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Category Archives: Queen Street West

Queen Street’s Hugging Tree repainted (2016)

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The west side of the Hugging Tree in October 2016, the Black Bull Pub in the background.

It is not often that we find graffiti art painted on trees, or in the case of the “Hug Me Tree,” (Hugging Tree), on a tree stump. This favourite piece of art is located on the north side of Queen Street West, a short distance west of Peter Street. It appeared for the first time in 1999, painted by Elicer Elliott, a graduate of Sheridan College. He has since become one of Toronto’s best known graffiti artists. I highly recommend that you Google his name to see further examples of his work.

After completing the “Hug Me Tree,”“ Elicer Elliott placed a tag on the tree – “H.U.G.”- the name of his graffiti crew. As an afterthought, he added the “Me” to the tag, and Queen Street’s famous “Hug Me Tree” was born.

                 The hugging Tree in 2012.

In 2008, the tree toppled over onto the pavement. It may have been hit by a car, or pushed over by overly exuberant patrons of the nearby Black Bull Pub. Whatever occurred, the city decided to dispose of it. However, a group of concerned citizens prevented the tree from being carted away. On June 15, 2009, after the tree was restored, it was returned to its original location. It is now weather-proofed and has a metal base to secure it.

The next time you stroll along Queen Street West, on the section of the street east of Spadina, take a few moments to appreciate this example of graffiti art. Give it a hug. Who knows, it may bring you good luck.

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             The west side of the Hugging Tree in October 2016.

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 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 lost Arcadian Court Restaurant

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The Arcadian Court in The Bay in 2011, photo taken from the mezzanine level by the author.

The Arcadian Court in the Bay Store at Queen and Yonge still exists, but it is no longer open on a daily basis to the general public. Instead of being “the  place where Toronto does lunch,” it is now a private event space, highly sought for wedding receptions, gala dinners, and corporate functions. This is a pity as the venue has been a part of the Toronto scene for over eight decades. I remember when it was a favourite place to enjoy a quiet lunch amid the hustle and bustle of the city’s downtown. For many years, I visited it the week prior to Christmas to partake of its special yuletide buffet.

In the days when the Arcadian Court was open to the public, upon entering the reception area, people were greeted by the sound of a grand piano playing the favourite songs of yesteryear. The music partially obscured the clinking of china and and the tinkle of silverware, as well as the quiet conversations within the cavernous room. A smartly attired hostess escorted all guests to their tables, where the waiters invariably inquired if guests wished to see the menu or would prefer the buffet.

I usually chose the buffet. I particularly enjoyed the roast beef and the chicken pot pies, both available on the menu as well as the buffet. The array of salads, hot dishes, and desserts was on par with the finest restaurants. The attentive service and quiet atmosphere was appealing to diners who were older, but also attracted businessmen seeking a quiet spot to discuss transactions or become more acquainted with clients. Sometimes there were families with young children, especially on Saturdays. However, because  many of the clientele were older, attendance slowly declined, which contributed to the restaurant no longer being a public dining place. This was a pity, as the history of the Arcadian Court included many events that were important in the lives of Torontonians.

The story of the Arcadian Court began between the years 1928-1929, when the Robert Simpson’s Company built a nine-storey Art Deco addition to its already enormous department store. The new structure was at the corner of Bay and Richmond Streets, its main entrance located on Bay Street. Included in the new building was a two-storey restaurant, on the eighth and ninth floors. The two floors allowed the restaurant to have a main floor and a mezzanine level. It was said that when it opened, it was the largest restaurant in the world that was located within a retail store. I am not certain how this could be verified, but the facility was indeed expansive as it accommodated almost 1000 diners. It required as many as 500 worker to support the operation of the 8000-foot dining space on the main floor and the 6000 feet of the mezzanine.

The Arcadian Court was created to compete for the lunch crowd with the Royal York Hotel, as well with Simpson’s retail main rival—Eaton’s. The latter was located directly across from Simpson’s, on the north side of Queen Street. Eaton’s had opened its Georgian Room in 1924, and Simpson’s was desirous of luring diners and shoppers away from its competitor. However, the Arcadian Court was different as it more luxurious than the Georgian Room. It aimed to attract more well-to-do patrons, often referred to as the carriage trade.

Designed in the Art Deco style, the Arcadian Court contained 40-foot ceilings, with 16 grand arches. Large arched windows on the west side created panoramic views of Bay Street, the newly-constructed Canada Life Building, and the western skyline. These windows were eventually covered over, and this remain true today. The colour scheme of the Arcadian Court was muted shades of silver and violet, with a hint of blue. The thick carpets and massive chandeliers added a degree of elegance never before seen in the city. The chandeliers were of Sabino glass, manufactured in France by the the famous glassmaker, Rene Lalique. The mezzanine level (9th-floor section) was surrounded by ornate wrought iron railing, and originally was reserved exclusively for men. It remained designated in this manner until around the year 1960.   

After the Arcadian Court opened, it was immediately successful, and this continued even during the Great Depression. One reasons was that not only was it a luxury dining room, but it was used for trade, art, automobile, and fashion shows, as well as grand dances, lectures and concerts. Liberace once performed on a grand piano in the Arcadian Court, to an enthralled audience. The Simpson’s venue was also one of the city’s favourite places for dining and dancing on New Year’s Eve.

In 1929, the first radio broadcast of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra was held under its high ceiling. The one-hour program was heard across Canada on the CBC. In 1932, Winston Churchill was booked to speak at the Arcadian Court, but due to the demand for tickets, the event was changed to Maple Leaf Gardens. In 1967, the first auction ever held outside Great Britain by Sotheby’s was held in it. Attended by 2500 persons, a Gainsborough painting was sold for $65,000.     

The Arcadian Court was renovated four times since it opened in 1929. In 1978, Simpson’s was purchased by the Hudson’s Bay Company, but was operated under its former name until 1991. Unfortunately, due to the diminishing number of patrons, the Arcadian Court closed in 2011. It reopened in 2012 under the management of Oliver and Bonacini. Its name was now simply “The Arcadian,” and it operated as a private event venue.

It is interesting to note that when the Arcadian reopened, the original chandeliers were missing. They had been sold in 1968 to a New York antique dealer. He restored them, sold them to a Manhattan company, and they were placed in the firm’s lobby. 

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The Arcadian Court in 2012, shortly before it closed to the public. View is from the main floor level, looking upward to the mezzanine.    

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The first radio broadcast of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in the Arcadian Court in 1929, under the TSO’s Viennese conductor Luigi von Kuits. Toronto Archives, F1569, Fl 0005, Item 0001.  

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Sotheby’s first art auction held outside Great Britain, on October 27, 1969, in the Arcadian Court. Toronto Public Library, 0002614.

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Pre-1968 photo of the Arcadian Court, before the original chandeliers were sold. It is likely that it was a private banquet being held in the venue. Photos from Urbantoronto.ca

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Photo of the Arcadian Court after 1968, as the original chandeliers have been replaced. Photo from Urbantoronto.ca.

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,” 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_thumb

   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)

                                 image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb    

Another book, published by Dundurn Press, containing 80 of Toronto’s former movie theatres will be released in June, 2016. 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 these grand old theatres and their fascinating history.

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

Another publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. This book will be released on June 1, 2016. For further information follow the link to Amazon.com  here  or to contact the publisher directly:

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

 

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The lost Trinity College of Trinity Bellwoods Park—Toronto

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Most people who stroll spacious Trinity Bellwoods Park, its southern boundary on the north side of Queen Street West, would have difficulty imaging the impressive buildings that once existed on these grounds in the 19th century. One of Toronto’s most impressive educational campuses, Trinity College, was originally located inside the present-day park. The above photo is from the collection of the Toronto Public Library, r-6198, and is dated 1890.

Trinity College’s predecessor was King’s College, founded in 1827, under the control of the  Anglican Church. In 1847, the Reform Government of Robert Baldwin legislated that King’s College was henceforth to be secular. John Strachan strenuously objected to this change, as he wanted Trinity to remain officially under the auspices of his faith, similar to Oxford and Cambridge in England. As a result, he founded Trinity College in 1851, by a Royal Charter from Queen Victoria.

A few years earlier, fortuitously, Strachan had purchased 20 acres of land from Miss Janet Cameron of Gore Vale, an estate located on the west bank of a branch of Garrison Creek. The estate had been named after Francis Gore, the lieutenant governor of Upper Canada, between 1806 and 1817.  Strachan planned to construct the first official building of Trinity College on the property he had bought, close to Queen Street, to the south of the mansion on the Gore Vale estate. He selected as architect Kivas Tully, who designed a campus with the buildings grouped around a quadrangle. The structures were in the Gothic Revival style, which was highly popular in the 19th century, especially for buildings associated with churches or sacred institutions. Since John Strachan considered Trinity College as an extension of the Anglican Church, he deemed the Gothic Revival style to be symbolically appropriate.

Trinity’s first building was erected on a grassy knoll, a short distance north of Queen Street. The structure was surrounded by mature trees and approached by a broad avenue that connected it to Queen Street. People who strolled along the street, if they gazed northward, were able to admire the picturesque building, with its ornate bell tower and fancy turrets that were topped with pinnacles. The facades of the structure were constructed of white bricks, trimmed with Ohio limestone. It opened in 1852, its cost being 8000 pounds. The expense was enormous for this decade, reflecting the high quality of the materials. However, because of the vast amount that was spent, there were insufficient funds to erect a chapel. As a result, a temporary chapel was constructed on the second floor of the main building, in space that had been originally intended for a library.

In 1873, Frank Darling was the architect assigned to expand Trinity College. In October 1877, Convocation Hall was completed, situated immediately north of Tully’s main building. It was employed for graduation ceremonies, assorted academic ceremonies, social functions, and college examinations. In 1882, because of a generous donation to the college, construction commenced on a chapel, located in front of the east wing of the main building that Kivas Tully had designed. It was joined to the east wing by a single-storey enclosed corridor. The chapel, designed by Frank Darling, was consecrated on October 19, 1884. The space the chapel had formerly occupied in the main building was renovated to become the college’s library, as originally intended.

Between the years 1889 and 1890, Frank Darling designed a new west wing that contained student residences, facilities to teach chemistry, and physics laboratories. In !894, he designed another east wing. Both structures were in the Modern Gothic style. With the completion of the new wings, operating funds and money for further expansion became increasingly difficult. As a result, Trinity College explored the possibilities of a federation with the University of Toronto, the latter institution financed by the government. An agreement was finally signed on November 18, 1903.

In  1912, the City of Toronto purchased the 32-acre site where Trinity College was located. In 1925, Trinity College relocated to the campus of the University of Toronto. Some of the buildings on the former site were renovated to accommodate other purposes, but the structures suffered from lack of proper maintenance. In 1929, a fire caused extensive damage to them. However, the buildings survived until 1956, when they were all demolished except for St. Hilda’s College. It became a community centre and survives to this day.

The site of the demolished buildings of Trinity College is today named Trinity Bellwoods Park. The most visible reminder of the former campus of Trinity College is the impressive gateway on Queen Street, erected in 1905-1906, designed by Frank Darling. In the modern era, they provide the main entrance to the spacious park.   

Note: the author is grateful to William Dendy’s book, “Lost Toronto” for some of the information in this post.  

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     View of the south and west facades of Trinity College from Queen Street in 1856.

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View of the buildings of Trinity College from the southwest in 1867, photo from the Ontario Archives, 1005302.

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Wrap-around view from the southwest of the south and west facades in 1909, photo from the Toronto Public Library r-6175.

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South facade of Trinity College in January 1928, Toronto Archives F1231, Item 1033 

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The north side of Trinity College looking south on February 3, 1928, photo from the Toronto Archives, F1251, Item 0999. 

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The gates of Trinity College on Queen Street West in 1916, the tower of the main building visible in the background. Toronto Archives, F1244, Item 1561. 

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Trinity College gates designed  by Frank Darling, erect between 1905 and 1906, photo taken in 2012.

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                 The gates from inside, viewed from the east side in May 2013. 

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Looking north from Queen Street to the site where Trinity College was located in the 19th and early-20th centuries. Photo taken in May 2012.

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 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 Ryerson Press Building—Bell Media

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The former Ryerson Press Building at 299 Queen Street, City of Toronto Archives, Fl 1231, It.0761

The five-storey, white “industrial Gothic” building on the southeast corner of Queen West and John Streets, occupies land that was once a part of the estate John Beverley Robinson and his son Christopher Robinson. Christopher was born in York (Toronto) in 1828 and educated at Upper Canada College. He became a lawyer in 1850 and was well known throughout the city as he co-authored a four-volume text on constitutional law, the first text of its kind in Canada. He was the crown attorney in the appeal of the murderer of Thomas D’Arcy McGee, the MP assassinated in Ottawa. Robinson won the case, and the murderer was hanged. Robinson gained further fame when he was the senior counsel for the crown in the famous trial of Louis Riel in Regina. As a result of the trial, they executed Riel. Robinson died in 1905.

The Methodist Church purchased a section of Robinson’s property to construct a building for its administrative offices and printing enterprises. In 1913, Edmund Burke, of the architectural firm Burke, Harwood, and White was chosen to design the building. Construction commenced in 1914, and when completed, it was named “The Wesley Building,” in honour of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. It housed the Methodist Book Publishing Company and was the headquarters of the Methodist Church in Canada. In July 1919, its name was changed to the Ryerson Press, in recognition of the contributions of Rev. Egerton Ryerson to the Methodist faith.

In 1925, most Methodist congregations across Canada became part of the United Church, and the printing facilities became the United Church Publishing House. In 1970, it was sold to an American Company, McGraw-Hill, and was renamed McGraw Hill Ryerson. In 1984, the building was purchased by the radio station CHUM, which restored the aging structure. It was later owned by City TV, which was bought by Bell Media. The Much Music Awards are held each year outside the building on Queen West and in its parking lot on the east side.

The building is a mixture of Gothic and Romanesque styles. Its skeleton is constructed of steel, and three of its facades are covered with pre-cast white terracotta tiles to resemble stone. The tiles contain symbols inspired by the stone traceries in the windows of the great Gothic cathedrals of Europe. There are numerous quatrefoils, and  at the top of the pilasters there are figures that represent  “men of learning,” some in monk’s robes, holding books in their hands. Between the pilasters, at the top of the structure, there are pinnacles that point skyward. Crowns are above the ornate doorway, as well as lamps, representing the light of knowledge.

A five-year heritage preservation project recently restored the facades of the building, and it appears as magnificent today as when it was originally built.

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The north facade of the former Ryerson Press Building, on the southeast corner of Queen West and John Streets. Behind the structure is the Picasso condominium, which is under construction. Photo taken May 2015. 

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Entrance on the north side and the detailed terracotta tiles that surround it.

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Close-up view of the detailing above its arch (left), and the impressive doorway (right).

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Two of the “men of learning” perched high atop the pilasters on the north facade. 

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             The west facade of the building, facing John Street.

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The west facade (left) and the south facade (right) facing Richmond Street West.

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The Old Ryerson Press Building in May, 2015. View is gazing toward its northwest corner, at Queen West and John Streets.

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

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

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

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

                      cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[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 Store and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791

Theatres Included in the Book:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres

Savoy (Coronet), Westwood

Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes

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

 

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The old Odeon Theatre in Parkdale—Part II

Odeon Theatre, 1913, at 1558 Queen West

The Odeon Theatre in 1919, located on Queen St. West in Parkdale. City of Toronto Archives.

The Odeon Theatre at 1558 Queen Street West, was located in the former village of Parkdale, annexed to the city in 1889. The theatre opened in 1919, a year after the end of the First World War. The film being screened in the 1919 photograph is “Don’t Change Your Wife,” starring a 20 year-old Gloria Swanson as a foolish wife.

Map of 1558 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6R 1A6

            Location of the Odeon Theatre at 1558 Queen Street West.

The year it opened, the Odeon undoubtedly provided much needed relief to the war-weary people of the community, creating an opportunity for them to forget the horrors of the news from the battle front of the previous year. The Odeon was likely the first theatre in the neighbourhood, as its competitor, the Parkdale Theatre, did not open until the spring of the following year. The Odeon Theatre had no connection to the British Odeon chain that began building theatres in the city in the 1940s. The word “Odeon” was derived from the name of an ancient Greek theatre, the Odeon Herodes Atticus, built in 435 BC in Athens. The theatre was located on the south side of the Acropolis, and still exists today. Its name became synonymous with entertainment.

The Odeon Theatre in Parkdale was a two-storey red brick building, with a residential apartment on the second floor. Its symmetrical facade was formal and dignified, reflecting more of the Edwardian period, as opposed to the newer trends that were to develop in the 1920s. Stone blocks that rose from the the ground-floor level to the lower cornice, created pilasters (faux-columns). They were an impressive addition to the facade. The upper cornice was plain, with a narrow parapet (wall) to increase the size of the south facade, when viewed from Queen Street.

The theatre’s auditorium possessed two aisles, with a centre section and aisles on either side. There were no side aisles, meaning that seats extended within inches of the east and west walls. It had a sloped floor, extending from where the screen was located to the rear wall. The back rows were elevated and accessed by stairs. The auditorium walls were plain with very few decorative details, although there were attractive designs surrounding the screen. When the theatre opened in 1919, it possessed a stage and space to accommodate a piano and a few musicians, as it offered vaudeville and live theatre, as well as silent movies.

A letter in the files at the Toronto Archives confirms that the theatre closed in October 1968. However, the building remains on Queen Street today, and contains a fruit market.

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                The site of the former Odeon Theatre during the summer of 2014.

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         The upper section of the facade of the Odeon on Queen West. 

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                The fruit market on the site of the Odeon Theatre.

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

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

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

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

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

   To place an order for this book:

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

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

Theatres Included in the Book:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres

Savoy (Coronet), Westwood

Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes

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

 

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Toronto’s old Parkdale Theatre—Part 11

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The Parkdale Theatre in 1937. Photo City of Toronto Archives Series 1278, File 10130

The Parkdale Theatre at 1605 Queen Street West, on the northwest corner of Queen and Triller Avenue is another of Toronto’s theatres that I can readily recall, though I never was inside its doors. As a child, in the 1940s, I often gazed at its showy marquee from the windows of the Queen streetcars. On these occasions, we were on our way to Sunnyside Beach for a day beside the lake. The theatre was only one city block away from the “three-way corner” of Queen, Roncesvalles and King Street. We alighted from the streetcar at this intersection, crossed a narrow bridge spanning the railway tracks and descended the stairs to the amusement park and beach, located on Lakeshore Boulevard.

I also remember that at the three-way corner, on the northwest corner there was a Gray Coach Bus Terminal and next to it was the Edgewater Hotel. The Parkdale Theatre was only a short walk from these well-known city landmarks. All these building remain in existence today (2015), but have been converted for other commercial purposes.

Map of 1605 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6R 1A9

The three-way corner (Queen, King and Roncesvalles) is to the left of the green arrow that indicates the location of the Parkdale Theatre.

In the late 19th century, Parkdale remained a relatively remote community to the west of the city, despite having been amalgamated with Toronto in 1889. On hot summer days, it was a favourite destination for Torontonians who wanted to swim in the cool waters of the lake. They visited the south end of Parkdale, where the beach area was known as Sunnyside.

However, in the first decade of the 20th century, as Toronto’s population crept westward, Parkdale’s population expanded. Prior to the First World War, construction commenced at Sunnyside to extend the beach and create an amusement park. The work ceased during the war and continued after it ended. As it neared completion, it was obvious that the area would be ideal for movie theatres. The opportunity was seized by the Allen brothers, Jule and Jay, who already owned the Allen Theatre (Tivoli) at Adelaide and Victoria Streets and the Allen’s Danforth.

The Parkdale opened on April 5, 1920, in time for the summer season. It was designed by Howard Crane of Detroit. The theatre was a large rectangular yellow-brick building, its auditorium built parallel to Queen Street. Its façade was relatively plain, except for stone detailing below the cornice. However, the interior of the Parkdale was luxurious, typical of most Allen theatres. Patrons were astonished at the gilded patterns and fancy plaster trim throughout the theatre. The ceiling was the equivalent of three storeys in height, containing well-crafted designs with enormous concentric rings with a large medallion in the centre. Striking decorative lines radiated from the central medallion. Chandeliers were suspended from this ornate ceiling, below it over 1500 seats with leather seats and backs. Four wide aisles allowed easy access and departures from the rows. The entrance lobby was equally as impressive, with Wedgewood-style designs above the entrance doors and those leading into the auditorium.

In January 1938, water-washed air conditioning was installed. It was not until 1950 that a candy bar was added. Today, this seems quite strange, as modern theatres derive a high percentage of their revenues from popcorn, drinks and other treats. Even stranger, after the candy bar was installed, the sale of popcorn was not allowed as it was considered too messy.

Despite its opulence, the Parkdale slowly lost in its competition with television. The theatre closed on July 6, 1970. The building on Queen Street in Parkdale remains today, but it has been converted into shops that specialize in second-hand and antique furniture.

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                                          Lobby of the Parkdale Theatre.

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                                      Auditorium of the Parkdale.

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     Parkdale Theatre after the building was converted to furniture shops.

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              The site of the Parkdale Theatre during the summer of 2014.

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

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

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

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

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

   To place an order for this book:

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

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

Theatres Included in the Book:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres

Savoy (Coronet), Westwood

Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes

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

 

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Toronto’s architectural gems—Cameron House on Queen Street West

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                             Cameron House in the summer of 2012

The Cameron House at 408 Queen West, on the corner at Cameron Street, is considered a veritable institutions in Toronto, an integral part of the Queen West scene. The pub and music venue is inside a red-brick 19th-century building that was cleaned and restored several years ago. The gigantic ornamental ants, so familiar to those who visit the pub or simply stroll along Queen Street, still crawl over the facades of the building. The lounge at the front of the building is bustling with activity most nights, as musical performers and visual artists entertain those who pack the room. There is also a back room that presents cabaret-style theatre. It is a cozy space that in in the past has been one of the venues for the “Summerworks Festival.” I have attended several productions there and appreciated the intimacy of the space, as I was in such close proximity to the actors. When departing the theatre, I was amazed at the number of patrons that crowded the front room, enjoying the music while engaging in animated conversations.   

The Cameron has been associated with many well-known artists, including the Barenaked Ladies, Blue Rodeo, Jane Biberry, Fifth Column, and the Golden Dogs. For artists who were in the early stages of their career, the Cameron House sometimes provided free accommodation in exchange for the artists performing in the pub.

Today, it is difficult to imagine Queen Street when the building housing today’s Cameron House was constructed in 1880.  It was the eastern portion of a pair of attached structures, and in 1880, the other half of the building remained under construction. The land to the immediate west of the buildings was a vacant field. In 1881, Angus Cameron moved into 408 Queen and opened a dry goods store. The other half of the building remained unoccupied. Cameron lived above the shop. His mother lived around the corner, in one of the houses on Cameron Street, which now bears the family name.

About the year 1888, the shop became the “Ryan and Sullivan Tailor Shop.” In 1890, the store was vacant, but the following year, E. Hodd moved in and opened a “furnishings shop.” In 1895, the structure became the “John Burns Hotel.” In 1896, it became the “Cameron House.”

My information is based on the Toronto Directories at the Toronto Reference Library.

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The above photos is of the south facade of the Cameron House. It was taken on 17 April 2013. A new mural has been painted on its south facade. The southeast corner at the top of the building, on the fourth floor, has a distinctive rounded faux-tower. The ornamental termites are visible on the facade.

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This is the mural that was on the south facade of the Cameron House in the summer of 2012.

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The new mural on the Cameron House. It is signed in the upper right-hand corner, “Abrams.” Photo taken April 17, 2013.

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Close-up view of one of the 10 giant ants on the facade of the Cameron House. These sculptures are the work of the artist Napoleon Brousseau (www.napob.com), who was commissioned to create them in 1984. They were originally red in colour, but were changed to white on 2009 for Nuit Blanche.

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The east facade of the Cameron House on Cameron Street. (Photo July 2012). It can be seen that at some point, an extension was added to the rear of the original structure to enlarge the capacity of the hotel.

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

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

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

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

                      cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[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 Store and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791

Theatres Included in the Book:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres

Savoy (Coronet), Westwood

Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes

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

 

 

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