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Category Archives: Doug Taylor, Toronto history

Remembrances in 2016 of Remembrance Day in 1945

                    DSCN5416

Today, those who fought in the Second World War are diminishing in number. However, my generation, who were children during the war years, are also decreasing in number. I remember World War II vividly as it was important part of my childhood. Today, on Remembrance Day, I cast my mind back to 1945, when the first service was held in my school after the war ended. It was very different to the services of today.

One of the reasons was the school system in the 1940s. In that decade, children were expected to pass all subjects in order to be promoted to the next grade. The most commonly asked question in the schoolyard on the last day of June was, “Did you flunk?” (fail). Flunking meant that you repeated the entire year, in a classroom with those who were at least a year younger than yourself.

If a child flunked several times, the accumulative effect was even more humiliating. In a grade-eight classroom, it was not uncommon for a fifteen-year-old to be in a class with those who were twelve or thirteen. When these student turned sixteen, they were able to quit school without their parents’ consent. During the 1940s, many of them enlisted in the armed forces. The legal age to enlist was seventeen, but it was was a decade when record-keeping was poor, and if a teenager declared that he was seventeen, and looked to be that age, he was generally accepted.

This situation greatly affected the first Remembrance Day services held at my school after the war ended in 1945. Many of the names of those had perished had attended the school only a year or two before. We had seen them in them schoolyard and knew them personally. Some of the other names were of teachers who had enlisted. Many of us remembered them too. In my school in York Township (now part of the City of Toronto), there was no auditorium where a Remembrance Day service might be held, so we all gathered in the basement. We sat on rows of benches that were used each day for those who brought their lunch to school.

I still remember the tears on the cheeks of my teachers as the names were read aloud of those who had been killed in action. I can still picture the handkerchief my teacher kept tucked in her sleeve as she retrieved it to wipe away her tears. There were students sitting on the benches who had lost a father or older brother. There were few families in our neighbourhood that had not suffered the loss of a loved one. Husbands, brothers, cousins, friends and neighbours had paid the supreme sacrifice. Some families had lost women who had served as nurses or support staff. Clergy had been killed while ministering to the needs of dying men, or praying with others, young and old, who were severely traumatized, shell-shocked or dying. Doctors and nurses had died on the battle lines. Remembrance Day in 1945 was one that I will never forget. 

In 1945, many of those who survived World War II were in their early twenties. I can still picture them marching in the CNE’s Warriors’ Day Parade that year. Their youthful faces did not reveal the horrors they had suffered. Those who had lost an arm marched proudly, while others pushed the wheelchairs of those who had lost a leg. Many of them looked like teenagers.

Today, the veterans of the Second World War are elderly. Their sacrifices are viewed by some as belonging to another era, part of a history of a bygone age. For those of us who remember the war years, it is very different. Today, each November 11th, I try to attend the services at Toronto’s Old City Hall. On this occasion, I remember my first service in 1945, and recall the harshness and community camaraderie of the war years — rationing of food, the war’s uplifting songs, neighbours consoling neighbours, the morale-raising war-movies at our local theatre, fund raising to send gloves and cigarettes to the troops, and the neighbour’s house where the blinds were lowered after they received a telegram.

Least we forget!

For a link to thoughts on Remembrance Day in 2011.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2011/11/08/memories-of-remembrance-day-in-1946/

A link to an obscure war memorial inside Toronto’s downtown Bay Store.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/11/06/a-tucked-away-remembrance-day-memorial-at-yonge-near-queen/

A link to the history of the cenotaph at the Old City Hall.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/11/06/a-tucked-away-remembrance-day-memorial-at-yonge-near-queen/

 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    

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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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.

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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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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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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:

Toronto’s Colonial Tavern – demolished

            1973 Yonge St. Mall, Tor. Archives, Series 377, It. 782  colonial_feature1[1]

The Colonial Tavern during the summer of 1973, when Yonge Street was closed to vehicle traffic to create a pedestrian mall. In the photo, the  facade of the Colonial appears curved, but the other pictures reveal that it was actually straight (see photos at end of post). Photo from the Toronto Archives, Series 377, Item 782

The Colonial Tavern at 201-203 Yonge Street opened in 1947, between two historic bank buildings, opposite today’s Eaton Centre, In its heyday during the 1950s and 1960s, the tavern was one of the most popular music venues in Toronto. In the 1940s and 1950s, Yonge Street was not only the “main drag,” but was the centre of the city’s nightlife and entertainment. The section of Yonge between College and Queen was where Hollywood-style bright lights, flashing neon signs, and boisterous crowds created an exuberance that was unequalled in Canada. The names of the popular night spots on Yonge from those decades still reverberate after all these years—Friar’s Tavern, Le Coq D’ Or, Steele’s Tavern, Zanzibar, Edison Hotel, Brown Derby, and the jewel in the crown, the Colonial. The only other popular jazz joints were the Town Tavern (16 Queen Street East), and George’s Spaghetti House at 290 Dundas Street East.

In the 1890s, the site where the Colonial opened was the location of the Athlete Hotel, which in 1918 was renamed the Scholes Hotel. It was purchased by Goodwin (Goody) and Harvey Lichenberg in 1947, renovated, and opened as the Colonial Tavern. It was the second establishment, after the Silver Rail, to receive a liquor license from the LLBO, following the relaxing of Ontario’s liquor laws. The Colonial was a jazz and blues venue, which defied the norms of the times when it booked an all-black dance band group—Cy McLean and the Rhythm Rompers. Cy was a pianist by profession, who formed a band in 1937. During the swing era of the 1940s, it was Canada’s only all-black orchestra. When it played at the Colonial, it was its first performance in a mainstream venue.

During the 1950s, the Colonial was Toronto’s main music venue. However, on July 24, 1960, a disastrous fire gutted it. Two years were required to rebuild, and when it reopened in 1961, the building that had been Scholes Hotel, was replaced with a structure that was only two storeys in height. It was now more intimate, the tables and chairs grouped closely around the stage. The ceiling was low, but there was sufficient height to accommodate a balcony. The singers that performed at the Colonial were among the greatest names of jazz and the blues—Miles Davis, Carmen McRae, Thelonius Monk, Art Blakey, Dave Brubeck, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzie Gillespie, Benny Goodman, Sarah Vaughan.

In 1971, the first Yonge Street Mall was created. Because the street was closed to vehicle traffic, sidewalk cafes dotted the strip, the Colonial’s cafe being one of the most popular. The Litchenbergs hired twenty extra employees to handle the crowds. The mall experience was recreated again in 1972, 1973, and for eight weeks in 1974. It was during the 1970s that I visited the Colonial. I was too enthralled with the performance on stage to remember many details about its interior. However, I do recall that it was a cozy venue, where no seat was very far from the performers.  

By the mid-1970s, jazz was declining and the Colonial became more or less a discotheque. In the late-1970s, the basement of the Colonial was rented to various punk bands such as Teenage Head and Vilestones. The downstairs space was referred to by various names, the most well known being the “Colonial Underground.” During this decade the legal drinking age was 21, and the basement venue was a magnet for underage teenagers who wanted to defy the laws, the most commonly feared words being, “Let me see your ID.” Though the Colonial featured punk bands during these years, it is today remembered as a jazz and blues venue. Also during the 1970s, Wayland Flowers and his puppets—Madame and Crazy Mary—performed at the Colonial. Flowers was later to play at the Royal York’s Imperial Room. 

The Colonial was sold In the late-1970s and during the years ahead, it slowly deteriorated. It mainly featuring rock bands and exotic waitresses. As well, the famous Yonge Street strip, where the venue was located, also started to become seedy. It was during these years that the clubs, bars, and taverns began to close. The murder of a young shoeshine boy in 1977 finally created the impetus for the City to clean up the street. However, the sanitized version of “the strip” never achieved the buzz and excitement of former decades, as the music clubs had disappeared.

The Colonial lingered on, but it had lost its lustre. Robert Fulford wrote in the Toronto Star in 1987 that the famous jazz venue offered bad food, surly waitresses, and patrons that were loud and drunk. He also stated that the low ceiling made the space feel cramped and that it appeared as if the space was a tunnel with a bulge in the middle. The tables close to the stage, he stated, suffered from music that was too loud, and the tables at the back gave a person the sense of over-hearing the music, rather than hearing it. However, Fulford grudgingly admitted that none of negative features mattered, “because of the quality of the music.” The same year that Fulford visited the Colonial, it permanently shuttered its doors.

The site was purchased by investors that intended to reopen it as a hotel, but the plans never materialized. In 1982, the City bought the property to build a space that would connect Massey Hall with the Elgin Theatre, forming a theatre complex in the heart of Toronto. However, in 1987, due to a lack of funds, City Council voted to demolish the Colonial and create a parkette. Another great idea never saw the light of day.

Edward Keenan wrote an article about the city in the Toronto Star on September 22, 2016: “And the thing about big plans with no money behind them is that they inspire hope and then gather dust on a shelf for decades and then inspire cynicism about the next big plans that come along.” He was referring to the plans to construct a public park over the rail lands, but the same might be said of the idea for a theatre complex in the centre of the city.

scholes hotel c. 1945, Fonds 1257, S1057, Item 537  [1]

The charming Scholes Hotel in 1945, where the Colonial opened in 1947, the two historic bank buildings on either side of it. This is the building that was gutted by fire on July 24, 1960. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 537.

mid- 1970s, F124, fl002,id0066  colonial[1] - Copy

The rebuilt Colonial Tavern that reopened in 1961, as it appeared in the mid-1970s. Toronto Archives, Fonds 124, File 002, id 0066.

                     Series 377, Itm. 545 colonial_copy-225x300[1].png

The Colonial and its patio in the 1970s, when Yonge Street was closed to create a mall. Toronto Archives, Series 377, Item 545. 

f0124_fl0003_id0123[1] - Copy     

The Colonial in the 1980s, when it possessed a rather dreary facade. Toronto Archives Fonds 0124, File 0003, id 0123. 

1986-  f0124_fl0003_id0152[1]

The site in December 1987, after City Council voted to demolish the Colonial. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1024, File 0003, id 0123.

DSCN0940

The site where the Colonial once stood, between the two historic bank buildings on Yonge Street. The construction of the Massey Tower occupies most of the site. Photo was taken on September 19, 2016. 

To discover more about Yonge Street when it was the musical heart of Toronto—a link to Edward Keenan’s article in the Toronto Star on September 29, 2016.

torontostar.newspaperdirect.com/epaper/viewer.aspx?issue…33…

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 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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