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Category Archives: historic toronto buildings

Toronto’s historic Guild Inn Estate

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                    The Guild Inn Estate (photo June 14, 2017)

In past decades, those of us who were born and raised west of Yonge Street were usually unfamiliar with the city to the east of it. Likewise, those born east of the city’s main street often were unfamiliar the area west of Yonge. This was because the intersection of Queen and Yonge was the retail heart of the city, as the two largest department stores were located there—Eaton’s and Simpsons. As well, most of the other important shops were either on Yonge Street or located close to it. To travel to the opposite side of Yonge was rarely necessary.

Until I was an adult in the early 1960s, I never knew anyone who had visited Scarborough’s Guild Inn. I never visited the historic property until June 14, 2017, on the occasion of its grand reopening, following a complete restoration and the addition of a new building with expanded facilities.

Located at 201 Guildwood Parkway, the original house on the property was built in 1914 in the Period Revival style, with Arts and Crafts Detailing. This style was popular during and after the First World War. It reflected elements of medieval architecture and possessed Tudor detailing. However, because of its straight lines and unadorned stucco cladding with wood trim, the house was sometimes referred to as being faux-Georgian. Constructed by Colonel Harold Bickford to serve as his family summer residence, it possessed stables and a large garage for his automobiles.

Colonel Bickford was born in “Gore Vale,” located in what is now Trinity Bellwoods Park. He was a decorated veteran who served in the Boer and First World Wars. Having acquired considerable financial success as a real estate broker, he purchased property on the edge of the Scarborough Bluffs. On the land, he built a 33-bedroom residence and named it Bickford House. In that decade, the estate was densely forested and remote from the city. On the south side of the home was a terrace with steps that led down to an extensive garden. At southern end of the property was the Scarborough Bluffs, and below the steep cliffs was Lake Ontario.

However, due to financial constraints, in 1921 Bickford sold his home and property to the Foreign Missionary Society of the Roman Catholic Church. It served as a boarding school for students of the China Mission College, which sent missionaries to China. In 1923, the house again changed hands when it was bought by an American businessman, Richard V. Look. He renamed it Cliff Acres because of its proximity to the Scarborough Bluffs. However, he vacated the house and relocated to Montreal after living in it for only a year.

The house remained vacant for five years, after which it was purchased by Rosa H. Hewstson. She was a wealthy widow whose husband had owned a shoe company. In August 1932, she married Spencer Clark, the ceremony held on the property. Soon after the honeymoon, the couple converted their multi-bedroom home into an hotel. Next, they built the Estate Building from two former structures on the property and established the Guild of All Arts to create an artists’ colony. The Clarks were inspired by Roycroft in East Aurora, New York, a center for the Arts and Crafts movement. The Estate Building and former stables provided accommodations for the artists as well as workshops. The estate offered training for aspiring artists and a wide variety of crafts—weaving, wood working, wrought iron, ceramics, leather tooling and batik. The proceeds from their work as well as the funds from the hotel business helped defray the expenses of operating the program.

In 1932, the Clarks transferred the title to the Scarborough Guild Ltd., and the following year the Kitchen Wing was constructed. In 1933, they offered a paid membership program that included entry to the scenic grounds as well as a series of lectures and concerts.

1944, when nerve shattered veterns tspa_0108031f[1] During World War II, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs requisitioned the Guild Inn and renamed it HMSC Bytown II. It became a centre where WRENS received specialized training in operating a wireless. Between 1944 and 1947, it was renamed Scarborough Hall and became a veterans’ hospital. In 1947, the estate was returned to the Clarks. They now enlarged the buildings and purchased a further 500 acres to increase the size of the estate. Their property eventually extended from Lake Ontario to Kingston Road and from Livingston Road to Galloway Road.

Near the end of the 1950s, the Clark family and Lakeview Estates Limited transferred part of the land to Higgins Company Limited, and registered the plan to create the Guildwood Village. It consisted of about 400 acres and today, the community is still referred to as “Guildwood Village.” It was a small version of the Don Mills subdivision, reflecting the best ideas of urban planning of its day.

It was during the 1950s that Spencer Clark commenced salvaging architectural remnants from important 19th and early 20th century buildings that Toronto was demolishing. They were placed in their garden, and today these relicts from the past are a much-loved part of the Guild Inn Estate. As well, Rosa and Spencer Clark commissioned artworks from notable Canadian sculptors and installed them on the Inn’s grounds. It became Canada’s first sculpture garden.

In 1965, a 100-room hotel tower was built to the east of the house. In 1978, the Metro Toronto Regional Conservation Authority acquired the Guild Estate for $8 million. However, Spencer Clark continued to operate the Inn.

Rosa Clark passed away in 1981, but Spencer continued to manage the Inn. In 1982, on the 50th anniversary of the Guild Inn, the Greek Theatre was opened, its backdrop the columns salvaged from the Bank of Toronto (built in 1912).

In 1985, Delta Hotels assumed management of the Inn. Spencer Clark died the following year. In 1988, the Giant Step Reality Corporation was granted a 99-year lease for the Inn, but it was terminated in 1993 when the Metropolitan Toronto and Regional Conservation Authority took over the site. However, the Authority’s main interest was the bluffs and the shoreline. Unfortunately, Guild Inn Hotel was closed. In 1999, it became a Heritage Property under the Ontario Heritage Act.

In 2001, the Inn was boarded up. However the grounds and sculpture garden remained open and were maintained by City of Toronto. In 2008, the Studio Building, following a fire, was demolished and in 2009, the hotel tower to the east of the Inn was demolished. Meanwhile, the remainder of the buildings began to badly deteriorate. In 2011, the Heritage Canada Foundation stated that the place was “in imminent danger of demolition by neglect.” The floors inside the Bickford residence were rotting to the extent that it was unsafe to walk on them. In 2009, a proposal by Centennial College was approved by the city. Then, in 2011 the College submitted a proposal that included condominiums. This plan was rejected.

DSCN1963In 2014, Dynamic Hospitality and Entertainment Group, an 100% Canadian owned company, was chosen to restore the estate. During the restoration, asbestos-filled additions in the original 1914 Bickford House were removed and on its west side, a new banquet hall and gazebo were constructed. The Bickford House, which had endeared the Inn to past generations, was painstakingly refurbished—the staircases, wainscotting and fireplaces. However, the latter were no longer functional.

When restoration of the Inn and surrounding property had been completed, it included an 88-acre park. In the original Bickford residence there were private suites and a restaurant able to accommodate 800 guests. Appropriately named Bickford Bistro, guests can now enjoy a midday lunch or an intimate evening dinner. There are 292 free parking spots on-site. As well, the complex possesses an events space able to host 1000 guest. Both the Bickford Bistro and the events space have terraces that overlook the spacious gardens.

With the reopening of the Guild Estates, I now have another reason to travel east of Yonge Street and become more familiar with Scarborough. It is always a pleasure to dine and then stroll around the grounds of a place that includes so much of the history of our city. 

Sources of information:

https://www.thestar.com/…/scarboroughs-long-neglected-guild-inn-reopens-its-histori

heritagetoronto.org/the-guild-inn

www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2014/pb/bgrd/backgroundfile

Booklet prepared by the Siren Group for the official reopening of the Inn on June 14, 2017.

1944, when nerve shattered veterns tspa_0108031f[1] 

The Guild Inn in 1944, when it was a veterans’ hospital named Scarborough Hall. Photo from the Toronto Public Library (tspa 0108031).

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The Guild Inn Inn in 1956 when it was managed by Spencer Clark. Toronto Public Library, r- 6531.

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View of the south side of the Inn in 1971, gazing north from the garden. On the right is the hotel to the east of the Bickford home. Toronto Public Library, tspa 0108025.

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An architectural remnant from the demolished Bank of Montreal being placed in the garden in 1978. Toronto Public Library –tspa 0108026 (Toronto Star Collection)

                             1985, Toronto Star biilding demo 1972 tspa_0108022f[2]

Architectural detailing from the Art Deco Toronto Star building, demolished in 1972. Photo taken in 1985, Toronto Public Library, tspa 0108022 (Toronto Star Collection). 

                           1986  tspa_0108030f Banks Bond Blg, demol. 1973 [1]

Columns from the Bankers Bond Building, erected at 60 King Street West in 1920. Demolished in 1973, it was inspired by the Erechtheum, part of the gateway to the Acropolis of ancient Athens. Photo taken in 1986, Toronto Public Library, tspa 0108030 (Toronto Star Collection).

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The entrance to the complex on its north side, on the occasion of the grand opening on June 14, 2017.

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The events space capable of hosting 1000 guests. For smaller events, it can be sub-divided into three separate rooms. (Photo taken June 14, 2017 during the grand reopening)

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         The original 1914-home that today contains the Bickford Bistro.

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One of the fireplaces in the Bickford home and a charming sculpture on its mantle.

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                Staircase in the Bickford home, leading to the second floor.

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View of the garden, gazing out through the windows of the passageway that connects the Bickford home to the new addition.

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     Gazing south over the sculpture garden from the terrace of the Bickford home.

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A doorway in the sculpture garden, rescued from the Bank of Nova Scotia at 39 King Street West, built in 1903 and demolished in 1969 (photo 2017).

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Spencer Clark in the sculpture garden in 1981, the Corinthian columns from the Bank of Toronto in the background.

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The columns from the Bank of Toronto, photographed in June 2017. Today, the salvaged architectural remnants create the backdrop for the Greek Theatre, which opened in 1982. The bank once stood on the southwest corner of King and Bay Streets.

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The Greek stage being checked out by Jamie Robinson, director of “She Stoops to Conquer.” The play is being performed from July 13th to August 13th, 2017. The audience watching this classic romantic comedy will be seated on the spacious grass area in front of the stage. 

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     View of the Guild Inn Estate from the sculpture garden in June 2017.

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.arcadiapublishing.com/Products/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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CIBC celebrates its 150th year

                 f1244_it3181[1]   1930

The Bank of Commerce in 1930, the tallest building in the British Empire when it was completed in 1929. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, S 1257, S 1007, item 0409.

The CIBC recently opened the observation deck on the 32th floor of the Bank of Commerce (now the CIBC) on King Street West for a one-time private viewing. Closed for the past fifty years, it was opened to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Bank of Commerce, one of the founding banks of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. It was was also to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Canada’s Confederation. Due to safety concerns, it is not practical to permit the observation deck to be open to the general public. Besides, the view is not as spectacular as when it was in 1929, as the building is hemmed in by tall skyscrapers. However, the view is still magnificent. I found it amazing to view the sculptures on the 32th floor from a close-up perspective.

Completed in 1929, the former Bank of Commerce is one of Toronto’s finest Art Deco structures. Its banking hall remains impressive, despite the passing of the many decades since it opened.

To view a pictorial history of the bank: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/02/18/torontos-architectural-gemsthe-bank-of-commerce-cibc-on-king-street/

Photos taken on May 11, 2017 commemorating the 150th anniversary of the bank.

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The chandelier in the banking hall was lowered for the 150th anniversary of the founding of the bank, allowing a close-up view .

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The richly ornamented chandelier in the banking hall, its bottom tier containing the caduceus, the symbol of the Bank of Commerce.

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The caduceus is the traditional symbol of Hermes and features two snakes winding around a staff, often mistakenly used as a symbol of medicine. In Greek mythology, it was a symbol of commerce and negotiation, a natural representation for The Bank of Commerce.

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(Left-hand photo) the northeast corner of the bank when it was under construction in 1927-1929, and (right), people on the observation deck c. 1930.

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Gazing south toward the Toronto Islands from the observation deck in May 2017.

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                                        Sculpted stone face that gazes east.

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   Gazing west along King Street. In North America, only New York City has more skyscrapers than Toronto.

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Looking east, Adelaide Street East on the left-hand side, and in the foreground the tower and spire of St. James Cathedral.

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The north facade of the 58-storey L-Tower at I Front Street East, architect  Daniel Libeskind.

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                              The Sony Centre for the Performing Arts.                  

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       The building that houses Sleep Country, on the northeast corner of King and Yonge (8 King Street East)

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          The Art Deco designed foyer that leads to the observation deck.

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Glimpse of the northeast corner of Union Station between the towering skyscrapers. 

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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Southeast Corner of Bathurst and King—Toronto

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                The building at 665 King Street West in May 2017.

The southeast corner of Bathurst and King Streets is slated for redevelopment. The early-20th-century building on the site has survived for over a century, but is soon to meet the wrecker’s ball as it is in an area that is exploding demographically.

The four-storey red-brick structure was erected between the years 1901 and 1902. On its completion, the Canada Biscuit Company owned by Thomas McCormick occupied the site, but remained on the premises for only two years. It was vacant for the next two years. For the following two years (1907 and 1908) the Smith Baggs and Heaven Company rented the property. In 1909, the Anglo-Canadian Leather Company and Sanitol Chemical Laboratory Company shared the building. The latter company manufactured hygienic products, including tooth powder and toilet paper.

In 1913, the Anglo-Canadian Leather Company and the Reliance Knitting Company shared the structure. However, in 1923, the Bank of Montreal opened a branch on the ground-floor, facing King Street. The bank branch closed in 2000.

The Banknote Bar opened shortly after 2000, taking its name from the fact that legal tender, known as bank notes, was representative of the previous occupant of the space. The Bank Note Bar had no connection with the British American Bank Note Company, which distributed paper bills and coins from the Canadian mint to the various banks throughout the city. This arrangement commenced after 1935, when the Bank of Canada was created. Previously, each bank printed its own bank notes.

It is a pity that the building the Banknote Bar occupies will not survive, except for its north facade. The city and developers have not learned that destroying heritage structures is a losing proposition—both environmentally and financially. If a heritage building is recycled, labour costs are higher but the cost of materials is less. This is an environmental win and a job stimulus for the city. The developers’ total costs are only slightly higher, despite their argument to the contrary, although it requires more time to include a heritage property within a project. However, developers win big time when the spaces within the projects are either sold or rented. People and businesses pay increased prices as the sites are deemed more desirable.

King St, west to Bathurst, (Way Department) – April 13, 1927    

Gazing west on King Street toward Bathurst and King Streets on April 13, 1927. The building where the Bank of Montreal was located is visible in the distance, on the left-hand side of the photo. The turret on the Wheat Sheaf Tavern can also be seen at Bathurst, on the southwest corner. There are houses on the north side of King Street. Toronto Archives, S 0071, item 4810. 

View of King Street West, looking east from Bathurst Street – August 25, 1973

Looking east on King Street from the corner of King and Bathurst on August 25, 1972. The Bank of Montreal occupies the space where the Banknote Bar is located today (2017). Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, Fl 0074, item 0037.

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The Banknote Bar in May 2017. The building at 665 King Street is an handsome structure and deserves to be protected from demolition.

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The north facade on King Street in 2017, the only part of the building that will survive. The large stones on the ground floor create the impression of pillars, this heavy, fortified appearance typical of banks in 1920s.

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                           Entrance to the building on King Street West

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An entranceway with ornate brickwork on the west facade facing Bathurst Street, likely used by other tenants that rent space within. 

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          Architectural detailing on the southwest corner of the structure.

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Interior of the Banknote Bar with its pine beams. This is the space where the Bank of Montreal was located from 1923 to 2000.

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        The door of the vault of the Bank of Montreal in the Banknote Bar

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Diagram of the redevelopment of the site at Bathurst and King Streets. The view gazes south on Bathurst Street, the spire of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in the foreground. This diagram does not show the two other heritage buildings on the corners of Bathurst and King, so its appears as if the redevelopment of the site is a suitable match.

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 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: , ,

Westbury Hotel Toronto (history of)

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The Westbury Hotel in 2015, the view looking south on Yonge Street toward Carlton from Alexander Street. 

The Westbury Hotel is soon to be demolished, replaced by two high-rise towers, 65 and 45 storeys tall. The Westbury is located at 475 Yonge Street, on the east side of the street, one block north of Carlton Street. Being a resident of Toronto, I never stayed in the Westbury Hotel, but I retain fond memories of visiting its restaurant in the 1970s. I had read an article in the TV Guide, inserted into the Toronto Star each Saturday. The publication encouraged readers to request favourite recipes from restaurants throughout the city. One reader asked for the recipe of a dish served at Creighton’s, on the ground floor of the Westbury. This was the reason I first visited the hotel.

The dish being requested at Creighton’s was likely a response in the 1970s to Torontonians’ becoming increasingly aware of French cooking This was partly due to Julia Child’s TV show (“The French Chef”), which had commenced broadcasting in 1963. She promoted many dishes that were heavy with butter and cream. One of her favourite quotes was: “The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.” The Westbury Hotel already had a gastronomic reputation. Susur Lee, who later was to become a star in the gourmet world, for a time was a chef at the hotel. However, Chef Tony Roldan’s “Les Scampis Amoureux” (“Scampi in Love”), rich with cream, butter, white wine and a dash of Pernod, was the dish that the reader had requested from the Star newspaper. I ordered it when I visited the restaurant and enjoyed it immensely. 

The history of the Westbury spans almost seven decades. The first 16-storey tower of the hotel opened in 1957. Named after the Knott Westbury hotels in New York and London, it was originally to be called The Torontonian. However, this was changed after it was leased by the Knott Hotels Company of Canada. Located on the northeast corner of Yonge and Wood Streets, it was considered an excellent location for a luxury hotel. Its architect was Peter Dickinson when he was employed by Page and Steele. His design was a variation of the postwar International Style, its facades containing many large glass windows. Dickinson was also the architect of the O’Keefe Centre, which opened in 1960.

The hotel’s interior was designed and outfitted by the Robert Simpson Company, the lobby containing marble and walnut panelling. The Sky Lounge on the top (sixteenth) floor possessed an amazing view to the south, overlooking the city’s financial district and Lake Ontario. The Polo Room cocktail lounge, named after its namesake in London, became a favourite on the Yonge Street strip for those who enjoyed a late-night drink.

In the early 1960s, a matching nine-storey tower designed by Webb Zerafa Menkes was built on the north side of the original tower, the two towers connected by a large hallway. A few years later, Menkes was to design Hazelton Lanes. The north facade of the Westbury’s north tower was on Alexander Street, so the hotel then occupied the entire city block on Yonge Street between Alexander and Wood Streets. 

However, by the second decade of the 21st century, the pace of intensification of the city had increased astronomically. The Westbury Hotel occupied land on Yonge Street that contained towers of merely 16 and 9 storeys. A rezoning application to replace the Westbury was submitted to the city in 2015, proposing to construct of a pair of towers of 65 and 45 storeys. Thus, a familiar portion of the Yonge Street strip was to disappear forever. I will miss the Westbury, though I admit that other than when I photograph it, I had not been inside it for several decades. However, I still have the recipe for Chef Tony Roldan’s “Scampi in Love.”

Sources: I am grateful for the information provided by robertmoffatt115.wordpress.com 

dig foundations, 1955  pictures-r-5660[1]

The digging of the foundations for construction of the Westbury Hotel in 1955. The clock tower of the St. Charles Tavern is visible on the west side of Yonge Street, as well as the Buddies in Bad Times Theatre on Alexander Street (top right-hand corner). Toronto Reference library. r-5660.

Street view of Westbury Hotel and fire trucks – May 13, 1975 

The west facade of the Westbury on Yonge Street on May 13, 1975. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, Fl1010, item 0045.

View of fire at Westbury Hotel and some store fronts on Yonge Street – May 13, 1975

Looking south on Yonge Street on May 13, 1975. Both towers of the Westbury are visible. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, Fl 10100, item 0044.

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View gazing south on Yonge Street in 2015, the nine-storey north tower on the left and the sixteen-storey original tower on the right.

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               Hotel’s main entrance that is accessed from Wood Street.

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               The coffee shop on the ground floor of the south tower.

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                               The lobby in the south tower.

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                               A conference room in the Westbury.

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Hallway connecting the north and south towers, the view looking toward the north tower. Colourful art work is on the east wall, beside the woman who is seated.

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                                Close up view of the art work.

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View in April 2016, looking northwest from Wood Street at the east sides of the towers.

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                            Sign on the hotel in December 2015.

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    Artist’s view of the towers that will be on the site of the Westbury Hotel.

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 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:

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

 

Tags: , , ,

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

                      1909, ,  f1244_it2162[1]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources: stgeorgethemartyr.ca, www.geraldrobinson.ca    

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

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

                     1867, Ont. Archives  I0005287[1]

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

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

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

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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.

1956,  pictures-r-185[1]

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

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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

 

Tags: , ,

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. 

1872, Pub. Lib. pictures-r-5390[1]

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.

fence in 1870s,

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. 

                                image

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.  

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   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)

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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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