other Gillhaven Ave. _thumb[4]

Two houses from Raymore Drive and Gilhaven Avenue that collided, one of them demolished by the torrent of water.

Gillhaven Ave.  _thumb[3]

Gilhaven Avenue the morning after the storm, when the flood waters had receded. 

Don River Bridge on Bathurst, btw. Shepard and Finch  _thumb[2]

Bridge over the Don River on Bathurst Street, between Lawrence and Finch Avenues. 

Holland March  _thumb[2]

                    The devastation at Holland Marsh, near Highway 400.

                         Holland March, in night--20 feet depth   _thumb[6]

A house in Holland Marsh that during the night had been surrounded by 20 feet of water.

Holland Marsh--Schomberg Creek _thumb[2]

             Houses in Holland Marsh near Schomberg Creek.

Lawrence Ave. W. in Weston  _thumb[2]

Bridge over the Humber River on Lawrence Avenue West, east of Scarlett Road.

Pine Grove Park, Woodbridge  DSCN6340_thumb[2]

                                  Pine Grove Park in Woodbridge Ontario.

Raymore Dr.    3  _thumb[4]

Raymore Drive, near Scarlett Road and Lawrence Avenue West, showing the houses that were swept away by the waters.

                       Raymore Dr.   2  _thumb[4]

                                                House on Raymore Drive.

Raymore Dr.  _thumb[4]

                                        Another home on Raymore Drive.

clip_image002_thumb3

The flooded Humber River as seen on the morning after Hurricane Hazel swept through Toronto. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series1057, Item 2001

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/

Books by the Blog’s Author

Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” 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, published by History Press:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in most book stores such as Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox and AGO Book Shop. It can also be ordered 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 explores 81 theatres and contains over 125 archival photographs, with interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating histories. Note: an article on this book was published in Toronto Life Magazine, October 2016 issue.

For a link to the article published by |Toronto Life Magazine: torontolife.com/…/photos-old-cinemas-dougtaylortoronto-local-movie-theatres-of-y…

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. It contains archival and modern photos that allow readers to compare scenes and discover how they have changed over the decades. Note: a review of this book was published in Spacing Magazine, October 2016. For a link to this review:

spacing.ca/toronto/2016/09/02/reading-list-toronto-then-and-now/

For further information on ordering this book, follow the link to Amazon.com  here  or contact the publisher directly by the link below:

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

 

Tags:

Queen Street’s Hugging Tree repainted (2016)

DSCN1022  DSCN1019

The west side of the Hugging Tree in October 2016, the Black Bull Pub in the background.

It is not often that we find graffiti art painted on trees, or in the case of the “Hug Me Tree,” (Hugging Tree), on a tree stump. This favourite piece of art is located on the north side of Queen Street West, a short distance west of Peter Street. It appeared for the first time in 1999, painted by Elicer Elliott, a graduate of Sheridan College. He has since become one of Toronto’s best known graffiti artists. I highly recommend that you Google his name to see further examples of his work.

After completing the “Hug Me Tree,”“ Elicer Elliott placed a tag on the tree – “H.U.G.”- the name of his graffiti crew. As an afterthought, he added the “Me” to the tag, and Queen Street’s famous “Hug Me Tree” was born.

                 The hugging Tree in 2012.

In 2008, the tree toppled over onto the pavement. It may have been hit by a car, or pushed over by overly exuberant patrons of the nearby Black Bull Pub. Whatever occurred, the city decided to dispose of it. However, a group of concerned citizens prevented the tree from being carted away. On June 15, 2009, after the tree was restored, it was returned to its original location. It is now weather-proofed and has a metal base to secure it.

The next time you stroll along Queen Street West, on the section of the street east of Spadina, take a few moments to appreciate this example of graffiti art. Give it a hug. Who knows, it may bring you good luck.

DSCN1017  DSCN1021

             The west side of the Hugging Tree in October 2016.

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/

Books by the Blog’s Author

Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” 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

   To place an order for this book, published by History Press:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in most book stores such as Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox and AGO Book Shop. It can also be ordered 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 on theatres, published by Dundurn Press, is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It explores 81 theatres and contains over 125 archival photographs, with interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating histories. Note: an article on this book was published in Toronto Life Magazine, October 2016 issue.

For a link to the article published by |Toronto Life Magazine: torontolife.com/…/photos-old-cinemas-dougtaylortoronto-local-movie-theatres-of-y…

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. It contains archival and modern photos that allow readers to compare scenes and discover how they have changed over the decades. Note: a review of this book was published in Spacing Magazine, October 2016. For a link to this review:

spacing.ca/toronto/2016/09/02/reading-list-toronto-then-and-now/

For further information on ordering this book, follow the link to Amazon.com  here  or contact the publisher directly by the link below:

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

 

Tags: , ,

Toronto’s Silver Rail Tavern—closed 1998

1950s  f1257_s1057_it0738[1] - Copy

The Silver Rail Tavern in the 1950s, located at 225-227 Yonge Street. Toronto Archives, F1257, S1057, item 073.

The last time that I visited the Silver Rail Tavern was in 1995, when an elderly aunt and I visited it for lunch. I chose “the Rail” as I knew that when she had been younger, it was one of her favourite places to dine and enjoy a drink. She was thrilled with my choice, as she had not been inside it for many years. When she stepped in the door, she gushed, “It’s exactly as I remember it. Oh! how I enjoyed sipping the Manhattans here.” The Silver Rail did indeed change very little since it first opened, and this was one of it’s charms.

The Silver Rail was the first bar in Toronto that received a liquor license from the LLBO when Premier George Drew, on April 2, 1947, relaxed the laws governing alcohol. Prohibition had ended in 1927, but there remained many restrictions, such as alcohol only being served in public places if it were purchased with food. It was common to see a person having a beer in a licensed establishment, a small sandwich or other low-cost item from the menu on the table, but untouched. The new law made it possible to order a beer or a glass of wine without ordering food. However, when the Silver Rail opened, no women were allowed to sit at the bar, and only one drink per person was permitted on the tables at a given time.

Previous to the Silver Rail, on the site had been Muirhead’s Bar and Cafeteria. Its ground-floor space was designed by N. A. Armstrong in 1934, and it included a long bar that extended the entire length of the room. It was aligned with the north wall. Patrons were able to sit at the bar to eat or have a drink. Along the south wall, there were rows of tables. A silver-coloured rail, located beside the stairs that led to the lower level, provided the inspiration for the name of the new bar that opened on the same site— the Silver Rail.

It was In 1947 that Louis David Arnold and Michael P. Georges opened the Silver Rail, each investing $50,000 in the enterprise. It was located in the southwest corner of the ground floor of the Ryrie Building, which was on the northeast corner of Yonge and Shuter Streets. The owners of the Silver Rail maintained the basic layout that Armstrong had created for Muirhead’s Bar, but on the south wall, instead of tables, they installed curved booths. In the lower level (basement) of the Rail, there was a classy restaurant, its decor elegant, with immaculate white table clothes. The waiters carried silver water jugs, and were attired in formal white jackets, and black trousers. The restaurant featured live music on weekends, and it was said that on one occasion, Oscar Peterson gave an impromptu performance on its baby grand piano. It was in this restaurant that my aunt and I enjoyed lunch in 1995. 

The Silver Rail was renown for its excellent cuisine, specializing in steaks, roast beef, and seafood. In the 1940s and 1950s, these were the usual items on restaurant menus in Toronto, as they were based on traditional British fare. The dishes were popular, even though they were rather basic if compared with the city’s multi-ethnic and gourmet menus of today. The bar more than compensated for the lack of variety in food, as it stocked a large assortment of whiskies, brandies, champagnes and a wide range of cocktails. The year it opened, highballs were 45 cents. Its location was close to Massey Hall, around the corner on Shuter Street. This made it a favourite for a drink, either before, or after a concert or event. The first month The Rail was open, it earned $90,000 in profits.

In 1948, the artist Eric Aldwinckle was commissioned to paint a large mural for the bar. During the 1950s, the Rail was a favourite of the employees of Eaton’s and Simpsons stores. A friend of mine who worked at Simpson’s in the 1950s, was paid 60 cents an hour. Sometimes he splurged and had lunch at the Rail, paying $1.50 for spaghetti. He considered this to be “high living.” The tavern closed in 1998, and when the space was renovated for a new tenant, Aldwinckle’s mural was lost.

My aunt was saddened by the closing of the Silver Rail. Then, only two restaurants remained that she had visited in her younger days — Fran’s (famous for its rice pudding) and the Old Mill in Etobicoke (well known for dining and dancing).

Sources: www.blogto    lost-toronto.blogspot     www.mountpleasantgroup.com (Mike Filey)     www.theglobeandmail.com     torontoist.com    “Toronto Architecture—A City Guide,” by Patricia McHugh

 June 1934, Constuc. Magazine, Tor Pub. Lib.

Muirhead’s classic Art Deco facade in June 1934. Photo from Construction Magazine, Vol. 27, in the collection of the Toronto Public Library.

image

The Silver Rail Tavern, which maintained many features of the facade of its predecessor, Muirhead’s. Photo from the Ontario Archives.

DSCN4680[1]

The mural painted in 1948 by Eric Aldwinckle. Photo by Michael McClelland.

1949  S 381, Fl0019, id 6288-2  [1]

View looking north on Yonge Street from Shuter Street in 1949. The street is covered with thick timbers to allow the digging of the subway below. The marquees of the Imperial and Downtown Theatres are visible in the distance, to the north of the Ryrie Building where the the Silver Rail was located. Toronto Archives, S 381, fl 0019, id 6288-2.

1950s  f1257_s1057_it0738[1] 

The Ryrie Building in 1950, on the northeast corner of Shuter and Yonge Streets. Toronto Archives, F 1257, S1057, item 0738.

                        View of apartments above the Silver Rail on Yonge Street at Shuter – May 11, 1977

The Ryrie Building and the Silver Rail on May 11, 1977. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, fl 0004, item 001.

c. 1980  Fonds 124, fl 003, id 0127  Silver Rail (2)

The camera is pointed north on Yonge Street in 1980. The Ryrie Building and the Silver Rail can be seen. On the left, a portion of the Eaton Centre is visible. Toronto Archives, Fonds 124, fl 0003, id 0127. 

S 1465, Fl305, It 0002 Rail-South[1] 

Gazing south on Yonge Street from a short distance north of Shuter Streets. Toronto Archives, S1465, f 1305, Item 0002.

DSCN9651

The space in 2014 at Yonge and Shuter Streets, in the Ryrie Building, where the Silver Rail was located.

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/

Books by the Blog’s Author

Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” 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

   To place an order for this book, published by History Press:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in most book stores such as Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox and AGO Book Shop. It can also be ordered 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 on theatres, published by Dundurn Press, is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It explores 81 theatres and contains over 125 archival photographs, with interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating histories. Note: an article on this book was published in Toronto Life Magazine, October 2016 issue.

For a link to the article published by |Toronto Life Magazine: torontolife.com/…/photos-old-cinemas-dougtaylortoronto-local-movie-theatres-of-y…

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. It contains archival and modern photos that allow readers to compare scenes and discover how they have changed over the decades. Note: a review of this book was published in Spacing Magazine, October 2016. For a link to this review:

spacing.ca/toronto/2016/09/02/reading-list-toronto-then-and-now/

For further information on ordering this book, follow the link to Amazon.com  here  or contact the publisher directly by the link below:

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

 

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The Bank of Toronto at King and Bay – demolished 1965

1910,  pcr-2167[1]

The Bank of Toronto on a postcard, printed in 1910, camera facing the southwest corner of King and Bay Streets. The streetcar is travelling east on King Street. Photo from the collection of the Toronto Public Library, r-2167.

When I was a boy in the 1940s, during the hot summer months, one of the greatest adventures in life was to climb aboard a streetcar on Bay Street and travel to the ferry docks on Front Street. From there, we sailed across the harbour to Centre Island. In my youthful eyes, this outing was high adventure, similar to a story about climbing Mount Kilimanjaro that I had read about in a library book. The author of the tale stressed that the journey up the mountain was as much a part of the adventure as the arrival at the summit. Similarly, the tall buildings lining the canyon of Bay Street were as important (well almost) as arriving at Centre Island.

It was on these summer excursions that I first saw the Bank of Toronto at Bay and King Streets. To me, it appeared like a giant piggy bank, and I was certain there was a coin slot on the roof where people dropped their pennies and nickels. I could not conceive of quarters and fifty-cent pieces being dropped into the slot, as such enormous amounts of money were only possessed by millionaires. I might add that eliminating the fifty-cent piece from common currency was a pity. As a child, to receive one of them to spend at the penny-candy-store was akin to possessing boundless wealth.

Today, gazing at the photos of the Bank of Toronto, I can understand why it caught my attention when I was a young lad. Its striking architecture dominated the street, and like a finely crafted child’s piggy bank, it was perfect in every detail. Its architects created a structure that was built for the ages, never anticipating that it would eventually be demolished. 

Its destruction occurred during the decade of great prosperity that followed the opening of the St. Lawrence seaway in 1959. Large vessels were now able to access the Great Lakes, bypassing Montreal, which in those years was the nation’s largest city. Under the misguided policy of “modern city building,” and with the approval of City Hall, the “old” was demolished to be replaced by the “modern.” In this decade of wanton destruction, many of Toronto’s finest historic structures disappeared. The Bank of Toronto was one of them. In fairness, the Toronto Dominion Bank towers that were constructed on the site are now also considered architectural gems, of the International Style.

The Bank of Toronto first opened its doors in 1856 at 78 Church Street, William Gooderham and his son George among its investors and directors. It remained on Church Street until 1862, when its offices were relocated to the northwest corner of Wellington and Church Streets. However, in 1901, the bank commenced planning for a new headquarters, as the area around King and Bay Streets was becoming the centre of financial activity.

In 1902, a large plot of land was purchased on the southwest corner of Bay and King – its postal address 55-67 King Street West. The New York City architectural firm of Carrere and Hastings, along with Eustace G. Bird, a Toronto associate architect, was commissioned to design the building. This decision created outrage from nationalistic Torontonians who would have preferred a Canadian architectural company. Construction began in January of 1912, and the bank relocated from Church and Wellington in 1913.

The American architects were inspired by the Bourse de Paris (Paris Stock Exchange). The bank building they designed reflected the classical traditions of ancient Rome and Athens, as it resembled an ancient temple. It possessed three-storey Corinthian pilasters (three-side columns) on its north and east facades, which were trimmed with Tennessee marble. However, there was no pediment above the faux columns. The plinth (the base supporting the building) was higher than the people passing by it on the sidewalk. The bank’s interior contained five levels of offices, with a two-storey banking hall, richly trimmed with marble and bronze. In its two basement levels, there were two vaults and several storage rooms. 

In 1955, the Bank of Toronto amalgamated with the Dominion Bank, and it became the Toronto Dominion Bank (TD Bank). In 1965, the former Bank of Toronto building was demolished to create the 56-storey TD Centre, which opened in 1967. In 2000, the bank bought Canada Trust and the company was renamed “TD Canada Trust.”

The TD Centre is a much admired building, but it is a pity that the old Bank of Toronto had to be demolished to meet the needs of the modern era. The Bank of Toronto’s former headquarters is now mostly a forgotten part of the city’s architectural history. This is evident by the sparse amount of photos and documentation that appear online. It required considerable searching to locate the photos for this post.

The author gratefully acknowledges the following sources: “Lost Toronto” by William Dendy, torontothenandnow.blogspot.com, and citiesintime.ca

                              DSCN1030

The original site of the Bank of Toronto between the years 1856 and 1862, at 78 Church Street. Photo taken on October 5, 2016.

 1870, Church and Well.  pictures-r-2022-1870[1]

The Bank of Toronto’s headquarters at Wellington and Church Streets, from 1862 until 1913. It was demolished in 1961. Toronto Public Library, r-2022.

Fonds 1244, Item 1166

Looking south on Bay Street in 1912, from a short distance north of King Street West. The Molson Bank (the former Cawthra mansion) is on the northeast corner of the intersection, the Union Bank on the southeast corner, and the Bank of Toronto on the southwest corner. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1233, Item 1166. 

Canada Arch. looking east on King, 1912-13  oa054055-v8[1]

Looking east on King Street from Bay Street in 1913 or 1913. The west facade of the Bank of Toronto is on the right-hand side of the photo. Canada Archives, 054055. 

1915- source, Bibliotheque    Bank_of_Toronto_Building_1915[1]

Bank of Toronto in 1915, gazing at the southwest corner of King and Bay Streets. Photo from Bibliotheque.

1919, f1231_it0846[1]

Bank of Toronto in 1919, its north and east facades visible. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 0846.

1919, f1231_it0846[1] - Copy

The ornate entrance of the Bank of Toronto in 1919, on the north facade, facing King Street West. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 0846.

Fonds 1244, Item 1211

Gazing north on Bay Street in the 1930s, the tower of the Old City Hall visible in the distance. On the left-hand side of the photo is the east facade of the Bank of Toronto. On the northeast corner of Bay and King is the Cawthra Mansion, which became the Molson’s Bank and later, the headquarters of the Canada Life Assurance Company. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 1211. 

Canada Archives, Image (3)[1]

Undated photo of the south and west facades of the Bank of Toronto, from the Canada Archives.

Bank of Toronto Interior

Banking hall of the Bank of Toronto, photo from the collection of the Toronto Reference Library, the Baldwin Room.

1941-  a054682-v8[1]

Gazing west on King Street at Bay on September 6, 1941. The Bank of Toronto is on the left-hand side of the photo, (southwest corner of King and Bay). Its north facade is on King Street. Photo from the Canada Archives a054682 v8.

                          DSCN9332

View gazing east on King Street toward the intersection at Bay Street in 2014. On the right-hand side of the photo, the black low-rise part of the complex is on the site of the old Bank of Toronto, although it is set back from the corner.

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/

Books by the Blog’s Author

Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” 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, published by History Press:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in most book stores such as Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox and AGO Book Shop. It can also be ordered by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

 

                                 image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[2]    

Another book on theatres, published by Dundurn Press, is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It explores 81 theatres and contains over 125 archival photographs, with interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating histories. Note: an article on this book was published in Toronto Life Magazine, October 2016 issue.

For a link to the article published by Toronto Life Magazine: torontolife.com/…/photos-old-cinemas-dougtaylortoronto-local-movie-theatres-of-y…

The book is available at local book stores throughout Toronto or for a direct 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. It contains archival and modern photos that allow readers to compare scenes and discover how they have changed over the decades. Note: a review of this book was published in Spacing Magazine, October 2016. For a link to this review:

spacing.ca/toronto/2016/09/02/reading-list-toronto-then-and-now/

For further information on ordering this book, follow the link to Amazon.com  here  or contact the publisher directly by the link below:

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

 

 

Tags: