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Category Archives: Spadina Avenue Toronto

Toronto’s sinful Victory Theatre—new photos

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The Victory Theatre, which closed in 1975, an undated photo from the Toronto Archives.

Few theatres in Toronto elicit as many stories and memories as Toronto’s Victory Theatre, located on the northeast corner of Dundas and Spadina Avenue. The theatre was at one time an important part of the city’s live theatrical scene. Built in 1921, it opened as the Standard Theatre to present Jewish dramatic productions. In 1935 it was renamed the Strand, and at the end of World War II in 1945, its name was changed to the Victory. It was under this name that the theatre became famous and notorious, as it began featuring burlesque. In the years ahead, it offered exotic dancers and strippers. By modern standards, it was quite tame, but the antics on its stage outraged some of the citizens of Toronto. The police morality quads were continually raiding the theatre and arresting the girls and staff.

Many people today have fond memories of attending the Victory and if given the opportunity, enjoy relating them. It became a favourite hangout of students, who often lied about their ages to attend a performance. One of the show girls at the Victory caught the attention of the mayor of the city. His comments of condemnation created so much publicity for her that the students said that he was either her agent or the president of her fan club. The mayor was not amused.

M father often attended the Victory when he was in his 80s. My mother had long since passed away and having nothing to occupy his time in the evenings, he sometimes attended the theatre to watch the girls and listen to the MC’s raunchy jokes. He also liked Starvin’ Marvin’s at Yonge and Dundas, as it passed out free sandwiches to its patrons to enjoy as they observed the girls.

I recently discovered some photos taken by Roger Jowett of the interior of the Victory. They are all from the 1970s, and are contained in Series 881, File 177, in the Toronto Archives. They reveal how elegant the theatre once was, with its classical pillars, high ceiling, and rich ornamentations. The pictures show that the auditorium had stadium seating, its floor slanting upward steeply from the stage area. This was considered better than creating a balcony. This month (June 2015) I received confirmation that the auditorium of the theatre remains intact and is quite well preserved. The 2015 photos that were sent to me reveal that theatre remains much the same as in the 1970s pictures. 

A link to a more in depth post on this blog about the history of the Victory:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/09/08/the-sinful-victory-burlesque-theatre-at-dundas-and-spadina/

all coloured photos by Roger Jowett

View of the auditorium of the Victory. Photo by Roger Jowett, Toronto Archives.

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                           View from the stage of the Victory

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     View of the ceiling with the large design inset into the ceiling.

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                                    Close-up view of the ceiling.

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Stairway from the lobby that gave access to the seats in the upper section of the auditorium. The design in the ceiling is visible.

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                                   Candy bar in the lobby.

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          View of the stage from the top half of the auditorium’s seating.

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                     View of the stage of the Victory Theatre.

Map of Dundas St W & Spadina Ave, Toronto, ON M5T

                Location of the Victory 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 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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History—Toronto’s Cecil Street Community Centre

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The Community Centre at 58 Cecil Street is situated on a residential street south of College Street, to the east of the ever-busy Spadina Avenue. The building has changed hands several times since it was constructed in 1891. Originally, it was the “Church of Christ (Disciples),” a protestant denomination that stressed New Testament teachings and maintained a strong mission outreach. Prior to moving into the location on Cecil Street, members had gathered in various locations, including the Occidental Hall at Queen West and Bathurst Streets. This building is now the CB2 Kitchen and Supply Store at 651 Queen West. The congregation also rented a church near Dennison Avenue and Queen Street.

The architects of the Church of Christ (Disciples) were Knox and Elliott, who had previously designed row houses and private residences throughout the city. The transformer station (Terauley Street Station), which still exists today, on the west side of Bay Street south of Dundas, was another of their commissions. Perhaps their most well-known design was the impressive Confederation Life Building on the northeast corner of Yonge and Richmond Streets. It too still exists today. Similar to the Confederation Life Building, when designing the Church of Christ, the architects chose the Romanesque Revival Style. Its heavy, fortress-like appearance contains large stones and solid shapes. The stained-glass windows facing Cecil Street have a large Roman arch above them. The stone foundations and the stones around east door resemble those of Toronto’s Old City Hall, another Romanesque Revival structure. Originally, the top of the 95-foot bell tower was pointed, and over the west doorway there was a massive stone portico. Both these features were later removed.               

                          Fonds 1244, Item 2366 

The church c. 1912, as it appeared when the congregation of the Church of Christ (Disciples) occupied the building. In this photo, the top of the tower is pointed. The tower is not situated parallel to the street and there is a large stone portico over the doorway at the base of the tower.  Toronto Archives, F1244, it.2366. 

The shape of the church was basically a 65-foot square. Constructed of pale yellow bricks, it contained large gables on the south and west sides, and a roof of slate-rock tiles. The interior of the church was spacious, the congregation seated beneath a high vaulted ceiling, supported by pillars ornamented with classical designs. The capitals on the columns were in the Greek Ionic style. Large stained glass windows allowed plenteous light into its interior. A schoolroom was added to the church in 1908 and an organ was installed in 1915. However, as the demographics of the area changed, the congregation dwindled, and the building was sold in 1925 for $20,000.

Next, the building became the Ostrovtzer Synagogue. The congregation had been founded in 1908, its name derived from a city in Poland. By the 1920s, many of its members had relocated from the Ward District, east of University Avenue, to the Kensington Market area. They considered the building on Cecil Street an ideal location, since most worshippers were able to walk to the services. The former church was altered when it became a synagogue. The bell  tower was replaced and realigned so that it was parallel to the street. It contained a small dome instead of a pointed top. The large portico at the base of the tower, over the west doorway, was removed. The building’s interior was also renovated to suit their purposes. Two large marble plaques were attached to the wall, inside the door, displaying the names of those who had contributed funds to purchase the building. In the 1950s, when the demographic of the community changed again, the Jewish congregation sold the building.

It was bought by the Catholic Diocese in 1966, and it became a centre to aid the Chinese community. The building changed hands again in the 1970s, when the Community Homophile Association occupied it as a centre for promoting gay rights. In 1978, it was purchased by the City of Toronto and it became a community centre. At some point in time, the windows of the north facade were greatly altered. Today, the community centre is busy every day and evening with activities that serve the needs of the residents in the Kensington area. 

Note: I am grateful to Torontoist.com for some of the information in this post, as well as the staff of the community centre who generously allowed me to photograph the interior of the building and discussed the history of the building. 

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     The entrance to the building, the tower above it,  in the summer of 2013.

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    Marble plaques on the wall installed in the 1920s by the Jewish congregation.

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Interior view of the large domed ceiling and the archways and pillars that support it. Photo taken in 2013.

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         Classical ornamentations on the pillars that support the dome.

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                         View of the interior from the balcony in 2013.

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                           The dome on the top of the tower, June 2015.

Cecil St. Centre, April 2013

                   The Cecil Street Community Centre in April 2013.

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                        The Cecil Street Community Centre in June 2015.

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/

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

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 441-443 Queen West at Spadina

Sept. 29, 1910  f1231_it2047[1]

The view in the above photo gazes east along Queen Street on September 29, 1910, from a short distance west of Spadina Avenue. On the right-hand side of the photo is the building with the postal address 441-443 Queen Street, on the southeast corner of the intersection. It contained the Devaney Brothers Dry Goods store. There is a coal yard on the southwest corner of the intersection. (Photo, Toronto Archives, F 1231, It.20471.)

In the 1850s, a modest home occupied the corner where the Devaney Brothers store was later located. In those years, the intersection was relatively quiet and free of vehicle traffic, since it was considered remote from the downtown. However, as the city expanded, increasingly the houses along Queen Street disappeared. They were replaced by two-storey buildings with shops on the ground floor and living spaces on the upper floors. As real estate prices increased, taller structures were built. They too possessed stores on the ground-floor level, the second and third floors rented as residential apartments or office spaces. Many of the buildings were joined to create commercial blocks, such as the Noble Block, on the north side of Queen, east of Spadina. Few were taller than three floors as it was an age without elevators.

In 1886, the modest house on the corner of Spadina and Queen was demolished and a three-storey structure erected. Its architects were Henry Langley and Edmund Burke, who were later to design Victoria College at the University of Toronto. The northwest corner of the building contained an ornate Italianate-style turret, which became a landmark in the neighbourhood. The red-brick building possessed an ornate wood cornice with modillions beneath it that resembled large dentils. The first occupants were Devenay Brothers, who, as mentioned, opened a dry goods store on the first floor. 

The second and third-floor levels were rented to various tenants, including the Independent Order of the Odd Fellows, as well commercial enterprises and manufacturers. The building was in a prime location, at a busy intersection. During the years ahead, various restaurants occupied the first-floor level of the building, and in the 1930s, trade unions and workers’ organizations rented space within it. In the 1950s and early 1960s, rooms on the upper floors were leased to art students, as the large windows provided excellent lighting for studios. In 1984, Makos Furs moved into the building and renovated the turret and the wood trim on the north and west facades.

The building is now beginning to show its age as it has been in continuous use for well over a 125 years. The pillar on the northwest corner, at the entrance to the restaurant that currently occupies the first floor, is badly eroded. Several years ago it was braced by a steel beam, but because the deterioration has worsened, plans have been made to replace it (2015). However, the structure remains an important heritage building and still dominates the intersection, as it did in past decades.

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View of the building 441-443 Queen St. West, gazing from the northwest corner of the intersection.

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                    View from the northeast corner of Queen and Spadina.

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The turret on the northwest corner of the building. The District Loft condominium is in the background.

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Ornate wood trim on the cornice and around the bay windows.

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The west facade, facing Spadina Avenue. On the south side of the building there is a modern building that attempts to match the architecture of the original structure.

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Light and shadow on the 19th century structure that once housed Daveney Brothers Dry Goods. 

April 16, 2015 (6)

Support pillar on the northwest corner that has eroded and is braced by a steel girder. Wood has been placed around. In the background is the CIBC branch at Queen and Spadina.  (Photo May 2015) 

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                                   Photo taken May 28, 2015.

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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Village Theatre on Spadina Road—Toronto

The Village Theatre at 418 Spadina Road in Forest Hill Village (Spadina Village) was a gem in the heart of a small business community that truly created the atmosphere of a small town. In past decades it was referred to as Lower Forest Hill Village and centred on Spadina Road and Lonsdale Avenue. E. M. Farquharson, in an article in the Canadian Home Journal, referred to the Village Theatre as “a neighbourhood cinema in a district of lovely homes.”

Plans for the theatre were submitted to the City of Toronto in November of 1935, at the height of the Great Depression. The architect was Herbert Duerr (1891-1966), who designed the Hollywood Theatre and the Major Rogers Road Theatre (Rogers Road and Silverthorne Avenue). Born in Pittsburgh, he caught the attention of Famous Players and became the corporation’s favourite architect. He designed many theatres across Canada and the United States.

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               This sketch of the Village Theatre is from the Toronto Archives.

I was unable to locate any photos of the Village Theatre in the City of Toronto Archives or the Ontario Archives. However, of all the local theatres I have researched, judging by the sketch that has survived, it was architecturally one of the most unusual. It resembled a quaint shop or house that one might see in an Alpine village, its small peaked roof and unpretentious marquee adding to its quaintness.

The theatre’s box office was in a central position at the front of the structure, and extended from the facade toward the sidewalk. Double doors on either side of it gave access to the outer lobby, which was aligned east-west. Another set of doors opened onto the inner lobby. Because the theatre’s frontage was narrow, the lobby extended a considerable distance from the street. A drink machine that dispensed carbonated beverages was tucked into an alcove in the inner lobby. The auditorium was aligned north-south, with separate doors leading to the aisles. 

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           Diagram of the interior of the Village Theatre. City of Toronto Archives.

For many years, the manager of the theatre was Miss Evelyn Lilly. A pioneer in the industry, she was the first woman manager hired by Famous Players Corporation. A petit blonde woman, she was less than five feet in height, but possessed a forceful personality. During the years that she managed the theatre, she knew all the local theatregoers and was able to address most of them by name. In 1924, Miss Lilly had commenced her career as a cashier at the Kingswood Theatre, located at 922 Kingston Road, near Kingswood and Kingston Roads. She worked part time at the Kingswood—a few hours on weeknights and Saturday afternoons, for six dollars a week.

Patrons said that she added a woman’s touch at the Village Theatre. After every show, she opened the rear doors to air out the he auditorium. During the war years, she avoided screening war movies as she felt that women were too mindful of the real events taking place overseas to want to witness the conflict on screen. After the war, she became an advocate for more women managers.

After the theatre closed, the building was renovated and contained a dry cleaners. Eventually, the dry cleaners and the restaurant next to it were demolished to construct a boxy two-story building that contained an LCBO on the ground floor.   

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This undated photo in the City of Toronto Archives shows the site of the Village Theatre after it became a dry cleaners.

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/

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 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

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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Renovations at site of old Backpackers’ Hotel

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          The site of the former Backpackers’ Hotel on February 10, 2015.

I have been observing the renovations in progress at the former site of the Backpackers’ Hotel at King Street West and Spadina Avenue. Thankfully, these heritage structures are being restored, although they presently appear rather forlorn, their windows boarded over and the doorway on King Street containing graffiti. However, the results of the renovations are slowly emerging. The 19th-century bricks, hidden by many layers of paint, are once more exposed. The ornate trim around the windows in the Mansard roofs have been repaired and the missing slate tiles replaced. Thus, a hint of its original appearance is now visible.

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The former  Backpackers’ Hotel (left) and the entrance door of the south building (right). Photos, February 10, 2015.

The buildings on the northwest corner of Spadina and Kings Street have a long history. In 1873, Samuel Richardson erected a two-storey frame home on the site. It survives today and is the building that is painted blue. Richardson added a third floor to the house in 1875, employing the Second Empire style of architecture, with a Mansard roof and ornate gabled windows. When completed, he converted it into a hotel, named the Richardson House. His establishment, which included a tavern, was popular with the businessmen in the western part of the city. As Richardson had served eleven years overseas with the Thirteenth Hussars Regiment, he constantly repeated his accomplishment when promoting his hotel.

In 1885, a four-storey brick addition was added to the north side of the hotel, on Spadina Avenue, and two years later another extension was added, doubling the number of rooms. The hotel advertised hot-water heating in every room, at the rate of $2.00 per day. Weekly boarders received a special rate of $1.50 per day. Samuel Richardson died in 1904. In 1906, the hotel was renamed the Hotel Falconer. Its name was changed again in 1914, when it became Zeigler’s Hotel.

In 1916, it became the Spadina Hotel and retained this name for many decades. In the 1950s, the hotel was extensively renovated. When completed, visitors who entered the hotel walked to the far end of the lobby, where there was a narrow set of stairs with five steps, which gave access to the dining room. It had been restored to its 1883 splendour, with Canadian walnut and chestnut panelling. The old doors and the wood panelling had been maintained. On the second floor, on the north side of the hotel, the redecorated large space was named the Cabana Room, which featured nightly entertainment.

In this decade, the hotel became a centre for the avant-garde community of the city. Established artists and students from the Ontario College of Art (today the Ontario College of Art and Design University) congregated in the Cabana room to raise a glass to toast their accomplishments or to drown the sorrows of their failures. The students vilified, praised, defended and ignored the latest trends in art. Despite their varying opinions and general disrespect for the established art forms of the day, throughout the years ahead, many of the young artists established themselves in promising careers in galleries, graphic design firms, and commercial art establishments. Others, similar to the old hotel, fell into obscurity. Such is the way of life in the arts community.

Finally, the hotel became a hostel for student backpackers, with 185 beds available, with four occupants per room. The former dining room became a billiard and games room, much removed from its elegant past. The Cabana room was a lounge and reading room. Because of the building’s brightly-coloured exterior walls, ornate gables, and garish trim, it has been a landmark in the Spadina district for many years.

The Backpackers’ Hotel closed in 2014 and is presently being restored. When completed, the buildings will be leased for office and retail space. The city will be enriched by the preservation of these historic structures.

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                               The Backpackers’ Hotel in 2013.

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The corner of Spadina and King Street West, c. 1900  City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1568 It. 284. 

pictures-r-5623[1] 1954. Tor Ref.

The former Backpackers’ Hotel when it was the Spadina Hotel in 1954. Photo from City of Toronto Archives.

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The Spadina Hotel in the 1950s. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 124, File 0124 Id. 0097

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   Same view as previous picture, taken in 2013, when it was the Backpackers’ Hotel.

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The dining room of the Hotel Spadina, after it was converted into a billiard’s room by the Backpackers’ Hotel.

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Staircase in the former Spadina Hotel when its was the Backpacker’s Hotel. Photo taken in 2013.

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A quiet reading corner in the Backpackers’ Hotel (left) and the sign above the doorway of the hotel (right).

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                                          Backpackers’ Hotel in 2013.

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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 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 Pickford Theatre—Part 11

Pickford, Spadina and Queen 1916, dmol. 1972

                            The Pickford Theatre in 1916

The intersection of Spadina Avenue and Queen Street West is today one of the busiest intersections in downtown Toronto. I sometimes refer to it as “hamburger corner,” as  there are four fast-food hamburger outlets located at this intersection. However, until I commenced researching Toronto’s old movie houses, I had never realized that it was also the site of one of the city’s earliest theatres—the Auditorium Theatre.

It was located at 382 Queen Street West, on the northwest corner of Spadina Avenue and Queen Street West. It opened in 1908, on the ground-floor level of the Moler College Barber Building, which was three storeys in height and topped by a Mansard roof. The 1916 photo depicts the theatre and shows two of the three storeys above it.

When the theatre opened in the first decade of the 20th century, the movie theatre business was in its infancy and was considered a risky business enterprise. Thus, renting space within an existing building was  the least expensive way to present “film plays.” However, within a few years this attitude changed due to the increasing popularity of the movies. Buildings were then constructed for the express purpose of showing films. The situation now was reversed, as theatre owners rented excess space for other business enterprises. The funds assisted in reducing the expenses of operating a theatre.

When the Auditorium opened, it imitated the format established by the Theatorium Theatre at Yonge and Queen, which featured films and a series of vaudeville acts. The Theatorium  was a nickelodeon, as it charged five cents for tickets. The Auditorium Theatre followed this pattern too. It boasted that it showed films that required three reels to complete, considered quite a technological feat in 1908.

The interior space of the theatre was long and narrow, extending back from Queen Street. There was a stage at the north end of the auditorium, but its ceiling was not of sufficient height to accommodate a large screen. This restriction also prevented the building of a balcony. Thus, it was a small theatre, containing less than 400 leatherette seats, all with plush-backs. It possessed three narrow sections of seats, separated by two aisles. From its opening day, it was well attended as there were no other theatres in close proximity to it.

In 1913 the theatre was renovated, its north wall extended further back to increase the seating capacity by almost 50 seats. Following the alterations, the theatre was renamed the Avenue, the name likely chosen because it was on Spadina Avenue.

In 1915, it again changed its name and became the Mary Pickford Theatre. This allowed the theatre to take advantage of the fame associated with the first true international film star of the silver screen. She had been born in Toronto and her name added to the popularity of the theatre. The theatre’s name was later shortened and it was simply referred to as the Pickford. This name was to remain until 1945, when it was renamed the Variety.

The old theatre finally closed in 1947. The Moler Barber Building, where the Pickford had been located, during the 1950s was occupied by Bargain Benny’s. It operated on business practices similar to Honest Ed’s. The bargain emporium went bankrupt in 1961. After the building was demolished in 1972, a small cafe was erected on the site. Today, a hamburger outlet occupies the cafe.

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    The entrance to the Standard  Theatre, later renamed the Pickford.

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View gazes north on Spadina toward Queen Street West. The Pickford was on the ground floor of the Moler Barber building, which has a turret on its southeast corner.

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The Moler Barber Building at Spadina and Queen in 1958, where the Pickford Theatre was located.

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The small cafe that was erected on the site after the Moler Barber Building was demolished.

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The northwest corner of Queen and Spadina after the cafe became a McDonald’s outlet (photo 2012) .

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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Old houses hidden behind 58-60 Spadina Avenue—Toronto

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The east facade of the building at 58-60 Spadina Avenue, where a gable is visible in the roof of the houses behind the red-brick extension.

The Toronto Directories reveal that in 1888, two unfinished houses were on the site that today has the postal addresses 58-60 Spadina Avenue. The houses were completed in 1889, and in that year their postal addresses were # 52 and #54 Spadina Avenue. Number 52 was occupied by J. W. McDougall. In #54 lived Mrs. S. Hawthorne, the widow of Thomas Hawthorne, a retired foreman at the P. R. Lamb and Company. Eventually, the postal addresses of 52 and 54 Spadina were changed to numbers 58 and 60.

In the 1920s, the two houses on Spadina ceased to be residential and were renovated to accommodate the requirement of commercial enterprises. In 1928, #58 was occupied by Waterburg Chemicals and number 60 was vacant. The following year, the chemical company occupied both of the houses. In the 1940s, a two-storey red-brick extension was built across the front of the old houses. The extension remains on the site today. Originally, I had suspected that the houses behind the extension were Bay and Gable style, since the two houses to the north of the houses (numbers 62 and 64) were constructed the same year and they were in the Bay and Gable style.

However, peering at the roof of the old houses, visible behind the extension, there is a peaked gable. This is not typical of homes in the Bay and Gable design. More likely, the semi-detached houses were of another design. In the 19th and early 20th century, builders did not mass-produce houses such as is done today in the suburbs or in downtown infill sites. They contracted to build only one or two houses at a time. Thus, on a street, many different architectural designs were evident, which can be seen when walking along the older streets of downtown Toronto today.

The houses at 58-60 Spadina Avenue possibly appeared similar to one of the sets of semi-detached homes shown below.

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DSCN5450    DSCN5446

All of the semi-detached houses shown above were built in the final decades of the 19th century, and possess a gable in the centre of the roof. The houses in the photo in the upper right-hand corner have windows in the peaked gable.

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View of the small gable in the roof at 58-60 Spadina Avenue. The gable has a window or possibly a door, as there is a terrace on the roof of the extension from the 1940s.

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The east facade of the 1940s extension built across the houses at 58-60 Spadina. It possesses a rectangular shape, with a heavy cornice that includes a row of dentils. The rectangular windows are large to allow plenteous light into the interior. Today, the buildings continues to accommodate commercial enterprises.

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The cornice of the extension across the facades of the houses at 58-60 Spadina Avenue is topped with stone. A row of dentils (teeth-like decorations) is visible.

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The north facade of the home behind the extension at 60 Spadina. In the left-hand photo, the 1940s extension and the old house are visible. Some of the windows of the house have been bricked-in.

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Another extension added at the rear (the west side), of the old houses. 

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A view of where the bricks of the 1940s extension touch the 1889 bricks of the old houses.

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The east and south facades of the extension built across the front of the the 1889 houses. (Photo taken in 2014)

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

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

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

To view previous blogs about old 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 also relates anecdotes and stories from those who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

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

   To place an order for this book:

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

Theatres Included in the Book:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres

Savoy (Coronet), Westwood

Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes

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

 

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