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Category Archives: Kensington Market

Capturing Toronto’s Kensington Market in art

147.  20x24  2003  Kensington amd Baldwin

The Kensington Market is the subject of the above painting. Entitled, “Early morning—the corner of Kensington Avenue and Baldwin Street—Kensington Market,” it is 20” x 24” on stretched canvas, painted in 2003. The European Meat Market, on the right-hand side of the picture, vanished from the market several years ago. In the background, the Western Hospital is visible. The painting depicts a large delivery truck blocking the street, its cargo of boxes and crates strewn across the roadway. The painting depicts a typical scene in Toronto’s Kensington Market.

During the summer of 2005, I spent the summer painting in the Kensington Market, preserving on canvas images of my favourite shops. Only a few of these stores remain in existence. In some instances, the shops still exist, but the store-fronts and signage have been altered. The canvases were sketched and painted on location, setting up an easel on the sidewalk. I met some very unique and interesting people who chatted with me as I painted. The canvases recreate memories of a summer that has passed into the depths of time, recalling a market that in some ways no longer exists. 

The paintings contain vivid colours, created in a hurried, rough style, almost appearing unfinished. Unsophisticated, they reflect a naive, simple quality that suits the subject. Kensington is indeed a fast-moving collage of of colour, activity and eccentricity. To paraphrase Ed Mirvish (Honest Ed), the Kensington is a place that may imitated, but never duplicated.

 

136.  20x24  2005 Moon Bean, St. Andrew's Ave.

The Moonbean Coffee shop on St. Andrew’s Street is contained within one of the oldest houses in the market, built in 1873. When completed, Thomas Peters, a labourer, moved into the house, likely as a renter. The painting captures a little of the diversity of people in the market—a punker, young children, housewives and shoppers.  

1. 8 x10-2002- Baldwin Street -

This small painting, 8” x 10” on stretched canvas, captures the bright signage and colourful awnings that were a hallmark of Market, the two fish stores being excellent examples. Many of the flamboyant signs on the fronts of the stores have since disappeared. This is a pity, as some of them were works of art. The Seven Seas Fish Company is now (2015) a clothing store. The Coral Sea fish market still exists, but its signage is no longer as bright and colourful, having been faded by the summer sun. 

137.  20x24 2005 Max ans Son, Balwin St.

The building where this shop was located was constructed in 1930.Max and Son” was one of the last of the Jewish businesses to survive from the earlier days of Kensington, when it was primarily a Jewish market. Max Stern’s son, Saul (Solly) came to work in his father’s meat market in the 1950s, after he graduated from high school at 16 years of age. He spent his entire working life in the store, retiring from the shop in 2009. I always purchased my Christmas and Thanksgiving turkeys from Sol. The only times that Sol’s wife assisted in the store were the last few days before the 25th of December. I often chatted with Sol when I shopped for my daily needs throughout the year. He was an interesting and intelligent man, with an understated sense of humour.  

The painting was created on a sunny July afternoon, the shadows betraying that the shopping hours were drawing to a close. The heat of the late-day sun bathes the buildings, awnings and sidewalk in golden light, the summer sun baking the concrete.     

139.  20x24  2005  Mt Market Bakery, original location, Baldwin St.

In 2006, this bakery contained one of the most colourful signs in the market. The painting is 16”x20”, acrylic on stretched canvas. It depicts the shop when it was located  at 172 Baldwin Street, prior to it relocating further west along the street to 184 Baldwin Street. Fortunately, the sign was relocated along with the business. The “My Market Bakery” closed in 2014 and another bakery now occupies the premises. Fortunately, the colourful sign was retained, although it is now badly faded. The building is an example of a store being constructed at the front of a residence. In 1921, it was the home of Mr. S. Libowitz, who later operated a dry goods store on the premises.

The location of the above scene is the north side of Baldwin Street, early on a July morning. A hint of the forthcoming heat is already evident on the morning breezes. Two women sit on a bench to chat and enjoy an ice cream, considering it too hot to indulge in coffee. A corpulent man passes them, silently lamenting that the cool treat is not included in the diet his doctor has imposed. A cyclist, her bicycle not included in the scene, rests before continuing her daily exercise. Only one person walks in the sun. Lost in thought, she seems unaware of the cooler path in the shade of the buildings, the woman with the umbrellas also ignoring the shade. 

141.  20x24  2005 St. Andrew's and Kensington Ave.

The Kensington Fruit Market is on the northeast corner of Kensington and St. Andrew’s Avenues. It is where I shop regularly for my fresh fruit and vegetables. I usually shop early in the day, before the market becomes crowded. The painting reflects this habit, the shadows revealing the time of day. A young boy, on his way to summer school, chooses an apple to consume later in the day. The worker in the shop surveys the scene, knowing that as the day progresses, he will not have the time to pause and reflect.

142.  20x24  2005 Akram's, Balwin St. origina building

This scene of Akram’s Shop, which specializes in Middle-Eastern delicacies, no longer exists. When attempting to add a third floor to the structure, the building collapsed. Prior to this tragedy, the signage on the shop was a colourful display that added much character and delight to the market scene. The store was rebuilt and remains a thriving business, but alas, the colourful signage was never restored. However, the hummus, baba ghanoush and other treats remain as delicious as ever. 

In the painting, a shopper departs the store, the only other person visible a punker on his way to Denison Square to enjoy the morning’s indulgence of a shared “joint.”   

135.  20x24  2005  New Seaway, Balwin St.

The New Seaway Fish Market is another shop that has departed the scene. Theodore, a Greek by birth, laboured many years in the Kensington Market. He finally sold the business and retired to the land of his birth, in the Greek Islands of the Aegean Sea. This was my favourite fish market when I first relocated to within walking distance of the market in 2000, until the New Seaway closed in 2011. The painting depicts one of Theodore’s employees holding the door for a customer, while a small boy strolls past, talking on a cell phone.  

138.  20x24  2005  Europen Meats, Baldwin St.     l

In 1959, “European Meats” arrived in the Kensington Market, but only occupied the premises at 178 Baldwin Street. In 1985 the business expanded into the other shops (#176, #174). The famous meat market was then contained within two of the old row houses, and the original site (#178) was used as the cutting and preparation room.

When this painting was completed in 2005, the store’s methods of operations had changed little from the earlier days of the Kensington Market. Transactions were conducted in metric and in Imperial measure. It required three members of staff to complete a transaction. Customers took a number from a dispenser located on the right hand side, near the door. They carried it to the counter and handed it to an employee, who lined-up the number sequentially on the top of the counter, and then, shouted the numbers in the order in which they were to be served. When a customer’s number was called, it was then handed to another employee, who filled the order. When completed, the customer walked to the front of the store to the cashier, who accepted the money and placed the meat in a plastic bag. The transaction was then completed.

This system was a part of the Europe of earlier days, but was amazingly efficient. Sign language was often employed by the customers to denote the number of pounds, or a half pound, as on a busy day the store was so crowded that it was impossible to be heard above the clamour of voices.

The store had excellent strip-loin steaks. The back-bacon, hams, and cold cuts were truly great. People came from all over the city to purchase meat there. On a Saturday it was jammed, and at Christmas time the crowds were unbelievable. Shopping there was an experience to be savoured, not a chore to be endured.

After the European Meat Market closed in 2013, Sanagan’s Meat Locker occupied the site. I must admit that I miss the bright-red sign that is evident in the painting. It is the loss of bright colours that I miss most from the Market that existed in the early years of the 21st century.

 

133.  18x24  2005  Kensington and St. Andrew's

The view gazes north on Kensington Avenue from St. Andrew’s Street. At the north end of Kensington Avenue is Baldwin Avenue. It is early morning and the fruit and vegetable stalls are being stocked and arranged for the day. A small boy pleads with his father to visit the ice cream shop on Baldwin Street, despite having finished his breakfast only an hour earlier. 

146.  18x24  2005 Kiever Synagogue, Ken. Market

On the northeast corner of Denison Square Avenue and Bellevue Avenue is the Kiever Synagogue. It was constructed as a place of worship by Jewish immigrants who fled to Canada to escape religious persecution in the Ukraine. Many of them settled in Toronto in “The Ward,” a district to the east of University Avenue. In 1912, they commenced worshipping in a house. In 1917, they relocated to the Kensington Market, on the present-day site of the Kiever Synagogue, where at the time there was a small house.

In 1927, they demolished the house and constructed the synagogue that exists there today. Designed by Benjamin Swantz, the Kiever Synagogue combines Romanesque and Byzantine architecture. It has two domed towers on the front, and another at the northwest corner, each topped with a Star of David. No tower was built on the northeast corner of the building, as this corner was not visible from either of the streets that surround the synagogue. Four different styles of windows grace the facade, and though they vary in size, all have Romanesque arches over them. There are separate doors for men and women, which lead to separate seating areas inside the sanctuary, which in the traditional manner, faces Jerusalem.

The painting depicts a Saturday afternoon, when the streets surrounding the market are crammed with the cars and vans of the shoppers that descend on the market on weekends.  

                      143.  20x24  2005  Sea Kings, Balwin St.

The Sea King’s Fish Market at 195 Baldwin Street, had one of the most colourful signs in the market. The sign that replaced it is considerably less colourful. After the New Seaway Market closed, I commenced purchasing my seafood here. In the painting, a young couple converse intimately in a shaded spot in the left-hand corner of the picture, while a woman and her grandson sit in the shade to rest. The boy’s dog barks to inform them that it is time to move on.

148.  20x24  2004 Augusta and Nassau

This busy scene is the intersection of Augusta Avenue and Nassau Street.

149.  8x10  2001 Nassau and Augusta

A close-up view of the shoppers at the market, on the southeast corner of Nassau and Augusta.

The appearance in 2015 of a few of the shops captured on canvas in 2005.

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Sanagan’s, where European Meats was located (Left), and the Coral Sea fish shop on Baldwin Street (right).

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Shop where “Max and Son Meat Market” was located, which is now a fish market—”Hooked.” 

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Sea Kings Fish Market in 2015 (left) and Akram’s Shoppe the same year (right)

                                     * * *

The Kensington Market has a fascinating history. In the 1790s, the site where today’s Market exists was within two parcels of land granted by Governor Simcoe to influential friends. The grants were referred to as “Park Lots,” Alexander Grant owning one of them and the other owned by Major E.B. Littlehayes. The name Littlehayes survives to this day in the name of a small laneway that extends north from Baldwin Street, east of Augusta Avenue.

The story of Kensington begins with George Denison, who in 1806 purchased a large parcel of land in the area and constructed a grand home, which he named Bell Vue. Bellevue Avenue was named after this dwelling. When the home was built, the Denisons were the only people living in the area. Their home was surrounded by dense forests, among the trees a few open meadows where in summer months wild flowers grew in abundance.

Bell Vue was on the site that the Kiever Synagogue occupies today, near the northwest corner of Bellevue Square Park. Denison ordered that the land in front of Belle Vue be cleared of trees to create an open square where his family could stroll. The promenade also provided an impressive setting for the home. Because Denison was a colonel in the militia, the square was employed occasionally for drilling troops or staging military parades.

In the ensuing years, the Denisons sold much of the land they owned to raise money for living expenses. Soon, streets were carved out of the wilderness and residential development followed. Because the land was located to the northwest of the downtown area, it was ideal for housing as it was within easy reach of the shops in the core of the city, but away from the city’s busy traffic and noise. Torontonians, mostly of British origins, purchased the houses.  

As the 19th century progressed, newer residential districts opened to the north and west of the KensingtonBy the dawn of the 20th century, the British immigrants who resided in the home surrounding the area where the Denisons had lived, relocated to the newer districts, on streets such as Palmerston and Euclid Avenues. Belle Vue was sold in 1889 and demolished the following year. The descendants of George Denison donated the square in front of their home to the city and today it exists as Bellevue Square Park. It is in the heart of the modern-day Kensington Market, and is the scene of many community events. 

Though there were Jewish families living in Toronto before the turn of the twentieth century, they were relatively few in number. After 1900, this slowly changed as Jewish immigrants from Europe increased in numbers. Many were from Poland and Russia. Most arrived with little more than the clothes on their backs, their meagre possessions contained within a few suitcases. In this decade, Toronto’s population was predominately of British, Protestant origins. It was an era when religious and ethnic tolerance was not a well-developed concept in society. As a result the Jews were mostly excluded from the mainstream institutions of the city, and thus marginalized.

Securing employment in the factories and shops of Toronto was not easy for Jews. To maintain a job in a Gentile workplace, it was necessary to labour on Saturdays. If they took time off work to worship on their Sabbath, they would lose a day’s income, though not necessarily their source of livelihood. Thus the Jewish immigrants preferred to earn a living in a manner in which they were independent.

In the second decade of the twentieth century, when Anglos moved out of the homes in the Kensington area, Jewish immigrants purchased the properties. Kensington was close to the garment shops on Spadina, where many of the Jewish immigrants had found employment. The small homes of the area, built on narrow streets, were inexpensive compared to other areas. To garner extra income, they constructed extensions on the rear of the houses and rented the space to other immigrants. Single-family homes were often subdivided to provide space for several families, thus providing assistance with the mortgage.

For many Jewish immigrants, the first method of starting a business was to sell goods from a knapsack on their backs, walking the streets to reach customers. When funds were available, a push-cart was acquired, allowing larger amounts of merchandise to be carried. Many chose the “rag trade,” because it was considered by others to be a difficult way to earn a living, so there was not much competition. Others earned cash by gathering bottles, cleaning them, and reselling them to factories. Others collected old sewing machines, repaired them, and resold them. They collected anything of value available and disposed of it for whatever price they could obtain. Some sold fruit and vegetables from their carts. All these enterprises required almost no capital to commence, and allowed the vendors to be free to worship on the Sabbath.

When they possessed the funds, some built stalls at the front of their small homes. Others opened stores in a front room in their house. While the men pushed their carts through the streets, in weather that was often inclement, the women sold goods from the make-shift shops and stalls to earn extra income for the family.

Eventually modest extensions were constructed on the front of the homes to create small stores, replacing the temporary stalls and shops. The Kensington Market was born. Merchants and their families lived above the stores or in rooms located behind them. Slowly, the district was transformed from a quiet residential community into a vibrant shopping area with a European “shtetle” atmosphere. Despite its similarity to ethnic or economic enclaves in other cities, such as the Lower East Side in New York, or London’s Whitechapel, Kensington was unique, “one of a kind,” and it remains that way.

Today, in the Market, many Victorian homes remain behind the storefronts. They can be seen if a person gazes upward at the peaked roofs and ornate trim of the old houses that still exist, though many have been severely altered. Augusta Avenue, Baldwin Street, St. Andrew’s Avenue, and Kensington Avenue all contain examples of storefronts that extend from the front of the houses to the edge of the sidewalks.

Today, the Jewish market has disappeared and the small shops of yesteryear have become ethnic stores—West Indian, Asian, Latino, Caribbean, East Indian, and Portuguese. There are also many “cool” shops that specialize in “twice-loved” (second-hand) clothing.

Note: much of the information for this post was derived from the book “The Villages Within.” It was published in 2010, but due to the rapid changes in the market, it is now in need of updating. Details of this book are available on the Home Page for this blog.

In a previous post, I shared paintings that stimulated memories of my boyhood. For a link to this post:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2015/02/23/capturing-torontos-past-through-paintings/

For a link to paintings of the Kensington Market: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2015/02/26/capturing-torontos-kensington-market-in-art/

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

To view previous blogs about movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/links-to-toronto-old-movie-housestayloronhistory-com/

Recent publication entitled “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” by the author of this blog. The publication 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 of the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

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

   To place an order for this book:

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

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

Theatres Included in the Book:

Chapter One – The Early Years—Nickelodeons and the First Theatres in Toronto

Theatorium (Red Mill) Theatre—Toronto’s First Movie Experience and First Permanent Movie Theatre, Auditorium (Avenue, PIckford), Colonial Theatre (the Bay), the Photodome, Revue Theatre, Picture Palace (Royal George), Big Nickel (National, Rio), Madison Theatre (Midtown, Capri, Eden, Bloor Cinema, Bloor Street Hot Docs), Theatre Without a Name (Pastime, Prince Edward, Fox)

Chapter Two – The Great Movie Palaces – The End of the Nickelodeons

Loew’s Yonge Street (Elgin/Winter Garden), Shea’s Hippodrome, The Allen (Tivoli), Pantages (Imperial, Imperial Six, Ed Mirvish), Loew’s Uptown

Chapter Three – Smaller Theatres in the pre-1920s and 1920s

 Oakwood, Broadway, Carlton on Parliament Street, Victory on Yonge Street (Embassy, Astor, Showcase, Federal, New Yorker, Panasonic), Allan’s Danforth (Century, Titania, Music Hall), Parkdale, Alhambra (Baronet, Eve), St. Clair, Standard (Strand, Victory, Golden Harvest), Palace, Bedford (Park), Hudson (Mount Pleasant), Belsize (Crest, Regent), Runnymede

Chapter Four – Theatres During the 1930s, the Great Depression

Grant ,Hollywood, Oriole (Cinema, International Cinema), Eglinton, Casino, Radio City, Paramount, Scarboro, Paradise (Eve’s Paradise), State (Bloordale), Colony, Bellevue (Lux, Elektra, Lido), Kingsway, Pylon (Royal, Golden Princess), Metro

Chapter Five – Theatres in the 1940s – The Second World War and the Post-War Years

University, Odeon Fairlawn, Vaughan, Odeon Danforth, Glendale, Odeon Hyland, Nortown, Willow, Downtown, Odeon Carlton, Donlands, Biltmore, Odeon Humber, Town Cinema

Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres

Savoy (Coronet), Westwood

Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes

Cineplex Eaton Centre, Cineplex Odeon Varsity, Scotiabank Cineplex, Dundas Square Cineplex, The Bell Lightbox (TIFF)

 

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Toronto’s La Salle Theatre—Dundas and Spadina

c. 1953

        The La Salle Theatre in 1953. Photo City of Toronto Archives, S-1-484B

The above photo is the only picture of the La Salle Theatre that I was able to locate in the archives. It was fortunate that someone took this picture of a fire engine racing along Dundas Street West on a spring afternoon in 1953. The fire truck had been called to extinguish a fire at M. Mandel and Sons Lumber Yard, on the west side of Spadina Avenue, north of Dundas Street.

The theatre opened in 1928, and was originally named the Liberty; it was licensed to Mr. A. Finkelstein. Located was at 526-528 Dundas Street West, it was on the north side of the street, immediately to the west of a branch of the Bank of Nova Scotia of today, on the northwest corner of Dundas and Spadina. The building where the theatre was located survives to this day (2014), as well as the bank. The bank remains an active branch, but the theatre disappeared decades ago. The two building are separated by a narrow alley, which also remains.

The theatre possessed a floor of concrete and steel, with 450 seats in its auditorium and another 200 seats in the balcony. There were two aisles downstairs. The ladies’ room was to the right of the foyer and the men’s room was in the basement. This arrangement was typical for washrooms in decades past—the ladies received the preferred location, on the ground-floor level. The theatre was cooled by water-washed air, installed by the Canadian Air Conditioning Company.

In 1938, the theatre was renovated, the plans designed by Harry Dobson. In this year, the theatre’s name was changed from the Liberty to the La Salle. In 1940, an inspector reported that the theatre was not being maintained properly, and that the owner was uncooperative. A similar report was  issued the following year, and again in 1943 and in 1944. An inspector also noted that the matron on duty at the La Salle was wearing the mandatory white uniform, but the word “matron” was missing from it. Apparently, this was a mandatory requirement for all matrons’ uniforms. This information in the file of the LaSalle Theatre in the archives is the first time I have seen this requirement stipulated.

After the area where the LaSalle was located changed demographically, the theatre changed its name to the Pagoda and screened Chinese films. I received this information from Carlos De Sousa, who lived on Kensington Avenue in the 1960s. He also informed me that the theatre closed in the late-1960s or early-1970s.

Because I often shop at the Kensington Market, I have passed the building where the La Salle was located many times, but was unaware that a theatre had been located on the site. After my research, I re-examined the building and for the first time became aware that the shape of the structure resembled a theatre.

DSCN4546   DSCN4547

The La Salle Theatre (left-hand photo) and the building after it was renovated for other commercial purposes. Both photos are from the City of Toronto Archives, Series 1278, File 99.

                   DSCN4587

  The building where the La Salle Theatre was located, in June of 2014.

 

DSCN4589

The building at 526-528 Dundas Street West, in June 2014. The Bank of Nova Scotia is on the right-hand (east side of the theatre’s former site).

DSCN4585

The site of the old La Salle Theatre, with the east facade and the laneway beside it visible (June 2014).

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

To view previous posts on this blog about other movie houses of Toronto—old and new

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/links-to-toronto-old-movie-housestayloronhistory-com/

To view links to other posts placed about the history of Toronto and its buildings:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/links-to-historic-architecture-of-torontotayloronhistory-com/

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

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

   To place an order for this book:

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

Theatres Included in the Book:

Chapter One – The Early Years—Nickelodeons and the First Theatres in Toronto

Theatorium (Red Mill) Theatre—Toronto’s First Movie Experience and First Permanent Movie Theatre, Auditorium (Avenue, PIckford), Colonial Theatre (the Bay), thePhotodome, Revue Theatre, Picture Palace (Royal George), Big Nickel (National, Rio), Madison Theatre (Midtown, Capri, Eden, Bloor Cinema, Bloor Street Hot Docs), Theatre Without a Name (Pastime, Prince Edward, Fox)

Chapter Two – The Great Movie Palaces – The End of the Nickelodeons

Loew’s Yonge Street (Elgin/Winter Garden), Shea’s Hippodrome, The Allen (Tivoli), Pantages (Imperial, Imperial Six, Ed Mirvish), Loew’s Uptown

Chapter Three – Smaller Theatres in the pre-1920s and 1920s

 Oakwood, Broadway, Carlton on Parliament Street, Victory on Yonge Street (Embassy, Astor, Showcase, Federal, New Yorker, Panasonic), Allan’s Danforth (Century, Titania, Music Hall), Parkdale, Alhambra (Baronet, Eve), St. Clair, Standard (Strand, Victory, Golden Harvest), Palace, Bedford (Park), Hudson (Mount Pleasant), Belsize (Crest, Regent), Runnymede

Chapter Four – Theatres During the 1930s, the Great Depression

Grant ,Hollywood, Oriole (Cinema, International Cinema), Eglinton, Casino, Radio City, Paramount, Scarboro, Paradise (Eve’s Paradise), State (Bloordale), Colony, Bellevue (Lux, Elektra, Lido), Kingsway, Pylon (Royal, Golden Princess), Metro

Chapter Five – Theatres in the 1940s – The Second World War and the Post-War Years

University, Odeon Fairlawn, Vaughan, Odeon Danforth, Glendale, Odeon Hyland, Nortown, Willow, Downtown, Odeon Carlton, Donlands, Biltmore, Odeon Humber, Town Cinema

Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres

Savoy (Coronet), Westwood

Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes

Cineplex Eaton Centre, Cineplex Odeon Varsity, Scotiabank Cineplex, Dundas Square Cineplex, The Bell Lightbox (TIFF)

 

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Toronto’s Gooderham (Flatiron) Building on Wellington and Front Streets

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The red-brick Gooderham Building at 49 Wellington Street East is located at the confluence of Wellington Street East, Front Street East, and Church Street, in the St. Lawrence Market area. The present-day building is the second structure that has existed on this small triangular piece of land. The original building on the site was constructed in 1845, and was smaller than the one that exists there today, it having only three-storeys. It was a part of the Wellington Hotel on nearby Church Street, and was referred to as the Coffin Block as the land on which it was built was similar to that of a coffin. The odd shape occurred because the streets of the early-day town of York (Toronto) had been laid-out on a grid pattern, but the straight lines were slanted to accommodate the curve of the shoreline of Lake Ontario.

Fonds 1244, Item 7335

This photograph from the City of Toronto Archives (Series 1244, It. 7335-1) was taken in 1883. It shows the original three-storey Coffin Block, built in 1845. There is a three-storey bank across the street from the building, on the right-hand side of the photo. It is the structure with the imposing portico.

f0124_fl0002_id0065[1]

This is the building that is presently on the site. The photo from the City of Toronto Archives (Fonds 124, Fl.0124, Id.0065) was likely taken in the early 1970s, since one of the towers of the TD Centre is evident in the background. The top of the Royal York Hotel is on the left-hand side of the picture. There is no CN Tower visible, as it was not completed until 1976.

f0124_fl0002_id0025[1]

This photo from the City of Toronto Archives (Fonds 124, Fl.0124, Id.0025) gazes east along Front and Wellington Streets. In the picture, the Gooderham building is isolated. Beside it on its western side, there are only parking lots, and where the condo Market Square now exists, is another large parking lot. The St. Lawrence Hall is in the upper left-hand corner of the picture. The South Market Building of the St. Lawrence Market can be seen on the south side of Front Street. The old North Market Building is also evident, which was demolished in the late-1960s.

The Story of The Gooderham Building

In 1837, William Gooderham and his brother-in-law William Worts founded a distillery. By the 1890s, it was the largest  producer of spirits in Canada. In the early 1890s, George Gooderham, the eldest son of William Gooderham, purchased the Coffin block to construct a new headquarters for the Gooderham and Worts Distillery. He ordered that the building on the old Coffin Block be demolished. He hired David Roberts Junior (1845-90) as his architect, and at a cost of $18,000, instructed that a four-storey building be erected, which was completed in 1892. In the basement, the windows were partially above ground, creating an extra level. The design of Gooderham’s building was the inspiration for the famous Flatiron Building in New York City, built in in 1902.

Toronto’s Gooderham Building is Romanesque in design, with traces of Gothic. The cornice above the fourth floor has a wealth of intricate Romanesque designs. Above the cornice is a steeply-sloped roof that was originally covered with copper, although the copper has since been removed. The roofline is broken by eight peaked gable windows, four on the north side of the building and four on the south. On the east side, the apex of the triangular shape is rounded and topped with a pointed tower, its top still sheathed in copper. The building has several entrances, but the main entrance is on its north side, on Wellington Street. 

Interestingly, a tunnel was built under Front Street that connected the Gooderham Building to the bank across the road on Front Street. It allowed large amounts of cash to be safely transferred between the buildings without being seen from the street. The bank building can be seen in one of the above pictures placed in this post. Also, the first manually-operated Otis elevator was installed in the Gooderham Building.    

The Gooderham Building was the headquarters of Gooderham and Worts Distillery until 1952. In 1975, it was officially declared a Heritage site. The building was restored in the late-1990s, and remains coveted as office space. Its rooms, with their 12-foot ceilings, are ideal for companies that wish to rent space in an historic property.

                     April 2013

View of the Gooderham Building in April of 2013, gazing west along Front Street.

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Views of the apex of the triangular building, the top crowned with a copper-sheathed tower.

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The Front Street facade, the iron fire escape attached to the red-brick wall. In the basement, which is partially above ground, there is a pub. (Photo, July 2013).

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View of the top of the building, with the ornate cornice and the copper-sheathed pointed tower.

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                    The Romanesque ornamentations in the cornice.

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Impressive main entrance on Wellington Street, with its Romanesque surround.

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Architectural detailing on the building, with the date of its completion.

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The west facade of the Gooderham Building, containing the mural by Derek Besant, painted in the autumn of 1980. It is a mirror image of the Perkins Building across the street. It creates the illusion that there are windows on the west facade of the Gooderham Building.

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                View facing west along Front Street in July 2013.

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

To view previous blogs about other movie houses of Toronto—old and new

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/links-to-toronto-old-movie-housestayloronhistory-com/

To view links to other posts placed on this blog about the history of Toronto and its buildings:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/links-to-historic-architecture-of-torontotayloronhistory-com/

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

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

   To place an order for this book:

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

Theatres Included in the Book:

Chapter One – The Early Years—Nickelodeons and the First Theatres in Toronto

Theatorium (Red Mill) Theatre—Toronto’s First Movie Experience and First Permanent Movie Theatre, Auditorium (Avenue, PIckford), Colonial Theatre (the Bay), thePhotodome, Revue Theatre, Picture Palace (Royal George), Big Nickel (National, Rio), Madison Theatre (Midtown, Capri, Eden, Bloor Cinema, Bloor Street Hot Docs), Theatre Without a Name (Pastime, Prince Edward, Fox)

Chapter Two – The Great Movie Palaces – The End of the Nickelodeons

Loew’s Yonge Street (Elgin/Winter Garden), Shea’s Hippodrome, The Allen (Tivoli), Pantages (Imperial, Imperial Six, Ed Mirvish), Loew’s Uptown

Chapter Three – Smaller Theatres in the pre-1920s and 1920s

 Oakwood, Broadway, Carlton on Parliament Street, Victory on Yonge Street (Embassy, Astor, Showcase, Federal, New Yorker, Panasonic), Allan’s Danforth (Century, Titania, Music Hall), Parkdale, Alhambra (Baronet, Eve), St. Clair, Standard (Strand, Victory, Golden Harvest), Palace, Bedford (Park), Hudson (Mount Pleasant), Belsize (Crest, Regent), Runnymede

Chapter Four – Theatres During the 1930s, the Great Depression

Grant ,Hollywood, Oriole (Cinema, International Cinema), Eglinton, Casino, Radio City, Paramount, Scarboro, Paradise (Eve’s Paradise), State (Bloordale), Colony, Bellevue (Lux, Elektra, Lido), Kingsway, Pylon (Royal, Golden Princess), Metro

Chapter Five – Theatres in the 1940s – The Second World War and the Post-War Years

University, Odeon Fairlawn, Vaughan, Odeon Danforth, Glendale, Odeon Hyland, Nortown, Willow, Downtown, Odeon Carlton, Donlands, Biltmore, Odeon Humber, Town Cinema

Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres

Savoy (Coronet), Westwood

Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes

Cineplex Eaton Centre, Cineplex Odeon Varsity, Scotiabank Cineplex, Dundas Square Cineplex, The Bell Lightbox (TIFF)

 

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Corner of Spadina and St. Andrew’s–graffiti art or murals ?

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The Pho Hung restaurant on the northwest corner of Spadina Avenue and St. Andrew’s Street is decorated with several paintings by Duc Hoang. They depict rural and city scenes from Viet Nam, very appropriate for a restaurant that specialized in Vietnamese cuisine. I have dined at the establishment several times, and found the food to be very good and the price extremely reasonable. I have walked past the painted walls many times, but never really taken the time to examine them. They are skilfully executed, and deserve more attention than they receive.

In a city that is rich with graffiti art, I am not really certain if these paintings qualify as graffiti. They were commissioned by the restaurant, and are really murals.  

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This painting is on the west wall of the restaurant. The large cement blocks of the building are evident in the photo.

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This is part of the above picture, but I had to reposition the recycling bins to take the photo. The rear door of the restaurant can be seen, as well as the broom of one of the employees.

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            This scene is on the south wall, facing St. Andrew’s Street.

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This photo shows the south and west walls of the restaurant, as well as the recycling bins that partially block the view of the murals.

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

Links to other posts about the history of Toronto and its buildings:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/links-to-historic-architecture-of-torontotayloronhistory-com/

Links to posts about Toronto’s movie houses—past and present.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/links-to-toronto-old-movie-housestayloronhistory-com/

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

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

                To place an order for this book:

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

      Theatres Included in the Book

Chapter One – The Early Years—Nickelodeons and the First Theatres in Toronto

Theatorium (Red Mill) Theatre—Toronto’s First Movie Experience and First Permanent Movie Theatre, Auditorium (Avenue, PIckford), Colonial Theatre (the Bay), thePhotodome, Revue Theatre, Picture Palace (Royal George), Big Nickel (National, Rio), Madison Theatre (Midtown, Capri, Eden, Bloor Cinema, Bloor Street Hot Docs), Theatre Without a Name (Pastime, Prince Edward, Fox)

Chapter Two – The Great Movie Palaces – The End of the Nickelodeons

Loew’s Yonge Street (Elgin/Winter Garden), Shea’s Hippodrome, The Allen (Tivoli), Pantages (Imperial, Imperial Six, Ed Mirvish), Loew’s Uptown

Chapter Three – Smaller Theatres in the pre-1920s and 1920s

 Oakwood, Broadway, Carlton on Parliament Street, Victory on Yonge Street (Embassy, Astor, Showcase, Federal, New Yorker, Panasonic), Allan’s Danforth (Century, Titania, Music Hall), Parkdale, Alhambra (Baronet, Eve), St. Clair, Standard (Strand, Victory, Golden Harvest), Palace, Bedford (Park), Hudson (Mount Pleasant), Belsize (Crest, Regent), Runnymede

Chapter Four – Theatres During the 1930s, the Great Depression

Grant ,Hollywood, Oriole (Cinema, International Cinema), Eglinton, Casino, Radio City, Paramount, Scarboro, Paradise (Eve’s Paradise), State (Bloordale), Colony, Bellevue (Lux, Elektra, Lido), Kingsway, Pylon (Royal, Golden Princess), Metro

Chapter Five – Theatres in the 1940s – The Second World War and the Post-War Years

University, Odeon Fairlawn, Vaughan, Odeon Danforth, Glendale, Odeon Hyland, Nortown, Willow, Downtown, Odeon Carlton, Donlands, Biltmore, Odeon Humber, Town Cinema

Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres

Savoy (Coronet), Westwood

Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes

Cineplex Eaton Centre, Cineplex Odeon Varsity, Scotiabank Cineplex, Dundas Square Cineplex, The Bell Lightbox (TIFF)

 

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Kensington Market – Part 2- The Peterkin Home

Discovering the Kensington Market, a Village Within the city!

In my first post about discovering the Kensington Market, I explained the reasons for my interest in the market.

In this post, I would like to examine the Peterkin house, at 29 Wales Avenue. During my daily walks, the Victorian mansion on the southwest corner of Wales and Bellevue avenues, was one of the first home on Bellevue Square that attracted my attention. With its ornate porch and first-floor bay window, I considered it the most imposing house overlooking the square.  I had often strolled past this dwelling, and became increasingly curious about its history. I photographed the dwelling on a sunny winter day, as during the summer months, the foliage hid much of the house from view.  

 

 

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29 Wales Avenue, the home of James R. Peterkin

 29 Wales Avenue

When James R. Peterkin was twenty-one years of age, he purchased property at 145 Bay Street and opened a lumber yard and mill. Employing several labourers, along with  a few carpenters and cabinet makers, he created a prosperous business. Achieving a degree of success, he purchased property on Wales Avenue and constructed his first home, a one-story house in the Ontario cottage style. It possessed extensive verandas, which were wrapped around the north and east sides of the dwelling. As the years passed, Peterkin’s wealth increased, and as his family had grown in size, he decided to demolish the house at 29 Wales Avenue and construct a larger home.

The house on the site today was completed in 1884. In 1889, the house possessed a value of $3500 and the property was worth $3325. This was highly-priced real estate for Toronto in that year. The three-story house is of red brick, likely from the kilns of the Don Valley brickyard. Yellow bricks were employed for decorations above the windows, as well as the trim on the facade. The ornate porch with its fancy supports, and the pediment (triangle) above the porch were created by the craftsmen in Peterkin’s lumber yard. 

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Inner and outer doors of the house at 29 Wales Avenue, Intricate designs in the triangle (pediment), cut with a scroll saw.     

 

For detailed information on the Peterkin house, life within the home when Peterkin’s family lived there, and other residents of the house, see “The Villages Within”.  

 

 Painting of Kensington

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Coffee shop and store at the corner of Baldwin and Augusta avenues

Acrylic on stretches canvas, 16” by 20”

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2011 in Kensington Market

 

Discovering the Kensington Market

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Houses on the south side of Bellevue Square

 

Living within ten-minutes walking distance of the Kensington market, almost every day I stroll its interesting streets to purchase my daily needs, enjoy a coffee, and observe the ever-changing scene. I never tire of its street buskers, musicians, friendly merchants, and eccentric characters. Where else can I see an elderly woman drop a small package of marijuana into the coin-basket of a street singer, or overhear a man inform me of the proper procedures and dress-code for sipping rum from a bottle in a paper bag? To paraphrase “Honest Ed’s slogan,” the Kensington Market may be imitated, but never duplicated.

DSCN1370 The hustle and bustle of a summer afternoon at Baldwin and Kensington avenues.

Painting is acrylic on stretched canvas, 18” by 24”

 

During the summer of 2005, I attempted to capture the vitality of the market on canvas. Many mornings I carried my paints and easel to the market and spent the day sketching and painting. I talked to shoppers, merchants, and residents as they looked over my shoulder to view my progress. I heard stories and gained new insights into the daily life of the area. Some of the shops and views that I transferred onto canvas no longer exist. They have either been demolished, gone out of business, or the shops’ facades and signage have been greatly altered.

Eventually, my interest in the market caused me to research the fascinating buildings that inhabit the market’s narrow streets. In 2010, I published the material, along with studies of the Kings West District (the area around King Street and Spadina Avenue), and Queen Street West. I included a history of the old St. Andrew’s Market. The book was entitled “The Villages Within,” an apt description of the Kensington Market.

My study commenced with the houses surrounding Bellevue Square, as it is at the heart of the market. Bellevue Square is bounded by Augusta Avenue on the east, Wales Avenue on the south, Bellevue Avenue on the west, and on the north by Denison Square (which is actually a street). During the great Toronto blackout in 2003, a spontaneous “pot party” developed in Bellevue Square, attracting residents and visitors alike to the music and fun of an off-beat street party.

Through this series of posts, I would like to share a few of these “memory” paintings, as well as further information that I have gathered. On my next post, I will examine in detail the Peterkin home, at 29 Wales Avenue. 

Paintings of Kensington

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The “Moonbean Coffee Shop” on St. Andrew’s Avenue

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“Summer afternoon at Augusta and Nassau Avenues”

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2011 in Kensington Market