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Category Archives: historic Toronto

The Story of Gibson House—North York, Toronto

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         Gibson House in North York, Toronto, at 5172 Yonge Street.

Gibson House, the home of David and Eliza Gibson, recreates life in a 19th century farm house, an era from our past that contrasts with our busy modern world. The early decades that this house represents may appear quiet and less-hurried when compared to today, but visitors soon learn that this is a mere illusion. It was an age that lacked modern technology, meaning that life was harsh and labour intensive. Despite this, many tasks performed by the Gibson family remain familiar to us today, while others are thankfully remote.

The story of the original inhabitant of the house is fascinating, as they witnessed and participated in some of the most turbulent events in the history of our province. David Gibson was born in 1804 in the parish of Glamis, Forfarshire (Angus), Scotland. His father, a tenant farmer, apprenticed him at 15 years of age to a land surveyor in Forfarshire. When David’s apprenticeship ended in 1824, he immigrated to North America. His uncle, Alexander Milne, who lived in Markham Township, Upper Canada (Ontario), encouraged him in this venture by informing him that it was relatively easy to qualify as a surveyor in the province as surveyors were in great demand.

David sailed for North America in the spring of 1825 and arrived in Montreal. Although he found employment there, a permanent position in his area of expertise eluded him. Finally, even though a well-paid position as a grocery merchant was offered to him, he departed Montreal and journeyed to his uncle’s farm in Upper Canada. Upon his arrival in the province, he was still unable to immediately secure the employment that he desired.

However, upon passing the provincial examination for surveyors in December 1825, he was appointed deputy-surveyor of roads and in September 1828, surveyor of highways for the southern part of the Home District. In a mere three years, he was well established and was busy mapping the roads and avenues of early-day York (Toronto).

In 1828, Gibson married his cousin, Eliza Milne, and the following year they bought a farm lot on north Yonge Street, nine miles north of the town of York. Located in an area that is today named Willowdale, they built a wood-frame house. Under David’s guidance, the property became an active and progressive farm.

However, despite his busy life as a farmer and surveyor, David Gibson set aside time to become involved in public affairs. In 1831 he was elected president of the York Temperance Society. It was during these years that he saw first-hand the inequalities of the political system in Upper Canada and became an avid Reformer. His views led him to a political association with William Lyon Mackenzie.

In 1834 and 1836 Gibson was elected to the assembly for the First Riding of York, where he became known as a reasonable but forceful supporter of reform. It is thought that because of his commitment to the reform movement, the newly-incorporated City of Toronto City Council gave him contacts surveying streets and sidewalks. However, despite his many activities, he continued to farm and prosper. He won several prizes from the Home District Agricultural Society, and successfully sold livestock at ever-increasing prices.

In December of 1837, Mackenzie began advocating for open rebellion against the government. Gibson learned of the plans only two days before events were to begin and was not fully aware of Mackenzie’s intentions. When he finally met with Mackenzie, the rebel leader demanded that Gibson choose sides. Gibson was hesitant. However, he eventually agreed, even though he believed that rebellion was wrong. He reasoned that such an extreme measure might force the government to institute reforms that were badly needed.

On a cold December morning, though he harboured doubts about the course of action, Gibson was present at Montgomery’s Tavern where Mackenzie and the rebels had gathered. Unfortunately, the tavern was raided by government forces lead by James Fitzgibbon and Allan McNab. During the skirmish, Gibson protected the loyalist prisoners held inside Montgomery Tavern from mistreatment, and eventually led them to safety. At this point, Gibson left the rebels and did not join in the march down Yonge Street.

The loyalist prisoners were grateful for their freedom and spoke on Gibson’s behalf. Despite this, Lieutenant Governor Sir Francis Bond Head ordered the militia to torch the house on Gibson’s farm. While it was in flames, after ensuring that her children were safe, Eliza Gibson ran into the burning building to retrieve the clock-face and mechanical workings from their treasured wooden long-case (grandfather) clock. In her skirt, she carried out of the house the valuable parts of the clock.

As there was a warrant for his arrest, Gibson hid near Oshawa for a month, and then, escaped across Lake Ontario to Lockport, New York. While in the United States, he avoided any contact with Mackenzie, who had referred to him in an article as a coward, because Gibson had left the rebels after the fighting at Montgomery’s Tavern. Gibson finally secured employment in Lockport as an engineer on the Erie Canal and sent for his family to join him. He prospered and soon was able to purchase a farm.

Although he was pardoned in 1843 by the government of Canada West (Upper Canada) on the charge of treason, he remained in the United States and in 1846 applied for citizenship. In 1848, however, he lost his employment contract on the Erie Canal. As a result, after 11 years in exile, he decided to return to his farm in Canada West (today named Ontario).

While Gibson was in the United States, his Yonge Street property had been tended to by relatives. Repossessing the farm, he was determined to re-build and also resume his profession as surveyor. He hired a farmhand to assist him when he was away surveying. Interestingly, the clock works that Eliza had rescued from the flames in 1837, had been placed in a new case after Eliza, David, and their children re-united in Lockport, New York.  When the Gibson family returned to the farm in 1848, the long-case clock was brought with them.

In 1851, the Gibson family built an impressive Georgian Revival farmhouse at 5172 Yonge Street. A narrow dirt lane led from the farmhouse to Yonge Street. A few years after the house was built, an addition was erected to provide accommodation for the labourer who worked on the farm. It was a separate second-level structure attached to the west side of the house, with a separate staircase and entrance that connected it to the kitchen. The worker used the separate entrance to enter or depart the house, and only visited the parlour and living space if he were invited by the family.

In 1855, Gibson opened a post office just north of his farm. In that decade, there were about 150 people living in the community, which was known as Kummer’s (or Cummer’s) settlement. David Gibson suggested that the name be changed to Willowdale, because of the numerous willow trees in the area.

The house was home to David and Eliza and their four sons and three daughters. After David and Eliza passed away, their son Peter Silas Gibson and his family lived it until 1916. Then, the house was occupied by a series of different owners and tenants. To rescue it from demolition, the Township of North York purchased the property in 1965.

Gibson House was restored and opened as a heritage museum on June 6, 1971. Today, it operates as a functioning household by interpreting 19th-century domestic skills involving cooking, sewing, gardening and farming. Visitors are able to tour this historic Georgian-style farmhouse and museum is at 5172 Yonge Street. The clock rescued by Eliza can still be seen in a prominent position in the house.

Sources:

I am indebted to the tour guide who showed me the rooms within Gibson House and the informative signs posted in the hallways to help visitors understand 19th-century life

Internet sources:

www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/toronto-feature-gibson-house/

www.torific.ca/gibson-house-reminder-of-early-settlements-and-rural-history-in-north

www.biographi.ca/en/bio/gibson_david_9E.html

58. gate and lane to G H in 1913.   nyhs00633[1]

Entrance in 1913 from Yonge Street to Gibson House, which in that year contained the offices of Peter S. Gibson. The view gazes west, with the house partially obscured by the trees. Toronto Public Library, Call number NYHS00633.

61, south on Yonge from north of Park Ave, 1914.   near  nyhs00010[1]

View looking south on Yonge Street from Park Avenue in 1914. The rural qualities of the community are clearly evident. This is the view a person would have seen in 1914 after exiting the laneway from the Gibson House and turning southward toward the city. City of Toronto Archives, Call number NYHS00010.

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View looking west at the land between Yonge Street and the Gibson House. The photo is dated 1957, but I suspect it was taken much earlier as the porch is missing from the front of the house. In the next photo, dated the same year, the porch has been restored. Toronto Public Library, Call number SI-4167. 

55. c. 1967  f0217_s0249_fl0090_it0001[1]

East and north facades of Gibson House. The photo is dated 1957, but as the house appears restored, the date of the photo is suspect. Toronto Archives, f 0217, S 0249, fl 1009, item 0001.

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Controller Mel Lastman in front of Gibson House in 1970, when the house was overshadowed by a 17-story apartment building on its north side. Toronto Public Library, tspa 01007065f.

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The front of Gibson House in June 2018. Georgian Revival in style, it has a symmetrical facade, with nine windows, and a Greek portico.

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The Greek-style portico and the door with its side-light windows and fan-shaped transom window above, which add elegance to the entranceway.

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The kitchen of Gibson House with its large open fireplace and work table. This is where meals were prepared for family members, the domestic servant, and the farm worker.

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    The fireplace with various 19th-century utensils required for cooking.

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       A cozy table set for tea beside the fireplace in the dining room.

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       Tables set in the dining room for a Mothers’ Day tea in June 2018.

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The clock that contains the face and workings that Eliza rescued from the fire in 1837. The wooden case for the clock was acquired while the family lived in Lockport, New York. The clock was carried across the border when the Gibsons returned to Canada West (Upper Canada, now Ontario) in 1848. 

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Staircase leading from the ground-floor level to the second storey of the Gibson House. Photo June 2018. The charming young woman in the photo provided an interesting and insightful tour of the home.

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View from the top of the staircase, the sewing room on the second-floor level directly ahead.

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The boys’ room where James, William, Peter, and George slept, two in a bed. 

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In the girls’ bedrooms, the front room was where Elizabeth (Libby) slept. She had a writing desk beside the window where perhaps a few love letters were penned. The room behind hers was for her sisters, Margaret and Hellen. Two years after moving into the house, in 1853, Elizabeth married and departed her parents’ home.

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The bedroom of David and Eliza, containing the best furnishings in the house. On the far wall is a “dumb stove,” a circular device in a stovepipe that radiates heat from the parlour stove downstairs.

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As the heat rises through the stovepipe and reaches  the “dumb stove,” it spreads out and heats the room more efficiently. Clothes placed near the dumb stove are kept warm for the morning. 

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           The bed of David and Eliza in the master bedroom.

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The sewing room was where clothes were made for the family and where all mending and stitching was performed. In 1851, the hired girl who assisted Eliza with these chores, was 20-year-old Catherine Flynn, an Irish immigrant. Domestic work was not highly valued in this century and Catherine was likely paid about half the wages of the farm worker. However, her room and board were included. She slept in the sewing room.  

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The guest bedroom, a well-furnished room that was designed to impress visitors. Due to the difficulty of travelling any distance after sunset, guests who arrived for dinner often stayed the night.

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The room of John Bosa, the young Englishman who was the farm worker that performed most of the labour on the farm while David Gibson was away surveying. The room was his bedroom, sitting room, and bathroom as it contained a chamber pot under the bed. He ate in the kitchen and entered his room via the back staircase. He did not enter the parlour or living space of the family unless invited. However, because he had a cozy room within the house, he was likely viewed as a valued member of the household.

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John Bosa likely sat in his room many an evening after a hard-day’s labour on the farm, soaking his tired feet.

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The office of David Gibson, where he worked on the maps and documents related to his employment as a surveyor. The drafting table is beside the window to take advantage of the available daylight. 

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A person can only speculate how many times a member of the Gibson family peered out this window at the farmland and orchard on the property.

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 Author

               DSCN2207_thumb9_thumb2_thumb4_thumb_  

“ Lost Toronto”—employing detailed archival photographs, this recaptures the city’s lost theatres, sporting venues, bars, restaurants and shops. This richly illustrated book brings some of Toronto’s most remarkable buildings and much-loved venues back to life. From the loss of John Strachan’s Bishop’s Palace in 1890 to the scrapping of the S. S. Cayuga in 1960 and the closure of the HMV Superstore in 2017, these pages cover more than 150 years of the city’s built heritage to reveal a Toronto that once was.

 

                         cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852

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. 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. (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

 

                  image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[1]

“Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again” explores 81 theatres. It 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®

“Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. It contains archival and modern photos that allow readers to compare scenes and discover how they have changed over the decades. Note: a review of this book was published in Spacing Magazine, October 2016. For a link to this review:

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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The historic Noble Block—Queen Street West

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The Noble Block is a commercial row of red-brick buildings, visible from the busy intersection of Queen and Spadina. Located on the north side of Queen Street, they appear in the distance, in the centre of the photo. The camera faces east from the southwest corner of Spadina and Queen Streets.

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The Noble Block consists of a row of seven red-brick buildings that extend from 342 to 354 Queen Street West. The two buildings to the west of them (left-hand side in photo), numbers #356 and #358, are not part of the Noble Block, but architecturally complement it.

Today, walking along some sections of Queen Street West, a person is able visualize Toronto as it appeared in the 19th-century. Unfortunately, most visitors do not see the historical aspects of the buildings as they rarely gaze above the first-floor level, where the shops windows are located. However, the upper floors contain some of the best preserved Victorian commercial architecture in the city.      

The row of buildings, known as the Noble Block, are located on land that in the 1790s was part of the 100-acre Park Lot #15, granted to William Wilcox by Lieutenant Governor Simcoe. The Park Lot extended from Spadina to Huron Street. To the east of it was Park Lot 14, owned by Peter Russell.

After John Graves Simcoe departed from Upper Canada (Ontario) in 1795, Peter Russell was the highest ranking official of both the Executive and Legislative Councils. He was appointed Administrator of Upper Canada in 1796 and remained in this position until 1799 when Peter Hunter arrived as the new Lieutenant Governor. Peter Street is named after Peter Russell, as is Russell Hill Road, Russell Street and Russell Hill Avenue.

In 1802, Peter Russell purchased Park Lot 15 where the Noble Block is located, and soon thereafter, began sub-dividing the land on its south side, along Queen Street. The small parcels of land were suitable in size for family homes, which began to appear c. 1805. The row houses became known as the Petersfield Row, the name derived from the country farmhouse of Peter Russell, which had been erected c.1799. It was located a short distance east of Spadina, set back from the north side of Queen Street. Today, the site is where Soho Street intersects with Phoebe Street.

During most of the 19th century, the Petersfield Row continued to occupy this section of the street. They extended from Spadina Avenue, east to Soho Street. However, the row houses were eventually doomed due to the city’s constant growth, as it was the government and financial centre of the province.

By the latter decades of the 19th century, land prices along Queen Street were increasing rapidly, and the building lots to the north and south of Queen Street were becoming fully occupied. This created a demand for more shops and residential properties along busy Queen Street, as it was the commercial centre of the community.

As there were no empty lots, the alternative was to raze the low-rise structures and replace them with higher buildings that extended further back from the street. This is why there are numerous tall, narrow buildings along this section of Queen Street. In the late-1880s, the working-class houses of Petersfield Row were demolished to allow the taller structures to be erected.

In 1888, seven three-storey buildings were constructed, numbers 342 to 354 Queen Street West. Three-storeys were deemed a practical height in a decade without elevators. Each building was a separate entity, but they were architecturally similar in style, complementing each other. They were named the Noble Block after Mrs. Emma Noble, a widow, who owned the land on which seven of the buildings were located. The funds for their construction were from money she had inherited from her father, William Noble, a retired farmer.

The new buildings were a commercial block, with shops on the first-floor level and residential apartments or offices above them. James Smith and William Gimmell were the architects. They designed many churches and wealthy homes throughout Toronto and the province, most of which have since been demolished. Thankfully, the Noble Block has survived.

Another widow, Mrs. Mary Ann Harvard, owned the two properties to the immediate west of the Noble Block (#356-358 Queen Street). She intended to invest with Mrs. Noble and add two more buildings to the block. However, for some unknown reason she decided to opt out of the plan. She sold the land and the new owner declined to participate in the scheme. Thus, the two buildings to the west of the Noble Block were not constructed until several years later and are not part of it.

When the two latter buildings (#356-358 Queen Street) were finally erected, though the colour of the bricks was not the same as the Noble Block, their ornate brickwork complemented the earlier structures. Today, these two shops are combined into a single store, with the postal address #356. Despite the passage of the years, the row of three-storey buildings remain an important part of Queen Street West. 

In the Noble Block, five of the red-brick buildings, numbered 346 to 354, have an overall unified symmetrical facade. Above them is a parapet that includes a raised section that denotes the year they were built—AD 1888. The two most easterly of the block, numbers #342 and #344, are not a part of the overall symmetrical design of numbers #346-#354. However, the facades of #342 and #344 are also individually symmetrical. They differ from the other structures in the block as they contain larger arched windows on the second floor.

In truth, all the windows in the buildings are wide and spacious, well suited to an era without electric lighting. Some windows contain coloured glass in the top sections, many with blue glass and a few with green. Their designs and patterns add greatly to the overall attractiveness of the buildings. The windows are surrounded by hand-tooled wood trim for ornamentation. As mentioned previously, unless a person is walking on the south side of the street, the fine detailing of these historic buildings is not easily seen. Most of those who pass by only view the ground-floor, where the shop windows are located.

Over the many decades since they were built, most of the store fronts, on the ground floor level, have been severely altered and modernized. Number #350 (the shop containing Fraiche) is perhaps the least changed. High in the cornices at the top of the building are dentils, and on the facades there are oriel windows, corbelled brickwork, and other interesting designs. There are so many shapes and patterns in this row of buildings that each time a person examines the structures, often, further details are noted.

Listed below are the merchants who were the first occupants of ground-floor shops of the 1888 Noble Block, and the two buildings to the west of the block. The shops reflect the needs of a local community that preferred to shop by walking to the nearest store, rather than hop on a streetcar or drive. From west to east the shops are:

Building to the west of the Noble Block

#358, Albert Harvard, drugs  –  #356, Mr. N. Olives, fruits – (Source, Toronto Directories)

Noble Block

#354, Fawcett and Peterman, tailors  –  #352, Pearson and Company, hats  – #350, John W. Clark, barber  – #348, Archibald Loughrey, cigars  – #346, Toronto Musical Instrument Company –  #344-342, Fleming and Company, furniture  (Source, Toronto Directory of 1888.)

                   Queen, east of Spadina, "Noble Block" – May 17, 1971

The Noble Block in 1971, appearing much the same as it is today, only the cars betraying that the photo is almost half-a-century old. However, on close inspection, there is one difference. There is a piece of masonry that juts from the top of the structures, above the parapet, containing the words “Noble Block,” and a pediment above it. It has since disappeared. Likely it was removed as it was in danger of falling to the street below. Toronto Archives, Font 1526, f 10070, item 0052. 

View of Queen Street West, looking east at Spadina Avenue – September 27, 1981

View looking east from Queen and Spadina in September 1981. The Noble Block is on the north (left-hand) side of the street. The tower of the Old City Hall is visible in the distance. Mature shade trees flank both sides of the street. Most of these trees no longer exist. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, F 0076, item 0024.

View of Queen Street West at Soho Street – June 7, 1981

Gazing west on Queen Street West in 1981, the Noble Block mostly hidden by trees. Sadly, most of the greenery has not survived into the present. Photos like this truly remind us of the damage to the environment by pollution. As the trees died, the City replaced them, but the new trees are small and are not doing well. In 1981, the masonry above the parapet at the top of the building still has the part where the words “Noble Block” was located. Toronto Archives, Fond 1526, F 10076, Item 0022.

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View looks west along Queen Street at the buildings in July 2018. There are no longer many trees to shelter those who stroll along the street from the heat of the summer sun. The top part that denoted the name of the block is no longer on the structure.

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These five buildings in the centre of the block (#346-#354) have an overall symmetrical design. Though only three storeys in height, they appear taller as the ceilings on each floor are high and there is a parapet (false wall) at the top. 

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The parapet (false wall) at the top of the centre buildings of the Noble Block, denoting the year they were built. It was above this, that the section once stood that contained the words “Noble Block.”

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The two buildings, #356 and 358 Queen St. now have a single postal address, number #356.  This is because they are combined into a single shop on the ground-floor level. These are the two structures that were erected after Emma Noble had completed the Noble Block in 1888.

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The brickwork on #356 on the top two floors is quite intricate, and the cornice at the top is massive in appearance. There is a flag pole that has not been used in many years. When these buildings were erected, flying the Union Jack was a regular occurrence.

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The two buildings on the east side of the block do not match the symmetry of the five structures to the west of them, but their designs are also symmetrical.

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A bay window in the Noble Block, generously framed with wood. At the top of the window, there is blue coloured–glass.

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The shop at #350 Queen Street, Fraiche, has the only first-floor facade that has survived into the 21st-century. It still has the stained-glass panes above the window and door. The blue door (behind the opened white door) gives access to the apartments on the second and third floors. Photo July 2018.

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The reflection of the Noble Block appears in the glass facades of the buildings on the south side of Queen Street. The building in the background is the District Lofts on Richmond Street West.

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The commercial row, which for over a century, has overlooked Queen Street West.

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 Author

               DSCN2207_thumb9_thumb2_thumb4_thumb_  

“ Lost Toronto”—employing detailed archival photographs, this recaptures the city’s lost theatres, sporting venues, bars, restaurants and shops. This richly illustrated book brings some of Toronto’s most remarkable buildings and much-loved venues back to life. From the loss of John Strachan’s Bishop’s Palace in 1890 to the scrapping of the S. S. Cayuga in 1960 and the closure of the HMV Superstore in 2017, these pages cover more than 150 years of the city’s built heritage to reveal a Toronto that once was.

 

                         cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852

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. 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. (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

 

                  image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb

“Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again” explores 81 theatres. It 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®

“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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Ward’s Island Toronto in 2018

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Sailing to Ward’s Island on the William Inglis Ferry in July 2018. Ahead is the Sam McBride ferry sailing to Centre Island.

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    A view of the Toronto Skyline from Ward’s Island on July 13, 2018.

Ward’s Island is truly one of the city’s greatest places to visit. Few cities offers such a unique attraction—a community without cars and trucks. Its quietness belies the fact that it is only a ten-minute ferry ride from the business district of Canada’s largest city. The narrow streets between the houses are mere sidewalks, clearly demonstrating that they are for pedestrians only. The abundance of greenery, the quaint gardens and an open space that resembles a village green of centuries past, all offer an experience that is unrivalled.

A previous post explored the history of Ward’s Island beginning when it was a peninsula, attached to the shoreline. A storm in 1858 severed it from the mainland and it became an island. For a link to this post: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2018/07/27/wards-islands-yesteryear-toronto/

This post is an attempt to reveal the charms of Ward’s amid the bustling, internet-connected world of the 21st century. Ward’s is a place to turn off all electronic devices and enjoy the scene that becomes more captivating as you proceed. Stroll the verdant laneways, narrow sidewalks and earthen paths to examine a place where history  and the modern scene peacefully merge. It is hoped that the photos that follow will create a desire to visit Ward’s Island before the summer is spent and the dreary days of a Toronto November descend. 

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Approaching the Ward’s Island ferry dock after a ten-minute voyage across Toronto Harbour on the William Inglis ferry. The brilliant greens of mid-summer dominate the scene.

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The Queen City Yacht Club (QCYC) on Hiawatha Island, on the west side of the small cove where the ferry docks are located. Beyond the clubhouse is a sheltered lagoon where many more boats are moored. I watched children diving from the boats into the lagoon on the day I visited, as temperatures were in the mid-30s. Photo taken from the deck of the William Inglis ferry.

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The yacht club looking north toward the city from the sleepy lagoon behind the club house.

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The lagoon occupied by the QCYC extends a considerable distance into the island. Photo was taken from the bridge that crosses from Ward’s Island to Hiawatha Island.

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Children, likely from a summer camp on Ward’s, learn to paddle a canoe. They were headed northbound from the tranquility of the lagoon out into the harbour. The children were not all equally engaged in the paddling.

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The William Inglis ferry, which I had arrived on, returning to the city to pick up another group of passengers.

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A private spot where a resident can sit to enjoy a view of the city. At night, the lights of the skyline would be dazzling.

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The Ward’s Island Association Club House built 1937-1938, located a short distance south of the ferry docks.

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The shaded veranda on the north side of the clubhouse, facing the ferry dock, where patrons can enjoy snacks, sandwiches or ice cream. 

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Patio on the north side of the Ward’s Island Association Club House.

Kale project

On the north side of the clubhouse patio is a patch of ground where Kale is growing. It is part of a contest to harvest the largest amount of Kale from plots of a similar size. When the contest ends, residents of the association will pick the results of their labours.

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View of the clubhouse from south of the lawn-bowling facility. In the foreground is the Ward’s Island Little Clubhouse, the front portion of which was the original clubhouse built in 1918. It also serves as an administration facility.

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A boy relaxes in the shade of a tree beside the soccer field that resembles a village green. The clubhouse, lawn bowling club, Little Clubhouse and many homes face onto this green space. 

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              One of the ancient trees that borders the soccer field.

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I began exploring the quiet, narrow streets between the houses. The pathways are where the wooden sidewalks were built in Tent City. Some of the homes are hidden behind the greenery. The orange tiger lilies on left-hand side of the path were in many other gardens as well. They are perennials and ideal for open natural spaces as their fluted flowers invariably extend above the grasses to create a colourful display.

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A house with a small balcony overlooking a garden that includes tiger lilies.

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      A home that appears to be on the edge of dense forest.

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This attractive cottage-like home on Bayview Avenue is likely one of those built in the 1930s.

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A house with tiger lilies in the garden, surrounded by greenery and towering trees.

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A more modern-looking home, its backyard facing the Eastern Gap where ships enter and exit the waters of the outer lake.

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Continuing along the pathway/streets, I proceed toward the beach on the south side of Ward’s Island.

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Arriving near the water, the beach is ahead, the hot sand my only obstacle.

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The Ward’s Island Beach on a hot July afternoon. People enjoy the sunshine as a sailing ship glides past in the outer lake.

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         The beach appears more expansive than I remember it.

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Returning from the beach by another route, I see several more homes that catch my eye.

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This enchanting cottage appears at peace among its verdant environment. 

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Arriving back near the yacht club beside the ferry dock, I enjoy my final view of the city from Ward’s Island.

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The ferry ride to the mainland is my final memory of my summer day on Ward’s Island.

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 Author

               DSCN2207_thumb9_thumb2_thumb4_thumb_[1]  

“ Lost Toronto”—employing detailed archival photographs, this recaptures the city’s lost theatres, sporting venues, bars, restaurants and shops. This richly illustrated book brings some of Toronto’s most remarkable buildings and much-loved venues back to life. From the loss of John Strachan’s Bishop’s Palace in 1890 to the scrapping of the S. S. Cayuga in 1960 and the closure of the HMV Superstore in 2017, these pages cover more than 150 years of the city’s built heritage to reveal a Toronto that once was.

 

                         cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852

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. 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. (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

 

                  image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[2]

“Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again” explores 81 theatres. It 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®

“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: ,

Ward’s Island’s Yesteryear—Toronto

on Wm. Ingliss

Visiting Ward’s Island by crossing Toronto harbour on the William Inglis ferry. In view ahead is the Sam McBride ferry sailing toward Centre Island. The Toronto Islands are visible on the horizon.

Ward’s Island is usually overshadowed by the better-known Centre Island. Torontonians, tourists, and day-picnickers tend to flock to it as it has Centreville (a children’s amusement park with a merry-go-round), formal gardens, and a wide sandy beach on its south side. Hanlan’s Point and Centre Island also have more spacious picnic areas and BBQ sites. However, Ward’s Island has its own charms, as it is truly different to its counterparts, although it too has an excellent beach on its south side.

The Toronto Islands began life as a sandbar, formed over millennia by deposits of silt and sand eroded from the Scarborough Bluffs. The silt eventually formed a narrow low-lying peninsula, which for many centuries was employed by the Native Peoples as a place of rest and healing. When Europeans arrived, the colonial residents of York (Toronto) viewed it as an ideal spot for picnicking, lake fishing, and horseback riding.

In the early-19th century, a carriage trail led from the town of York (Toronto) to where the sandbar connected to the mainland. The trail extended as far west as Gibraltar Point (south of Hanlan’s Point). In the 1790s, Elizabeth Simcoe, the wife of Lieutenant Governor Simcoe, wrote in her diary that she regularly rode along the pathway on the peninsula, which ran parallel to its south shore.

In 1858, during a violent storm, the narrow neck of land at the eastern end of the peninsula was washed away and the peninsula became an island. Rather than repair the damage, officials decided to allow nature to take its course. The Toronto Islands were born. Interestingly, the narrow trail that Elizabeth Simcoe rode along, located beside the lake, morphed into the Lakeshore Avenue of today.

Ward’s Island is not really a separate island, but is the eastern end of one large island that includes Centre Island in the centre position and Hanlan’s Point on its western end. The three entities, along with about 15 smaller islands, compose the Toronto Islands that today confine Toronto Harbour. Ward’s, which can be visited by boarding an Island ferry, is a residential community with approximately 262 homes where over 600 residents live, most of them, year round. Similar to the other places on the Islands, no cars or trucks are allowed (other than City of Toronto maintenance vehicles). 

Ward’s Island was named after the Ward Family that first settled about the year 1830 on the eastern end of the former peninsula. David Ward earned his living as a fisherman, and raised seven children at Ward’s. His son, William, was involved in a tragic accident on the harbour waters in May 1862. He and his five younger sisters were in a sailboat when a sudden storm erupted. The ropes jammed and young David Ward was unable to lower the sail. The boat tipped. He was able to upright the boat and pull his sisters back on board. Then, another squall tipped them again. Unable to swim, the sisters clung to the side of the upturned boat. Pulled downward by their heavy dresses, they weakened and eventually slipped beneath the waves and drowned. Only William Ward was rescued (source: The Star Weekly, 1912).

When he was older, David’s son William built a hotel on Ward’s. Erected in 1882, Ward’s Hotel was located a short distance south of the ferry docks. It contained three storeys, with a Mansard roof above the third floor. On its north side, in the central position, there was a three-storey tower, the roof of which rose above the roof-line of the hotel. During the latter decades of the 19th century, the hotel was a popular place for Torontonians to stay. The large, deep verandas that wrapped around the structure on its north and west sides, captured the cooling waters of the lake. The breezes brought pleasant relief from the heat on the mainland. Though Ward’s was close to the city, in many ways it was a world away, especially on hot, humid summer days,

Around the turn of the 20th century, a tent community began to develop to the east of the hotel. In 1904 there were 10 tents and in 1906 there were 28 tents. As it continued to grow exponentially, it became a chaotic site as people pitched tents wherever they chose, frequently causing disagreements and fights. In 1913, the City imposed regulations on Tent City. Narrow wooden sidewalks were constructed in a grid pattern and 24-foot-square lots were designated on the various sidewalks. To pitch a tent on one of the lots, a license was required. Each lot was officially registered with the city. Thus, the sidewalks functioned as narrow streets, and the tent lots as residential sites.

In Tent City, people constructed wooden platforms on their lots to which they pegged the tents. In winter, tents and furniture etc. were stored in sheds, located at the rear of their site. The irascible Sam McBride, a lumber merchant who was the mayor of Toronto in 1928 and 1929, and whose name graces one of the island ferries, lived on Ward’s in Tent City. After he retired, he continued to spend his summers on Ward’s.

In 1913, the Ward’s Island Association was established (WIA), a not-for-profit organization to represent the residents of Tent City. In 1918, a small clubhouse was erected, a short distance south of the Ward’s Island ferry docks. In 1922 the tower and upper floor of Ward’s Hotel were removed as it had deteriorated and it was deemed too expensive to renovate and restore. This type of deterioration was common is many large all-wooden structures in this century. Finally, the hotel closed its doors, ceasing to host summer guests. It then became a grocery store and ice-cream parlour.

In 1931, it became permissible to erect permanent structures on Ward’s, with verandas out-buildings and sheds. This caused the needs of the community to increase as more and more people began living at Ward’s all year round. Today’s houses still exist on the former tent sites, explaining why the houses are so close together. Most of the homes on Ward’s today date from the 1930s. In November 1936, the ever-colourful Sam McBride passed away and Ward’s lost one of its most well-known residents.

A larger WIA clubhouse was built between the years 1937 and 1938. Today, on the east side of the building is the Toronto Island Cafe. The front of the WIA’s original clubhouse remains intact and is the front section of the “Little WIA Clubhouse” or “Administration Building.”

Visiting Ward’s Island today, the WIA Clubhouse is visible from the ferry dock, as is the Queen City Yacht Club (QCYC) on Algonquin Island. Algonquin Island was formerly named Sunfish Island. It was first inhabited in the late-1930s, when 30 houses were floated over from Hanlan’s to allow the Island (Billy Bishop) Airport to be constructed.

In the 1960s, Metro decided it would be a better use of public space if the residents of Ward’s Island were removed to create parkland. Thus began a long legal battle. The last remnant of the old days on Ward’s Island disappeared when Ward’s Hotel was demolition in 1966.

In 1973 it was decided that the Ward’s community would be preserved, but the legal battle was not over. It was not until 1993 (with Bill 61), under an NDP government, that the legal status of the homes on Ward’s was finally settled.

Today, from the ferry dock it is a short walk south on Withrow Street to reach the best beach on Ward’s. On the way to the beach, the street passes the soccer field, a large open space that resembles a “village Green” from old England. Along the way visitors pass a lawn-bowling green, another reminder of the days of yore in old Toronto or a quiet British town of the past. Although the homes flanking the pathways and narrow sidewalks are from the 1930s, the community has the ambiance of the early decades of the 20th century. Ward’s Island is truly unique.

Although many will find the beach the main attraction on Ward’s, it is a shame if visitors do not wander the verdant streets to view the quaint homes, as well as a few that are more modern. Set amidst the lush greenery of the island, many of the gardens clustered beside the houses contain some of the more popular flowers of Victorian days—delphiniums, hollyhocks, and orange tiger lilies. The quietness of the scene makes it difficult to believe that you are only a ten-minute ferry ride from the financial district of Canada’s largest city. 

David Ward Sr. built 1856. pictures-r-395[1]

Watercolour of David Ward’s home, built in 1856. Collection of the Toronto Public Library, r-395.

Ward's Hotel, c. 1900  Ont. Arch.  I0013925[1]

Ward’s Hotel, photo taken c. 1900. Built in 1882, the three-storey structure has a Mansard roof in the Second-Empire style. The view shows the north and west facades of the building, with the wide, deep verandas that overlook the harbour waters. The tower in the centre of the north facade is mostly hidden by the trees. Ontario Archives, 10013925.

Fonds 1244, Item 6031

A family in Tent City in 1908. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 603.

Fonds 1244, Item 672

Children on the beach on the harbour-side of Ward’s Island in 1908. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, item 0672.

Fonds 1244, Item 166

Tent City in 1911. The camera faces northwest toward the Toronto Harbour and the city. The Ward’s Island ferry dock is visible in the distance. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, item 166. 

Fonds 1266, Item 1064

View of Tent City on July 9, 1923. A lake steamer is outbound from the Eastern Gap as it begins it trip, likely to Niagara Region, although some ships carried passengers to the eastern end of Lake Ontario, docking at Prescott. Toronto Archives Fonds 1266, item 1064.

Chippawa, eastern gap. ship 1893- 1939. ohq-pictures-s-r-584[1]

Children wave to the lake steamer Chippawa as it enters the Eastern Gap. The steamer was in service on the lakes from 1893 until 1939. Toronto Public Library, r- 584.  

Lenore Avenue — Wards Island 

Houses on Lenore Avenue in November 1933. Toronto Archives, S 0372, SAS 0052, item 1596.

TTC docks, 1935.  f1231_it1155[1]

Ward’s Island ferry dock in 1935, the view facing south. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, item 1155.

skyline from Wards. 1936.  f1231_it0995[1]

View from Ward’s Island of the Toronto skyline in 1936. The two most prominent buildings on the skyline are the Royal York (Fairmont) Hotel and the Bank of Commerce (CIBC). Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, item 0995.

1976.  tspa_0113946f[1]

Houses on Ward’s Island in 1976, the narrow sidewalk separating the homes. Toronto Public Library, tspa 0113946.

Series 1465, File 455, Item 24

Relaxing at the Clubhouse in the 1980s. Toronto Archives, S 1465, fl 0455, item 0024.

Series 1465, File 396, Item 23

The ferry dock at Ward’s Island in the 1980s. Toronto Archives, S 1465, fl 0396. item 0023.

A link to View a post about Ward’s Island in July 2018:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2018/07/27/wards-island-toronto-in-2018/

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 Author

               DSCN2207_thumb9_thumb2_thumb4_thumb_[1]  

“ Lost Toronto”—employing detailed archival photographs, this recaptures the city’s lost theatres, sporting venues, bars, restaurants and shops. This richly illustrated book brings some of Toronto’s most remarkable buildings and much-loved venues back to life. From the loss of John Strachan’s Bishop’s Palace in 1890 to the scrapping of the S. S. Cayuga in 1960 and the closure of the HMV Superstore in 2017, these pages cover more than 150 years of the city’s built heritage to reveal a Toronto that once was.

 

                         cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852

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. 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. (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

 

                  image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[2]

“Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again” explores 81 theatres. It 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®

“Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. It contains archival and modern photos that allow readers to compare scenes and discover how they have changed over the decades. Note: a review of this book was published in Spacing Magazine, October 2016. For a link to this review:

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

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

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

 

Tags: , , ,

Toronto’s King Street Pilot Project—Part Two

The King Street Pilot Project is a fascinating experiment. Allowing public transit to have the priority on streets is common in many cities throughout the world, but Toronto has been slow in adapting this concept. Harbourfront was resigned to emphasize pedestrians, streetcars and cyclists. After many initial problems, it now appears to be a great success. The King Street project too has had its difficulties, but with the return of good weather, it also seems to be doing well.

I visited King Street during twilight hours on the evening of June 28th to observe the changes that the project have created. To view this post: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2018/07/04/impressions-of-the-king-st-pilot-project/

I decided to view the street again, this time on the hot humid afternoon of July 4th. During my visit, with the humidex, the temperature was over 40 degrees. Because of the heat, the street was relatively deserted as most people were dining or drinking inside the restaurants rather than the patios. Despite the lack of activity, I enjoyed observing how much the street has changed because of the Pilot Project.

I commenced my exploration at Bathurst Street and walked eastward toward Jarvis. It was an interesting stroll, as it became obvious that some areas of King Street had been embraced by the restaurateurs more than others. The section between Bathurst and Spadina seems to have taken advantage of the Pilot Project the most. This is perhaps logical as this part of King Street as the most patios that are located close to the sidewalk. 

In the business district, between Yonge and Jarvis, there were almost no patios. However, the Pilot Project had greatly influenced the traffic patterns as the vehicle traffic was light and the streetcars were moving quickly along the street as they were unobstructed.

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View looks west, a short distance east of Bathurst Street at the patio of Oretta restaurant. 

Wilbur patio, not yet open

The patio beside Wilbur Mexicana Restaurant, at 552 King Street. The patio has not yet opened to the public so remains bare.

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King Street gazing east from Brant Street on Wednesday July 4, 2018. The brick building behind the row of white umbrellas is the old Gurney Stove, built in the 1870s. 

April 13, 1927 - s0071_it4812[1]

Photo of the Gurney Iron Foundry on King Street West on April 13, 1927. The view gazes west on King Street from near Spadina. The streetcar in the distance is where the umbrellas are positioned in the previous photo. Photo from the Toronto Archives, S0071, It.4812 (1).

How things have changed since this photo of the Gurney Stove Factory was taken in 2015.

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View of the same section of King Street after the Pilot Project commenced. This photo was taken from near Brant Street, the view showing the patios of Cibo Restaurant on the north (far) side and the patio of the Spice Route on the south side (in foreground). 

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Patio in a laneway on the south side of King Street, the Gurney Stove Foundry in the background. In the early decades of the 20th century, the lane was where trucks and carts delivered or picked-up goods from the factories on King Street.

Patria, closed for lunch     DSCN2640

(left) The patio of Patria in the afternoon, when it was not open for lunch. (right) The patio ready for the evening diners.

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Patios of Wesloge and Patria at at 480 King Street. Both of these are closed at lunch time. 

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Sculptures east of Spadina Avenue. The view gazes west on King Street. 

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Patio of the Red Tomato at 321 King Street West, the Bell Lightbox in the background.

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                     Princess of Wales Theatre at 300 King Street West.

                             north side of David Pecaut Square

Chairs on the north side of David Pecaut Square, opposite the Royal Alexandra Theatre.

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The Royal Alexandra Theatre at 260 Queen Street West, a sculpture of yellow milk cartons in the foreground.

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Sculpture on King Street on the north side of David Pecaut Square, the Royal Alexandra Theatre in the background.

               Crossing Over to the east side of Yonge Street

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Sitting area on the north side of King East, opposite the King Edward Hotel. View looks west toward Yonge Street.

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Another view of the sitting area opposite the King Edward Hotel. The camera is pointed east toward Jarvis Street.

                             garden by King Edward

A container garden on the north side of King, a short distance east of the King Edward Hotel at 37 King Street East.

garden on north side, east of King Edward

   Another view of the container garden east of the King Edward Hotel.

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Looking east on King Street toward Jarvis Street. The installations for the Pilot Project are beside St. James Park. 

A link to the first post about the King Street Pilot Project.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2018/07/04/impressions-of-the-king-st-pilot-project/

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 Author

               DSCN2207_thumb9_thumb2_thumb4_thumb_  

“ Lost Toronto”—employing detailed archival photographs, this recaptures the city’s lost theatres, sporting venues, bars, restaurants and shops. This richly illustrated book brings some of Toronto’s most remarkable buildings and much-loved venues back to life. From the loss of John Strachan’s Bishop’s Palace in 1890 to the scrapping of the S. S. Cayuga in 1960 and the closure of the HMV Superstore in 2017, these pages cover more than 150 years of the city’s built heritage to reveal a Toronto that once was.

 

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

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. 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. (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

 

                  image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[1]

“Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again” explores 81 theatres. It 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®

“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: ,

Impressions of the King St. Pilot Project

image

King Street, gazing west from near John Street toward Peter Street, at 9:15 pm on Thursday, June 28, 2018. The shadows of evening are enveloping the fading twilight in the western sky.

Taking advantage of the lengthened daylight hours of the first week of summer, I set out to photograph King Street. I chose the section between Bathurst and Simcoe Streets, as this is the area where many restaurateurs have taken advantage of the extra space in the roadway created by the Pilot Project. There has been much controversy over the Project, which favours pedestrian and streetcar traffic over automobiles. My goal was to see for myself the impact of the Project on the street. The photographs that follow were all taken after 9 pm, when the sun was fading in the west and the lights of evening were increasingly emerging. The long twilight offered unique lighting conditions that exist at our latitude for only about two weeks each year.

As I strolled along, I noticed that ambiance of the street had changed greatly. Because it was relatively free of cars, it was quiet. Not dead, but quiet. People were embracing the street and the safety it provided, as the automobile traffic was greatly diminished. There were more cyclists than before the Project, due to the abundance of open space. The air was cleaner as exhaust fumes were reduced. Gone were the noise and chaos of traffic, and instead, people were relaxing and enjoying themselves. It was as if the hustle and bustle of city life no longer existed.

Dominating the evening air were laughter, lively conversations, the tinkle of wine glasses, and the clink of cutlery and dishes. Amidst the happy sound of human activity, the graceful new Toronto streetcars quietly glided past, their presence animating the scene. Similar to cities in Europe that I have visited—Rome, Paris, Barcelona, Athens, Lisbon—the traffic seemed to be only inches away from the tables, with their white tablecloths. No one seemed to be bothered by this phenomenon. However, in reality, there are almost five feet between the streetcars and the patios, providing sufficient space for cyclists to pass. It was a scene I had never before witnessed in Toronto. Was this really my city?  

                                 DSCN2635

The patio of Cibo restaurant on the northeast corner of Brant and King Streets.

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The north side of King Street from a short distance east of Brant Street, the patio operated by Cibo restaurant.

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I believe that this patio is owned by Patria. It is a short distance west of Spadina. I noticed that taxis have adjusted to the conditions imposed by the Project and are becoming more common on the street.

image

                  The patio of Patria, viewed from its east side.

                        image

Patio of Weslodge, near the corner of Spadina and King Street.

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Chairs provided by the City of Toronto. View gazes east on King Street toward Peter Street. These chairs are usually fully occupied by office workers during the lunch hour on weekdays.

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The south side of King St. opposite the Bell Lightbox, looking east toward John Street. Several restaurant have taken advantage of the space created by the Pilot Project to extend their patios into the roadway beyond the sidewalk.

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                  View of the same patios looking west toward Peter Street.

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Another patio on King Street to the west of John Street, the Bell Lightbox in the background.

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The Princess of Wales Theatre, view gazing east on King Street toward Duncan Street. 

DSCN2658

The Royal Alexandra Theatre, in the foreground some of the chairs placed in the street by the City to reclaim a part of the roadway for pedestrians.

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A sculpture created by plastic cartons on which people can sit and watch the passing scene.

                              image

This photo was taken at 9:35 pm, and though the chairs are enveloped in the shadows of evening, light remains in the eastern sky. The chairs face David Pecaut Park, on the east side of Metro Hall. These chairs are mainly occupied by office workers during lunch hours, Monday to Friday, rather than in the evenings or on weekends.

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People enjoying interactive art work on the south side of King Street, west of Simcoe Street. The pegs on the boards are used to create shapes.

                             DSCN2937

Someone has created the shape of a human body by employing the pegs.

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The Roy Thomson Hall at King and Simcoe Streets, at 9:40 pm on June 28, 2018.

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 Author

               DSCN2207_thumb9_thumb2_thumb4_thumb_  

“ Lost Toronto”—employing detailed archival photographs, this recaptures the city’s lost theatres, sporting venues, bars, restaurants and shops. This richly illustrated book brings some of Toronto’s most remarkable buildings and much-loved venues back to life. From the loss of John Strachan’s Bishop’s Palace in 1890 to the scrapping of the S. S. Cayuga in 1960 and the closure of the HMV Superstore in 2017, these pages cover more than 150 years of the city’s built heritage to reveal a Toronto that once was.

 

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

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. 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. (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

 

                  image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[1]

“Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again” explores 81 theatres. It 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®

“Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. It contains archival and modern photos that allow readers to compare scenes and discover how they have changed over the decades. Note: a review of this book was published in Spacing Magazine, October 2016. For a link to this review:

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

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

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

 

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The Great Hall at Dovercourt and Queen—Toronto

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Majestic amidst the modern urban clutter, The Great Hall at 1087 Queen Street West is on the southeast corner of Queen and Dovercourt Road.

My earliest memories of the Great Hall are from the year 2000. In that year I moved into a condo in the downtown area and passed by the building occasionally on the Queen streetcar. On these occasions, I admired its impressively intricate architecture, even though it was in poor condition. I remember thinking how the dilapidated structure reflected our city’s attitude toward our architectural heritage.

It did not seem to matter that The Great Hall had been listed as a Toronto Heritage site in 1973 and received official designation under the Ontario Heritage Act in 1985. Because of its apparent neglect, I feared that it might be demolished to construct another towering structure of steel and glass. This happens all too often in Toronto, as heritage preservation laws in Ontario are weak. This would be a great pity as buildings such as The Great Hall give texture to our urban streetscape, providing contrast to the smooth, faceless facades of modernity. Fortunately, the story of this building has a happy ending. 

In the 1880s the tale commenced of this fable-like building that resembles a fortified structure of medieval times, with its turrets and towers. In that decade, the YMCA operated from small premises on Queen Street, a short distance east of Dovercourt Road. Having outgrown the site, a wealthy Toronto businessman, Samuel J. Moore, organized a project to raise money from the public to construct a larger building.

Moore was the founder of the Moore Corporation, a company, which among other items, designed and marketed carbon-copy receipt forms. They revolutionized the sales books employed at retail shops for customers’ receipts. Throughout much of the company’s history, it was the world’s largest printer of business forms, and though no longer as influential, it still exists today.

After the land for the structure was purchased for $10,000, the architectural firm of Gordon & Helliwell was hired to construct a four-storey building. Its design was to reflect High Victorian architecture in the  Queen Anne Revival style, which was popular in the last quarter of the 19th century. It was meant to impress those who looked upon it. When completed, The Great Hall certainly achieved this effect.

Located on the southeast corner of Queen and Dovercourt, the cornerstone was laid on November 13, 1889. As construction proceeded, its facades of red bricks soon dominated the street. To add to its impressive appearance, it was trimmed with white Port Credit sandstone. Further embellishments included a rounded ornamented flagstaff tower on its northwest corner and on its northeast corner, a tall pointed tower resembling those found on great cathedrals.

The building was officially opened on October 9, 1890, its completion achieved in a mere eleven months, a testament to the plenteous supply of cheap labour in that decade. The following evening, in the Main Hall the building’s first concert was held, featuring various local groups and individuals. The affair was reviewed favourably by the press.

This new branch of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) was to serve the needs of the West End of the city. It contained a gymnasium that was also employed as an auditorium and was known as The Main Hall. There was a library, basement swimming pool, bowling alley, and a raised wooden running track in the balcony to accommodate aspiring young athletes. Long-distance runner Tom Longboat, a member of the Onondaga Tribe of the Six Nations Indian Reserve near Brantford, Ontario, trained on the building’s track. For many years, he was the world’s most famous long-distance runner. In 1907, he won the Boston Marathon.

The Main Hall in the building had plaster scrollwork surrounding the stage, and the chandeliers of Waterford Crystal were positioned thirty feet above the highly polished oak floor. The cast iron pillars supporting the balcony had ornamented gilded capitals. The west wall contained four arched-windows that were twenty feet in height, allowing copious light to illuminate the interior space.

In 1912, the building was purchased and renovated by the Royal Templars of Temperance, a fraternal organization that promoted the prohibition of alcohol. They also offered life and disability insurance at a reasonable cost to its members. The Templars renamed the former YMCA building the Royal Templar Hall. In the early decade of the 20th century, it was a popular venue for lectures, lantern shows, and popular entertainers of the day. It also organized a baby clinic after the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918-1919, which killed more people than the Great War. During the mayoral elections of 1929, candidates Sam McBride and Bert Wemp debated in its auditorium. Sam McBride eventually won the election and today, one of the famous Toronto Island ferries is named after him.   

A dance hall was added in 1933, when the Independent Order of Foresters rented the premises. This organization was similar to the Templars and eventually the two organizations amalgamated. From 1939 until 1987, the building housed the offices of the Polish National Union, as well as the printing presses of the local Polish newspaper. During the Second World War, the building provided temporary accommodations for Polish immigrants arriving from Europe.

In the 1980s, the building became a centre for musicians and artists working in the visual and experimental arts. However, by the turn of the 21st century, the building had greatly deteriorated. Steve Metlitski, a Belarusian immigrant, bought it and provided more than $4 million to restore it to its former glory. During the restoration, it was necessary to install an elevator to comply with accessibility regulations. When layers of plywood and tiles were removed in The Main Hall and balcony the original wood floors were revealed.

The entire interior required repainting and the 20-foot windows on the west side, some of which had survived since 1889, were refurbished. It was also necessary to install a modern cooling system without having the air ducts exposed to view. The restoration was basically completed in 2016, and an opening event was held on September 21st of that year. It was also decided that The Main Hall was to be renamed Longboat Hall after the famous athlete of yesteryears.

As many features as possible of the original hall were now preserved. However, the swimming pool in the basement was not restored, so is not accessible to the public. Presently, the building is named The Great Hall, and features community arts and cultural activities. It is also an excellent events venue. 

Sources:

https://www.thegreathall.ca/

ps://torontoguardian.com › History

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/toronto/great-hall…/article31470429 (Marcus Gee)

https://torontoist.com/2014/07/the-great-hall-warns-its-in-danger-of-shutting-down

1908, 1912.  Fonds 70, Series 330, File 345

The Great Hall between the years 1908 and 1912. In those years, few hydro wires cluttered the scene. Toronto Archives, Fonds 70, Series 330, File 345.

1914, Chuckman's Postcard Coll.   ostcard[1]

Postcard printed in 1914 depicting the building. Postcard from the Chuckman’s Postcard Collection.

                                     1907-Tom-Longboat-Library-and-Archives-Canada-Mikan-4169967-211x300[1]

Tom Longboat in 1907, a member of the Onondaga Tribe of the Six Nations Indian Reserve near Brantford, Ontario. He trained on the building’s wood running track. Photo from the Canada Archives, Ottawa. 

blogto.com  2014720-great-hall[1]

       Undated photo of The Main Hall inside the building, image from blogTO.

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The Great Hall in May 2018, looking east along Queen Street West, from west of Dovercourt Road.

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The rounded flagstaff tower on the northwest corner of the building. Photos taken May 27, 2017.

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Outside view of a 20-foot window on the west facade, facing Dovercourt Road. 

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Ornate entrance doors on the north side of the building, facing Queen Street West.

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Gazing out through a glass window pane in one of the doors. The buildings framed by the window are on the north side of Queen Street West.

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View inside the doors, revealing the staircase that ascends to the second storey.

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View from the top of the grand staircase, which leads from the ground-floor doors to the second floor where the balcony is located.

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View of the balcony and The Main Hall from the second-floor balcony. Photo taken in May 2017. 

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View from the rear of The Main Hall (Tom Longboat Hall). The ornate plaster surrounding the stage, the oak floors, and the second-storey balcony are visible.

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The Waterford Crystal chandeliers, positioned thirty feet above the oak floor. 

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        Looking east on Queen Street West at the Great Hall, photo May 2018.

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View of the east facade of the Great Hall and its pointed tower from the grounds of CAMH, on Queen Street West. 

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

               DSCN2207_thumb9_thumb2_thumb4_thumb_[2]  

“ Lost Toronto”—employing detailed archival photographs, this recaptures the city’s lost theatres, sporting venues, bars, restaurants and shops. This richly illustrated book brings some of Toronto’s most remarkable buildings and much-loved venues back to life. From the loss of John Strachan’s Bishop’s Palace in 1890 to the scrapping of the S. S. Cayuga in 1960 and the closure of the HMV Superstore in 2017, these pages cover more than 150 years of the city’s built heritage to reveal a Toronto that once was.

 

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

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. 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. (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

 

                  image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[2]

“Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again” explores 81 theatres. It 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®

“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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