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Alllan Gardens (Toronto) and the Palm House

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The Palm House in Allan Gardens on July 7, 2018, a man on a motorized wheelchair approaching the structure. The camera is facing west, the buildings behind the Palm House located on Jarvis Street.

In July 2018, I visited Allan Gardens to photograph inside the greenhouses. Prior to entering the Palm House, while taking photos from the walkway that leads to the doors, I failed to notice a man on a motorized wheelchair approaching me. When I became aware of his presence, I said good morning. He smiled and enquired, “Are you a tourist?”

I replied, “I was born in Toronto but have not visited the park or the greenhouses for many years.”

Expressing surprise, he declared, “I can’t believe you’ve ignored such a great city attraction for such a long time.” I agreed. After a short conversation, as he prepared to maneuverer his wheelchair away from me, he declared, “I am 92 years old and intend to visit Allan Gardens several times a week until I am over 100 years of age.”

A very worthwhile goal, I thought.

Feb. 19, 2019.

          The Palm House in Allan Gardens on February 19, 2019.

I revisited Allan Garden and its greenhouses on a cold winter day In February of 2019 to experience it in a different season. On entering the Palm House, the first thing I noticed was that my eye-glasses immediately fogged-up. Despite it being a nuisance, the warm, moist air felt pleasant on my face. A few moments later, an employee informed me that it was 16 degrees Celsius inside the greenhouses, though it felt much warmer to me because it was so cold outside. The employee also informed me that the humidity was maintained by spraying the brick floors with a hose, a rather old-fashioned method, but quite effective. When the greenhouses were constructed, built-in humidifying systems were not yet available.

Toronto was in winter’s grip, but inside the greenhouses there were displays of colourful blooms of amaryllis and cyclamen, as well as groupings of tulips and miniature daffodils. I also noticed that compared to my visit in July, there were considerably more visitors. Viewing flowering plants and lush greenery is a greater attraction when the scenery outside is covered in snow. This is one of the reasons for the great success in March each year of Canada Blooms.

The greenhouses were also being employed as a pleasant environment for other activities. A woman was sitting on a bench in the Palm House to sketch, and another visitor on a bench was reading a book. There was also a school class of teenage schoolgirls who were recent immigrants to Canada. Their teacher seemed very proud to show-off the facilities and the wonderful displays.  

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   The Palm House, the camera facing west, on February 19, 2019.

Allan Gardens possesses a long and varied history. It was originally known as the Toronto Horticultural Garden, its name changed to Allan Gardens in 1901. This was to honour the man who donated the original five acres to the Toronto Horticultural Society. To discover more about the history of Allan Gardens, follow the link: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2019/02/16/historic-greenhouses-in-allan-gardens-toronto/ 

The main attraction of the greenhouses that exist in the park today is the Palm House. It is often employed for wedding ceremonies. Under its enormous dome, large palms and other tropical plants grow in profusion. Though the statue of Robert Burns, on the east side of the park was placed there in 1902, the Palm House is the oldest structure that exists in the park today. It opened in 1910, following a disastrous fire that demolished the previous pavilion in 1901. 

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Postcard printed in 1910 of Allan Gardens. The view gazes northeast toward Carlton Street; the pathway leads to the fountain (now demolished) in front of the Palm House. The Postcard is from the collection of the Toronto Public Library, pcr-2170. 

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The summer of 1913, the view gazing west toward the Palm House. Visible is the fountain designed by the same architects as the previous pavilion (constructed in 1879). Toronto Archives, S 0372, SS 0052, item 01101.

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View looking across the grounds of Allan Gardens, from the doorway of the Palm House, on August 1, 1914. The camera is pointed east toward Sherbourne Street. Photo from the Toronto Archives, S 0372, SS 0052, item 0371. 

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This diagram of the greenhouses is not to scale, but it shows the various structures within it.

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Inside the south greenhouse in 1914, view looking north from its south end. Toronto Archives, S0372, SS 0052, item 0259.

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Looking into the north greenhouse in January 1914. The stairs have since been replaced with a ramp to facilitate easier access for the handicapped. Toronto Archives, S 0372, SS 0052, item 0252.

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The south tropical greenhouse in January 1914. Toronto Archives, S 0372, SS 0052, item 0261.

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View of the Palm House in 1925, prior to greenhouses being built on its north and south facades. The front of the Palm House (east facade) has been altered since this photo was taken. The fountain is visible on the right-hand side of the photo, and the steeple of the Old St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, is visible in the background. Toronto Public Library, r-777(1)

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Adults and children in the early-1920s, posing for a photo while sitting on the stone wall that surrounds the fountain. In the background, the east (front) facade of the Palm House has two large pillars, on either side of a central entrance. Today, there are large windows where the pillars and centre entrance were located. Likely, the facade was altered in the late-1920s (see next photo).

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The Palm House during the winter of 1972. The pillars and the door in the centre position have been removed, replaced by doors on the north and south sides of the east facade. In the background can be seen the start of the many high-rise buildings that would be constructed on Jarvis Street in the decades ahead. Toronto Archives, F 0124, fl 0002, id 0135.

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The University of Toronto’s Botany Education Greenhouse at 6 Queen’s Park (northwest corner of College and University Avenue). Built in 1932, it  was dismantled and relocated to Allan Gardens in 2003. This was done to accommodate the construction of the University’s new pharmacy building, the Leslie Dan Building. Today, greenhouse is on the northwest section of the greenhouses in Allan  Gardens. It is employed for student programs. Photo from the Toronto Archives, F 1244, item 7374. 

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In this view, the greenhouses are visible, which in the 1920s, were added to the north and south facades of the Palm House. In this photo, taken in 2018, the buildings in the background on Jarvis Street are taller and more numerous than in the 1970s photo.

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    The greenhouse built on the north side of the Palm House in the 1920s. The Palm House can be seen on the left-hand side of the photo.

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(Left photo) Entrance to the Palm House on the north side of the structure. The classical design includes pilasters (three-sided faux columns) on either side of the door and large dentils in the cornice above the door

(Right photo) View from the doorway, looking into the Palm House.

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        Palms beneath the great glass dome of the Palm House.                              

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A wedding ceremony in progress beneath the glass dome of the Palm House.

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                            Serious photographers in the Palm House. 

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              Gazing skyward from beneath the dome of the Palm House.

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Entrance to the tropical greenhouse on the south side of the Palm House.

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Inner pathway in the tropical greenhouse located on the south side of the Palm House.

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Lush foliage and red shasta daisies beside the pathway in the greenhouse on the south of the Palm House.

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A child runs amid the foliage in the south tropical greenhouse in Allan Gardens in July, 2018. It is not difficult to imagine how the child views the scene—he is in a veritable endless jungle.

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Yellow/red tulips and pink/white cyclamen in bloom in February 2019, a waterfalls in the background. I have observed displays such as this during my travels in tropical countries, the tulips imported for the occasion.

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                            Winter displays of tulips and white amaryllis.

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Entrance to the greenhouse where plants grow that survive in an arid (desert) climate (northwest greenhouse)

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Golden Barrel Cactus in the Arid House. These plants were first discovered in Mexico.

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Entrance to the greenhouses that extends to the west, from the greenhouse on the south side of the Palm House.

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A wall of orchids displayed behind glass in the Tropical House, July 2018.

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Orchid wall in a glass enclosure where humidity and temperature are closely monitored.

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Shed and waterwheel in the southwest greenhouse, where turtles bask in the weak February sun shining through the glass roof.

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                                        Close-up view of the turtles.

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               Orchards in the south Tropical Greenhouse. 

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                         Blooms in the south greenhouse at Allan Gardens.

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A pond with koi (goldfish) and a statue of “Leda and the Swan,” the figures based on a legend from Greek mythology.

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                         View of the statue of “Leda and the Swan.”

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Statue of Robert Burns on the east side of Allan Gardens. Photo July 2018.

In July 1902, a life-sized statue of the Scottish poet Robert Burns was donated to the park by the Toronto Burns Monument Committee. It was cast by D. W. Stevenson of Edinburgh, Scotland.

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

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

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

              Books by the Author

               DSCN2207_thumb9_thumb2_thumb4_thumb_  

“ Lost Toronto”—employing detailed archival photographs, this recaptures the city’s lost theatres, sporting venues, bars, restaurants and shops. The richly illustrated book brings some of Toronto’s most remarkable buildings and much-loved venues back to life. From the loss of John Strachan’s Bishop’s Palace in 1890 to the scrapping of the S. S. Cayuga in 1960 and the closure of the HMV Superstore in 2017, these pages cover more than 150 years of the city’s built heritage to reveal a Toronto that once was.

 

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

Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories by the author and others who personally experienced these grand old movie houses. To place an order for this book, published by History Press:

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

Book also available in most book stores such as Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox and AGO Book Shop. (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2) and may also be purchased on Amazon.com.

 

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

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

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

 

 Toronto: Then and Now®

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

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

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

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

 

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Historic Greenhouses in Allan Gardens—Toronto

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            Allen Garden’s Palm House, Toronto (photo July 2018).

The greenhouses in Allan Gardens are among the city’s relatively unknown treasures. Hidden amidst the foliage of the park, numerous motorists in downtown Toronto speed past them daily as they navigate the busy streets that surround them, but few ever take the time for a visit. Allan Gardens is bounded by Jarvis Street on the west, Sherbourne on the east, Carlton on the north and Gerrard Street East on the south. Their official postal address 160 Gerrard Street East. The greenhouses are open to the public every day of the year and there is no admission charge.

On frosty winter days, the greenhouses provide a cozy oasis of lush growth and warm humid air that remind us of southern climes. In summer, the plants in the park outside the greenhouses pale in comparison to those growing indoors. Allan Gardens has an interesting history, as during the 19th century, before the present-day structures were built, there were pavilions containing greenhouses. 

The story of Allan Gardens is interwoven with the history of the Toronto Horticultural Society, founded in 1834, the year of Toronto’s birth as a city. Sir John Colborne, the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada (1828-1836), was the society’s benefactor. Colborne Lodge in High Park is named after him. The Society’s purpose was to introduce to the province improved species of plants, especially fruits and vegetables.

Also interwoven into the history of Allan Gardens is George William Allan, a prominent lawyer and politician who served as Toronto’s 11th mayor, from 1854 until 1856. In 1858, two years after his retirement from city council, he donated five-acres of land to the Horticultural Society. The Society gratefully accepted Mr. Allan’s generosity and the deed to the land changed hands on March 14, 1860. The newly created park, referred to as the Horticultural Gardens, was to become a botanical garden and a pleasant green space for strolling and picnics. 

To discover further information about the famous family of George William Allan and the building of their mansion named Moss Park, follow the link:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2016/11/08/moss-park-home-of-william-allan/ 

On September 11, 1860, the Prince of Wales, later to reign as King Edward VII, visited Toronto and officially opened the gardens. On the grounds, he planted an oak tree that grew to a prodigious size, for many decades providing pleasant shade from the heat of Toronto’s summer sun. Unfortunately, in 1938 the gigantic tree was struck by lightning, and the remaining sections were removed. On the same royal visit (in 1860), the wife of George William Allen also planted a tree, which for safety reasons was cut down in 1956.

Throughout the remaining decades of the 19th century, Allan Gardens was one of the most popular attractions in the city. To enlarge the park, the City of Toronto bought a parcel of land from Mr. Allan. It surrounded the property that he had originally donated. The funds for the purchase were derived from the city’s “Walks and Gardens” funds. The City then leased the newly acquired land to the Toronto Horticultural Society, for a nominal sum. A stipulation was written into the agreement that the grounds were to be publicly accessible and free of charge for everyone, in perpetuity.

In 1864, to attract more visitors, the Horticultural Society spent $6,000 on improving the park and constructing a pavilion with greenhouse space where plants could be grown indoors.

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The pavilion built in 1864, which was sometimes described as being “rustic.” Photo, Toronto Public Library T11684.

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An 1870s photo of the pavilion. Toronto Public Library, r-5551.

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View looking west along the walkway that led to the pavilion.

However, despite the pavilion being very popular with visitors, it was not well maintained. Also, its size had become inadequate for the requirements of the venue. In 1878, only fourteen years after it was built, it was demolished to enable the construction of another pavilion. To finance it, a loan of $20,000 was secured by the Society by offering the park’s grounds as security.

In the summer of 1879, the new Horticultural Pavilion opened. Designed by the Toronto architectural firm of Langley, Langley and Burke, its impressive dimensions were 75’ by 120’. It was constructed mainly of wood and iron, with many large glass surfaces to allow sunlight to enter the interior. Its design was inspired by the Crystal Palace built for the Great Exhibition of 1862, in London, England. Toronto’s pavilion was located a short distance west of the previous one, midway between Carlton and Gerrard Streets. A 45’ by 48’ conservatory was later added to its south side.

The stage of the pavilion’s auditorium accommodated as many as 200 performers. It was considered one of the premier facilities of its kind in Canada, competing with the St. Lawrence Hall on King Street East for the honour of being the cultural centre of the city. From the day the pavilion was inaugurated, it was in great demand for concerts, gala balls, conventions, public lectures and of course, flower shows. In 1882, Oscar Wilde lectured in the Pavilion Hall.

The architects that designed the second pavilion were also commissioned to erect a 25’ fountain, with a 45’-diameter stone basin. It was constructed on the same site as the former pavilion. The fountain no longer exists, and I have been unable to discover when it was dismantled. Photos reveal that it was still there in 1925. Today, there is a similar fountain in St. James Park on King Street East, though it is on a much smaller scale.

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(Left) The fountain in Allan Gardens and in the background the new pavilion that opened in 1879. Photo taken in 1880, Toronto Public Library, r-5572.

(Right) The small fountain in St. James Park on King Street East that resembles the one that was once in Allan Gardens. Photo taken in 2011.

In 1888, despite the popularity of the gardens, the Society was bankrupt. As a result, the City of Toronto assumed ownership of the property and its assets, paying off the $35,000 mortgage. The City now constructed a decorative fence around the park and replaced the gas lamps with those that were electrified. 

In 1894, the City allocated considerable funds to modernize the pavilion. A refreshment room was added and the old conservatory was replaced with a larger facility that was 90’ by 61’. Its architect was Robert McCallum, who served as the City Architect of Toronto from 1903 until his forced resignation in 1913. The structure was an ornately grand four-storey building, with fancy architectural trim and sweeping verandas. I believe that it was somewhat oriental in appearance.

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The west (rear) facade of the Pavilion that opened in 1879. Photo taken in 1896, City of Toronto Archives, S0376, Fl005, item 0075. 

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                        Interior of the pavilion that opened in 1879.

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The pavilion on June 6, 1895, the Rosary (rose garden) in the foreground. Toronto Archives, F1548, S0393, item 0253.

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Photo taken in 1896 of the east (front) facade of the pavilion. The fountain designed by Langley, Langley and Burke is visible in the foreground. Toronto Archives, F 1231, item 0557.

In 1901, the name of the park was changed to Allan Gardens, in honour of the man who had donated the land to originally create the park. Unfortunately, on June 6, 1902, a disastrous fire destroyed the Pavilion, along with sections of the new conservatory. Robert McCallum was again hired to design its replacement. After the fire, for the next few years the only sections of the pavilion that were open to the public were those that survived the flames.

It was eight years before a new pavilion appeared. Inaugurated in 1910, it contained an impressive collection of native and foreign specimens, including rare orchids and other exotic plants and palms. Reflecting popular tends of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th century, the gardens and pathways in the park were designed in a symmetrical manner. The sprawling greenhouse facility still exists in Allan Gardens today, its main building named the Palm House. The latter structure is classically proportioned, possessing an enormous dome.

During the 1920s, the greenhouses were expanded when two new display structures were added to the Palm House. They were attached to the north and south sides of it. In 1957, an additional greenhouse, possessing building extensions, was constructed, which expanded conservatory display space. The adjacent garden areas were also reconstructed.

In 2003, the University of Toronto’s former botany education facility greenhouse, built in 1932, was dismantled and relocated to Allan Gardens to accommodate the construction of the institution’s new pharmacy building.

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View of the Palm House that opened in 1910. Photo taken in February 1913. The greenhouses on either side of it had not yet been built. Toronto Archives, F 1231, item 0547.

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The Palm House in July 2018, the greenhouses built in the 1920s visible on either side of the structure.

Sources for this post on Allan Gardens:

https://www.toronto.ca/explore-enjoy/…gardens…/gardens…/allan-gardens-conservato…

blogTO, and information provided in the greenhouses in Allan Gardens.

To explore more information on the Palm House and other greenhouses in Allan Gardens, follow the link:

 https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2019/03/10/alllan-gardens-toronto-and-the-palm-house/

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

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

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

              Books by the Author

               DSCN2207_thumb9_thumb2_thumb4_thumb_  

“ Lost Toronto”—employing detailed archival photographs, this recaptures the city’s lost theatres, sporting venues, bars, restaurants and shops. The richly illustrated book brings some of Toronto’s most remarkable buildings and much-loved venues back to life. From the loss of John Strachan’s Bishop’s Palace in 1890 to the scrapping of the S. S. Cayuga in 1960 and the closure of the HMV Superstore in 2017, these pages cover more than 150 years of the city’s built heritage to reveal a Toronto that once was.

 

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

Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories by the author and others who personally experienced these grand old movie houses. To place an order for this book, published by History Press:

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

Book also available in most book stores such as Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox and AGO Book Shop. (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2) and may also be purchased on Amazon.com.

 

                  image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb

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

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

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

 

 Toronto: Then and Now®

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Toronto’s New City Hall—Past and Present

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                                Toronto’s New City Hall

Many cities throughout the world have landmark structures that are easily recognized, even when there are no captions or context that identify their location. A few prime examples are the Eiffel Tower, United Nations Building, Golden Gate Bridge, Coliseum, Taj Mahal, and Buckingham Palace. If photos of these buildings are displayed, there is no need to identify the city where they appear as they have been well known for decades and in some instances, for centuries.

Toronto possesses two such structures—the CN Tower and the New City Hall. When I was travelling across Europe and Asia in the late-1970s, in the windows of travel agencies, I sometimes saw photos of the New City Hall and the CN Tower. The images were being employed to promote Toronto as a tourist destination. Most people I talked to readily knew where these landmarks were located.

Toronto was not always as well known internationally as it is today. In the 1930s, the city remained a quiet and loyal part of the old British Empire. During the Second World War its economy expanded as it focussed on contributing to the war effort. After peace was declared in 1945, growth was stimulated exponentially by the pent up demand for housing, commercial buildings and entertainment. The post-war years were also when immigration increased immensely as thousands of people chose Toronto as their new home. The city’s growth continued unabated throughout the 1950s. At the end of the decade, development was further intensified by the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959. Ships were now able to bi-pass Montreal, which was at that time was Canada’s largest city. Thus, the 1960s became a period of extremely robust construction.

Unfortunately, because of the city’s rapid expansion during this decade, many of the city’s heritage buildings were demolished. Many low-rise structures in the downtown were destroyed and replaced with towering skyscrapers. It was as if City Council had embraced the motto: “out with the old, in with the new.” Most Torontonians embraced this viewpoint, feeling it was necessary if the city were to enter the modern era.

As a result, few objections were raised about the destruction of older buildings, including those that had survived for over a century. Many believed that these structures had little to contribute to the new urban scene. As well, the voices of those concerned about architectural preservation were mostly absent from the scene.

Unfortunately, some developers, aided by politicians, continue to favour this destructive attitude today, though I admit that things are improving.

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A prime example of the destruction this attitude caused is the demolition of the Board of Trade Building on the northeast corner of Front and Yonge Streets. Built in 1892, it was demolished in 1959 and remained a parking lot until another structure was erected on the site in 1982. The left-hand photo depicts the building constructed in 1982, and the right-hand photo the Board of Trade Building erected in 1892. Readers are invited to compare the two structures and judge accordingly. For more information about the Board of Trade Building: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2016/06/11/torontos-board-of-trade-building-demolished/

However, despite the damage created by city planners of the 1960s, it was during this decade that Toronto built a magnificent New City Hall. It began when City Council and Mayor Nathan Philips initiated a world-wide search for an architect. Five hundred and twenty submissions were received from forty-two countries, the winning design by a Finnish architect — Viljo Revell.

Its construction commenced on November 7, 1961, its architecture a dramatic break from the ultra-conservative styles of the past. For over a century, since its incorporation as a city in 1834, Toronto had produced some remarkable buildings, but few that ever created as much praise and condemnation as the New City Hall.

When architectural drawings of it were published in the newspapers, reviews were mixed. One reporter wrote that Revell was to be Mayor Philips’ Christopher Wren, who had designed St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Others declared that the design of the new council chamber resembled an ugly giant oyster, and expressed doubts that any pearls of wisdom would ever be expressed within it.

As construction costs continued to soar, many citizens felt that the entire project was fishy. After all, politicians at City Hall were well known to hook and gut taxpayers by wasting dollars on grand schemes. The unfamiliar futuristic design of the new civic building appeared to be proof of this suspicion. The council chamber in the New City Hall was also compared to a flying saucer. Some expressed the opinion that it might float upward into the skies above due to the political hot air that would be produced inside it by politicians.

However, as the edifice neared completion, people gazed in wonder at the oyster-like city hall chamber, nestled between the two majestic curving towers. Comparisons to fishy endeavours faded from the minds of most citizens, although some still questioned the $25 million building costs. The structure possessed many impressive features, the one that perhaps garnered the most attention being the pillar that supported the council chamber. It was twenty feet in diameter and extended down to the bedrock below. The two towers were not energy efficient by today’s standard, but they were impressive to behold. It was as if Toronto had architecturally finally entered the 20th century.

When the building was officially opened on September 13, 1965 by Governor General Georges Vanier, the weather was cloudy, but nothing dulled the enthusiasm of Torontonians. Fighter planes roared across the sky above the towers and fireworks crackled, sputtered and exploded in the air above it. Mayor Jean Drapeau of Montreal was heard to remark glumly that he doubted that his city would have ever have a building to match it.

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Construction site of the New City Hall in 1961, the oval shape of the two towers already evident. The view faces northwest, and in the background are the Toronto Armouries on University Avenue and the Registry Building, located on the west side of the New City Hall (both these buildings have since been demolished). Image is from the Toronto Public Library, a-r4-15

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Taken on June 22, 1964, the photo looks northeast from the space that became Nathan Phillips Square. In the foreground is the old Registry Building that is being demolished. To discover the history of this neo-classical structure, follow the link https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2016/03/11/torontos-old-registry-office-building/ . The above image is from the Toronto Archives, Fl268, it462.

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View of the New City Hall in 1964 as construction nears completion. City of Toronto Archives, F1025, fl 0001, id. 0135.

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The New City hall in the late-1960s. Toronto Archives F0124, fl0002, id 0002.

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Skaters on the ice in the reflecting pool in Nathan Philips Square, view gazing north. Photo January 15, 2019. 

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Summer in Nathan Philips Square, view looking north toward the twin towers of the New City Hall, the curved pillars in the foreground extending over the east side of the reflecting pool. Toronto Archives, F 0124, fl 0003, id 0092.

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Reflecting pool in Nathan Philips Square, the Canada Life Building in the background and the north facade of the Sheraton Centre Hotel on the upper left-hand corner of the photo.

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The 20-foot diameter column that supports the spaceship-like council chamber. The pillar rests on the bedrock below.

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City Hall Chambers where city council meets. Photo taken during Doors Open in 2012.

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      The mayor’s office in the New City Hall, photo taken in 2012.

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View from the roof of the Old City Hall, looking west toward the Canada Life Building on University Avenue.

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View from the roof of the New City Hall, gazing south over Nathan Philips Square. The large building facing north overlooking the square is the Sheraton Centre Hotel at 123 Queen St. West. Behind it is the CN Tower. On the right-hand (west) side of the square is the eastern part of Osgoode Hall. 

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View looking east on Queen Street West from the south side of Nathan Phillips Square. The food trucks have been a familiar part of the scene for decades. The tower of the Old City Hall is visible in the background. 

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              View from south side of Nathan Philips Square.

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View gazing north from Nathan Philips Square at the New City Hall in the summer of 2012. 

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

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

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

              Books by the Author

               DSCN2207_thumb9_thumb2_thumb4_thumb_[1]  

“ Lost Toronto”—employing detailed archival photographs, this recaptures the city’s lost theatres, sporting venues, bars, restaurants and shops. The richly illustrated book brings some of Toronto’s most remarkable buildings and much-loved venues back to life. From the loss of John Strachan’s Bishop’s Palace in 1890 to the scrapping of the S. S. Cayuga in 1960 and the closure of the HMV Superstore in 2017, these pages cover more than 150 years of the city’s built heritage to reveal a Toronto that once was.

 

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

Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories by the author and others who personally experienced these grand old movie houses. To place an order for this book, published by History Press:

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

Book also available in most book stores such as Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox and AGO Book Shop. (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2) and may also be purchased on Amazon.com.

 

                  image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[1]

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

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

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

 

 Toronto: Then and Now®

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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King Street West Toronto—a destination

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When the King Street Pilot Project began in November 2017, it was hoped that it would serve several purposes. To achieve these goals, left-hand turns of vehicles were restricted, allowing streetcars the preferential right of way in order to reduce transit times for TTC riders. It worked! Ridership increased. Also, by restricting cars, more space was opened for outdoor cafes and pedestrians. It was intended that the improved landscaping, cafes, and open spaces would make King Street a destination in its own right.I strolled along King Street on Saturday, September 28, 2018. Although there remains controversy about the project, I believe that the hopes for the street have been fulfilled. It is indeed a destination worth visiting. On September 28th, the afternoon was cool, the high temperature of the day being only 15 degrees. However, it was sunny with clear blue skies. Although some of those who visited King Street found it too cool to sit out, many people seemed not to be bothered by the low temperatures. They relaxed in the cafes and patio chairs in the pale autumn sun. The street appeared magnificent as the flowers, shrubs and trees had grown considerably over the summer months. It made me realize how much greener the street might appear if the landscaping were permanent and more trees were planted.Below are a few pictures of the street on September 28, 2018. They were taken on a Saturday afternoon when the street was not particularly busy.image

Gazing west on King Street from Brant Street. The chairs and tables have been removed for the season from Cibo Restaurant’s patio. However, the red geraniums still create a pleasing ambience for those who stroll along the avenue.DSCN3421

Despite the cool air, it was pleasant to sit in a muskoka chairs to read, text, check emails, or simply observe the passing scene.image

     The view looks east toward Spadina Avenue from near Brant Street.DSCN3429

A restaurant and its cafe on the south side of King Street, across from the Bell Lightbox. A streetcar is reflected in the window of the eatery. The streetcars add animation and colour to the street and people do not seem to be bothered by sitting so close to them.DSCN3427

People relax by the greenery positioned near the sidewalk as a streetcar glides past. Photo taken at King and Peter Streets.image

King and John Streets, a great corner to observe the passing scene. In the background is the Bell Lightbox.image

People enjoying the sunshine in chairs on the south side of King Street, across from the Royal Alexandra Theatre. The smaller trees were placed as part of the King Street Pilot Project and are labelled as being part of a growing “urban forest.”To compare these photos with those taken in the street during early-summer of 2018, click on the links below:https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2018/07/04/impressions-of-the-king-st-pilot-project/https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2018/07/14/torontos-king-street-pilot-project-part-two/To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/For more information about the topics explored on this blog:https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2016/03/02/tayloronhistory-comcheck-it-out/              Books by the Author               DSCN2207_thumb9_thumb2_thumb4_thumb_   “ Lost Toronto”—employing detailed archival photographs, this recaptures the city’s lost theatres, sporting venues, bars, restaurants and shops. This richly illustrated book brings some of Toronto’s most remarkable buildings and much-loved venues back to life. From the loss of John Strachan’s Bishop’s Palace in 1890 to the scrapping of the S. S. Cayuga in 1960 and the closure of the HMV Superstore in 2017, these pages cover more than 150 years of the city’s built heritage to reveal a Toronto that once was.                         cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[1]Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories by the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses. To place an order for this book, published by History Press: https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .Book also available in most book stores such as Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox and AGO Book Shop. (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)                  image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[1]“Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again” explores 81 theatres. It contains over 125 archival photographs, with interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating histories. Note: an article on this book was published in Toronto Life Magazine, October 2016 issue. For a link to the article published by Toronto Life Magazine: torontolife.com/…/photos-old-cinemas-dougtaylortoronto-local-movie-theatres-of-y…The book is available at local book stores throughout Toronto or for a link to order this book: https://www.dundurn.com/books/Torontos-Local-Movie-Theatres-Yesteryear  Toronto: Then and Now®

“Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. It contains archival and modern photos that allow readers to compare scenes and discover how they have changed over the decades. Note: a review of this book was published in Spacing Magazine, October 2016. For a link to this review:spacing.ca/toronto/2016/09/02/reading-list-toronto-then-and-now/For further information on ordering this book, follow the link to Amazon.com  here  or contact the publisher directly by the link below: http://www.ipgbook.com/toronto–then-and-now—products-9781910904077.php?page_id=21

 

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TIFF 2018 – Festival Street (King St. West)

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The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is one the city’s most highly anticipated events. During the first 4 days of the 10-day festival, a section of King Street West (between Peter St. and University Avenue) was cordoned off to create Festival Street. The avenue became alive with the sounds, colour and action generated by one of the largest and most important film festivals in the world. Founded in 1976, it has grown exponentially, each year adding more features and events to enchant movie-goers and the general public. This year, held September 6th to the 16th, the festival is the most exciting I have ever experienced.

I will not explore the history of the festival, as a post I wrote in 2014 covered this topic. For a link to this post:  https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/01/19/torontos-architectural-gemsthe-bell-lightbox-tiff/

This year’s Festival Street became a food fair as outdoor cafes were more numerous and more expansive. As well, there were many food trucks serving ethnic and gourmet menus. People seemed to be enjoying the culinary treats as much as wandering King Street, many of them hoping to spot a movie star. It was a constant delight, as many companies offered complimentary samples of their products.  Another change was that the north/south streets of Peter and John were more utilized than in previous years.

For those who were unable to visit the Festival Street on King Street West, or for those who wish to relive a few memories of their visit, this post features photos taken on the night of Friday, September 7th and during the daylight hours of Saturday September 8th. 

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The Bell Lightbox at the corner of John and King Streets. Throngs crowd the entranceway where the stars enter to walk the red carpet.

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Sidewalk cafes on the south side of King Street, opposite the Bell Lightbox.

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Looking south on John Street from King Street West. A stage is visible in the distance, near Wellington Street.

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The Air France Bistro on King near Simcoe Street, where many people enjoyed being photographed beside the miniature Eiffel Tower.

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     A couple pose in front of the miniature replica of the Eiffel Tower

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Crowds in front of the Princess of Wales Theatre awaiting the appearance of the stars.

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The Royal Alexandra Theatre where the popular musical “Come From Away” is playing. The chairs and the trees in the foreground are part of the King Street Project.

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The Roy Thomson Hall at King and Simcoe where films are featured during TIFF.

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                Entrance to the Roy Thomson Hall on Simcoe Street.

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King Street between Simcoe and University Avenue where many food trucks were located.

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Food trucks on King Street, west of University, the truck in the foreground operated by Arepa, featuring Venezuelan food. Arepa’s restaurant is at 490 Queen Street West.

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A TIFF volunteer continuously assisted people to have their photos taken in front of the TIFF sign, located at the west-end of the section of King Street that formed the Festival Village. 

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Outdoor cafes on King Street, west of John Street. The cafes that are part of the King Street Project were extended further into the street.

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Cafes on the south side of King Street, opposite the Bell Lightbox, located on the north side.

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                               Cafes opposite the Bell Lightbox.

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A display created by La Fenici Italian Restaurant where people were able to take photos or selfies to create memories of TIFF 2018. Located at 319 King Street, La Fenice is my favourite restaurant on the King Street strip. It is credited with serving the most authentic Italian food in Toronto. I first discovered it many years ago during Summerlicious and still enjoy dining there.

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The south and west facades of the Bell Lightbox, the view from the corner of Widmer and King Streets.

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    View of the cafes opposite the south facade of the Bell Lightbox.

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      The Princess of Wales Theatre decorated in blue for 2018 TIFF.

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Crowds awaiting the appearance of movie stars outside the Princess of Wales Theatre.           

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              A colourful display created by Lyft for the 2018 TIFF.

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Historic St. Andrews Church at King and Simcoe Streets. In the foreground is a Toronto information tent.

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In the background of this photo is the Union Building, constructed in 1908 as the head office of the Canadian General Electric Company, a manufacturer of various electrical products and appliances.

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On John Street, a short distance south of King, “No Frills” Grocery chain held a movie trivia quiz that attracted many people.

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       A chess game being played near the Royal Alexandra Theatre

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A table tennis (ping pong) game on John Street, the Bell Lightbox in the background.

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Second Cup serves complimentary samples of coffee at the corner of John and King Streets.

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TIFF 2018 was great, and the outdoor activities on King Street were better than ever.

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

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

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

              Books by the Author

               DSCN2207_thumb9_thumb2_thumb4_thumb_  

“ Lost Toronto”—employing detailed archival photographs, this recaptures the city’s lost theatres, sporting venues, bars, restaurants and shops. This richly illustrated book brings some of Toronto’s most remarkable buildings and much-loved venues back to life. From the loss of John Strachan’s Bishop’s Palace in 1890 to the scrapping of the S. S. Cayuga in 1960 and the closure of the HMV Superstore in 2017, these pages cover more than 150 years of the city’s built heritage to reveal a Toronto that once was.

 

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

Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories by the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses. To place an order for this book, published by History Press:

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

Book also available in most book stores such as Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox and AGO Book Shop. (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

 

                  image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[2]

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

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

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

 

 Toronto: Then and Now®

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tags: , , ,

The Story of Gibson House—North York, Toronto

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         Gibson House in North York, Toronto, at 5172 Yonge Street.

Gibson House, the home of David and Eliza Gibson, recreates life in a 19th century farm house, an era from our past that contrasts with our busy modern world. The early decades that this house represents may appear quiet and less-hurried when compared to today, but visitors soon learn that this is a mere illusion. It was an age that lacked modern technology, meaning that life was harsh and labour intensive. Despite this, many tasks performed by the Gibson family remain familiar to us today, while others are thankfully remote.

The story of the original inhabitant of the house is fascinating, as they witnessed and participated in some of the most turbulent events in the history of our province. David Gibson was born in 1804 in the parish of Glamis, Forfarshire (Angus), Scotland. His father, a tenant farmer, apprenticed him at 15 years of age to a land surveyor in Forfarshire. When David’s apprenticeship ended in 1824, he immigrated to North America. His uncle, Alexander Milne, who lived in Markham Township, Upper Canada (Ontario), encouraged him in this venture by informing him that it was relatively easy to qualify as a surveyor in the province as surveyors were in great demand.

David sailed for North America in the spring of 1825 and arrived in Montreal. Although he found employment there, a permanent position in his area of expertise eluded him. Finally, even though a well-paid position as a grocery merchant was offered to him, he departed Montreal and journeyed to his uncle’s farm in Upper Canada. Upon his arrival in the province, he was still unable to immediately secure the employment that he desired.

However, upon passing the provincial examination for surveyors in December 1825, he was appointed deputy-surveyor of roads and in September 1828, surveyor of highways for the southern part of the Home District. In a mere three years, he was well established and was busy mapping the roads and avenues of early-day York (Toronto).

In 1828, Gibson married his cousin, Eliza Milne, and the following year they bought a farm lot on north Yonge Street, nine miles north of the town of York. Located in an area that is today named Willowdale, they built a wood-frame house. Under David’s guidance, the property became an active and progressive farm.

However, despite his busy life as a farmer and surveyor, David Gibson set aside time to become involved in public affairs. In 1831 he was elected president of the York Temperance Society. It was during these years that he saw first-hand the inequalities of the political system in Upper Canada and became an avid Reformer. His views led him to a political association with William Lyon Mackenzie.

In 1834 and 1836 Gibson was elected to the assembly for the First Riding of York, where he became known as a reasonable but forceful supporter of reform. It is thought that because of his commitment to the reform movement, the newly-incorporated City of Toronto City Council gave him contacts surveying streets and sidewalks. However, despite his many activities, he continued to farm and prosper. He won several prizes from the Home District Agricultural Society, and successfully sold livestock at ever-increasing prices.

In December of 1837, Mackenzie began advocating for open rebellion against the government. Gibson learned of the plans only two days before events were to begin and was not fully aware of Mackenzie’s intentions. When he finally met with Mackenzie, the rebel leader demanded that Gibson choose sides. Gibson was hesitant. However, he eventually agreed, even though he believed that rebellion was wrong. He reasoned that such an extreme measure might force the government to institute reforms that were badly needed.

On a cold December morning, though he harboured doubts about the course of action, Gibson was present at Montgomery’s Tavern where Mackenzie and the rebels had gathered. Unfortunately, the tavern was raided by government forces lead by James Fitzgibbon and Allan McNab. During the skirmish, Gibson protected the loyalist prisoners held inside Montgomery Tavern from mistreatment, and eventually led them to safety. At this point, Gibson left the rebels and did not join in the march down Yonge Street.

The loyalist prisoners were grateful for their freedom and spoke on Gibson’s behalf. Despite this, Lieutenant Governor Sir Francis Bond Head ordered the militia to torch the house on Gibson’s farm. While it was in flames, after ensuring that her children were safe, Eliza Gibson ran into the burning building to retrieve the clock-face and mechanical workings from their treasured wooden long-case (grandfather) clock. In her skirt, she carried out of the house the valuable parts of the clock.

As there was a warrant for his arrest, Gibson hid near Oshawa for a month, and then, escaped across Lake Ontario to Lockport, New York. While in the United States, he avoided any contact with Mackenzie, who had referred to him in an article as a coward, because Gibson had left the rebels after the fighting at Montgomery’s Tavern. Gibson finally secured employment in Lockport as an engineer on the Erie Canal and sent for his family to join him. He prospered and soon was able to purchase a farm.

Although he was pardoned in 1843 by the government of Canada West (Upper Canada) on the charge of treason, he remained in the United States and in 1846 applied for citizenship. In 1848, however, he lost his employment contract on the Erie Canal. As a result, after 11 years in exile, he decided to return to his farm in Canada West (today named Ontario).

While Gibson was in the United States, his Yonge Street property had been tended to by relatives. Repossessing the farm, he was determined to re-build and also resume his profession as surveyor. He hired a farmhand to assist him when he was away surveying. Interestingly, the clock works that Eliza had rescued from the flames in 1837, had been placed in a new case after Eliza, David, and their children re-united in Lockport, New York.  When the Gibson family returned to the farm in 1848, the long-case clock was brought with them.

In 1851, the Gibson family built an impressive Georgian Revival farmhouse at 5172 Yonge Street. A narrow dirt lane led from the farmhouse to Yonge Street. A few years after the house was built, an addition was erected to provide accommodation for the labourer who worked on the farm. It was a separate second-level structure attached to the west side of the house, with a separate staircase and entrance that connected it to the kitchen. The worker used the separate entrance to enter or depart the house, and only visited the parlour and living space if he were invited by the family.

In 1855, Gibson opened a post office just north of his farm. In that decade, there were about 150 people living in the community, which was known as Kummer’s (or Cummer’s) settlement. David Gibson suggested that the name be changed to Willowdale, because of the numerous willow trees in the area.

The house was home to David and Eliza and their four sons and three daughters. After David and Eliza passed away, their son Peter Silas Gibson and his family lived it until 1916. Then, the house was occupied by a series of different owners and tenants. To rescue it from demolition, the Township of North York purchased the property in 1965.

Gibson House was restored and opened as a heritage museum on June 6, 1971. Today, it operates as a functioning household by interpreting 19th-century domestic skills involving cooking, sewing, gardening and farming. Visitors are able to tour this historic Georgian-style farmhouse and museum is at 5172 Yonge Street. The clock rescued by Eliza can still be seen in a prominent position in the house.

Sources:

I am indebted to the tour guide who showed me the rooms within Gibson House and the informative signs posted in the hallways to help visitors understand 19th-century life

Internet sources:

www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/toronto-feature-gibson-house/

www.torific.ca/gibson-house-reminder-of-early-settlements-and-rural-history-in-north

www.biographi.ca/en/bio/gibson_david_9E.html

58. gate and lane to G H in 1913.   nyhs00633[1]

Entrance in 1913 from Yonge Street to Gibson House, which in that year contained the offices of Peter S. Gibson. The view gazes west, with the house partially obscured by the trees. Toronto Public Library, Call number NYHS00633.

61, south on Yonge from north of Park Ave, 1914.   near  nyhs00010[1]

View looking south on Yonge Street from Park Home Avenue in 1914. The rural qualities of the community are clearly evident. This is the view a person would have seen in 1914 after exiting the laneway from the Gibson House and turning southward toward the city. City of Toronto Archives, Call number NYHS00010.

60.  1957.  pictures-r-6389[2]

View looking west at the land between Yonge Street and the Gibson House. The photo is dated 1957, but I suspect it was taken much earlier as the porch is missing from the front of the house. In the next photo, dated the same year, the porch has been restored. Toronto Public Library, Call number SI-4167. 

55. c. 1967  f0217_s0249_fl0090_it0001[1]

East and north facades of Gibson House. The photo is dated 1957, but as the house appears restored, the date of the photo is suspect. Toronto Archives, f 0217, S 0249, fl 1009, item 0001.

59.  c. 1970  tspa_0107065f[2]

Controller Mel Lastman in front of Gibson House in 1970, when the house was overshadowed by a 17-story apartment building on its north side. Toronto Public Library, tspa 01007065f.

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The front of Gibson House in June 2018. Georgian Revival in style, it has a symmetrical facade, with nine windows, and a Greek portico.

                               4.

The Greek-style portico and the door with its side-light windows and fan-shaped transom window above, which add elegance to the entranceway.

11.

The kitchen of Gibson House with its large open fireplace and work table. This is where meals were prepared for family members, the domestic servant, and the farm worker.

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    The fireplace with various 19th-century utensils required for cooking.

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       A cozy table set for tea beside the fireplace in the dining room.

46.

       Tables set in the dining room for a Mothers’ Day tea in June 2018.

                          48.

The clock that contains the face and workings that Eliza rescued from the fire in 1837. The wooden case for the clock was acquired while the family lived in Lockport, New York. The clock was carried across the border when the Gibsons returned to Canada West (Upper Canada, now Ontario) in 1848. 

                          16.

Staircase leading from the ground-floor level to the second storey of the Gibson House. Photo June 2018. The charming young woman in the photo provided an interesting and insightful tour of the home.

                       23.

View from the top of the staircase, the sewing room on the second-floor level directly ahead.

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The boys’ room where James, William, Peter, and George slept, two in a bed. 

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In the girls’ bedrooms, the front room was where Elizabeth (Libby) slept. She had a writing desk beside the window where perhaps a few love letters were penned. The room behind hers was for her sisters, Margaret and Hellen. Two years after moving into the house, in 1853, Elizabeth married and departed her parents’ home.

25.

The bedroom of David and Eliza, containing the best furnishings in the house. On the far wall is a “dumb stove,” a circular device in a stovepipe that radiates heat from the parlour stove downstairs.

26.

As the heat rises through the stovepipe and reaches  the “dumb stove,” it spreads out and heats the room more efficiently. Clothes placed near the dumb stove are kept warm for the morning. 

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           The bed of David and Eliza in the master bedroom.

30.

The sewing room was where clothes were made for the family and where all mending and stitching was performed. In 1851, the hired girl who assisted Eliza with these chores, was 20-year-old Catherine Flynn, an Irish immigrant. Domestic work was not highly valued in this century and Catherine was likely paid about half the wages of the farm worker. However, her room and board were included. She slept in the sewing room.  

   35.

The guest bedroom, a well-furnished room that was designed to impress visitors. Due to the difficulty of travelling any distance after sunset, guests who arrived for dinner often stayed the night.

38.

The room of John Bosa, the young Englishman who was the farm worker that performed most of the labour on the farm while David Gibson was away surveying. The room was his bedroom, sitting room, and bathroom as it contained a chamber pot under the bed. He ate in the kitchen and entered his room via the back staircase. He did not enter the parlour or living space of the family unless invited. However, because he had a cozy room within the house, he was likely viewed as a valued member of the household.

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John Bosa likely sat in his room many an evening after a hard-day’s labour on the farm, soaking his tired feet.

                   40.

The office of David Gibson, where he worked on the maps and documents related to his employment as a surveyor. The drafting table is beside the window to take advantage of the available daylight. 

                 49.

A person can only speculate how many times a member of the Gibson family peered out this window at the farmland and orchard on the property.

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

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

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

              Books by the Author

               DSCN2207_thumb9_thumb2_thumb4_thumb_  

“ Lost Toronto”—employing detailed archival photographs, this recaptures the city’s lost theatres, sporting venues, bars, restaurants and shops. This richly illustrated book brings some of Toronto’s most remarkable buildings and much-loved venues back to life. From the loss of John Strachan’s Bishop’s Palace in 1890 to the scrapping of the S. S. Cayuga in 1960 and the closure of the HMV Superstore in 2017, these pages cover more than 150 years of the city’s built heritage to reveal a Toronto that once was.

 

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Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories by the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses. To place an order for this book, published by History Press:

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

Book also available in most book stores such as Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox and AGO Book Shop. (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

 

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

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

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

 

 Toronto: Then and Now®

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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The historic Noble Block—Queen Street West

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The Noble Block is a commercial row of red-brick buildings, visible from the busy intersection of Queen and Spadina. Located on the north side of Queen Street, they appear in the distance, in the centre of the photo. The camera faces east from the southwest corner of Spadina and Queen Streets.

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The Noble Block consists of a row of seven red-brick buildings that extend from 342 to 354 Queen Street West. The two buildings to the west of them (left-hand side in photo), numbers #356 and #358, are not part of the Noble Block, but architecturally complement it.

Today, walking along some sections of Queen Street West, a person is able visualize Toronto as it appeared in the 19th-century. Unfortunately, most visitors do not see the historical aspects of the buildings as they rarely gaze above the first-floor level, where the shops windows are located. However, the upper floors contain some of the best preserved Victorian commercial architecture in the city.      

The row of buildings, known as the Noble Block, are located on land that in the 1790s was part of the 100-acre Park Lot #15, granted to William Wilcox by Lieutenant Governor Simcoe. The Park Lot extended from Spadina to Huron Street. To the east of it was Park Lot 14, owned by Peter Russell.

After John Graves Simcoe departed from Upper Canada (Ontario) in 1795, Peter Russell was the highest ranking official of both the Executive and Legislative Councils. He was appointed Administrator of Upper Canada in 1796 and remained in this position until 1799 when Peter Hunter arrived as the new Lieutenant Governor. Peter Street is named after Peter Russell, as is Russell Hill Road, Russell Street and Russell Hill Avenue.

In 1802, Peter Russell purchased Park Lot 15 where the Noble Block is located, and soon thereafter, began sub-dividing the land on its south side, along Queen Street. The small parcels of land were suitable in size for family homes, which began to appear c. 1805. The row houses became known as the Petersfield Row, the name derived from the country farmhouse of Peter Russell, which had been erected c.1799. It was located a short distance east of Spadina, set back from the north side of Queen Street. Today, the site is where Soho Street intersects with Phoebe Street.

During most of the 19th century, the Petersfield Row continued to occupy this section of the street. They extended from Spadina Avenue, east to Soho Street. However, the row houses were eventually doomed due to the city’s constant growth, as it was the government and financial centre of the province.

By the latter decades of the 19th century, land prices along Queen Street were increasing rapidly, and the building lots to the north and south of Queen Street were becoming fully occupied. This created a demand for more shops and residential properties along busy Queen Street, as it was the commercial centre of the community.

As there were no empty lots, the alternative was to raze the low-rise structures and replace them with higher buildings that extended further back from the street. This is why there are numerous tall, narrow buildings along this section of Queen Street. In the late-1880s, the working-class houses of Petersfield Row were demolished to allow the taller structures to be erected.

In 1888, seven three-storey buildings were constructed, numbers 342 to 354 Queen Street West. Three-storeys were deemed a practical height in a decade without elevators. Each building was a separate entity, but they were architecturally similar in style, complementing each other. They were named the Noble Block after Mrs. Emma Noble, a widow, who owned the land on which seven of the buildings were located. The funds for their construction were from money she had inherited from her father, William Noble, a retired farmer.

The new buildings were a commercial block, with shops on the first-floor level and residential apartments or offices above them. James Smith and William Gimmell were the architects. They designed many churches and wealthy homes throughout Toronto and the province, most of which have since been demolished. Thankfully, the Noble Block has survived.

Another widow, Mrs. Mary Ann Harvard, owned the two properties to the immediate west of the Noble Block (#356-358 Queen Street). She intended to invest with Mrs. Noble and add two more buildings to the block. However, for some unknown reason she decided to opt out of the plan. She sold the land and the new owner declined to participate in the scheme. Thus, the two buildings to the west of the Noble Block were not constructed until several years later and are not part of it.

When the two latter buildings (#356-358 Queen Street) were finally erected, though the colour of the bricks was not the same as the Noble Block, their ornate brickwork complemented the earlier structures. Today, these two shops are combined into a single store, with the postal address #356. Despite the passage of the years, the row of three-storey buildings remain an important part of Queen Street West. 

In the Noble Block, five of the red-brick buildings, numbered 346 to 354, have an overall unified symmetrical facade. Above them is a parapet that includes a raised section that denotes the year they were built—AD 1888. The two most easterly of the block, numbers #342 and #344, are not a part of the overall symmetrical design of numbers #346-#354. However, the facades of #342 and #344 are also individually symmetrical. They differ from the other structures in the block as they contain larger arched windows on the second floor.

In truth, all the windows in the buildings are wide and spacious, well suited to an era without electric lighting. Some windows contain coloured glass in the top sections, many with blue glass and a few with green. Their designs and patterns add greatly to the overall attractiveness of the buildings. The windows are surrounded by hand-tooled wood trim for ornamentation. As mentioned previously, unless a person is walking on the south side of the street, the fine detailing of these historic buildings is not easily seen. Most of those who pass by only view the ground-floor, where the shop windows are located.

Over the many decades since they were built, most of the store fronts, on the ground floor level, have been severely altered and modernized. Number #350 (the shop containing Fraiche) is perhaps the least changed. High in the cornices at the top of the building are dentils, and on the facades there are oriel windows, corbelled brickwork, and other interesting designs. There are so many shapes and patterns in this row of buildings that each time a person examines the structures, often, further details are noted.

Listed below are the merchants who were the first occupants of ground-floor shops of the 1888 Noble Block, and the two buildings to the west of the block. The shops reflect the needs of a local community that preferred to shop by walking to the nearest store, rather than hop on a streetcar or drive. From west to east the shops are:

Building to the west of the Noble Block

#358, Albert Harvard, drugs  –  #356, Mr. N. Olives, fruits – (Source, Toronto Directories)

Noble Block

#354, Fawcett and Peterman, tailors  –  #352, Pearson and Company, hats  – #350, John W. Clark, barber  – #348, Archibald Loughrey, cigars  – #346, Toronto Musical Instrument Company –  #344-342, Fleming and Company, furniture  (Source, Toronto Directory of 1888.)

                   Queen, east of Spadina, "Noble Block" – May 17, 1971

The Noble Block in 1971, appearing much the same as it is today, only the cars betraying that the photo is almost half-a-century old. However, on close inspection, there is one difference. There is a piece of masonry that juts from the top of the structures, above the parapet, containing the words “Noble Block,” and a pediment above it. It has since disappeared. Likely it was removed as it was in danger of falling to the street below. Toronto Archives, Font 1526, f 10070, item 0052. 

View of Queen Street West, looking east at Spadina Avenue – September 27, 1981

View looking east from Queen and Spadina in September 1981. The Noble Block is on the north (left-hand) side of the street. The tower of the Old City Hall is visible in the distance. Mature shade trees flank both sides of the street. Most of these trees no longer exist. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, F 0076, item 0024.

View of Queen Street West at Soho Street – June 7, 1981

Gazing west on Queen Street West in 1981, the Noble Block mostly hidden by trees. Sadly, most of the greenery has not survived into the present. Photos like this truly remind us of the damage to the environment by pollution. As the trees died, the City replaced them, but the new trees are small and are not doing well. In 1981, the masonry above the parapet at the top of the building still has the part where the words “Noble Block” was located. Toronto Archives, Fond 1526, F 10076, Item 0022.

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View looks west along Queen Street at the buildings in July 2018. There are no longer many trees to shelter those who stroll along the street from the heat of the summer sun. The top part that denoted the name of the block is no longer on the structure.

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These five buildings in the centre of the block (#346-#354) have an overall symmetrical design. Though only three storeys in height, they appear taller as the ceilings on each floor are high and there is a parapet (false wall) at the top. 

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The parapet (false wall) at the top of the centre buildings of the Noble Block, denoting the year they were built. It was above this, that the section once stood that contained the words “Noble Block.”

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The two buildings, #356 and 358 Queen St. now have a single postal address, number #356.  This is because they are combined into a single shop on the ground-floor level. These are the two structures that were erected after Emma Noble had completed the Noble Block in 1888.

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The brickwork on #356 on the top two floors is quite intricate, and the cornice at the top is massive in appearance. There is a flag pole that has not been used in many years. When these buildings were erected, flying the Union Jack was a regular occurrence.

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The two buildings on the east side of the block do not match the symmetry of the five structures to the west of them, but their designs are also symmetrical.

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A bay window in the Noble Block, generously framed with wood. At the top of the window, there is blue coloured–glass.

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The shop at #350 Queen Street, Fraiche, has the only first-floor facade that has survived into the 21st-century. It still has the stained-glass panes above the window and door. The blue door (behind the opened white door) gives access to the apartments on the second and third floors. Photo July 2018.

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The reflection of the Noble Block appears in the glass facades of the buildings on the south side of Queen Street. The building in the background is the District Lofts on Richmond Street West.

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The commercial row, which for over a century, has overlooked Queen Street West.

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

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

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

              Books by the Author

               DSCN2207_thumb9_thumb2_thumb4_thumb_  

“ Lost Toronto”—employing detailed archival photographs, this recaptures the city’s lost theatres, sporting venues, bars, restaurants and shops. This richly illustrated book brings some of Toronto’s most remarkable buildings and much-loved venues back to life. From the loss of John Strachan’s Bishop’s Palace in 1890 to the scrapping of the S. S. Cayuga in 1960 and the closure of the HMV Superstore in 2017, these pages cover more than 150 years of the city’s built heritage to reveal a Toronto that once was.

 

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

Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories by the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses. To place an order for this book, published by History Press:

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

Book also available in most book stores such as Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox and AGO Book Shop. (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

 

                  image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb

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

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

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

 

 Toronto: Then and Now®

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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