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Category Archives: Lost Toronto

Great photo of Toronto in 1952

1952, Ont. Archives I0005533[1]

While examining files in the Ontario Archives (#10005533), I discovered this photo, dated 1952. The camera is pointing north on Yonge Street, from south of Dundas Street.  

During the 1950s, Yonge Street was the city’s entertainment district, with its bars, restaurants and theatres. It was the last decade that the street’s movie theatres were “the kings” of entertainment. By the 1960s, they were beginning to suffer from lower attendance due to television.

In the photo, the marquees of the Imperial Theatre (Ed Mirvish) and the Downtown Theatre (demolished) are prominently visible on the east (right-hand) side of the street. The site of the Downtown Theatre is now a part of Dundas Square.

If you know where to look, you will see the rounded facade of the Brown Derby Tavern at Yonge and Dundas and the red-brick Ryrie Building on the northeast corner of Yonge and Shuter Street. This is where the Silver Rail Tavern was located. The building still remains today, although the Silver rail is gone. The clock tower on the St. Charles Tavern is visible. The building was a fire station that became a tavern (bar, restaurant, night club) and is now a condo.

In the distance, Eaton’s College Street can be seen, as well as the Toronto Hydro Building at Yonge and Carlton. The dome on the roof of Maple Leaf Gardens is to the east of the Hydro Building.

In examining the photo, I found it remarkable that so many of the 19th-century building on Yonge Street have survived. In most instances, additions have been constructed across the front of them for commercial purposes. Many of the old buildings remain today, functioning as modern shops.

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

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

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

Books by the Blog’s Author

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

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

   To place an order for this book, published by History Press:

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

Book also available in most book stores such as Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox and AGO Book Shop. It can also be ordered by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

                                 image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb    

Another book on theatres, published by Dundurn Press, is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It explores 81 theatres and contains over 125 archival photographs, with interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating histories. Note: an article on this book was published in Toronto Life Magazine, October 2016 issue.

For a link to the article published by Toronto Life Magazine: torontolife.com/…/photos-old-cinemas-dougtaylortoronto-local-movie-theatres-of-y…

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

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

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

Note: a review of this book was published in Spacing Magazine, October 2016. For a link to this review:

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

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

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

 

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Toronto’s Silver Rail Tavern—closed 1998

1950s  f1257_s1057_it0738[1] - Copy

The Silver Rail Tavern in the 1950s, located at 225-227 Yonge Street. Toronto Archives, F1257, S1057, item 073.

The last time that I visited the Silver Rail Tavern was in 1995, when an elderly aunt and I visited it for lunch. I chose “the Rail” as I knew that when she had been younger, it was one of her favourite places to dine and enjoy a drink. She was thrilled with my choice, as she had not been inside it for many years. When she stepped in the door, she gushed, “It’s exactly as I remember it. Oh! how I enjoyed sipping the Manhattans here.” The Silver Rail did indeed change very little since it first opened, and this was one of it’s charms.

The Silver Rail was the first bar in Toronto that received a liquor license from the LLBO when Premier George Drew, on April 2, 1947, relaxed the laws governing alcohol. Prohibition had ended in 1927, but there remained many restrictions, such as alcohol only being served in public places if it were purchased with food. It was common to see a person having a beer in a licensed establishment, a small sandwich or other low-cost item from the menu on the table, but untouched. The new law made it possible to order a beer or a glass of wine without ordering food. However, when the Silver Rail opened, no women were allowed to sit at the bar, and only one drink per person was permitted on the tables at a given time.

Previous to the Silver Rail, on the site had been Muirhead’s Bar and Cafeteria. Its ground-floor space was designed by N. A. Armstrong in 1934, and it included a long bar that extended the entire length of the room. It was aligned with the north wall. Patrons were able to sit at the bar to eat or have a drink. Along the south wall, there were rows of tables. A silver-coloured rail, located beside the stairs that led to the lower level, provided the inspiration for the name of the new bar that opened on the same site— the Silver Rail.

It was In 1947 that Louis David Arnold and Michael P. Georges opened the Silver Rail, each investing $50,000 in the enterprise. It was located in the southwest corner of the ground floor of the Ryrie Building, which was on the northeast corner of Yonge and Shuter Streets. The owners of the Silver Rail maintained the basic layout that Armstrong had created for Muirhead’s Bar, but on the south wall, instead of tables, they installed curved booths. In the lower level (basement) of the Rail, there was a classy restaurant, its decor elegant, with immaculate white table clothes. The waiters carried silver water jugs, and were attired in formal white jackets, and black trousers. The restaurant featured live music on weekends, and it was said that on one occasion, Oscar Peterson gave an impromptu performance on its baby grand piano. It was in this restaurant that my aunt and I enjoyed lunch in 1995. 

The Silver Rail was renown for its excellent cuisine, specializing in steaks, roast beef, and seafood. In the 1940s and 1950s, these were the usual items on restaurant menus in Toronto, as they were based on traditional British fare. The dishes were popular, even though they were rather basic if compared with the city’s multi-ethnic and gourmet menus of today. The bar more than compensated for the lack of variety in food, as it stocked a large assortment of whiskies, brandies, champagnes and a wide range of cocktails. The year it opened, highballs were 45 cents. Its location was close to Massey Hall, around the corner on Shuter Street. This made it a favourite for a drink, either before, or after a concert or event. The first month The Rail was open, it earned $90,000 in profits.

In 1948, the artist Eric Aldwinckle was commissioned to paint a large mural for the bar. During the 1950s, the Rail was a favourite of the employees of Eaton’s and Simpsons stores. A friend of mine who worked at Simpson’s in the 1950s, was paid 60 cents an hour. Sometimes he splurged and had lunch at the Rail, paying $1.50 for spaghetti. He considered this to be “high living.” The tavern closed in 1998, and when the space was renovated for a new tenant, Aldwinckle’s mural was lost.

My aunt was saddened by the closing of the Silver Rail. Then, only two restaurants remained that she had visited in her younger days — Fran’s (famous for its rice pudding) and the Old Mill in Etobicoke (well known for dining and dancing).

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

 June 1934, Constuc. Magazine, Tor Pub. Lib.

Muirhead’s classic Art Deco facade in June 1934. Photo from Construction Magazine, Vol. 27, in the collection of the Toronto Public Library.

image

The Silver Rail Tavern, which maintained many features of the facade of its predecessor, Muirhead’s. Photo from the Ontario Archives.

DSCN4680[1]

The mural painted in 1948 by Eric Aldwinckle. Photo by Michael McClelland.

1949  S 381, Fl0019, id 6288-2  [1]

View looking north on Yonge Street from Shuter Street in 1949. The street is covered with thick timbers to allow the digging of the subway below. The marquees of the Imperial and Downtown Theatres are visible in the distance, to the north of the Ryrie Building where the the Silver Rail was located. Toronto Archives, S 381, fl 0019, id 6288-2.

1950s  f1257_s1057_it0738[1] 

The Ryrie Building in 1950, on the northeast corner of Shuter and Yonge Streets. Toronto Archives, F 1257, S1057, item 0738.

                        View of apartments above the Silver Rail on Yonge Street at Shuter – May 11, 1977

The Ryrie Building and the Silver Rail on May 11, 1977. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, fl 0004, item 001.

c. 1980  Fonds 124, fl 003, id 0127  Silver Rail (2)

The camera is pointed north on Yonge Street in 1980. The Ryrie Building and the Silver Rail can be seen. On the left, a portion of the Eaton Centre is visible. Toronto Archives, Fonds 124, fl 0003, id 0127. 

S 1465, Fl305, It 0002 Rail-South[1] 

Gazing south on Yonge Street from a short distance north of Shuter Streets. Toronto Archives, S1465, f 1305, Item 0002.

DSCN9651

The space in 2014 at Yonge and Shuter Streets, in the Ryrie Building, where the Silver Rail was located.

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

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

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

Books by the Blog’s Author

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

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

   To place an order for this book, published by History Press:

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

Book also available in most book stores such as Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox and AGO Book Shop. It can also be ordered by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

                                 image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[1]    

Another book on theatres, published by Dundurn Press, is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It explores 81 theatres and contains over 125 archival photographs, with interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating histories. Note: an article on this book was published in Toronto Life Magazine, October 2016 issue.

For a link to the article published by |Toronto Life Magazine: torontolife.com/…/photos-old-cinemas-dougtaylortoronto-local-movie-theatres-of-y…

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

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

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

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

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

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

 

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The Bank of Toronto at King and Bay – demolished 1965

1910,  pcr-2167[1]

The Bank of Toronto on a postcard, printed in 1910, camera facing the southwest corner of King and Bay Streets. The streetcar is travelling east on King Street. Photo from the collection of the Toronto Public Library, r-2167.

When I was a boy in the 1940s, during the hot summer months, one of the greatest adventures in life was to climb aboard a streetcar on Bay Street and travel to the ferry docks on Front Street. From there, we sailed across the harbour to Centre Island. In my youthful eyes, this outing was high adventure, similar to a story about climbing Mount Kilimanjaro that I had read about in a library book. The author of the tale stressed that the journey up the mountain was as much a part of the adventure as the arrival at the summit. Similarly, the tall buildings lining the canyon of Bay Street were as important (well almost) as arriving at Centre Island.

It was on these summer excursions that I first saw the Bank of Toronto at Bay and King Streets. To me, it appeared like a giant piggy bank, and I was certain there was a coin slot on the roof where people dropped their pennies and nickels. I could not conceive of quarters and fifty-cent pieces being dropped into the slot, as such enormous amounts of money were only possessed by millionaires. I might add that eliminating the fifty-cent piece from common currency was a pity. As a child, to receive one of them to spend at the penny-candy-store was akin to possessing boundless wealth.

Today, gazing at the photos of the Bank of Toronto, I can understand why it caught my attention when I was a young lad. Its striking architecture dominated the street, and like a finely crafted child’s piggy bank, it was perfect in every detail. Its architects created a structure that was built for the ages, never anticipating that it would eventually be demolished. 

Its destruction occurred during the decade of great prosperity that followed the opening of the St. Lawrence seaway in 1959. Large vessels were now able to access the Great Lakes, bypassing Montreal, which in those years was the nation’s largest city. Under the misguided policy of “modern city building,” and with the approval of City Hall, the “old” was demolished to be replaced by the “modern.” In this decade of wanton destruction, many of Toronto’s finest historic structures disappeared. The Bank of Toronto was one of them. In fairness, the Toronto Dominion Bank towers that were constructed on the site are now also considered architectural gems, of the International Style.

The Bank of Toronto first opened its doors in 1856 at 78 Church Street, William Gooderham and his son George among its investors and directors. It remained on Church Street until 1862, when its offices were relocated to the northwest corner of Wellington and Church Streets. However, in 1901, the bank commenced planning for a new headquarters, as the area around King and Bay Streets was becoming the centre of financial activity.

In 1902, a large plot of land was purchased on the southwest corner of Bay and King – its postal address 55-67 King Street West. The New York City architectural firm of Carrere and Hastings, along with Eustace G. Bird, a Toronto associate architect, was commissioned to design the building. This decision created outrage from nationalistic Torontonians who would have preferred a Canadian architectural company. Construction began in January of 1912, and the bank relocated from Church and Wellington in 1913.

The American architects were inspired by the Bourse de Paris (Paris Stock Exchange). The bank building they designed reflected the classical traditions of ancient Rome and Athens, as it resembled an ancient temple. It possessed three-storey Corinthian pilasters (three-side columns) on its north and east facades, which were trimmed with Tennessee marble. However, there was no pediment above the faux columns. The plinth (the base supporting the building) was higher than the people passing by it on the sidewalk. The bank’s interior contained five levels of offices, with a two-storey banking hall, richly trimmed with marble and bronze. In its two basement levels, there were two vaults and several storage rooms. 

In 1955, the Bank of Toronto amalgamated with the Dominion Bank, and it became the Toronto Dominion Bank (TD Bank). In 1965, the former Bank of Toronto building was demolished to create the 56-storey TD Centre, which opened in 1967. In 2000, the bank bought Canada Trust and the company was renamed “TD Canada Trust.”

The TD Centre is a much admired building, but it is a pity that the old Bank of Toronto had to be demolished to meet the needs of the modern era. The Bank of Toronto’s former headquarters is now mostly a forgotten part of the city’s architectural history. This is evident by the sparse amount of photos and documentation that appear online. It required considerable searching to locate the photos for this post.

The author gratefully acknowledges the following sources: “Lost Toronto” by William Dendy, torontothenandnow.blogspot.com, and citiesintime.ca

                              DSCN1030

The original site of the Bank of Toronto between the years 1856 and 1862, at 78 Church Street. Photo taken on October 5, 2016.

 1870, Church and Well.  pictures-r-2022-1870[1]

The Bank of Toronto’s headquarters at Wellington and Church Streets, from 1862 until 1913. It was demolished in 1961. Toronto Public Library, r-2022.

Fonds 1244, Item 1166

Looking south on Bay Street in 1912, from a short distance north of King Street West. The Molson Bank (the former Cawthra mansion) is on the northeast corner of the intersection, the Union Bank on the southeast corner, and the Bank of Toronto on the southwest corner. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1233, Item 1166. 

Canada Arch. looking east on King, 1912-13  oa054055-v8[1]

Looking east on King Street from Bay Street in 1913 or 1913. The west facade of the Bank of Toronto is on the right-hand side of the photo. Canada Archives, 054055. 

1915- source, Bibliotheque    Bank_of_Toronto_Building_1915[1]

Bank of Toronto in 1915, gazing at the southwest corner of King and Bay Streets. Photo from Bibliotheque.

1919, f1231_it0846[1]

Bank of Toronto in 1919, its north and east facades visible. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 0846.

1919, f1231_it0846[1] - Copy

The ornate entrance of the Bank of Toronto in 1919, on the north facade, facing King Street West. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 0846.

Fonds 1244, Item 1211

Gazing north on Bay Street in the 1930s, the tower of the Old City Hall visible in the distance. On the left-hand side of the photo is the east facade of the Bank of Toronto. On the northeast corner of Bay and King is the Cawthra Mansion, which became the Molson’s Bank and later, the headquarters of the Canada Life Assurance Company. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 1211. 

Canada Archives, Image (3)[1]

Undated photo of the south and west facades of the Bank of Toronto, from the Canada Archives.

Bank of Toronto Interior

Banking hall of the Bank of Toronto, photo from the collection of the Toronto Reference Library, the Baldwin Room.

1941-  a054682-v8[1]

Gazing west on King Street at Bay on September 6, 1941. The Bank of Toronto is on the left-hand side of the photo, (southwest corner of King and Bay). Its north facade is on King Street. Photo from the Canada Archives a054682 v8.

                          DSCN9332

View gazing east on King Street toward the intersection at Bay Street in 2014. On the right-hand side of the photo, the black low-rise part of the complex is on the site of the old Bank of Toronto, although it is set back from the corner.

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

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

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

Books by the Blog’s Author

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

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

   To place an order for this book, published by History Press:

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

Book also available in most book stores such as Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox and AGO Book Shop. It can also be ordered by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

 

                                 image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[2]    

Another book on theatres, published by Dundurn Press, is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It explores 81 theatres and contains over 125 archival photographs, with interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating histories. Note: an article on this book was published in Toronto Life Magazine, October 2016 issue.

For a link to the article published by Toronto Life Magazine: torontolife.com/…/photos-old-cinemas-dougtaylortoronto-local-movie-theatres-of-y…

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

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

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

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

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

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

 

 

Tags:

Toronto’s Colonial Tavern – demolished

            1973 Yonge St. Mall, Tor. Archives, Series 377, It. 782  colonial_feature1[1]

The Colonial Tavern during the summer of 1973, when Yonge Street was closed to vehicle traffic to create a pedestrian mall. In the photo, the  facade of the Colonial appears curved, but the other pictures reveal that it was actually straight (see photos at end of post). Photo from the Toronto Archives, Series 377, Item 782

The Colonial Tavern at 201-203 Yonge Street opened in 1947, between two historic bank buildings, opposite today’s Eaton Centre, In its heyday during the 1950s and 1960s, the tavern was one of the most popular music venues in Toronto. In the 1940s and 1950s, Yonge Street was not only the “main drag,” but was the centre of the city’s nightlife and entertainment. The section of Yonge between College and Queen was where Hollywood-style bright lights, flashing neon signs, and boisterous crowds created an exuberance that was unequalled in Canada. The names of the popular night spots on Yonge from those decades still reverberate after all these years—Friar’s Tavern, Le Coq D’ Or, Steele’s Tavern, Zanzibar, Edison Hotel, Brown Derby, and the jewel in the crown, the Colonial. The only other popular jazz joints were the Town Tavern (16 Queen Street East), and George’s Spaghetti House at 290 Dundas Street East.

In the 1890s, the site where the Colonial opened was the location of the Athlete Hotel, which in 1918 was renamed the Scholes Hotel. It was purchased by Goodwin (Goody) and Harvey Lichenberg in 1947, renovated, and opened as the Colonial Tavern. It was the second establishment, after the Silver Rail, to receive a liquor license from the LLBO, following the relaxing of Ontario’s liquor laws. The Colonial was a jazz and blues venue, which defied the norms of the times when it booked an all-black dance band group—Cy McLean and the Rhythm Rompers. Cy was a pianist by profession, who formed a band in 1937. During the swing era of the 1940s, it was Canada’s only all-black orchestra. When it played at the Colonial, it was its first performance in a mainstream venue.

During the 1950s, the Colonial was Toronto’s main music venue. However, on July 24, 1960, a disastrous fire gutted it. Two years were required to rebuild, and when it reopened in 1961, the building that had been Scholes Hotel, was replaced with a structure that was only two storeys in height. It was now more intimate, the tables and chairs grouped closely around the stage. The ceiling was low, but there was sufficient height to accommodate a balcony. The singers that performed at the Colonial were among the greatest names of jazz and the blues—Miles Davis, Carmen McRae, Thelonius Monk, Art Blakey, Dave Brubeck, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzie Gillespie, Benny Goodman, Sarah Vaughan.

In 1971, the first Yonge Street Mall was created. Because the street was closed to vehicle traffic, sidewalk cafes dotted the strip, the Colonial’s cafe being one of the most popular. The Litchenbergs hired twenty extra employees to handle the crowds. The mall experience was recreated again in 1972, 1973, and for eight weeks in 1974. It was during the 1970s that I visited the Colonial. I was too enthralled with the performance on stage to remember many details about its interior. However, I do recall that it was a cozy venue, where no seat was very far from the performers.  

By the mid-1970s, jazz was declining and the Colonial became more or less a discotheque. In the late-1970s, the basement of the Colonial was rented to various punk bands such as Teenage Head and Vilestones. The downstairs space was referred to by various names, the most well known being the “Colonial Underground.” During this decade the legal drinking age was 21, and the basement venue was a magnet for underage teenagers who wanted to defy the laws, the most commonly feared words being, “Let me see your ID.” Though the Colonial featured punk bands during these years, it is today remembered as a jazz and blues venue. Also during the 1970s, Wayland Flowers and his puppets—Madame and Crazy Mary—performed at the Colonial. Flowers was later to play at the Royal York’s Imperial Room. 

The Colonial was sold In the late-1970s and during the years ahead, it slowly deteriorated. It mainly featuring rock bands and exotic waitresses. As well, the famous Yonge Street strip, where the venue was located, also started to become seedy. It was during these years that the clubs, bars, and taverns began to close. The murder of a young shoeshine boy in 1977 finally created the impetus for the City to clean up the street. However, the sanitized version of “the strip” never achieved the buzz and excitement of former decades, as the music clubs had disappeared.

The Colonial lingered on, but it had lost its lustre. Robert Fulford wrote in the Toronto Star in 1987 that the famous jazz venue offered bad food, surly waitresses, and patrons that were loud and drunk. He also stated that the low ceiling made the space feel cramped and that it appeared as if the space was a tunnel with a bulge in the middle. The tables close to the stage, he stated, suffered from music that was too loud, and the tables at the back gave a person the sense of over-hearing the music, rather than hearing it. However, Fulford grudgingly admitted that none of negative features mattered, “because of the quality of the music.” The same year that Fulford visited the Colonial, it permanently shuttered its doors.

The site was purchased by investors that intended to reopen it as a hotel, but the plans never materialized. In 1982, the City bought the property to build a space that would connect Massey Hall with the Elgin Theatre, forming a theatre complex in the heart of Toronto. However, in 1987, due to a lack of funds, City Council voted to demolish the Colonial and create a parkette. Another great idea never saw the light of day.

Edward Keenan wrote an article about the city in the Toronto Star on September 22, 2016: “And the thing about big plans with no money behind them is that they inspire hope and then gather dust on a shelf for decades and then inspire cynicism about the next big plans that come along.” He was referring to the plans to construct a public park over the rail lands, but the same might be said of the idea for a theatre complex in the centre of the city.

scholes hotel c. 1945, Fonds 1257, S1057, Item 537  [1]

The charming Scholes Hotel in 1945, where the Colonial opened in 1947, the two historic bank buildings on either side of it. This is the building that was gutted by fire on July 24, 1960. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 537.

mid- 1970s, F124, fl002,id0066  colonial[1] - Copy

The rebuilt Colonial Tavern that reopened in 1961, as it appeared in the mid-1970s. Toronto Archives, Fonds 124, File 002, id 0066.

                     Series 377, Itm. 545 colonial_copy-225x300[1].png

The Colonial and its patio in the 1970s, when Yonge Street was closed to create a mall. Toronto Archives, Series 377, Item 545. 

f0124_fl0003_id0123[1] - Copy     

The Colonial in the 1980s, when it possessed a rather dreary facade. Toronto Archives Fonds 0124, File 0003, id 0123. 

1986-  f0124_fl0003_id0152[1]

The site in December 1987, after City Council voted to demolish the Colonial. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1024, File 0003, id 0123.

DSCN0940

The site where the Colonial once stood, between the two historic bank buildings on Yonge Street. The construction of the Massey Tower occupies most of the site. Photo was taken on September 19, 2016. 

To discover more about Yonge Street when it was the musical heart of Toronto—a link to Edward Keenan’s article in the Toronto Star on September 29, 2016.

torontostar.newspaperdirect.com/epaper/viewer.aspx?issue…33…

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

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

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

Books by the Blog’s Author

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

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

   To place an order for this book, published by History Press:

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

Book also available in most book stores such as Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox and AGO Book Shop. It can also be ordered by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

 

                                 image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[1]    

Another book on theatres, published by Dundurn Press, is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It explores 81 theatres and contains over 125 archival photographs, with interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating histories. Note: an article on this book was published in Toronto Life Magazine, October 2016 issue.

For a link to the article published by Toronto Life Magazine: torontolife.com/…/photos-old-cinemas-dougtaylortoronto-local-movie-theatres-of-y…

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

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Toronto’s Yonge Street streetcars—ended in 1954

Peter Witt car at halton Museum

A Peter Witt Streetcar #2894, built by Ottawa Car Company for the Toronto Transportation Commission (later renamed the Toronto Transit Commission)

My earliest memories of the Peter Witt streetcars on Toronto’s Yonge Street date from the 1940s. In that decade, the intersection at Yonge and Queen was the commercial heart of the city, as it was where Eaton’s and Simpsons department stores were located. It was when my mother journeyed downtown to shop at Eaton’s that I first rode on these streetcars.

Later, as a teenager, these cars became an integral part of my life as the major movie theatres were located on Yonge Street or within close proximity to it. Also, Maple Leaf Gardens was only one block east of Yonge. In the 1950s, the theatres on Yonge and “The Gardens” on Carlton Street were among the most important entertainment venues of the city. 

In past decades, people who lived west of Yonge Street rarely journeyed on the streetcars to areas east of Yonge. There was little incentive, since when you arrived at Yonge, the main commercial establishments of the city were readily accessible. People who dwelt east of Yonge, similarly did not ride the streetcars west of it, for the same reason. However, everyone rode on the Yonge Streetcars. They were the best known and most frequently travelled in all of Toronto. This is why it was logical in the late-1940s to begin building the city’s first subway under the street. 

The most famous of all the Yonge streetcars were the Peter Witt cars (1921-1963). They required two men to operate, but I seem to remember that in the 1950s, some of the smaller models, such as those on Bay and Bathurst Streets, required only one person. On these, the motorman collected the fares. On the larger Yonge Street cars, passengers boarded by the front doors, which folded back when opened. The driver (motorman) sat at the front of the car, but people basically ignored him, since he did not collect the fares. Behind the driver was a large box that in winter held sand to provide traction on icy streetcar tracks. 

Passengers who sat or stood at the front of the car did not pay their fare until it was time to depart. Then, they exited through the centre doors, where the conductor sat. People dropped their tickets or cash into the fare box located beside the conductor, and were given a transfer if they required one. They then stepped down to the roadway. The centre doors did not fold back, but slid across to open. The conductor controlled the doors, and also maintained the coal stove that provided heat in winter. It was located opposite the conductor. Passengers seated or standing at the back of the car had already paid their fare, so when it was time for them to depart, they simply exited via the centre doors.

When I was a boy, all the seats were covered with what appeared to be brown leather. I always pleaded with my parent to pass by the conductor and pay the fare. This was because I wanted to sit in the seat at the back of the car. It was huge, with large windows surrounding it on three sides, providing a panoramic view of the street.

When I was a teenager, I preferred the window-seats, which were on the sides of the cars. Their windows provided a better breeze on hot summer days. On the ledge of each window there was a small brass plate, and on it were engraved the words, “Keep Arm In.” Teenagers invariably enjoyed teasing fate by sticking their heads out the window. However, when another streetcar was approaching from the opposite direction on the other track, at the last moment they quickly pulled their heads inside. My parents continually warned me not to imitate the older kids. In winter, my preferred seat or standing space was near the stove.

The Peter Witt streetcars contained engines with sufficient power to pull a trailer up a steep incline. This was necessary, since the hill on Yonge Street, north of Davenport Road, was quite severe. Trailers possessed two large centre doors that opened by sliding back. The door on the right was for boarding, and the one on the left for exiting. Inside the trailer, there was a space between the two doors where the conductor sat to collect the fares. Similar to the cars that pulled the trailers, passengers did not pay their fares until they passed the conductor. 

After arriving at Front Street, the Yonge streetcars looped around Union Station. Thus, many immigrants caught their first sight of the city from their windows. My father arrived as a young man in Toronto in 1921, from a small village on Canada’s east coast. It was the first year that the Peter Witt cars commenced operating in the city. He viewed them as modern and up-to-date. When he departed Union Station and boarded a Yonge streetcar, it was a warm day in May. Despite the brass plaque on the ledge of the window, I am certain that he stuck his head out to gawk at the skyscrapers on Yonge Street, especially those between Front and Queen Streets. The sight of the enormous Loew’s Theatre (the Elgin), north of Queen, and the Pantages (the Ed Mirvish) caught his imagination. Years later, he told me that on that occasion he had vowed to visit them as soon as possible. An older brother, who had been in Toronto for several years, had told him about the “naughty” vaudeville shows. 

For many decades, the Yonge cars were the main means of journeying to the St. Lawrence Market on Front Street. During World War 1 and World War 11, thousands of soldiers departed for overseas and returned home after the wars from Union Station. Many of these men and women travelled to the station or journeyed away from it on the Yonge streetcars. During the 1940s, I rode on them to attend the circus at Maple Leaf Gardens and to visit Santa Claus at Eaton’s Toyland. When I was a teenager, I attended theatres such as the Tivoli, Imperial, Loew’s Downtown, Loew’s Uptown, Downtown, Biltmore, Savoy, Odeon Hyland, and the Hollywood via the Yonge cars. 

History of the Peter Witt Cars in Toronto 

In 1921, Toronto’s contract with the Toronto Railway Company for the transportation needs of the city ended, and it was not renewed. City Council had realized that because the city was expanding rapidly, it was necessary to become more involved, so created the Toronto Transportation Commission. It purchased the streetcars of the former company (the TRC).

Several years before 1921, the city had been aware that many of the streetcars they would inherit were in poor condition. They began making plans and after careful research, they negotiated a license to allow them to place a contract for a fleet of Peter Witt streetcars. They had been designed by a commissioner with Cleveland Street Railway Company, and named after him. There were seven different series, allowing for variations in size, but they all possessed a similar appearance—solid, square-shaped, with straight lines.

The cars were ideal for transporting large numbers of passengers on busy downtown routes. Their heavy steel bodies were well suited to Toronto’s severe winters, and contained large windows for good ventilation on hot summer days. They seated about 60 passengers, with sufficient standing room for many more. Toronto ordered 575 of the streetcars, 350 of them with engines. The other 225 were trailers that were pulled by the streetcars with motors. The Canadian Car and Foundry Company in Montreal was given the contract and most of them were built by this company. However, 50 were sub-contracted to the Ottawa Car Company, and another 50 to the Preston Car Company.

To introduce Torontonians to the new streetcars, one of them was exhibited at the CNE in August of 1921. Their debut on Toronto streets was on October 2nd of that year. The first streets to be converted entirely to Peter Witt cars were the busiest routes—Yonge, College, Dundas and Bloor. However, the Yonge cars became the most famous of them all.

In the 1920s, the cars had wooden seats and coal stoves for heating in winter. The brakes were operated by compressed air. However, in the years ahead the seats were upholstered with brown leatherette material, and the heating system changed to forced-air from electric heaters. For several decades, the streetcars were the work-horses of the system. However, in 1938, the sleek Presidents’ Conference Cars (PCCs’) were introduced, which soon became known as the “red rockets.” They slowly replaced the older Peter Witt cars. The Peter Witt cars stopped serving the Yonge Street line on March 30, 1954, when the Yonge Subway opened. However, the last of these streetcars did not disappear until 1963.

After the Peter Witt car removed from service, they were stripped for useable parts and the remainder sold for junk metal.

Sources: www.blofto – transittoronto.on.ca/streetcar 

New cars, York Station – December 22, 1922

Peter Witt streetcars arriving at the York Street station in December 1922. Toronto Archives, S0071, item 1514.

Sign boards and motor car, (front), Loews sign – May 1, 1924   Witt motor, rear end – April 24, 1924

Left-hand photo shows the front of car number 2558, which was employed on the Yonge Street route. The right-hand photo is of the back of the same streetcar. Toronto Archives, S 0071, Item 3152 (left photo) and the right-hand photo, F0071, item 3133 (right). Both photos were taken in April 1924.

Witt car, (Commercial Department) – October 30, 1928

Passengers boarding Peter Witt car #2520. In the background is the Royal York Hotel. The photo was taken in 1928, when the hotel was under construction. It appears that the streetcar is southbound on York Street. Scott Street is one block east of Yonge. I am uncertain about the routing of the streetcar, but it possibly journeyed east on Front to Scott, then north to Front, west on Front, and then, north on Yonge. Toronto Archives, S 0071, Item 6396. 

Witt car #2536, looking to the head end, (Executive Department) – January 6, 1932

View from the rear, looking toward the front doors of car # 2536. Photo taken on January 6, 1932. In this decade, the seats had wooden slats. Toronto Archives, S 0071, item 9056.

Witt car #2536 , rear end, (Executive Department) – January 6, 1932

View of the rear of same car as in the previous photo, on January 6, 1932. Toronto Archives, S 0071, item 9059.

                              Witt car #2536, vestibule, front entrance, (Executive Department) – January 6, 1932

Entrance of the same car on January 6, 1932. I do remember this type of Peter Witt streetcar, when the driver was enclosed in cabin with a door. Toronto Archives, S 0071, item 9060. 

Witt car, interior, (Commercial Department) – October 30, 1928

Passengers in a Peter Witt car in 1928. The driver is enclosed a cabin and the conductor can be seen in his booth. Toronto Archives, s 0071, item 6398.

Interior, centre double wood frame sign board, (wide) – April 25, 1924

Ceiling of a car in 1924, with the advertisements above the windows and on the ceiling. Toronto Archives, F 0071, Item 3153.

Brill motor, (interior), #2590 – March 2, 1923

View looking toward the front of car #2590 on March 2, 1923. The conductor’s seat between the centre doors can be seen, as well as the coal stove. Toronto Archives, S 0071, item 1914.

Streetcar advertising, (Commercial Department) – April 27, 1928

A trailer car in 1928. Visible are the centre doors and the section in between where the conductor sat. Toronto Archives, S 0071, item 5773. 

Yonge Street, looking north, from north of Queen, noon hour traffic – December 24, 1924

Yonge Street north of Queen on December 24, 1924. The Eaton’s store (demolished) is on the left, its north facade on Albert Street, which no longer extends to Yonge Street. The Eaton Centre is now on Yonge between Queen and Dundas. A Peter Witt car with a trailer attached is travelling northbound. Toronto Archives, s 0071, item 3632. 

Yonge St, looking north, from King, noon hour traffic – December 24, 1924

Yonge Street looking north from King Street on December 24, 1924. The Peter Witt trailer is southbound toward King. On the east side of Yonge is the Strand Theatre, built in 1919. Toronto Archives, s 0071, item 3631.

Traffic on Yonge St, looking north, from south side of Queen St; congestion as far as the eye can see and a solid line of curb parked cars, 3:26 p.m., Friday, December 20, 1935 (Traffic Study Department) – 1936

Gazing north on Yonge Street from Queen Street in 1935. On the east side of the street is Loew’s Downtown, which is now the Elgin Theatre. The buildings on the northwest and northeast corners of the street still exist today but are employed for other commercial purposes. Toronto Archives, s 0071, Item 11703. 

Peter Witt car at halton Museum (2)

A Peter Witt streetcar photographed in the 1980s at the Halton County Radial Railway Museum.

1920s Peter Witt streetcar, interior

The interior of the same streetcar at the museum. This is the type of car that I remember on Yonge Street, with the padded brown leatherette seats.

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

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

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

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

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

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

                                 image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[2]    

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

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

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

Another publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. It contains archival and modern photos that allow readers to compare scenes and discover how they have changed over the decades. For further information follow the link to Amazon.com  here  or contact the publisher directly by the link below:

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

 

Tags: , ,

Toronto’s Lost CNE

“Toronto’s Lost CNE” refers to structures and features that over the past decades have been demolished or discontinued. Though I remain a fan of the Canadian National Exhibition and attempt to attend it each year, it is on these occasions that I find myself gazing around the grounds and recalling the many features of the annual late-summer fair that have disappeared.

                                   The Shell Tower

DSCN0829   Canada A. a052968-v8[1] 

CNE’s Shell Tower depicted on a postcard (left), and a photo of the tower (right) from  the Canada Archives, a 052968

                         1955. Tor Lib. pictures-r-2743[1]

              The Shell Tower in 1955, Toronto Public Library, r-2743

The Shell Tower was built by the Shell Oil Company in 1955, its architect George Robb. Located on Princess Boulevard, it was a glass and steel structure, almost 12 storeys in height (120’), containing an observation deck near the top. Above the observation deck was a large clock, visible from anywhere within the CNE grounds. As a teenager, each year I climbed to its summit via the stairs inside the glass-enclosed stairwells. From the top, there was a magnificent view of the CNE grounds, the lake, and the downtown skyline. When the tower was renamed the Bulova Tower, the clock was converted to digital, one of the first in the city. The tower was demolished in 1985 to accommodate the Indy race track.

PICT0083 

Photo taken from the top of the Shell Tower in 1957. The camera is facing north toward the Horse Palace and the Coliseum (now the Ricoh Coliseum), which today, on its east side, is attached to the Direct Energy Centre.

                          The CNE Grandstand

PICT0081

This view of the CNE Grandstand was also taken in 1957, from the top of the Shell Tower. Visible are the stage, background sets, and props for the grandstand show. A section of the midway is in the foreground.

The CNE Grandstand was built in 1948, its architects Morani and Morris. The design won an architectural silver prize in 1950. Its massive steel-truss roof protected the crowds from the sun and the rain during grandstand performances and other events, such as stock car races. Its north facade possessed red bricks and limestone, creating a degree of architectural elegance. The shows presented on the grandstand’s stage, held every evening during the run of the Ex, were magnificent in scale as they often featured a cast of over 1500. The orchestra was conducted by Howard Cable from 1953 until 1968. On the ground floor of the grandstand’s north side there was a Stoodleigh Restaurant. Unfortunately, the stadium was demolished in 1999.

   1950s, CNE archives  ad68fb7f-1f51-43c2-aa3b-ecd2a6f1f526[1]

The north facade of the CNE Grandstand in the 1950s. CNE Archives, ad68fb7f-1f51-43o2

Canada A. a052935-v8[1]

A view of the stage during a grandstand show in the 1950s, Canada Archives, a052935-v8

Canada A. a052926-v8[1]

Another view of the stage during an evening CNE grandstand show. Canada Archives, a05926-v8

Series 1465, File 138, Item 13

The grandstand in 1976, when it was a football and baseball stadium. Toronto Archives, S1465, Fl10138, id 0013

1995- DSCN0850

                 Photo of the grandstand taken in 1995.

                The Manufacturers Building.

Crowds at C.N.E., Manufacturer's Building in background – 1908

Crowds in front of the Manufacturers Building in 1908, Toronto Archives, S0409, item 0043.

PICT0025

This photo was taken in 1958, from the north side of the Gooderham Fountain, the Manufacturers Building visible in the background. The Manufacturers Building opened in 1903, its architect George W. Guinlock, who also designed the Horticulture (now the Muzik Club), and the Art and Crafts Buildings (now Medieval Times), as well as the CNE Fire and Police Stations. The Manufacturers Building was located to the east of the Ontario Government Building (now The Liberty Grand). Although it was only one-storey in height, its soaring roof, supported by structural steel, created the illusion of a much taller structure. It displayed household appliances and other manufactured products, many of them first seen by Torontonians in this building. Two examples are RCA Victor televisions in 1939 and early-day microwave ovens in 1958. Displays were eventually expanded to include the manufactured goods of foreign countries. The last year it existed, it featured the products of Spain. The building was destroyed by fire in 1974 and never rebuilt. In the foreground of the above photo is the Gooderham Fountain.

Copy of PICT0068

The Manufacturers Building prior to the fire that demolished it in 1974.

International Building- burnt 1974 Pub. Lib.   tspa_0000630f[1]

The Manufacturers Building following the fire in 1974, the Ontario Government Building (now the Liberty Grand) is to the west of it (right-hand side). Photo from the Toronto Public Library, 0000630.

                 The Gooderham Fountain

Fonds 1244, Item 269

The Gooderham Fountain in 1926, Toronto Archives, F1244, Item 0269.

The Gooderham Fountain was built in 1911. It is thought to have been designed by George W. Guinlock, the architect of many buildings on the CNE grounds. The fountain was inspired by those in Rome’s St. Peter’s Square. The fountain was named after George W. Gooderham, a prominent industrialist, president of the CNE from 1909 to 1911. It was located at the western side of the Ex, near the Horticultural Building. The fountain was a favourite meeting place for visitors who attended the CNE, and for Torontonians, was the origin of the expression, “Meet me at the fountain.” The Gooderham Fountain was demolished in 1958 and replaced by the Princess Margaret Fountain. It was officially opened by HRH in 1958, during her royal tour of Canada.  

1928. pictures-r-4190[1] 

The Gooderham Fountain in 1928, Toronto Public Library, r- 4190.

                          The CNE Flag Pole

Fonds 1244, Item 631B   Fonds 1244, Item 631A

The flag pole at the Ex in 1930 (left-hand photo), Toronto Archives F1244, Item 0631b, and its installation (right-hand photo), Toronto Archives F1244, Item 0631a

1936- f1231_it1451[1]

The base of the flagpole in 1936, the Horticultural Building (now Muzik) in the background. Toronto Archives, F 1231, Item 1451 

The flag pole depicted in the above photos was donated to the CNE by J. G. Robson. The magnificent Douglas Fir, hewn from the forests on Vancouver Island, was 184 feet (56 metres) tall after it was trimmed. Shipped from British Columbia via the Panama Canal, it was brought to Toronto through the St. Lawrence River. At its base, it was 36 inches in diameter. Because it required time to cure the wood, it was not installed at the CNE until 1930. In that year, it claimed to be the world’s largest flag pole.

It was replaced in June, 1977 by a pole of British Columbia redwood, shipped to Toronto on three flatbed rail cars. It was 196 feet (60 metres) tall, and again, was said to be the world’s tallest. However, eventually it began to rot and unfortunately it was removed from the grounds.

Information about the 1977-flag pole: Mike Filey  http://oppositethecity.wordpress.com

                            Automotive Shows

Automotive Blg, Canada A. 1939, a052897-v8[1]

The Automotive Show in 1939, in the Automotive Building. Canada Archives, a0528897-v8

The Automotive Building, built in 1929, survives to this day. However, it has been rebuilt and is now a convention facility named the Allstream Centre. Until the 1960s, each year during the run of the CNE it housed the automotive show, which featured the latest models of cars for that year. As a boy, I remember visiting it. I never tired of getting behind the wheel of the shiny new cars and playing with the knobs and buttons on the dashboard. I dreamt of being of sufficient age to qualify for a driver’s license. The auto show was one of the most popular features of the Ex.  

   Horse, Dairy and Agricultural Shows and Contests

Beef cattle, 1980s, Ont. Archives  I0004457[1]  Elsie the Cow, 1941, Ont. A. I0011011[1]

Beef cattle at the CNE in the 1980s, Ontario Archives 10004457 (left-hand photo) and Borden Dairies’ “Elsie the Cow” in 1941, Ontario Archives 10011011 (right-hand photo)

After the Ex opened in 1879, for many years it featured both industrial and agricultural products. In the Horse Palace and Coliseum there were farm animals and horse shows. As well, there were judged competitions of homemade jams, jellies, preserves etc. I remember the horse shows in the Coliseum and of course, Borden Dairy’s advertisements that featured “Elsie the Cow.”

                 Ontario Government Building

Aug. 12, 1929--s0071_it7109[1]

The Ontario Government Building on August 13, 1929. Toronto Archives, S0071, Item 7109.

The Ontario Government Building was constructed in 1926 to showcase exhibitions of the Ontario Government. Today, it is no longer open as part of the Ex as it is occupied by the Liberty Grand. I remember visiting the building when I was a boy, and also as a teenager. In its central courtyard there were many large aquariums containing the species of fish native to Ontario. There were also colourful over-sized representations of the fictional lumberjack, Paul Bunyan, and Babe, his Blue Ox.

              PICT0074

Paul Bunyan the lumberjack, famous in American folklore. Photo taken in 1958 in the interior courtyard of the Ontario Government Building.

PICT0075 

Paul Bunyan’s Babe, the Blue Ox, in the courtyard of the Government Building in 1958.

                                     Trout Fishing

PICT0076

         Trout fishing in the Coliseum at the CNE in 1958.

                 The Flyer, the Rollercoaster at the CNE

PICT0084

This photo of the Flyer at the CNE was taken with a 35mm Kodak Pony camera in 1958, from the top of the Shell Tower. Built in 1953, the year of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, the Flyer was advertised as the “fastest in the world,” as it reached speeds of up to 65 miles an hour. It was 2612 feet in length and 62 feet in height, capable of carrying over 26,000 passengers a day. I remember riding the Flyer and experiencing the thrill of the downward plunge from the tallest section of the structure. Unfortunately, as technology and tastes of the public changed, the Flyer was viewed as tame. It was demolished in June 1992, after it failed the safety tests. However, for several decades, it was the  main “thriller” of the CNE midway. Over 9 million passengers enjoyed the ride during the years it operated.  (information from CNE Archives)

Series 1465, File 129, Item 12

The CNE’s roller coaster (the Flyer) in 1976, the Bulova (Shell) Tower to the right of it. Toronto Archives, S1465, Fl0129, id 0012. 

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

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

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

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

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

   To place an order for this book:

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

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

                                 image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[1]    

Published by Dundurn Press, this book tells the story of 80 of Toronto’s former movie theatres. It is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It contains over 125 archival photographs and relates interesting anecdotes about the grand old theatres.

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

 

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

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

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

 

 

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Chorley Park (demolished), residence of Ontario’s lieu. governor

July 4, 1924. f1548_s0393_it18999b[1]

Government House—”Chorley Park” on July 4, 1924. Toronto Archives, F1548, S 0393, Item 1899.

The term “Government House” is the official title that applies to residences of the Lieutenant Governors in the countries and provinces throughout the British Commonwealth. Ontario’s first Government House was Navy Hall, at Niagara-on-the-Lake, which was occupied by the colony’s first Lieutenant Governor—John Graves Simcoe. After Simcoe relocated the seat of government to York (Toronto) in 1793, a canvas house (tent) technically became Government House, though it is a stretch of the imagination to refer to it as such. In 1800, a governor’s residence was constructed beside Fort York, which was torched when the Americans invaded the town in 1813.

In 1815,  the government purchased the home of Chief Justice John Elmsley to provide a residence for the lieutenant governors. It was located at King and Simcoe Streets. A new residence was built in 1870 on the same site as Elmsley House. However, as the land surrounding it became increasingly industrial, another site was sought. The Government House, built in 1870, was sold in 1912. After much disagreement and controversy, it was decided that the new vice-regal residence was to be at Chorley Park, in North Rosedale, facing southeast overlooking the Don Valley. Until it was built, the lieutenant governor resided at Cumberland House, a mansion on St. George Street, north of College Street. This house still exists today. 

 DSCN7814

       Cumberland House on St. George Street. Photo taken in 2015.

Chorley Park had been named after a town in Lancashire, in England. Government House, which was built within the park, required four year to complete (1911-1915). It was officially opened on November 15, 1915, and was one of the grandest mansions ever constructed in Toronto. Its cost was budgeted at $215,00, but it required over $1,000,000 to complete. An impressive driveway from Roxborough Drive led to a grand circular terrace, and from there, a concrete bridge led to a forecourt in front of the mansion. The forecourt was intended for formal outdoor receptions and vice-regal events. There was another driveway from Douglas Drive.

Chorley Park’s architect was Francis R. Hawkes, who also designed the Whitley Building at Queen’s Park and the Mining building at the University of Toronto. For Government House, he chose the French Chateau style. The Canadian Pacific Railway’s chain of hotels employed the same architecture, the Royal York Hotel being a prime example. The Chorley Park mansion resembled a castle-like structure, reminiscent of those in Loire Valley in France. Symmetrical in design, it was richly ornamented, containing many turrets and pinnacles, even the chimneys architecturally decorated. Constructed of grey Credit Valley limestone, its multiple roofs were of red ceramic tiles. The front reception hall was three storeys in height, lit by a skylight, with galleries surrounding it. The hall resembled the one that today is in the legislative building at Queen’s Park. The state dining room was richly panelled in oak. All public rooms had grand vistas of the Don Valley. The formal gardens surrounding the mansion were designed by C. W. Levitt of New York.

However, the cost of maintaining the mansion increased each year. After the Great Depression began in 1929, the dollars spent to maintain Chorley Park became a political embarrassment. In 1934, Mitchell Hepburn was elected premier, one of his campaign promises being to trim government expenses. Chorley Park was an obvious target. Its official function as Government House ceased in 1937, and the furnishings and contents of the mansion were disposed in an auction.

The house was  purchased in 1940 by the Federal Government for a military hospital, but this ended 1953. During the Korean War, it was employed as a training and recruitment facility. Later, it housed refugees escaping the Hungarian revolution of 1956. It was bought by the City of Toronto in 1960 for $100,000, and the following year, it was demolished to create a public park. Only the concrete bridge that gave assess to the residence from the grand circle survives as a reminder of the glory days of the vice-regal mansion. Today, there are trails that lead from the park down into the Evergreen Brick Works in the Don Valley.

Ontario is the only province that today has no Government House. Its lieutenant governors have a suite in the west wing of the legislature at Queen’s Park for receptions, and live in private homes of their own choosing.

Sources: torontoist.com     torontothenandnow.blogspot.com   torontoplaques.com   torontohistory.net   “Lost Toronto” by William Dendy.

                             Chorley_Park_Map[1]

                     The location of Government House in Chorley Park.

Fonds 1244, Item 3102

View in 1911 of the entrance to Government House from Roxborough Drive and  the circular terrace, when it was under construction. The bridge connecting the circular terrace and the forecourt is visible. Toronto Archives, F1244, Item 3102.

after 1900-  f1568_it0227[1]

View of Chorley Park after 1900, from the driveway from Roxborough Drive, which led to the circular terrace. Toronto Archives, F1568, Item 10086. 

Fonds 1244, Item 2411

State dining room c. 1915. Toronto Archives, F1244, Item 2411.

c. 1915, Ont. A. I0031416[1]

Artist’s rendition of Chorley Park c. 1915. The circular terrace is visible, and the small bridge leading to the forecourt in front of the mansion. Ontario Archives, 10031416.

Fonds 1244, Item 10086

An aerial view of Chorley Park c. 1930. It reveals the two entrances, one of them from Roxborough Drive (on the south) and the other from Douglas Drive.  Toronto Archives F1244, Item 10086. 

Fonds 1244, Item 1128

Aerial view of the two driveways, the circular terrace, the forecourt, and the mansion. Toronto Archives, F1244, Item 1128. 

1925- Ont. A.  I0012487[1]

View of Chorley Park from the forecourt, in 1925. Ontario Archives, 10012487.

reception, 1925, Ont. A. I0031278[1]

Reception in the forecourt in 1925. Ontario Archives, 10031278.

Government House, Rosedale, Toronto, (Commercial Department) – August 3, 1928

Government House on August 3, 1928. Toronto Archives, S0071, Item 6102.

demolition, 1959,  Ont. A. I0013933[1]

Chorley Park in 1961, when it was being demolished. Ontario Archives, 10013933.

demolition, 1959,  Ont. A. I0013935[1]

  Chorley Park during demolition in 1961. Ontario Archives, 10013935. 

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/

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

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

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

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                        Toronto: Then and Now®

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