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Category Archives: historic Toronto

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:

HMV Music—history

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     HMV Music’s Toronto flagship store at 333 Yonge Street in April 2017

The HMV on Yonge Street closed on Friday, April 14, 2017. It was crowded for the occasion as people sought bargains there for the last time. The loss of HMV was the end of another Toronto tradition, as more and more people prefer to shop on the internet rather than retail stores. I will miss the HMV store on Yonge Street, having spent much time there browsing the shelves in search of bargain-priced movies.

The HMV Music store at 333 Yonge Street was a short distance south of where the old Biltmore Theatre once stood. After the theatre and a few other buildings near it were demolished, a modern three-storey structure of glass and metal was erected. When the HMV Music store moved in, it was fitting location as it was located only a few doors south of where A&A Records and Sam the Record Man were once located. The interior of HMV resembled these former stores, but its long rows of merchandise did not contain any vinyl recordings and tapes.

HMV is a British company with a long history in the retail trade as a vender of books and music. The letters in its name stand for “His Master’s Voice,” which originated in the 1890s from a painting by that name. Artist Francis Barraud, from Liverpool, was the creator, his painting depicting a dog named Nipper listening to a recording of his “master’s voice” playing on a wind-up gramophone. In 1899, the Gramophone Company bought the copyright to the painting. The Talking Machine Company in America bought the U. S. rights to the trademark. This company was purchased by RCA, and it then became its symbol. I can remember the image of the dog and the gramophone on the 78 rpm and LP records that I purchased in the 1950s.

HMV’s first retail store was on Oxford Street in London, England. Sir Edward Elgar officiated at its opening in 1921. In 1931, the Gramophone Company merged with Columbia Graphophone Company to form Electric and Musical Industries Ltd (EMI), and employed the initials of “His Master’s Voice” (HMV) as its corporate name. In 1925, Sir Edward Elgar recorded his own music for the company. In 1953, HMV Oxford Street changed the store’s ground-floor level into a self-service showroom. This format was immediately popular as customers were able to select their own merchandise and then pay the cashier at the front of the store. This method was later employed by both A&A Records and Sam’s in Toronto.

Thorn Electrical Industries acquired EMI in 1979 and in 1980 the company became Thorn EMI. In 1980s this company opened the enormous HMV Oxford Circus store at 150 Oxford Street. In 1986, HMV became a separate and autonomous division under Thorn EMI. HMV opened its first store in Canada in 1986 and also commenced selling in Japan, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore and the United States. In 1995, HMV released it first CD. In 2002, HMV Media went public on the London Stock Exchange. In 1991, HMV opened a store at 333 Yonge Street in downtown Toronto and it became a very popular place to visit, especially in the evenings, similar to A&A and Sam’s in former decades.

However, sales began to decline after 2007, when Amazon launched the Kindle e-reader, threatening HMV’s share of the book market. In June 2011, HMV sold its 121-store Canadian chain to Hilco UK. Sales continued to dwindle and the company went into receivership, with 102 stores across Canada, employing 1240 people. When the HMV on Yonge Street closed on April 14, 2017, a vital part of the Yonge/Dundas area for twenty-six years was lost.

Sources: www.hmv.com/about   www..classicfm.com/music    www.retail-week.com 

hmv-history-pictures-16-1358943251-view-0[1]

“His Master’s Voice,” (HMV). Photo from HMV History Pictures.

                 1991, opening  Tor Ref. tspa_0015113f[1]

The HMV store on Yonge Street in 1991, the year it opened. Photo from the Toronto Star Collection in the Toronto Public Library.

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                                   The HMV store in April, 2017.

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Interior of the HMV store on Yonge, view looking toward the front of the store from the second-floor level.

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                       Customers browsing on the second-floor level.

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       View from the second-floor level, looking up to the third floor.

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                 Signs announcing the closing of the store in April 2017.

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                              HMV’s empty rows of shelves.

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[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:

History of the Park Plaza Hotel (Park Hyatt)

                        DSCN1162

The Park Hyatt Hotel, located at 4 Avenue Road, is on the northwest corner of Bloor Street West and Avenue Road. Constructed between the years 1926 and 1929, it was originally named the “Queen’s Park Plaza Hotel.” Its architect was Stratford-born Hugh G. Holman, who designed it in the Art Deco style. In the 1920s, the classical styles of the previous century were giving way to buildings with setbacks that narrowed them in width as they rose to their summits, similar to the ziggurats of ancient Babylonia.

The ground floor of the Queen’s Park Plaza Hotel and the second-floor above it formed a podium. The two floors of the podium were each the equal of two-storeys in height. Above the podium were ten more floors, which extended upward to the lower cornice. Above it were three more storeys, and perched at the top, on the eighteen floor, there was the rooftop garden and restaurant/bar. However, due to the Great Depression that descended in 1929, construction stopped before the hotel’s interior was finished.

In 1935, Morrow Oxley of the firm Chapman and Oxley was hired to complete the building. It finally opened on July 11, 1936, when its name was changed to the Park Plaza Hotel. In order for it to be financially viable, it offered hotel rooms, residential apartments, and 30,000 square feet of office space. It was among the city’s most luxurious hotels and its apartments among the most prestigious. The apartments had been decorated by W. and J. Sloane. The facilities included three restaurants and a rooftop garden. After the opening, problems soon appeared. The hotel had been constructed above a meandering branch of Taddle Creek, which crossed Bloor Street and flowed south through Philosopher’s Walk. As a result, the structure began to sag slightly, causing the elevators to sometimes malfunction. The solution was to stabilize the foundations by permafreezing the ground.

The rooftop restaurant and bar were originally for the exclusive use of the apartment owners, but in 1937, they were opened to the public. In that year, to the south, there was an unobstructed view of the lake and the Toronto Islands. Immediately below it was Varsity Stadium, where the Argonaut football games could be viewed. Also visible were the roof of the Royal Ontario Museum and green copper-topped roofs of the legislative buildings at Queen’s Park.

In 1956, a 14-storey north tower was added, its architect being Page and Steel. Built in a modernist style, it was of brick, concrete, glass, and metal. The design was the work of Page and Steeles’ talented Peter Dickenson, who was as influential in the 1950s, as the famous Art Deco architects had been in the 1920s. The two towers were linked by a two-storey podium.

DSCN1186Joe Gomes, a Portuguese immigrant, commenced working as a waiter in the hotel in 1959. Two years later, he was promoted to being a bartender at the rooftop bar. Since the Park Plaza was on the edge of the Yorkville District, for over five decades, he observed the ever-changing life of the area from behind the bar. Following the turmoil of the “hippy generation” in Yorkville in the 1960s, it slowly became one of the most prestigious districts in Toronto. The hotel’s bar and restaurants became a favourite of the city’s arts and literary community during the 1970s and 1980s. During these decades, the celebrities Joe Gomes chatted with while serving a drink included Duke Ellington, Pierre Trudeau, Lester B. Pearson (whose favourite was gin and tonic), Christopher Plummer, Burt Reynolds, Russell Crowe, Paul Anka, and John Wayne. The newspaper above has a photo of Joe Gomes on the front page of the Toronto Star.

In 1999, the Hyatt chain bought the Park Plaza and changed its name to the Park Hyatt. At the beginning of the 21st century, the rental prices on Bloor Street, west of Yonge, were among the most expensive in Canada, and the Park Hyatt was in the heart of it.

In 2014, the property was sold to Oxford Properties for $90 million. Extensive renovations were carried out to unify the architecture of the two properties, the designs the responsibility of KPMB architects, the restoration by ERA architects. The 2-storey podium was demolished. The structure that replaced it was larger, and was located further back from the street. In front of it was a crescent-shaped driveway to accommodate those who arrived by cars and limousines. The south tower then contained only apartments, and the north tower was a 220-room hotel. The north tower received a new external elevator core and a lobby on the second floor.     

Today, the hotel is one of the finest hotels in Toronto. Its rooftop bar is as well-loved today as it was during the years when it first opened. However, the view toward the south, in the distance, is now of the skyline of the financial district and the CN Tower. Immediately below the bar is the roof of the Crystal of the Royal Ontario Museum.

The author is grateful for information from http://losttoronto2, www.the star.com, www.ontario-travel-secrets.com, urbantoronto.ca, and torontoist.com.

Bloor St, looking west, to Avenue Road, 2:12 p.m., (Way Department) – April 27, 1929

The camera is pointed west on Bloor Street in April, 1929. The Park Plaza Hotel, not yet opened to the public, is on the northwest corner of the intersection of Bloor and Avenue Road. Toronto Archives, S 0071, item 6776. 

3. c. 1933  Fonds 1244_it7360[1]

Gazing north on Queen’s Park toward Bloor Street c. 1933. In the foreground is the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), the Park Plaza Hotel in the background. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244. item 7360.  

2.  Oct. 29, 1934, s0372_ss0052_it1713[1]  1934

Looking north on Queen’s Park toward Bloor Street on October 29, 1934. Trees are being removed to facilitate the widening of Queen’s Park. The Royal Ontario Museum is on the west side of the street, the Park Plaza Hotel in the background. Toronto Archives, S 0372, SS 0052, item 1713.

            1. 1954.  pictures-r-4855[1]

The camera is pointed north on Queen’s Park toward Bloor Street in 1954. The Park Plaza Hotel dominates the scene. Travelling west on Bloor Street is a PCC streetcar. Toronto Public Library, r- 4855.

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The Park Hyatt in 2017, a section of the Crystal of the Royal Ontario Museum in the foreground.

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View of the south (1936) tower on Bloor Street, and the north (1959) tower to the north (right-hand side of photo) on Avenue Road.

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Windows on the south facade facing Bloor Street. The rooftop bar is visible at the summit.

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The rooftop bar, the windows facing south that overlook Queen’s Park, and in the distance, the city skyline and the CN Tower. 

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                        The lobby for the apartments in the south tower.

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The luxurious Interior of the two-storey rebuilt podium that connects the two towers.

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Main entrance to the Park Hyatt from Avenue Road, the modern north tower in the background.

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The entrance on Bloor Street that at one time was the main entrance that gave access to the south tower (left-hand photo) and the Art Deco detailing directly above it (right).

                          DSCN1573

View looking north on Queen’s Park toward the magnificent Park Hyatt Hotel, the Royal Ontario Museum in the foreground on the left.

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    

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: , , ,