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Category Archives: historic toronto buildings

Stories of Honest Ed’s Bargain Store

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The first time I visited Honest Ed’s at 581 Bloor Street West was in 1950, two years after it opened. I was 12 years old that year, and was a delivery boy for the Star newspaper, in which I had seen had seen the store’s ads advertising its low prices. Located at the corner of Markham and Bathurst Streets, the bargain emporium derived its name from its owner, Ed Mirvish, and the store was attracting considerable attention.

I will always remember the occasion. I had a few dollars extra that I had earned on my paper route, and as I had heard that prices on puzzles and games were cheap, I accompanied my mom and grandmother to the store. We departed on a Saturday morning and arrived shortly after it opened, at 9 am. The first thing that caught my attention was the wacky signs, painted in huge letters on the walls: “We open weekdays at noon, as our staff likes to sleep in.” “If you gotta glow, you gotta glow!” “Customers glow with happiness at Ed’s amazing bargains.” “Honest Ed’s, where only the floors are crooked.” “Our service is rotten, so serve yourself.” “Honest Ed’s no beauty. Whaddya expect at these prices, a movie star?”

Entering the store, I was amazed by the crowded interior. The store was comprised of several old houses, which had been gutted and connected. It was filled with display counters that overflowed with merchandise. The floors actually did sag, but prices were indeed reasonable. I saw Ed Mirvish at one of the noisy cash registers as he rang up sales. I recognized him from a newspaper picture I had seen. My mom and grandmother departed with several bags of goods, mostly clothing, grocery items and cleaning supplies that my mom said were great bargains. I purchased a jigsaw puzzle.

Several weeks later, while delivering my newspapers, I noticed an article about Honest Ed. I read it. This was when I learned a little about Ed Mirvish. He had been born in Virginia in 1914, the son of Jewish immigrants from Lithuania. In 1923, the family moved to Toronto and opened a store on Dundas Street, where they lived above it. Ed’s father died when he was fifteen, and he took over the business.

He opened Honest Ed’s on Bloor Street in 1948, selling merchandise from bankrupt companies and fire sales. Employing humorous slogans, he was highly successful in promoting his wares. Little did I realize that during the years ahead, his store would become an institution in Toronto, and that I would eventually be a subscriber at the wonderful Royal Alexandra Theatre, which he purchased and restored.

In the 1950s, when I was in high school, I worked for one summer at the Dominion Bank on the southeast corner of Bloor Street and Dovercourt Road. In this decades, the Dominion Bank had not yet amalgamated with the Bank of Toronto to form the Toronto Dominion Bank (TD Bank). At the bank branch where I worked, Ed Mirvish’s was the most important customer. He maintained a large amount of cash in his account to be able to purchase goods from bankrupt companies. He bought the merchandise at low prices and sold them in his store at prices that undercut his competitors.

During the late 1950s, Ed’s continued to expand, eventually occupying the entire block on the south side of Bloor Street, between Bathurst and Markham Streets.   

Ed Mirvish was to enter my life again in the late-1960s. This story illustrates the type of man that he was. My family took me out to dinner for my birthday, but they kept their choice of restaurant a surprise. I inquired if I should wear a tie and jacket and my brother told me that they were unnecessary. When we arrived at the restaurant, we discovered that a tie and jacket were mandatory as it was Ed’s Warehouse on King Street. The waiter offered to provide the proper attire from the jackets and ties that they kept for such situations. He explained that they required the dress code to prevent vagrants from the opposite side of King Street, where there were railroad tracks, from entering the restaurant. We were offended, as the clothes they offered were grubby looking, and we were certainly not hobos. We were wearing freshly starched sport shirts and neat trousers.

Then, Ed Mirvish appeared and inquired, “What’s the problem?”

We explained.

He smiled, apologized, and told the waiter, “Escort them to the table that has been reserved.”

We enjoyed the meal of roast beef, green peas, and mashed potatoes. The dill pickles, bread rolls, and spumoni ice cream for dessert added to our pleasure. I think the roast beef was the finest ever served in Toronto.

When the cheque arrived, Honest Ed had reduced the bill by 50 per cent.

Ed Mirvish was a very smart businessman as well as a big-hearted individual. My family never forgot his generosity.

I was very sad when I heard that Ed’s son, David Mirvish, had decided to close the store on December 31st, 2016. The bargain store was an important part of the Toronto scene for over six decades. However, with competition from online shopping and stores such as Walmart, Honest Ed’s  was no longer the attraction that it once was. As well, many of those who had shopped there regularly, had relocated to suburban homes where there were shopping in malls nearby. Times change, and those who own commercial properties must change as well.

Though I had not shopped at Honest Ed’s for many years, I will miss the bright lights and flashing signs that dominated the corner of Bathurst and Bloor.

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Honest Ed’s on Bloor Street in the 1960s, when the store occupied the entire city block from Markham to Bathurst Streets. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, S 1057, Item 0465.

Series 1465, File 622, Item 18

View of Ed’s, looking east on Bloor Street from Markham Street in the 1980s. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1465, fl 0622, Item 0018.

Series 1465, File 514, Item 20

The west facade of the store on Markham Street in the 1980s. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1465, fl 0514, Item 0020. 

Sept. 23, 2013

The east facade of Honest Ed’s on Bathurst Street on September 13, 2013.

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Night view of the store, looking east on Bloor Street from west of Bathurst Street.

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           Some of Ed’s signs posted on the front of the store.

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The northeast corner of the store at Bathurst and Bloor Streets in September 2015.

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                                      Inside the store in 2015.

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A collection of items that were once in Ed’s Warehouse Restaurant on King St. West. The display was in a window that faced Bloor St. Photo taken in 2015.

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View of the northwest corner of the store in 2015, at the corner of Markham and Bathurst Streets.

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Another view of the northwest corner of the store in 2015, at the corner of Markham and Bathurst Streets.

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The alley on Bloor St., located between two of the sections of the store, which were connected by a passageway on the second floor level.

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Signage of the store on the Bloor Street, which created fame for Honest Ed’s.

Below is further information on Honest Ed’s that was provided by Gerry Tsuji. I am very grateful for his input as insight such as he possesses can be so easily forgotten.

When Ed was just starting out, my dad was a cook at a restaurant on the SE corner of Bloor-Bathurst a few doors in from Bathurst.  He remembered Ed coming in for breakfast every morning, newspaper in hand.  A small pleasant man.
I don’t think he received enough credit for supplying working class folks with many of their daily necessities at prices they could afford.  My family and the families of my buddies would fall into that category.  Clothes, school supplies, toys/games, household products, even food… Ed carried it all.  His loud, garish store made a lot of people’s lives, a little bit easier.
His store continued to evolve over the years too.  From his original store located in a house to his eventual store on Bloor, I can recall a sporting goods section where he carried ice skates and hockey sticks to baseballs and mitts.  This gave way to a shoe department where he sold what we laughingly called cardboard shoes because they fell apart when wet.  He had a whole floor devoted to toys and games at one time.  For awhile, he had a little snack bar on the third floor too.  More recently, he even added a pharmacy.  He certainly wasn’t afraid to try new things.
He left behind, an incredible legacy.

Ed’s had a shoe department at one time.   I mentioned his cardboard shoes in my previous email but we also bought our running shoes there.  They were very inexpensive and they lasted an unusually long time.  Two important considerations for us at the time.  They were a strange green colour instead of the usual black-white combination and they were so heavy, it was like wearing anchors on our feet.  They were actually called running boots.  We laughed at them even then.

He also had a large toy/game department.  At one time, it occupied pretty much his entire third floor.  He sold plastic model kits which included high end Lindberg models of iconic ships like the Bismarck.  They were 36″ long, motorized so that they could be ‘programmed’ to sail in figure eights or circles and the guns would go up and down.  As kids, we’d go to Ed’s to drool over these kits.  Eventually, one of us came up with the money to buy one.  We built it, took it to High Park on our bikes and promptly managed to sink it.  Since, it was in a small pond (not Grenadier), one of my buddies bravely volunteered to wade in for it, cut his foot open and thus ended the saga of the Bismarck.
Ed’s had a decent sporting goods section too.  I remember buying CCM Comet hockey sticks there for $1.25 when the latest curved, fibreglass models sold elsewhere for $10 and more.  As plain a hockey stick as there could possibly be but they served their purpose.

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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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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                The tower in the spring of 2012.

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

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

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

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

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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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Metropolitan United Church—destroyed by fire 1928

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Metropolitan United Church c. 1925, St. Michael’s Cathedral on Bond Street in the background. Toronto Archives, F 1568, Item 04641.

Metropolitan United (Methodist) Church on Queen Street East was perhaps the grandest church that the Methodist ever built in Canada, deserving its nickname as the “Cathedral of Methodism.” The congregation was founded in York (Toronto) in 1818, its first services held in a log cabin on the south side of King Street. By 1833, a larger building was required and land was purchased at Toronto Street and Adelaide Street East (then called Newgate). On this location, they constructed a Neo-Georgian style structure. However, because the congregation continued to expand, in 1868, another site was sought, on the north side of Queen Street East, between Bond and Church Streets.

The property the congregation acquired had an interesting history. Known as McGill Square, it was part of “park lot #7,” granted in 1793  by Lieu. Governor Simcoe, to Adjutant John McGill of the Queen’s Rangers. In the mid-1790s, McGill built a large Regency-style cottage on the southern portion of the land, near Queen Street East. In 1842, McGill subdivided and sold much of his estate as small lots. However, the property surrounding his cottage he reserved as a public square. The McGill family continued to reside in the cottage until 1870, when they sold the land to the Metropolitan congregation for $27,846. This occurred despite its designation as a public square, to the dismay and anger of many of the residents of the city and the City Council.

The site was highly favoured by the congregation, since many of its members lived on Jarvis Street, which in those years was an upscale neighbourhood. The committee that was designated to oversee the building of the new church authorized a competition for its design. They offered $200 and $100 for the best two submissions. However, the proposals were considered too expensive, so the committee turned to the architect, Henry Langley, to submit a plan. He accepted, events progressed rapidly, and the cornerstone was laid on August 24,1870, by Edgerton Ryerson.

Langley designed a church that resembled the French Gothic style of the 14th century. Its foundations were constructed of stone quarried in Queenston and Georgetown, the facades built of white brick, trimmed with Ohio cut-stone. There were two towers above the side entrances, both 130’ in height. The dimension of the structure were an impressive size, 216’ long and 104’ wide. The tower over the main entrance possessed enormous pinnacles. The roof had designs created by employing various colours of slate rock.

The nave was extensive, with two side aisles, but no centre aisle. Surrounding the interior on all four sides was a balcony, 17’ wide, supported by cast-iron columns. There was a large chancel at the north end of the nave, and an enormous organ containing 3315 pipes positioned above the pulpit and the choir stalls. The seating capacity of the church was 1800, making it one of the largest churches in Canada. William Dendy in his book, “Lost Toronto,” described the ceiling as, “. . . . a tent-like canopy of Gothic vaults, executed, complete with ribs and bosses, with plaster that was highly frescoed in stylized foliage patterns.” Construction on the cathedral was completed in 1872, and dedicatory services were held in April of that year. 

The total cost of the church was $135,000, which included $6500 for the organ, which at the time of the opening was not yet functioning. As the spring season progressed, the property surrounding the church was landscaped. A carriageway was built from Queen Street to the church’s main entrance, and it continued east and west to surround the building. This allowed carriages to enter and depart the square without turning around. In 1874, a cast-iron fence in the Gothic style was commissioned to enclose the square. Designed by Langley, Langley, and Burke, it was slightly over 5’ in height. However, due difficulty raising funds, it was not installed until the following year. Despite being enclosed by a fence, the church allowed McGill Square to be used as a public park, to be enjoyed by everyone (unfortunately, the fence was removed in 1961).

During the early-morning hours of January 30, 1928, the church caught fire and was almost completely destroyed, save for the tower and part of the narthex. The congregation decided to rebuild, and J. Gibb Morton was given the commission. The tower and the front facade of the old church were retained, and Morton created a church that resembled the one that had burnt. Its narthex, nave, side aisles, and transepts, were in the traditional style, but there was no balcony. The altar and altar table were reached by steps.

In 1926, the Metropolitan Methodist Church joined with the United Church of Canada. 

Note: Much of the information for this post was derived from William Dendy’s book, “Lost Toronto,” published by Oxford University Press in 1978.

corner-stone 1870 [1]

Advertisement for the laying of the cornerstone in 1870, Toronto Public Library. 

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View of the church in 1872, from Shuter and Church Streets. The north and east facades are visible. Photo from the Toronto Public Library, r- 5390.

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The Metropolitan Methodist Church in 1873, the camera positioned on Queen Street, pointing to the northwest. The tower has High Victorian Gothic pinnacles at the top. Toronto Public Library, r- 5393.

                 1873, public lib. pictures-r-5392[1]

View looking southeast from Bond Street in 1873 at the north and west facades. The patterns on the roof created by varied colours of slate are visible. Toronto Public Library, r- 5392.

                              1875, public library pictures-r-5415[1]

Sketch drawn on stone by G. P. Alfred in 1875. Toronto Public Library, r-5415. 

1881, engravinbg public lib. pictures-r-5384[1]

Photograph coloured by water colour of a wood engraving by F. Schell, dated 1881. It looks north on Bond Street from Queen Street. Toronto Public Library, r- 5384.

1887, pub. lib. pictures-r-5395[1]

Interior of the church in 1887, gazing north toward the pulpit, choir loft, and organ. The balcony surrounds the interior, and it includes the choir loft. The pulpit is below the balcony. There are two side aisles, but no centre aisle. Toronto Public Library,r- 5395.

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View of the Gothic-style fence around McGill Square in the 1870s. Photo from Eric Arthur’s book, “No Mean City.” Fence was removed in 1961. 

1890, Ont. Archives I0001873[1]

The camera is pointed southwest from the northeast corner of Church and Shuter Streets, in 1890. In the distance is a streetcar on Church Street, travelling north. Ontario Archives, 10001873.

1890, public lib. pictures-r-5420[1]

View in 1890 looking north on Bond Street, the church on the east side of the street. To the north is St. Michael’s Cathedral. Toronto Public Library, r- 5420.

1899, pub. lib. pictures-r-5445[1]

View of the interior in 1899, looking north. This photo provides an exceptional view of the ceiling. William Dendy in his book, “Lost Toronto,” described the ceiling as, “. . . . a tent-like canopy of Gothic vaults, executed, complete with ribs and bosses, with plaster that was highly frescoed in stylized foliage patterns.” Toronto Public Library, r-5445.

                     1900, pub. lib. pictures-r-5404[1]

View gazing northwest from Queen East and Church Streets. By the turn of the century, the streetscape was cluttered with electric wires and hydro poles. The idyllic pastoral scenes of the 19th century had faded into memory. Toronto Public Library, r- 5404.

pictures-1910, etching, pub. lib. [1]

This etching of McGill Square, c.1910, depicts the landscaping of the square and the carriageway from Queen Street. The houses on Church Street are visible to the east (right-hand side) of the church. Toronto Public Library, Baldwin Collection, JRR 4551.

                      1920,  f1231_it0136a[1]

This artistic photo was taken in 1920, showing the south and west facades of the church. Toronto Archives, F 1231, Item 1036. 

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This charming sketch was created by Harold Pearl in 1924. It is a view of the tower of Metropolitan Methodist from Victoria Street. The rear of the houses on Bond Street, which back on to Victoria Lane, are visible. The sketch was exhibited at the Art Gallery of Ontario in March of 1925. Photo from the Baldwin Collection (979-35) of the Toronto Public Library. 

Fonds 1266, Item 16613

The south facade and the tower after the fire of January of 1928. Photo taken on May 2, 1929, when the nave had already been rebuilt. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266, Item 16613.

               Fonds 1266, Item 17147

The tower encased with scaffolding on July 2, 1929 after the fire of the previous year. Only one pinnacle on the tower survived. Note: the High Victorian pinnacles of the 1870-church were never duplicated on the new church. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266. Item 1717.

                   Metroploitan United 2

             The new Metropolitan United in the spring of 2014.

Sources: William Dendy, “Lost Toronto,” Eric Arthur’s, “No Mean City.”

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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Frank Stollery store-demolished 2015

1970s  Fonds 124, File 2, It. 109  [1]

Frank Stollery’s store at Yonge and Bloor Streets in the 1970s. Toronto Archives F124, S 1465, fl 0685, it. 109

During the mid-1950s, I was a teenager and worked for one summer at the Imperial Bank at Yonge and Bloor Streets. Each day, on my lunch hour, if I strolled south on Yonge Street, I passed by Stollerys and gazed in the display windows. However, I never ventured inside the store as I knew that the prices were beyond my means. My employment at the bank was $28 per week. At the time, I knew nothing about Stollerys’ long and distinguished history in the city of Toronto’s retail trade.

Frank Stollery was born in Yorkville in 1879, during the days when it was a semi-rural community, surrounded by fields and farms. When he was a boy, residents of Yorkville journeyed to Toronto via the horse-drawn streetcar service on Yonge Street, its terminal being King Street near the St. Lawrence Market. Frank quit school when he was 14, which was not uncommon in that day. He found employment in a shop where he learned the skills required to cut men’s shirts and ties. Being adventurous, he relocated to Montreal and by age 20 was a foreman in a Montreal clothing factory, earning $12 per week. At age 21, he joined the Royal Canadian Regiment, but remained in service only a year. Returning to Toronto in 1901, he borrowed $1000 from his father and opened a haberdashery shop on Yonge Street, south of Bloor. A few years later, he relocated his business to the southwest corner of Bloor and Yonge Streets (1 Bloor Street West). He rented the property, but in 1928, purchased the site and commenced renovations. He also purchased the building to the south of his shop and incorporated it into the store.

However, in 1929, the City expropriated 20 feet on the north side of his shop to widen Bloor Street. This essentially created a situation in which Stollerys and many of the other businesses on the south side of Bloor Street were unable to operate, until the widening had been completed. Undaunted, Stollery demolished a portion of his shop behind the hoarding, and began the construction of a new structure. However, he continued operating in the remainder of the premises until the new building was completed. 

The attractive new structure opened about 1930 or 1931. It possessed two-storeys, with large display windows on the ground floor. The windows on the second floor were topped with rounded Roman arches, and the roof possessed red tiles. The decorative stone carvings on the facade reflected Art Deco, with modern Italian trends. The store’s display windows became famous as they were meticulously arranged to feature the most up-to-date styles of expensive suits, jackets, raincoats, ties, shirts, and pyjamas.

Frank retired in 1968, selling the business to his son Arthur, and Ed Whaley, each owning 50 percent of the enterprise. Whaley managed the store, while Frank remained a silent partner. Whaley renovated the store and also leased the building to the immediate south, including it as part of the shop. When the business was at its peak in the 1970s and 1980s, it employed 100 people and it was assets were valued at $30 million.

Frank Stollery died on January 1, 1971 at his home at 32 Teddington Park Avenue, near Yonge Street, seven blocks north of Lawrence Avenue. In the years ahead, due to internal business problems, the store became neglected, the display windows becoming rather shoddy. By the second decade of the 21at century, the value of the land where the shop was located was astronomical. It was sold and quickly demolished in 2015, its demolition accomplished within a single weekend.

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

1912-  f1231_it1691[1]

The camera is pointed at the southwest corner of Bloor and Yonge Streets in 1912. The Frank Stollery men’s shop is on the corner. The photo provides a good view of the west side of Yonge Street, south of Bloor in the second decade of the 20th century. Toronto Archives, F 1231, Item 1691.

1922, Fonds-1034-Item-816-1024x574[1] 

Frank Stollery’s shop in 1922, the north facade of the premises facing Bloor Street. The windows have awnings that sheltered potential customers from the summer sun. Sadly, few modern stores offer this feature. Toronto Archives, F 1034, item 816.

1923,  f1231_it2089[1]

Stollery’s in 1923, shadows indicating that it was taken in the morning. The policeman operates a traffic sign as there was no stop lights. Toronto Archives, F1231, Item 2089.

Fonds 1244, Item 7393

 Stollery’s store in 1928, when the shop to the south of it was being incorporated. To accomplish this, half of the old store was demolished. The photo also contains Peter Witt streetcars that began service in Toronto in 1921. Toronto Archives, F1244, item 7393.

1970s  Fonds 124, File 2, It. 109  [1] 

The camera is pointed toward the northwest corner of Yonge and Bloor in the 1970s. This is the building that opened in 1930-1931. The red-tiled roof, second-storey rounded windows and the ground-floor display windows are visible. Toronto Archives, F124, File 2, Item 109.

Series 1465, File 614, Item 25

Gazing south on Yonge Street from Bloor Street in the 1980s. A third storey has been added, its facades constructed of glass. Toronto Archives, S 1465, fl0614, Item 002.

DSCN1945

Photograph of the southwest corner of Yonge and Bloor in 2013. The camera looks south on Yonge.

DSCN1944

                                Frank Stollery’s store in 2013.

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

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

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

The publication entitled, Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories by the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                          cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[2]

   To place an order for this book:

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

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox and AGO Book Shops, and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

                                 image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb    

Another book on theatres, published by Dundurn Press, is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It explores 81 theatres and contains over 125 archival photographs, with interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating histories.

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

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

Another publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. It contains archival and modern photos that allow readers to compare scenes and discover how they have changed over the decades. For further information 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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Toronto’s Temple Building (demolished)

             1902, Canada archives  a028964[1]

The Temple Building on Bay Street in 1902, after a tenth storey had been added. The camera faces the northwest corner of Bay and Richmond Street West. The Old City Hall, on Queen Street West, is visible in the background. Photo from the Canada Archives, aO28964

In the 1880s, as elevator technology became more proficient, Toronto began experimenting with taller commercial buildings. Multi-floor structures, with elevators to connect the various floors, allowed greatly increased floor space and thus greater profits. These structures became possible because iron and steel were being employed to erect the frames of the buildings. However, the stone and brick exteriors were still sustained the weight of the walls, as opposed to using solely relying on the steel frame.

In the 1890s, as technology improved, steel frames began supporting the entire weight of the walls, allowing for greater height without compromising the  overall strength of the structure. This allowed true “skyscrapers” to be erected.

When City Council voted to erect a new city hall at the top of Bay Street at Queen West, it was evident that taller buildings were in the future for upper Bay Street. There were already tall office buildings to the south of it at King Street, but the upper portion of Bay Street remained mostly low-rise commercial structures and frame cottages with stucco facades. The first of the taller buildings to be planned for this section of the street was the North American headquarters of the Independent Order of Foresters, a fraternal service club founded in 1874 to provided life insurance, savings accounts, and investment opportunities for families. Named the Temple Building, it was also was to contain club rooms for the members.

The Temple Building was at 62-76 Richmond Street, on the northwest corner of Bay and Richmond Streets. A competition was held for the architectural contract, which was won by George W. Gouinlock (1861-1932).  This was an important contract in the history of the city, as it was the first time that a Canadian had been hired to design all the stages of erecting a Toronto skyscraper. Gouinlock was born in Paris, Ontario and was educated in Winnipeg and Toronto. He was later to design the Press Building at the CNE in 1905, the Music Building in 1907, the Ontario Government Building (now the Medieval Times building) in 1926, and the Horticultural Building in 1927. All these structures remain on the CNE grounds today.

The corner stone of the nine-storey Temple Building, with its cast-iron frame, was laid by the Governor General, the Earl of Aberdeen. The structure was completed in 1897, and for a year or so was the tallest building in the British Empire. Above the ninth floor there was an observation space, with a wide view of the downtown area. Created in the Romanesque Revival style, the building was similar in design to the City Hall to the north of it, which was completed in 1899 (today’s Old City Hall). The foundation walls supporting the Temple Building were over three feet thick, composed of stone and brick. Despite their immense size, it was the steel frame of the structures that supported it. It was devoid of architectural detail, other than over the two main doorways. The facades contained red bricks and Credit Valley sandstone. On the ninth floor, the walls were reduced in size to eighteen inches. The rectangular windows were recessed, which would have reduced the amount of sunlight entering the interior if Gouinlock had not created bay windows that captured extra light. It possessed heating and air-conditioning systems, marble fountains with taps that spouted iced water, mosaic floors, rich wood panelling, and fireproofing. The turrets on the corners above the ninth floor added to its appearance of Skyscraper height.

In 1901, a tenth storey was added to the structure, but the original cornice was retained. In 1921, the firm of Shepard and Calvin was hired to make minor changes and upgrades to the building. The Foresters relocated in 1954 to larger premises on Jarvis Street, and then to a 22-storey building in Don Mills.

However, as the 20th century progressed, Toronto rushed headlong into the future, fully entranced with the idea of out with the old and in with the new. The desire to create even higher buildings became overpowering. The last of the tenants of the magnificent Temple Building vacated the premises on June 29, 1970, and it was demolished later in the year. On the site of the Temple Building, a faceless 32-storey high-rise office building was erected, which contributed little to the streetscape. Its address was 390 Bay Street, and it was named the Thomson Building.

I remember the Temple Building quite well, as in the 1940s when my parents visited Eatons at Queen and Yonge, we travelled on the Bay streetcars and alighted at Bay and Queen. We walked eastward to the Eaton store. As a young boy, I often glanced southward toward the building, as in my imagination it resembled the castles that I had seen in my picture books.

Sources: urbantoronto.ca, heritagetoronto.org, torontoist.com, www.foresters.com, www.blogto.com, and “Lost Toronto” by William Dendy.

1890- Library pictures-r-1431[1]

Views of the Temple Building in 1897 from the collection of the Toronto Public Library, r-1431

                   1900. library pictures-r-1457[1]

View looking north on Bay Street in 1900, the clock tower of the City Hall (now the Old City Hall) visible in the background. Toronto Public Library, r- 1431

             1910, Library  pcr-2200[1]

Postcard view, looking north on Bay Street in 1901 from Richmond Street, Toronto Public Library, pcr-2200

             

Similar view to the previous photo, taken in 1910. Photo from the Ontario Archives, 10021945

1910, Death Edward VII  Library  pictures-r-6528[1]

Entrance to the Temple Building in 1910, when King Edward VII died. Toronto Public Library, r-6528 

Bell telephone dinner, March 21, 1911,  Canada  a029799[1]

Banquet held by the Bell Telephone Company on March 21, 1911, inside the Temple Building. Canada Archives, aO 29799

1928-temple-building-f1244_it7361[1]

View gazing south from Queen Street in 1928, from the steps of today’s Old City Hall. Toronto Archives, F 1244, Item 7361.

                  May, 2013

View looking south on Bay Street from Queen Street in May 2013. The building on the right-hand side of the photo (in the foreground) is now on the site of the Temple Building.

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

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

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

The publication entitled, “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” was written by the author of this blog. It explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories by the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                          cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[2]

   To place an order for this book:

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

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Shop, and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

                                 image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb    

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

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

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

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

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

 

 

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Toronto’ disappearing Bay and Gable houses

324-328 Rich 4

Bay and Gable houses comprise two of the three houses in the above photo. Located at 324-328 Richmond Street West, they were built between 1873 and 1875. Demolished in 2012, a condo tower was erected on the site.

As high-rise condo towers are constructed throughout Toronto’s downtown core, the pressure to redevelop sites that contain low-rise structures has greatly increased. Many of these sites contain heritage houses have survived for almost a century and a half, but are now at risk of being demolished. This is a great pity, as the city’s unique style of domestic architecture is disappearing from our urban scene. I am referring to the Bay and Gable (Bay n’ Gable or Bay-n-Gable) houses, which in the 19th century were highly popular in Toronto’s residential neighbourhoods.

When they were built, Bay and Gable houses were a practical response to the housing needs of Torontonians. Taxes on homes were determined according to the width of the building lot (the property’s frontage on the street). As a result, builders subdivided lots, creating ones that were only 13-20 feet wide, but often 150 feet deep. Architects responded by designing homes to accommodate these narrow lots—Bay and Gables. The earliest such house that I have discovered in Toronto was built in 1870. If anyone has knowledge of one that was constructed pre-1870, whether it is in Toronto or elsewhere, I would appreciate it if they would inform me.

As stated, Bay and Gables were tall and narrow, extending a considerable distance back from the street. I was unable to verify who actually designed the first of these houses, but Patricia McHugh in her book “Toronto Architecture—A City Guide,” suggests that it was likely David B. Dick. The style spread from Toronto to many cities and towns throughout Ontario. Some were also built in western Canada.

These homes were not only practical, but caught the imagination of the public, which viewed them as resembling upper-class homes of earlier decades, even though they were on a much smaller scale. It was not long before they were common in many neighbourhoods, especially in Cabbagetown, Cork Town, along College Street, in Trinity Bellwoods, Parkdale, St. Andrew’s Ward, Roncesvalles, the Annex, and Don Vale. 

Prior to the Bay and Gables, houses with bay windows on the first floor were already common throughout the New England States and Canada’s maritime provinces. These homes were usually built of wood, but in Toronto they were of brick. Today, they are sometimes referred to as “half Bay and Gable.” Those that have Mansard roofs are in the Second Empire style. There is a row of them on Draper Street, in the Spadina/King area.

Unlike houses with bay windows in other cities, Toronto’s Bay and Gable houses contained bay windows that soared from the ground-floor level to the second and often the third storeys. The bay windows occupied half of their facades, and were not only attractive, but like the style itself, very practical. They increased the amount of daylight entering the houses in an era without electric lighting, and facilitated a better flow of air inside the rooms. This was important when smoky fireplaces were employed for heating, iron stoves for cooking, and chamber pots for nightly necessities. Odours from the rear of the home, created by backhouses and stables, often entered the houses. The large bay windows and the 11’ or 12’ ceilings allowed air within the rooms to circulate more freely.

Bay and Gable houses were affordable for middle-class families. They were rarely built as detached homes, but rather in pairs or as row housing. The height of popularity for the style was mainly between 1875 and 1890. Although they closely resembled each other, their trim and architectural detailing on their gables varied greatly. They possessed elements of  the Italianate and Gothic in the bargeboard trim on the peaked roofs. Stained glass windows were sometimes inserted in the transom windows above the doors. Most Bay and Gables were built of bricks that were red, yellow or white from Toronto brickyards, although a few were constructed of wood. In the grander homes, terracotta tiles were often inserted into the facades for decorative detailing. Such homes possessed larger lots and possessed considerably more street frontage.

On the ground-floor levels of the homes, parlours usually occupied the front space facing the street. Dining rooms were in the centre position, and kitchens at the rear. The parlours often had medallions on the ceilings and ornate crown plaster mouldings. The bedrooms were on the second storey, with an extra bedroom on the third floor.

Today, Bay and Gable homes are very popular with people who wish to live in heritage houses. Their interiors are often gutted and refurbished to suit the modern era. Interior walls are sometimes removed to create large open spaces. However, the facades are usually not altered, but when they are adapted for offices and restaurants, the lower portions of the facades are often obscured. The style has also been replicated by modern builders and appear as row houses on such streets as Weston Road, north of St. Clair.

It is a pity that more effort is not being extended to preserve Toronto’s original and truly unique style of domestic architecture—19th-century Bay and Gable houses. 

Souces :mirvishgehrytoronto.com – www.blogto.com – “Toronto Architecture, A City Guide” by Patricia McHugh

59-61 Denison

A pair of Bay and Gable homes at 59-61 Denison Avenue in the Kensington Market area, likely constructed in the 1880s .

424 Wellington W.  2

Two Bay and Gables that today have the postal address 424 Wellington Street West. They were built in 1889 by James Hewett, and are much larger than most homes in this style. 

DSCN0539

Decorative terracotta tiles on the south facade of the houses at 424 Wellington Street West.

on College between St. George and Henry Street

Bay and Gables on College Street, between St. George and Henry Streets. They have been renovated for commercial purposes, but fortunately, the ground-floor bay windows have not been altered. Photo taken in April, 2015.

west side of Draper St.

Bay and Gable row houses on the west side of Draper Street, in the Spadina/King area, built in the mid-1880s. Photo taken in May, 2016.

                  20-22 Kensington Ave.

   20-22 Kensington Avenue, north of Dundas Street in the Kensington Market.

                 64 Spadina Ave.

Only the northern half of a pair of Bay and Gable homes survives at 64 Spadina Avenue, a short distance south of King Street West.

College St.  2

The house on the west (right-hand) side of this pair of Bay and Gable houses on College Street has been renovated for a coffee shop. The ground-floor bay windows have been removed.

20 Bellevue Ave.

Houses at 18-20 Bellevue Avenue in the Kensington Market, built in 1874. The house with the blue trim is a particular favourite of mine.

                   DSCN0913

The second and third storeys of a Bay and Gable, with its bargeboard trim.

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

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

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

The publication entitled, “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” was written by the author of this blog. It explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories by the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                          cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[2]

   To place an order for this book:

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

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Shop, and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

                                 image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb    

Another book, published by Dundurn Press, containing 80 of Toronto’s former movie theatres will be released in June, 2016. It is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It contains over 125 archival photographs and relates interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating histories.

The book is available at local book stores throughout Toronto or 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. This book will be released in June 2016. For further information follow the link to Amazon.com  here  or contact the publisher directly by the link shown below:

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

 

 

 

 

Tags:

Toronto’s Board of Trade Building (demolished)

1900  20101227-1900-Board_of_Trade_Building_Front_Street[1]

The Board of Trade Building in 1900, located at 2-8 Front Street East, at Front and Yonge Streets. Photo from the Toronto Archives, Fonds 1568, Item 0217.

As the 19th century progressed, Toronto continued to prosper as it was the provincial capital and a major financial centre. Thus, a Board of Trade was established in 1845 to promote the interests of the business community. In 1884, the Board amalgamated with the Corn Exchange and a larger building was required. Members of the Board felt that it was important that the new headquarters reflect the prosperity and importance of the city. To ensure that this was accomplished, an architectural competition was initiated, the budget for the structure set at $200,000. Eight American and eleven Canadian designs were submitted, which were evaluated by Professor Ware of the Columbia University Department of Architecture. He recommended three of the designs, two of them Canadian and one American, and then allowed the Board to decide which firm should be granted the commission.

Many Torontonians were upset when the Board chose a British company with offices in New York, instead of the well-known Canadian firm of Darling and Curry. To add strength to the dispute, it became known that Professor Ware had stated that the Toronto company’s submission was superior. Despite the howls of protest, the Board hired the American architectural firm.

During the construction, three floors of brickwork collapsed to the ground because the support beams were unable to sustain the weight. The architects dismissed the building company, and shortly after, the Board dismissed the architects. Edward A. Kent from a Buffalo firm was hired to complete the building, according to the original designs. When the Board of Trade Building was completed in 1892, it was $140,000 over budget. With its Gothic and Romanesque designs, the building was a picturesque structure that attracted great attention from tourists and local citizens alike. It was a favourite among those who purchased postcards of Toronto, in an era when postcards were a highly popular.

Despite the many problems that had occurred, most critics agreed that the seven-storey structure was one of the finest in Toronto. It was felt that it ably represented the ideals and prosperity of the city. They ignored the fact that it was almost an exact replica of the Boston Chamber of Commerce Building, erected a few years earlier. By far the most impressive structure on Front Street, it overshadowed the warehouses and commercial structures to the east and west of it. The tower above the seventh floor, with its Turkish influences, dominated the corner. Its facades were faced with bricks from Toronto brickyards, and Credit Valley sandstone was employed for decorative trim. The windows on the top floor had gabled arches above them. They were the largest windows in the structure, allowing generous light to enter the top floor where the board meetings were held. On the same floor was the club room.

The Board of Trade occupied the building until 1914, when it sold the premises and relocated north on Yonge Street to the Royal Bank Building (at King Street). In 1921, when the Toronto Transportation (Transit) Commission was created to operate the streetcars and buses of the city, it moved into the former Board of Trade Building. The TTC remained in the premises until 1958, when it relocated to Yonge and Davisville.

The Toronto Board of Trade Building was demolished in 1958. During the 1960s, many of the other 19th-century buildings on Front Street were also demolished. The Flat Iron (Gooderham) Building and the warehouses on the south side of Front, west of Jarvis Street, were among the exceptions.

After the demise of the Board of Trade Building, there was an expansive parking lot on the site. However, in 1982, a 13-storey office complex of glass and steel was constructed on the location—the EDS Office Tower. It is today directly across from the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts.

                                                             * * *

I remember the Board of Trade Building as I passed it many times when visiting the St. Lawrence Market in the 1950s. I travelled to the market via the old Yonge streetcars, disembarking  at Yonge Street and walking east along Front Street. However, being a teenager at the time, I never stopped to admire this exceptional building. I now regret my lack of interest.

Sources: William Dendy, “ “Lost Toronto,” archiseek.com

c. 1890  I0001936[1]

Board of Trade Building, the photo taken shortly after it opened in 1892. Ontario Archives, 10001936.

c. 1890  I0001937[1]

   The building’s entrance on Front Street in the 1890s. Ontario Archives 10001937.

1900  pictures-r-5926[1]

Stereoscopic photo of the building, dated 1900. Toronto Public Library Collection, r-5926

1910- r-2169[1]

Postcard of the building, dated 1910, gazing east along Front Street. The old Bank of Montreal, now the Hockey Hall of Fame, is on the left-hand side of the photo. Toronto Public Library Collection, r-2169

Fonds 1244, Item 10072

Gazing north on Yonge Street in 1912, from the roof of the old Customs House (now demolished) on the southwest corner of Front and Yonge Streets. The Board of Trade Building is on the right-hand(east side) of Yonge. Toronto Archives, F1244, Item 10072.

Head Office Building, Front and Yonge – March 2, 1923

The Board of Trade Building on March 2, 1923. View looks toward the northeast corner of Front and Yonge Streets. Toronto Archives, S 0071, Item 1905.

Fonds 1266, Item 1860

View of the north side of Front Street on January 15, 1924. The Board of Trade Building is visible on the northeast corner of Front and Yonge. The construction site in the foreground remained empty for quite a few years. However, in 1929, the Dominion Building (Federal Customs building) was constructed on it. Toronto Archives, F1266, Item 1860.

Fonds 1244, Item 7189

Gazing east along Front Street at the north side of the street, c. 1930. The Bank of Montreal, built in 1885, on the northwest corner of Front and Yonge, is where the Hockey Hall of fame is located today. Toronto Archives, F1244, Item 7189.

1954  pictures-r-5928[1] (2)

The Board of Trade Building in 1954, Toronto Public Library, r-5928.

Former TTC Head Office located at Yonge and Front Sts – December 13, 1958

The Board of Trade Building in 1958, when it was being prepared for demolition. Toronto Archives, F1526, F10040, Item 0016.

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

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

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

The publication entitled, “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” was written by the author of this blog. It explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories by the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[2]

   To place an order for this book:

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

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Shop, and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

                                 image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[1]

Another book, published by Dundurn Press, containing 80 of Toronto’s former movie theatres will be released in June, 2016. It is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It contains over 125 archival photographs and relates interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating histories.

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

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

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

 

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