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Category Archives: Spadina Avenue Toronto

The historic Gale Building—24-30 Spadina Ave., Toronto

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      View of the east facade of the Gale Building at 24-30 Spadina Avenue. 

Researching the history of the Gale Building at 24-30 Spadina Avenue was not easy. I was unable to find any postal address on the building, but since it was located near the southwest corner of Wellington and Spadina, I ascertained the address through the Toronto Directories and rechecked it on a map in the Goad’s Atlas.

The Gale Building was constructed at the height of Toronto’s railway era, shortly after the beginning of the 20th century. However, the railroads had first appeared in Toronto in the 1850s and during the decades ahead, the number of rail lines increased until they occupied much of the land hugging the lakeshore and the land to the north of the lake. This caused the area of Spadina, north of the rail lands, to be viewed as less desirable for residential purposes. On streets such as Wellington Street West, the grand homes and estates began to disappear, including those of J. Denny, H.L. Seaton and Ja’s Michie. On the east side of Spadina, the avenues surrounding Clarence Square also had grand homes, but these too disappeared in the latter decades of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th.

Wealthy families vacated the lower portion of Spadina Avenue and moved further north to areas such as Rosedale. Their mansions and grand homes were demolished, the land they had occupied employed by companies for factories and warehouses.

According to the Toronto Directories, in 1905 houses existed where 24-34 Spadina is located today. The following year, they were demolished and in 1907, a factory/warehouse appeared on the site. It was one of the earliest manufacturing and distribution buildings in the area—the Gale Building. Its location capitalized on its proximity to the lake and the rail lands, both immediately to the south.

The three-storey red-brick structure possesses a basement that is partially above ground, adding another full storey of useable space. Its facade facing Spadina is unadorned, although there are a few simple embellishments near the cornice. The stone trim around the north doorway of the east facade is one of the few impressive features of the building. The company manufactured “whitewear,” specializing in fine earthenware—plates, platters, bowls and porcelain crockery—all of which were white.

During the decades ahead, the building continued to be named the Gale Building, but much of the interior space was rented to other occupants. In 1929, the only company listed in the building was Eisman Company Limited, manufacturers of corsets and and rubber specialties. In 1948, though still named the Gale Building, it was occupied by J. H. McNairn Paper Manufacturer, and on the second floor was the Dominion Paper Box Company.

When I moved into the area in November 2000, the McGregor Sock Company maintained a retail outlet in the building, its postal address listed as 30 Spadina Avenue.  I googled the address recently (October 2014), but was unable to discover the present-day occupants. It is assumed that it has various tenants.   

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The Gale Building, 24-30 Spadina Avenue. View gazes north on Spadina from near Front Street. Photo taken in 2014

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               The east facade of the Gale Building in 2014.

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The north facade of the Gale Building, facing Wellington Street West.

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The brickwork below the cornice on the east facade and the stone trim above the windows on the third floor.

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                                  The north doorway on the east facade.

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                The east and south facades of the Gale Building.

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

   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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Military hero of War of 1812 lived near McDonald’s at Queen and Spadina

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The home of James Fitzgibbon was on the southwest corner of Queen West and Spadina, seen in the above photo. A bank occupies the site today, and towering beside it is the condominium The Morgan, on Richmond Street. The McDonald’s on the northwest corner is visible on the right.

James Fitzgibbon, hero of the War of 1812 and leader of the loyalist troops that raided Montgomery’s Tavern during the 1837 Rebellion, lived a short distance from the corner of Queen Street West and Spadina Avenue.  Records are vague, and it is impossible to pinpoint the exact location of the house, but it known to have been on the south side of Queen Street (then named Lot Street), a short distance west of Spadina Avenue (then named Brock Street). If he were alive today, his children would be able to walk to the McDonald’s on the corner of Queen and Spadina for a “Big Mac.”

In Henry Scadding’s book, “Toronto of Old,” published in 1873, he states that the house was, “. . . on the same side (south), across the very broad Avenue (Spadina), a modest dwelling place of wood – somewhat peculiar in expression; square and rather tall for its depth and width; of dingy hue; its roof four-sided; below a number of lean-to’s and irregular extension clustering around; in front low shrubbery, a circular drive, and a wide open-barred gate.” I find this account remarkable even without its unbounded enthusiasm for the use of semi-colons.

The Toronto Directory of 1819 lists within the Fitzgibbon home on Queen Street 2 males over 16 years of age, 3 females over 16, 2 males under 16, and one female under 16. In the 1833 Toronto Directory, it states that to the west of Peter Street was the home of The Hon. John Henry, the Receiver General of the province. To the west of his home was the home of James Fitzgibbon. Its exact location is not given, but Henry Scadding stated that it was immediately west of Spadina.

The 1837 Directory simply gives Fitzgibbon’s home as being on Lot Street (Queen Street), and that he was Chief Clerk of the House of Assembly. In 1847, Fitzgibbon returned to England, and his son assumed ownership of the property. The Toronto Directory of 1862 lists rows of shops/homes on Queen Street, west of Spadina, with no mention of the Fitzgibbon home. It is assumed that the home had been demolished prior to this year.

James Fitzgibbon had a distinguished career in the town of York, which was renamed Toronto in 1834. He entered the Upper Canada in 1802, the same year as General Brock. At that time he was a young lieutenant. In Europe, both he and Brock had fought in the Napoleonic Wars. Fitzgibbon was one of Brock’s favourite officers, having secured for him several promotions without the usual payment of funds. Brock encouraged Fitzgibbon to pursue private studies to improve his education. Early in the year 1812, Fitzgibbon resigned his army commission to study full-time, in hopes of eventually earning further promotions. When hostilities broke out with the United States in June of 1812, he resumed his military career.

In June of 1813, Laura Secord who travelled through the woods at night to warn Fitzgibbon of the impending American attack on Beaver Dams. Due to her information, Fitzgibbon captured 450 enemy infantrymen, 50 cavalrymen, 2 field guns, and a partridge in a pear tree. He accomplished this by bluffing the enemy into surrendering, by offering to prevent the Indians from attacking. The Americans were unaware that Fitzgibbon commanded just forty-eight soldiers, and a band of only 400 Indians. The enemy force had been superior in both numbers and artillery.

IN 1823, James Fitzgibbon became Adjutant-General of Militia for Upper Canada. William Halton, who was now back in England, sold the Camden site to James Fitzgibbon, the transaction arranged through his lawyer in Upper Canada, Duncan Cameron. The title to the land where the condominium 50 Camden is located today, was registered on March 8, 1817, the price paid being 270 pounds. Throughout the next few years, Fitzgibbon was involved in various financial endeavours, and used his Camden property as collateral.

In 1826, James Fitzgibbon became involved in another historic event in the town of York. He begrudgingly collected the funds that a court had awarded to William Lyon Mackenzie. The money was compensation for his printing press, which had been thrown into the lake by a group of young Tory hotheads. As Fitzgibbon had openly sided with the Tories, the affair did not endear him to Mackenzie.

In 1827, Fitzgibbon secured the position of Clerk of the Canadian House of Assembly. Mackenzie viewed the appointment as a sinecure position that was undeserving. In his newspaper, he severely criticized Fitzgibbon.

In 1832, a riot broke out in the town, the feud involving a struggle between the Reformers, led by Mackenzie, and the Tories who sided with the Family Compact. Fitzgibbon intervened in the fight on the street in front of Mackenzie’s printing shop. Not to be outdone, Mackenzie dared Fitzgibbon to call out the troops.

Fitzgibbon threatened to arrest Mackenzie and charge him in court with being the instigator of the riot. Mackenzie backed down, and Fitzgibbon escorted him to his home, and shoved him inside the front door. It was a colourful and action-packed scene. Mackenzie retreated to wait for a more opportune moment, while Fitzgibbon basked in the sunlight of adoration from his powerful friends.

James Fitzgibbon, a hero of the War of 1812, and the owner of the Camden property, was now a well-known figure in the town of York. Henry Scadding, in his book, “Toronto of Old,” referred to Fitzgibbon as one of the reverend seniors, who assembled habitually in the church at York.

This was the old wooden church of St. James, at King and Church Streets, not the structure of today. Scadding wrote the following about Fitzgibbon: His tall, muscular figure, ever in buoyant motion; his grey good-humoured, vivacious eye beaming out from underneath a bushy, light-coloured eyebrow; the cheery ring of his voice and its animated utterances were familiar to everyone. In a midst of a gathering of the young, whether in the schoolroom or the playground, his presence was always warmly hailed. They at once recognized him as a sympathizer with themselves, in their ways and wants, and had ever ready for them words of hope and encouragement.

Other sources stated: Fitzgibbon was a person of military bearing and exceptional strength, possessing both courage and wit.

Following the death of his wide, Mary, Fitzgibbon  returned to En gland in 1847. Due to his service to the British Empire, the crown granted him tenancy of a small cottage built into the walls of Windsor Castle. He died in December of 1863, and was buried within the crypt of St. George’s Castle.

Much of the above information is from the book, “The Villages Within,” a humorous account of the history of Toronto, and a detailed examination of the Kensington Market, Queen Street West, and the Kings District around King Street and Spadina Avenue. The book was nominated for the Toronto Heritage Awards. For a link to this book:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/the-villages-within/

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These graffiti marked buildings to the south and west of the bank on the corner of Queen and Spadina are likely on the site of the Fitzgibbon home, as the house was set back from Queen Street, and was most likely also set back from Spadina Avenue. The brick buildings behind the garages face onto Queen Street.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                To place an order for this book:

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

      Theatres Included in the Book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres

Savoy (Coronet), Westwood

Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes

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

 

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Grossman’s Tavern at 377-9 Spadina, Toronto

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Some may question my sanity when I suggest that the building that houses Grossman’s Tavern on Spadina is an architectural gem. I might receive more agreement if I suggested that it is a place to imbibe a little liquid refreshment on a hot summer day or hide from the winter’s chill with a glass of anti-freeze beer. I won’t argue the validity of either opinion, and I am accustomed to having my sanity questioned. However, the next time you stroll along Spadina Avenue, pause for a moment and carefully examine Grossman’s Tavern. Behind the rather plain addition erected across the front of the premises, is an 1880s Second Empire house that at one time contained the home and office of a medical doctor. It is one of only three houses that remain from the days when Spadina was a residential street, many of the homes along the wide avenue belonging to the elite of the city.

The decade before the house was  built,  the name Spadina referred to the section of the street from Queen Street to Bloor Street. This was the 1870s, and apart from the tavern of Robert Brown on the northeast corner of Queen and Spadina, there was only one house on Spadina north of Phoebe Street. Even in the year 1880, the section of Spadina north of Queen, on the east side, remained vacant. The large Second Empire home that was later to house Grossman’s Tavern, was built in 1884. It was constructed for Dr. John Ferguson M. D.

The three-storey home was impressive, as befitting a medical practitioner. Its Mansard roof and generous proportions dominated southeast the corner of Cecil Street and Spadina Avenue. Dr. Ferguson remained in residence until 1890, when Dr. Henry Hunt took over the practice. In 1906, Edward Rutherford lived on the premises. He earned his living as a supplier of medicines and toiletries, his shop being at 398 Spadina. In 1907, the house was occupied by Dr. Malcolm Cameron. He remained the local doctor until 1919, when Dr. Murray Robertson moved in. In 1923, he was replaced by Dr. Frederick R. Hayes. During a few of the depression years, Hayes shared the premises with Dr. Woolfson. In 1935, it became the private residence of Mary Koski, and in 1938, that of Rama Walno.

In 1952, it became Grossman’s Cafeteria, operated by Louis Grossman, telephone number EMpire 6-8495. Rose Grossman lived in the south portion of the building. In 1959, the City of Toronto Directory of that year lists both 377 and 379 Spadina as being Grossman’s Tavern.

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

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

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

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

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

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

                           cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[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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Toronto’s hamburger corner–where is it and why?

The corner of Queen Street West at Spadina Avenue seems to becoming a haven for hamburger outlets. There are already three places specializing in hamburgers at this intersection, and a fourth is soon to open. The hamburger, once a low-budget fast food, is becoming a gourmet item, with some burgers priced as high as $50 in a few places. Even is some budget restaurants, hamburgers can be expensive due to the wide choice of gourmet toppings.

However, despite the popularity of hamburgers, I cannot understand why there is such a concentration of outlets at the corner of Queen and Spadina. Perhaps it is because the intersection attracts so many of the late-night crowd. However, I doubt that these people will be paying $50 to satisfy their hunger.

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On the northwest corner of the intersection is a Mcdonald’s, located on the site of the old Mary Pickford Theatre

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On the southeast corner is Hero Burgers, in the building that in the 1880s was  dry goods store

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On the north side of Queen St., a few doors east of Spadina is the BMQ hamburger restaurant. It offers a choice of three grades of beef and a wide selection of toppings.

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Now, on the site of the former Gorilla Monsoon, an “A & W” is under construction.

To view other posts about the area where “hamburger haven” is located.

Cycling on the streets near Queen and Spadina:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/10/01/cycling-in-toronto-is-now-the-better-way-dont-close-jarvis-bicycle-lanes/

Examining “sinful, saucy Spadina” from its beginnings at the lake, northward to Bloor Street. 

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/09/28/sinfully-saucy-and-diversetorontos-spadina-avenue/

Interesting historic buildings a short distance north of Queen and Spadina

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/08/30/torontos-architectural-historyspadina-north-of-queen-kings-court/

The historic site at Queen and Spadina where a Macdonald’s franchise is located.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/08/27/mcdonalds-at-queen-and-spadina-on-an-historic-site/

The famous Cameron House, a short distance west of Queen and Spadina

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/07/27/history-of-the-building-that-houses-the-cameron-house-on-queen-st-w/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                To place an order for this book:

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

      Theatres Included in the Book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres

Savoy (Coronet), Westwood

Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes

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

 

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Sinfully saucy and diverse–Toronto’s Spadina Avenue

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Spadina Avenue in 1906 (left) and today (right). Both pictures look north on Spadina toward Dundas St.

At one time, Spadina Avenue was a prestigious residential street where many of the well-heeled families of the city dwelt, alongside others who were quite so well off. It also contained three churches, all of which had large congregations. Today, the staid street of old has developed into one of the most interesting and diverse streets in Toronto. On a hot summer evening, some might say that the street is deliciously sinful. Its colourful neon signs and bustling activity create an atmosphere that is reminiscent of Hong Kong.

Beginning at Harbour Front by the lake, Spadina Avenue extends northward through several blocks where 1920s Art Deco warehouses dominate the scene. North of Queen Street, it becomes the main avenue of the Spadina’s China Town. After crossing College Street, it divides and circles around the old Knox College (now a U of T building) and proceeds up to Davenport Road. Here, the street changes direction at the base of the steep incline where Casa Loma is located. 

Throughout its journey through the city, the avenue rarely fails to enchant and entertain. Some historians state that architecturally, Spadina has never lived up to its potential. It’s true that for such a wide and impressive street, it has few outstanding buildings, but its array of nineteenth-century structures with their exotic markets and restaurants are wondrous to behold. To stroll its length is to relive the past of our city and view how Toronto’s old buildings have been recycled to suit the needs of the modern era.

A Brief History of Spadina Avenue

The creator of the wide avenue that today we call Spadina was Dr. William Warren Baldwin. The land where Spadina Avenue now exists was not owned by Baldwin, but by his wife Phoebe and his sister-in-law, Marie Willcocks (nee Baldwin). The sisters had inherited the land from their cousin, Elizabeth Russell, sister of Peter Russell. However, it was Baldwin, in his capacity as adviser to the two women that the idea for a grand avenue on the property was born. Henry Scadding, in his book “Toronto of Old,” published in 1873, stated that the width of the roadway was to be 160 feet throughout its mile-and-a-half course. However, it was actually 132 feet. 

William Warren Baldwin was born in 1775 at Knockmore near Cork in Ireland. He was the oldest son of Robert Baldwin, a farm manager. Young Baldwin received an M.D. degree from the University of Edinburgh in 1796, and set up his practice in Ireland. In 1798 he and his family immigrated to Canada, arriving on 13 July 1799, at age 24, and settled in York (Toronto). In 1803, he married Phoebe Willcocks, whose father, William Willcocks, was a first cousin of the wealthy land-owner Peter Russell. As previously stated, Baldwin’s wife was was one of the inheritors of the lands of Peter Russell.

In the early decades of the nineteenth century, the portion of Spadina south of Queen Street was named Brock Street, after Sir Isaac Brock, killed at the Battle of Queenston Heights. Baldwin became a political reformer and served in the Legislative Assembly from 1828-30, and was appointed to the Legislative Council in 1843. He died in 1844. It is interesting that though Governor Simcoe is highly honoured throughout the city, having a holiday and street named after him, as well as a statue at Queen’s Park, Baldwin is relatively forgotten, though his name does grace Baldwin Street, a north-west avenue located two blocks north of Dundas St. West. It is the main east-west avenue in the Kensington Market, containing several fish markets, bakeries, a cheese shop, and a high-end meat market.

Today, the Spadina Avenue that Baldwin created has many Asian and fusion restaurants that are enjoyed by the residents from all over the city.

Viewing Spadina from its beginning at the lake, north to Bloor  Street.

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Looking north from the bottom (south end) of Spadina Avenue toward Front St. in 1925 (Photo from the City of Toronto Archives). Visible is the old bridge over the railway tracks.

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                                             The same scene in 2012

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The south end of Spadina in 2012 (left), and looking north from the same spot in 1910 (right).

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Looking south on Spadina toward the lake in 1927, from south of Front Street. The new bridge over the railway tracks is under construction. Eventually, the roadway was raised to cross over the new bridge. Historic photo is from the City of Toronto Archives.

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From Front Street north to Queen St. West, the Art Deco buildings from the 1920s dominate the street. Today, they have been recycled as offices, restaurants, and retail stores.

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The corner of Queen and Spadina is one of the most vibrant intersections in the city. Night and day, the area hums with activity. North of Queen Street, the character of Spadina changes. The art work in the centre of the avenue alerts visitors and Torontonians alike that they are entering one of Toronto’s three China Towns.

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North of Queen Street, the street signs are bilingual and Asian art decorates the centre of the roadway.

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Restaurants from various Asian countries are housed in the nineteenth-century commercial buildings. 

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Between Dundas and College Streets, three avenues lead westward into the Kensington Market – St. Andrew’s, Nassau, and Baldwin Streets. The “cat on the chair” is a piece of art located on the northwest corner of Spadina and St. Andrew’s Street.

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In the section of Spadina between Queen and Dundas Streets, trendy coffee houses and cafes are located in the old warehouse buildings. Dark Horse Cafe (left) and Strada II.IV.1 (right-hand photo) at 241 Spadina are among the most popular.

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Bargain shirts as well as rare spices and herbs are available in the sidewalk stands

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North of College Street, the tower of the old Knox College, now a University of Toronto Building, dominates the street. Spadina divides at this point and circles around the nineteenth-century building. The name of the street now changes to Spadina Crescent, and Knox College’s postal address is #1 Spadina Crescent.

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On the west side of Spadina Crescent (left photo) is Lord Lansdowne School, and on the east side is the building that was originally the City Dairy (right photo), which became Borden’s Dairy, and is now occupied by the U of T.

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This artwork in the middle of the roadway that commemorates the old City Dairy.

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North of Spadina Circle, the west side of the street is flanked by nineteenth-century Romanesque homes (left photo), and on the east side, U of T buildings (right-hand photo)dominate the street. 

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The wonderful Asian restaurants, the exotic fruits in the sidewalk displays, and the ornate nineteenth-century architecture – Spadina has it all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                To place an order for this book:

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

      Theatres Included in the Book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres

Savoy (Coronet), Westwood

Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes

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

 

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A historic building that disappeared from the northeast corner Spadina and College

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The northeast corner of Spadina and College Streets, during the summer of 2012.

The yellow-brick Art Deco building in the above photo was at one time the site of the Broadway Tabernacle Church, one of the largest congregations in Toronto.

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The impressive Broadway Tabernacle that once occupied the northeast corner of Spadina Avenue and College Street. The photo is from the City of Toronto Archives.

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This photo from the City of Toronto Archives looks north on Spadina toward College Street. The tower of the Broadway Tabernacle Church is on the right-hand (east) side of the street. The building that once occupied by Knox College, is at the north end of the street.

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This photo, taken in May of 1927, looks south on Spadina toward College Street. Broadway Tabernacle is on the left and the Waverley Hotel on the right.

The congregation of the Broadway Tabernacle Church originally met in a small wood-frame building at the northeast corner of Spadina and Dundas. At that time it was named the Spadina Avenue Methodist Church. The size of congregation increased and in 1872 they purchased a larger piece of land and moved the old church on rollers to their new location on the northeast corner of Spadina Avenue and College Street. On their former site, a theatre was constructed – the Victory – that in the decades ahead became a burlesque and movie house. The building still stands today but is no longer a theatre.

The Broadway Tabernacle demolished their old wood church at College and Spadina in 1879 and constructed on the same site a large brick structure that held 900 people. In 1887, they required more space so hired the famous Toronto architect E. J. Lennox to build an even larger building. Lennox was the architect who in the years ahead, designed the Old City Hall, and like this civic building, for the new church, he chose the Romanesque Revival style. It was indeed an imposing structure.

During the 1920s the surrounding area changed greatly as Eastern Europeans, mainly Jewish, located in the district. Church attendance declined and the church eventually closed. It was demolished in 1930.

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The four-storey building with its Art Deco trim that now occupies the site of the Broadway Tabernacle Church

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                To place an order for this book:

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

      Theatres Included in the Book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres

Savoy (Coronet), Westwood

Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes

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

 

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McDonald’s at Queen and Spadina on an historic site

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When gazing at the intersection at Queen and Spadina, where a McDonald’s is located on the northwest corner, it is difficult to believe that this site was at one time beyond the western boundary of the city. When Toronto was incorporated in 1834, and its name changed to York, the city only extended as far as Peter Street.

A map of 1797 reveals that the site of the intersection was originally part of the Military Reserve, attached to Fort York. As late as 1867, the northwest corner of Queen and Spadina was part of a large estate named “The Meadows.” There were three structures on the property, likely a house, a barn, and another out-building.

An 1890s map shows that the land on the north side of Queen had been divided into building lots. Lot #1 was the site of today’s MacDonald’s, and its postal number was 432. In 1908, the Mary Pickford Theatre was constructed on the site. It was renamed the Avenue theatre in 1913, but its name reverted to its original title in 1915.

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The above photo from the Toronto Archives looks north on Spadina from the intersection at Queen Street on 23 September 1910. The building on the right-hand side remains today, and is a branch of the CIBC. The building on the left-hand side is the Mary Pickford Theatre. The tower on the theatre complemented the one on the southeast corner, which remains in existence today and is now another hamburger outlet.

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This 1910 photo from the Toronto Archives is a view of Queen Street looking west toward Spadina. On the southeast corner of Spadina and Queen is the building that remains in existence today, with its turret that complemented the one of the Mary Pickford Theatre. On the left-hand side of the photo is the south-facing facade of the theatre. On the southwest corner, where a bank is now located, was a coal-yard in 1910.

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The entrance of the Mary Pickford Theatre in the early months of 1910. The movie the “Heroine of Mafeking” was released on 11 December 1909. The entrance of today’s MacDonald’s is where the support pillar in the foreground is located. During the First World War, the theatre entertained the troops that were training in Toronto prior to being shipped overseas.

The theatre was owned by C. Rotenberg, and continued to operate throughout the 1930s, showing an eclectic mixture of films, from Hollywood movies to those from the Soviet Union. The third floor of the theatre housed the Leonard Athletic Centre, where local boxers like Sammy Luftspring trained. In the 1950s the theatre became the Variety Theatre and screened controversial films such as “Salt of the Earth,” which had been banned in the U.S. during the McCarthy witch hunt.

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The picture above shows Mary Pickford, the famous movie star, in front of the home where she was born in 1892, at 211 University Avenue. Sick Children’s Hospital is now on the site, and an historic plaque marks the location of he birthplace. Mary Pickford married Douglas Fairbanks in 1920. This photo was taken on 24 March 1924, and is from the Toronto Archives.

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                                                                                 Mary Pickford

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In the 1950s the theatre became a bargain emporium named “Bargain Benny’s” that was famous for its extravagant signs and wall paintings. This photo was taken in 1969, when the store was highly popular with downtown shoppers.

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In 1972 the previous site of the Mary Pickford Theatre and later the home of Bargain Benny’s, was demolished. This photo depicts the workmen removing the tower from the structure. The above tow photos are from the book, “Spadina Avenue,” by Rosemary Donegan.

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                                    Queen and Spadina after dark.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                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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