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Category Archives: postcards of Toronto

The Bank of Toronto at King and Bay – demolished 1965

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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

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

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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.

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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. 

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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. 

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

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

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

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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. 

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

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

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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.

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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.  

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

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

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

 

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

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

The book is available at local book stores throughout Toronto or for a 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

 

 

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Toronto’s old Palace Pier Ballroom

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The Palace Pier Ballroom and Amusement Centre, depicted on a 1930s postcard.

My memories of the Palace Pier, an immense structure that extended 300 feet into Lake Ontario, date from the days of World War 11. On hot summer days in the 1940s, when my parent took my brother and me to Sunnyside beach to paddle in the cold waters of the lake, I gazed at its enormous size, as it dominated the scene to the west of Sunnyside Beach. I asked my mother about it, and she dismissed it as a place where people of “dubious” character attended, as it was a “dance hall.” My father gave an amused smile as if he seemed to disagree with her assessment, but said nothing. He had played a trumpet in McCormick’s Dance Band during the 1930s, before he met my mother, and had a more liberal view of dance halls.

A year or two later, I learned what the word “dubious” implied and discovered that my father thought that to dismiss Palace Pier as a mere dance hall was do it a great injustice. Located on the west bank of the Humber River, there were no other buildings in the area that competed with it in size. In its heyday, it was one of the most spectacular dance spots in Toronto. However, when I was a boy, I was too young to know about the famous entertainers who were featured there or to appreciate its importance in the night life of the city. Also, it was another few years before I became unaware of the inherent attraction of “dubious” places.

The Palace Pier was conceived in 1927 by the Provincial Improvement Corporation. It was inspired by the wonderful seaside piers in Great Britain, such as those in Brighton, one of which survives today. Toronto’s pier was to be a “year-round amusement enterprise.” Sunnyside Beach, which opened in 1921, had been a great success and the Palace Pier was an attempt to improve Toronto’s lakeside area by extending development further west along the shoreline. In some respects, it was a project similar to Ontario Place, which was constructed to celebrate Canada’s Centennial in 1967. It too was built out over the water, although it was created by dumping landfill into Lake Ontario. Similar to Palace Pier, it was an amusement centre and contained a theatre—Cinesphere.

Palace Pier was to have four buildings, each 260 feet in length, one of them containing a ballroom and another, a Palace of Fun. The latter was to have shops, an arcade, games, restaurants, and food kiosks. There was to be a 1500-seat theatre and a 170-foot bandstand. When the covered walkways and promenades were added to the sides of it, the structure would extend over a third of a mile into the lake. At its southern end there was to be a steamboat landing, as the 1920s was an era when leisure travel on Lake Ontario was highly popular. It was envisioned that over 3000 couples would dance the night away its ballroom, in a multifunctional facility that could also be used for roller skating and bowling.

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Artist’s sketch of the proposed Palace Pier employed to promote its construction and attract investors. Sketch from Toronto Sun, Jan. 10, 2016, contained in an article by Mike Filey. 

Palace Pier was designed in the Moroccan style by Craig and Madill, a Toronto company that was later to design the CNE Bandshell. However, by the time the pier transitioned from the architects’ drawing boards to the construction site, the Great Depression had descended, necessitating that the plans be greatly reduced. Only the first phase of the structure was to proceed, and due to delays, its corner stone was not laid by former Prime Minister Arthur Meighen until 1931. It extended out into the lake 300 feet and contained the main ballroom. Unfortunately, it was the only part of the original grand plans that ever materialized, and even after it was completed, it stood empty for a decade due to the financial restraints of the times. When it finally opened on June 18, 1941, it was a roller rink named Strathcona Palace Pier, another site of the Strathcona rink on Christie Street, south of St. Clair Avenue. I attended this rink when I was a teenager.

The pier’s 19-foot wide boardwalks, located on the east and west sides of it, provided commanding views of the lake. On the east side, the city’s skyline was visible. Its inaugural event was a fundraiser for the British victims of the bombing by the Nazi’s, the headliner for the event the Hollywood star, Bob Hope. He was in Toronto to promote his latest film, “Caught in the Draft.”

In 1943, the pier reverted to its original purpose and became the Queensway Ballroom, and later the Humber Pier Ballroom. During the years of World War 11, some of the famous “big bands” performed at the it—Lionel Hampton, Artie Shaw, Less Brown, Duke Ellington, the Dorsey Brothers, Louis Armstrong, Harry James and Stan Kenton. 

It was renovated in the 1950s and reverted to its original name, the “Palace Pier.” It was one of the few surviving large-scale dance floors in the city. In the mid-1950s, it included country acts such as Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline. As attendance slowly dwindled, on weeknights, the pier held bingo events and rented its space for private functions such as political rallies, boxing matches, high school dances, and year-end proms.

However, its life came to an end on January 7, 1963 when it was torched, the arsonist never caught. The structure was destroyed to the extent that it required complete rebuilding, which was not financially practical. It was demolished and the great pier disappeared forever.

On the site of the pier, two luxury condominium towers and public park were constructed, which were named after the famous amusement facility. The north tower was built in 1978 and the south tower in 1991. A monument, donated by the residents of the condominium, was erected to commemorate the original Palace Pier. It was placed on the west side of the footbridge across the Humber River. The monument had originally been one of the cement footings that had been used in the pier’s construction.

Sources: www.torontovintagesociety.ca—vintagesocity.ca—ww.blogto.com—tornontohistory.net—citiesintime.ca/toronto—urbantoronto.ca/news—https://booksgoogle.ca/books—www.torontosun.com

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Location of the Palace Pier Dancehall, beside lake Ontario, on the west side of the Humber River.

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Entrance to the Palace Pier on July 29, 1931, when it was under construction. Toronto Archives, S 0372, SS 0034, Item 0070.

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Looking west on the Lakeshore Road, the facade of the Palace Pier visible in the background, to the left of the tall hydro tower. Pictures was taken on August 4, 1931, while the building was under construction. Toronto Archives, S. 032, SS 5500, Item 0078.

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Undated photo of the Palace Pier, the view showing the north and east facades. The covered walkway and terrace on the east side can be seen.

Palace Pier c. 1940s (public Domain). 

         Palace Pier in the 1940s, the north and west facades visible. 

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View looking south toward Lake Ontario in 1954, when the bridge over the Humber River was being constructed. The Palace Pier is in the background. Toronto Public Library, r- 3136. 

Series 65 -Metropolitan Toronto Planning Department Library collection of Alexandra Studio photographs

Aerial view of the area surrounding the Palace Pier in 1958. The pier is in the bottom left-hand corner of the photo, on the west bank of the Humber River. The widened Lakeshore Road is to the north of the pier, the Gardiner Expressway to the north of it. Toronto Archives, S 0065, File 0047, Id. 0011.

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The Palace Pier after being ravaged by fire in January 1963. Photo from the Toronto Star, Baldwin Collection, Toronto Public Library tspt 000344f. 

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

A link to view posts that explore Toronto’s Heritage Buildings:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/01/02/canadas-cultural-scenetorontos-architectural-heritage/

A link to view previous posts about the movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern.

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

The publication entitled, “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” was written by the author of this blog. It 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:

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, and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

Another book, published by Dundurn Press, containing 80 of Toronto’s old movie theatres will be released in the spring of 2016. It is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It contains over 125 archival photographs.

A second publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. This book will also be released in the spring of 2016.

 

 

 

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Stories from old Toronto postcards

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Old Toronto postcards sometimes reveal lovers’ quarrels and family squabbles, as well as mundane messages. It was necessary to be discreet, since the cards were seen by postal employees, including the local mailman. When viewing the material written on postcards of yesteryear, they appear similar to those sent in emails, or posted on Facebook and Twitter. Some of the messages are like the texts of today, though texts use more abbreviations.

I have been collecting old postcards of Toronto for many years; the postcard shown above is from my collection. It contains a view of Queen Street West, looking east from James Street, toward Yonge Street, about the year 1910. It was produced by Valentine and Sons’ Publishing Company, the most prolific marketer of postcards in the city during the first two decades of the 20th century. In the photo, on the left-hand side, to the east of the Adam’s Furniture Store, is the old Eaton’s Queen Street store, which was demolished to create the south section of the Eaton Centre of today. On the right-hand side of the photograph is the former Simpson’s Department store, which is now the Bay, at Queen and Yonge. The streetcar is a wooden car operated by the Toronto Street Railway Company, which provided city public transit until the TTC was created in 1921.

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The Rosehill Reservoir Park is located southeast of the intersection of Yonge Street and St. Clair Avenue East (part of David Balfour Park). This card was mailed on July 27, 1906, to Mr. Norman Pascoe, who address was simply, “Lake Front at Kew Beach.” On the card the sender wrote: “ Dear Norman. We will meet you at Kippen Avenue at seven p.m. Wednesday next, if convenient. If not, please let us know. Yours truly, “Moonlight” 27/7/06.” Note: A hint of mystery is attached to this message, since the names of the senders are disguised. Why were they meeting?

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This postcard was mailed on June 1, 1939 to Miss Darling of Stockwell London, England. View looks north on Bay Street from King Street. A woman named Marjorie sent it from West Toronto. She writes: “Having a wonderful time. Have met Ivy, Doris, Fred, Uncle Eddie, and Aunt Annie and other friends in Toronto. We are on the boat on Lake Ontario and going to Niagara. Weather very hot.” The card was signed, “Love from Marjorie.” Note: Shorten this message slightly and it could be a text.

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On the reverse side of Marjory’s postcard, sent in 1939, are postage stamps depicting Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret. The cost of postage was 2 cents.

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This view of Toronto harbour is on a postcard mailed on August 2, 1908. Written on the card is: “Had a fine ride on the Lake this morning. It is beautiful. Hope all are well and getting a long all right.” The card was signed, “Lillie.” In the picture, on the right-hand side of the skyline is the spire of St. James Cathedral on King Street East. On the reverse side of the card is a one-cent postage stamp commemorating the 300th anniversary of the founding of Quebec—1608-1908.

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This card was mailed from Toronto on June 14, 1909, by a young woman named Sarah, who sent it to Mrs. C. Everingham at Parry Harbour Ontario. She wrote: “Dear Mother, am well, hope you are the same. Mother could you send me $1.00 right away so I could get it Saturday. Well I am so home sick to see yous all again. I can hardly write Mother. Send me the price to go if you want me but send me the dollar for I need it badly.” The card was signed, “From Sarah xxx.” Note: The wording of the message is rather confusing but Sarah’s needs are quite clear.

The view on the card depicts Centre Island, likely from the shoreline of Long Pond looking west as there is a wooden bridge in the background. This bridge was later replaced by one constructed of stone.

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Sarah of Toronto sent this card on July 31, 1911. She wrote: “Dear cousin, We had a nice trip home, had dinner and tea at Mrs. Shepphard’s and then came down on the 7 o’clock boat. Found all well at home. Sister wants you to arrive, she wants to see you. Hope that Mr. Wossack is still getting on fine. Remember us to all with best. Kindness and Friendship.” The card was signed, “Yours, Sarah.” The view on the card looks westward across the picnic grounds at Hanlan’s point toward the lake.

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This exceptionally fine view of Toronto Street looks north from near King Street East toward Adelaide Street East. The Toronto Seventh Post Office, with its columned portico is visible on the left-hand side (west side) of the street. It is one of the few buildings on the street that still exists today. The card was mailed by Nellie from Toronto on February 25, 1908 to Mrs. Fred Battle in Bowmanville, Ont.  It reads: “Dear Mildred, would you cut me a pattern of a skirt for me. Will pay you for it, 22 waist, medium 38 length, a plain full skirt print for the house. I like them pretty full and if you would pin the seams together as I don’t know any other patterns putting them together unless they are put together. I can make them then.” The card was signed, “Nellie.” Note: I hope that Mrs. Battle understood the card’s instructions better than I did.

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This postcard shows the Amusement Park at the famous Sunnyside Beach, often referred to as “The poor man’s Riviera.” It was where each spring Toronto’s Easter Parade was held on the boardwalk, visible on the left-hand side of the photo. The view faces west, the waters of the lake to the south (left) of the boardwalk (not visible in the photo). The large structure in the photo with the red domed roof is the merry-go-round (carousel). When Sunnyside amusement park was demolished in the 1950s, the ride was shipped to Disneyland in California. In the foreground is Lakeshore Boulevard. The postcard was mailed on August 27, 1927, sent to “Master Elmer Morley, Sub. P.O. Ford City, Ontario.” The card reads: “ We arrived in Toronto all right and found Millers all well. We expect to go to exhibition on Monday.” The card is unsigned.

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This card is likely from around the year 1920. There is no date or message on it as it was never sent to anyone. The view faces east toward the pedestrian bridge over Long Pond. The women seated on the bench in the foreground are formally attired, the usual custom until the late 1940s, when men wore shirts and ties when attending picnics, the CNE or an evening stroll.

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This postcard depicts the ruins of a grist mill on the west bank of the Humber River. The card was mailed on July 12, 1907, prior to building the Old Mill Tea Garden and Restaurant, which was constructed beside the ruins in 1914. The card was sent to Miss Arrabel Ellis of Fenelon Falls. Ontario. It reads: “Dear Belle, I hear you are having quite a holiday this summer. You certainly had a nerve coming to Toronto and not the Junction. They wouldn’t give me your message.” It was signed, “Gerald.” Note: There seems to be some frustration and disappointment expressed on the part of Gerald. Lovers’ quarrel?

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This card with the delightful scene of Toronto harbour was mailed from the city on October 3, 1906. It was sent to Daisy Alberta Shepp at 929 E. King Street, York, Pennsylvania. U.S. A. There was no message on the card and it was unsigned.

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The view on this card faces south on Sherbourne Street. Sherbourne and Church Streets were among the first in the city to have electrically-powered streetcars. The card was mailed on June 7, 1905 to Miss A. B. Ellis, MacDonald Hall, Guelph, Ont. It reads: “Am sorry you will not be at my tea. We will miss you. Do not get lonesome.” It was signed, “May.”

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The first buildings on the site shown above was in 1838, when Captain Dick, a wealthy steamboat captain, constructed four brick townhouses. In 1856, Mr. Sword bought the houses and converted them into a hotel. In 1859, Captain Dick reappeared on the scene, bought the hotel, and renamed it the Queen’s. It became the city’s most elite hostelry and dining establishment. The future King George V, when he was the Prince of Wales, stayed at the Queen’s, as did several American presidents. The closing of the Queen’s in 1927 was the end of an era and the beginning of a new. The Royal York Hotel was built on the site by Canadian Pacific Hotels, a division of the Canadian Pacific Railways. 

The postcard was mailed on May 25, 1907 to Johann Laemmersamn of 2 Front Street, Watertown N. Y. It reads: “I am pleased with the pretty cards you sent.” It was signed, “Mr. Young.”

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This lithograph of Union Station on Front Street was mailed from Niagara Falls N. Y. on July 15, 1922. The station did not open until 1927, so the card was likely based on the architect’s sketches. The card was sent by Lottie to Miss Irma Chaplin of Jefferson, Ohio. It reads: “Toronto, Canada, July 14, 1922—Here today and there tomorrow. And it’s all wonderful. You ought to see it for yourself.” The card was signed, “Lottie” 

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This card was mailed from Hamilton, Ontario, on October 3, 1908. It was sent to Miss M. Eubank of Willoro Grove, Ontario. It reads: “Received letter but it was a long time in coming. Send me a card when you are coming down so I can go down to see you. Bring me some apples and beech nuts. I wish I was there to gather some. Miss H. will be down Friday, down to see her Sunday afternoon and Miss G. for tea. To church twice. Am going to write to Aunt Mary tonight.”

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This card depicts the Prince George Hotel on the northwest corner of King Street West and York Street. The card was mailed on February 4, 1913 to Mr. Floyd Gage, at 63 Penn Avenue, Binghamton N. Y. It reads: “Friend Floyd: I have been here a long time working with the Bowles Ltd., a large lunch concern and I am now receiving good pay. Am well and hope you are the same.” It is signed, “Your old friend, Samuel B. Wishart, 98 Mutual Street.” Perhaps the “Bowles Ltd.” that Samuel refers to was Bowles Lunch (restaurant) on the southeast corner of Bay and Queen Street West, across from today’s Old City Hall. 

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This card depicts the boardwalk along the south shore of Centre Island that leads to Ward’s Island. The card was never mailed, but written in pencil on the back is: “November 30, 1908—to William from Grandpa.” Little William likely was handed the card as there are child’s scribbles in pencil all over the back of the card.  

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This card was mailed from Portsmouth, England on November 13, 1915. It was sent to Miss Coles of 14 Craubury Avenue, Southhampton. It reads: “Saturday—M. D. A. We are leaving Portsmouth by the 8:55 train Sun. and look forward to seeing you all.” It is signed, “With love, Nellie.” It is assumed that Nellie or someone she knew had visited Toronto and purchased the card. The street in the upper right-hand corner is identified as “Pembroke Street. In the bottom right-hand corner is Wilton Street. The other streets are not named.

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This intriguing postcard was mailed on September 9, 1918 by Royal Air Force Cadet #171953 #4 Div. Toronto. It was sent to Mrs. Georgette R. Prince, Suite 25, Arlington Block, Edmonton, Alberta. The message on the card was written in French. I wish I were able to translate it as war-time messages are particularly important in preserving the memories of difficult times in Canada’s history.

The churches depicted on the card are: clockwise from the left-hand corner, St. James Cathedral on King Street east, Holy Blossom Synagogue on Bathurst Street, Metropolitan United on Queen Street East, St. Michael’s on Bond Street, Jarvis Street Baptist, Knox Presbyterian on Spadina, and the Bond Street Congregational Church at Bond and Dundas Street East (now demolished).  

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The card was mailed from Orillia, Ontario on November 10, 1955. It was sent to Miss Margaret Henry, 30 Annendale, Apt. 3, Kingston, Ontario. The picture is of Sick Children’s Hospital on University Avenue. The card reads: “ Dear Margaret, I have just returned home from Toronto. The David Scott’s address is 9809 19th Avenue North East, Seattle, Washington U. S. A. If Stanley would care to call on them? And do you still want Grey Squirrel for your coat?” The card is signed, “From E. Buchauau.” Note: A grey squirrel coat?

The cards that follow were never mailed so they have no messages or postage stamps on them to determine when they were purchased.

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Toronto’s Old City Hall, after the gargoyles had been removed from the tower as they were in danger of falling into the street below.

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          Children’s Playground on the west side of the Sunnyside Bathing Pavilion

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Yonge Street in 1915, gazing north toward the College and Carlton Street intersection. The building on the left-hand side, with the rounded flat-topped towers, is the Odd Fellows Hall, built between 1891 and 1892. The streetcar in the distance that is making a right-hand turn from College Street, to proceed south on Yonge, is negotiating a jog in the roadway. This jog was eliminated when Eaton’s College Street was built in 1929, and Yonge Street was straightened. The clock tower of the old St. Charles Tavern is visible in the distance, on the west side of Yonge. The streetcar is a wooden car operated by the Toronto Railway Company. The TTC took over the system in 1921. The buildings on the west side of Yonge street, south of College, were demolished to erect the Eaton’s College Street Store. 

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When the Royal York opened on June 11, 1929, it was the tallest building in the city. The hotel’s architects were Ross and Macdonald, with the firm of Sproat and Rolph. They chose the “Chateau Style, reflecting the latest Art Deco trends of the 1920s. The Royal York possesses a copper roof and touches of the Romanesque in the many arched windows in its podium. The 28-storey building originally had 1048 rooms.

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The Royal Ontario Museum when its main entrance was on Queen’s Park. The Park Plaza Hotel is in the background, to the north of the museum.

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Construction on the Eaton’s College Street store commenced in 1928 and it opened on October 30, 1930. The magnificent structure, the jewel in the crown of the retail empire of the T. Eaton Company, was designed in the Stripped Classical design that reflected Italian Art Deco styles of the period. The building’s architects were the firm of Ross and Macdonald, in association with Sproatt and Rolph. The store was intended to appeal to affluent customers. Unfortunately, by the time the Eaton’s College store opened, the Great Depression had descended across the nation.

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Church street, where electric streetcar first appeared in 1891.  The view is looking south.

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This view of the Humber Valley was taken after 1914, as in this year a stone bridge was built over the river to replace the former wooden structure destroyed by an ice storm. The Old Mill Tea Garden (the Old Mill Restaurant of today) opened in 1914, prior to the stone bridge being constructed. It is in the photo, but is barely visible as it was a small structure compared to the vast complex of today’s Old Mill Restaurant. 

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In this view, the Royal York Hotel and the Bank of Commerce dominate the skyline. On the far left-hand side is the Terminal Building, now the Queen’s Quay Terminal. The cannon in the foreground remains at Centre Island but is now located near the ferry terminal.

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This photo of the Ford Hotel may create memories for a few people. This hostelry was once among the finest in the city. Some may also remember the Murray Restaurants that were in several locations throughout the city. The Ford Hotel was located at Bay and Dundas Streets, across from the bus terminal. Unfortunately it eventually became rather shabby. It was finally closed and demolished.

A link to a previous post that explores the history of postcards in Canada: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2015/10/20/torontos-golden-age-of-postcards/

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

A link to view previous posts about the movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern.

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

A link to view posts that explore Toronto’s Heritage Buildings:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/01/02/canadas-cultural-scenetorontos-architectural-heritage/

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 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:

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, and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

Another book, published by Dundurn Press, containing 80 of Toronto’s old movie theatres will be released in the spring of 2016. It is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It contains over 130 archival photographs.

A second publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. This book will also be released in the spring of 2016. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Postcards depicting Toronto’s past

Old City hall  1910, TRL. pcr-2198[1]

The Toronto Public Library system has many resources that can be accessed online. Because of my interest in the city’s past, I frequently search the materials available in their vast digital collection for posts for this blog. To access the collection of postcards, google : “Digital Archives Toronto Public Library.” Then enter into the topic box, “Toronto Postcards.” There are over 1200 postcards of Toronto available for viewing, dated between 1909 and 1999, many of them published by Valentine and Son’s.  

Another great source of Toronto postcards online is chuckman’storontonastalgia.wordpress.com. I have frequently used this collection as well, and I am very grateful that Mr. Chuckman allows them to be accessed by the public on his WordPress web site. It’s a great collection.

The above postcard of the Old City Hall at Queen and Bay Streets is from the Toronto Public Library collection. The card dates from 1910, before the cenotaph was erected in front of the building. Below are a few more postcards from the Toronto Public Library collection.

1st grandstand 1923, TRL. pc68[1]

             This postcard of the first grandstand at the CNE in 1923.

1910, Grenadier Pond  TRL. pcr-2201[1]

Looking toward the west bank of Grenadier Pond in High Park in 1910. The name on the card, “Howard Lake,” is not familiar to me.

                   City Hall and Temple Blg. 1910, TRL. pcr-2200[1]

Looking north on Bay Street in 1910, the Old City Hall visible in the background.

Csa Loma Stables, pcr-2152[1]

                       Horse stables at Casa Loma, c. 1910.

Bank of Toronto, King and Bay, 1910, TRL.  pcr-2167[1]

Bank of Toronto at King and Bay Streets. This building has been demolished.

Massey Hall  1910, TRL. pcr-2207[1]

Massey Hall on Shuter Street c. 1910, prior to the ugly fires escape being added to its facade. The hall is presently being restored.

Old Tor. Ref. Lib. 1910, TRL. pcr-2161[1]

The old Toronto Reference Library in 1910 on College Street at St. George. The first exhibitions of the art society that became the AGO were held in this building.

A link to a previous post that explores the history of postcards in Canada: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2015/10/20/torontos-golden-age-of-postcards/

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

A link to view previous posts about the movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern.

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

A link to view posts that explore Toronto’s Heritage Buildings:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/01/02/canadas-cultural-scenetorontos-architectural-heritage/

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 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:

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, and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

Another book, published by Dundurn Press, containing 80 of Toronto’s old movie theatres will be released in the spring of 2016. It is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It contains over 130 archival photographs.

A second publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. This book will also be released in the spring of 2016. 

 

 

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Toronto’s golden age of postcards

Old City hall  1910, TRL. pcr-2198[1]

Postcard depicting the Old City Hall, Toronto in 1910. Photo Toronto Public Library, pck-2198

Postcards have lost their importance in today’s world. They are rarely sent or received, although they are still displayed on racks outside stores in the downtown areas where tourists are likely to stroll. Similarly, the role of Christmas cards in the yuletide season has diminished. Birthday cards, Valentines and Easter cards have also become less popular as people switch to electronic cards or Facebook for messaging. People today prefer the instant communication of social media. Other factors that have hastened the demise of greeting cards and postcards are their cost and Canada’s expensive postal rates.

It is a pity that hand-written messages on cards have become obsolete. Emails or posts on Facebook and blogs have their appeal, but there is something to be said for seeing the handwriting of the sender. Postcards from overseas have the added attraction of containing colourful stamps, and the pictures on the postcards provide images of where the sender is visiting or living. They are genuine artefacts from other parts of Canada and around the world.

Old Toronto postcards chronicle a pictorial history of the city and have become collector’s items. In past decades, only coins and stamps were more popular as collectors’ items than postcards. Collecting them is referred to as “deltiology,” from the Greek word “deltos” for a writing tablet. For many decades, picture postcards were the most popular souvenirs of travellers and tourists. 

In the early years of the 20th century, few people owned telephones. The postal system was the quickest and cheapest form of communication. Mail delivery was six days a week, twice each day: one delivery in the morning and another in the afternoon. If a person mailed a postcard before 11 am, same-day delivery was guaranteed. A person was able to send a card in the morning to arrange a meeting in the late-afternoon or evening of the same day. Postcards required mere minutes to write and the postage was a mere penny. They were handy when a letter was not required. In past decades, the post office placed ads in Toronto newspapers to remind people that on Christmas Day, there would be a morning delivery only. Today, it is difficult to believe that such service was once the norm.

Postcards allowed people to keep in touch, especially with those who lived in the suburban areas of the city. For example, it was difficult for people living above the Davenport Road hill in the Earlscourt District, which centred on St. Clair and Dufferin Streets, to journey to the city below the hill. It was 1913 before streetcar service was available on St. Clair Avenue, connecting residents to the downtown. Prior to the streetcar line being built, to travel downtown, people walked down Dufferin Street, descending the hill to Davenport Road. Then, they continued south to Dufferin and Dupont Street (then named Van Horne), where they climbed aboard a streetcar that went downtown. The return journey was even more arduous, especially in winter, as it meant climbing the steep hill.

Before postcards were introduced there were “picture envelopes,” which were pre-printed and possessed attractive scenes. People inserted their letters in these envelopes. In 1871, the Canadian post office issued blank cards with stamps printed on them. The address to which the card was being sent was placed on the stamped side of the card, and on the other side was written a message. Businesses employed these cards to arrange appointments, confirm orders, and arrange deliveries. In 1897, lithographed or engraved pictures were allowed on one side of the cards, but there were no photos. In 1898, the post office legalized sending private cards in the mail. People were now able to take negatives of their favourite personal photos to drug stores and have copies printed from them in the format of postcards. These cards allowed families to keep in touch with friends and family members, as well as announce family events such as births and weddings.

In 1903, the format of the postcards changed again, appearing similar in design to those of today. A picture was on one side of the card and on the other, a vertical line separated the space for the address from the space allotted for the message. These were the cards that remained highly popular until the age of the internet.

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This postcard, mailed in 1906, is intriguing, as it was sent to arrange a meeting, but the signature of the sender was disguised. The address in Kew Beach is quite simple compared with today’s addresses in this area of Toronto.

Bay St. Wharf  1910, TRL. pcr-2137[1]

A 1910 postcard of the Bay Street Wharf, with the spire of St. James Cathedral in the background. Toronto Public Library, pcr-2137.

               City Hall and Temple Blg. 1910, TRL. pcr-2200[1] 

Postcard of looking north on Bay Street from Richmond Street in 1910. Toronto Public Library pcr-2201.

Niagara boat at Toronto 1910 TRL.  pcr-2142[1]

A 1910 postcard depicting the arrival of the boat from Niagara at the Yonge Street wharf. Toronto Public Library, pcr-2142.

                311 Jarvis Street, photo by H.j. Fleming, 44 Ann St. Tor.  

This postcard was printed from a negative in the woman’s personal photograph collection. It was mailed in 1910 to the woman’s family in Ireland. She had immigrated to Canada and secured employment as a domestic in a house at 311 Jarvis Street. The card was printed for her by H.J. Fleming of 44 Ann Street, Toronto.

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In 1914, she mailed this card to her family in Ireland. It contained a photo of her daughter, Ruth.

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This postcard contains a photo of the woman’s house at 212 Perth Street. In 1918, she mailed copies of this card to relatives and friends, but kept a copy for herself. Ruth and her sister are sitting at the top of the veranda steps.

Series 1172, Valentine 6 Dessigns    DSCN9508

A valentine (left) and a birthday card (right), postcards that were mailed in 1927.

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

A link to view previous posts about the movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern, and Toronto’s Heritage Buildings:

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 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:

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, and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

Another book, published by Dundurn Press, containing 80 of Toronto’s old movie theatres will be released in the spring of 2016, entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” 

“Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press, explores 75 of the city’s heritage buildings. This book will also be released in the spring of 2016. 

 

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