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Paradise Regained –the restoration of the Paradise Theatre

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                      Paradise Theatre c. 1946. Ontario Archives

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Borrowing titles from the 17th-century poet John Milton, “Paradise Lost,” is a more frequent occurrence than “Paradise Regained.” However, in Toronto this week (December 1-7, 2019) Paradise was indeed regained when the Paradise Theatre on Bloor Street West reopened after 13 years of sitting empty and neglected. The photo on the left depicts the theatre’s auditorium in the 1940s.

Thanks to the effort of  Moray Tawse, this grand old theatre from the era of the Golden Age of movies houses, has been carefully restored. Mr. Tawse purchased the derelict building in 2013, and despite many setbacks and numerous seemingly insurmountable difficulties, the movie house officially reopened this week. In earlier decades, it had been operated exclusively for screening films, but it is now a multi-purpose cultural centre.

In its new life it has an Italian restaurant on the first floor and a balcony where the seats fold back to create a space that is able to accommodate different types of events. The seating capacity of the auditorium has been reduced from over 600 to 183 plush leather seats, in an auditorium that has the most up-to-date theatre technology.

The newly reopened Paradise provides an opportunity to watch a film on a large screen, a unique experience that cannot be duplicated by smaller formats in the privacy of your home. On a large screen, the action is viewed by everyone at the same moment, meaning that  all who are present share the tears and pain as well as the joys and laughter along with the actors on the screen and also with those seated around them. Similarly, a comedy film is much funnier when viewed in a theatre with many people, as opposed to when the theatre is nearly empty?

It is the human connection, the interaction with others, made possible by the large screen, that enables this unique experience to occur. It is something that is rare today, as social media has reduced our connection to others to the size of the small screens on IPhones and IPads.

Treat yourself. Indulge in a shared experience that leaves you with a memory that will last a life time. Those of us who grew up with the large silver screens remember forever the time they watched films such as “Gone with the Wind” or “Quo Vadis” at our local theatres or downtown movie palaces. Are you of an age to remember the Saturday afternoon matinees and how you yelled and screamed with the other kids to encourage the cowboys with the white hats and booed at those with the black hats? Films watched on small screens are easily forgotten. It is the shared moment in life, whether with family, lover, pets or watching a film, that last forever (end of the commercial part of this post).  

For those who are interested in the history of the Paradise Theatre, I have republished information that I provided in a post on my blog on January 12, 2014.   However, there are new photos included from the Ontario Archives that were not in that post so they have not previously appeared on the internet. 

Paradise, OA 2305

During the summer of 2014, in my quest to locate and photograph Toronto’s old local theatres, none of the discoveries surprised and pleased me more than the sight of the Paradise Theatre. Located at 1008 Bloor Street West, it is on the northwest corner of Bloor and Westmoreland Avenue. However, I must admit that my pleasure slowly became tinged with a hint of sadness, as its impressive marquee was blank, devoid of the names of films, and the spaces where posters had once advertised films were empty or contained faded posters. One of the spaces had graffiti defacing it. The theatre was akin to a grand old lady whose glory days had vanished and was now a relic from the past.

Despite these thoughts, I must confess I was gladdened by the realization that at least the theatre had survived, and despite the passing of the many decades since it opened, its façade of glazed bricks still sparkled in the afternoon sun. Its marquee may have been empty, but it appeared reasonably well preserved and as attractive as when it was first installed. In my opinion, the Paradise is an architectural gem.

The site where it exists has a long history in the story of Toronto’s local theatres. The first theatre built on this site at 1008 Bloor Street was named the Kitchener. It opened its doors to screen silent movies in 1909, in the days prior to the First World War. The cost of constructing the theatre was $3000. To build the Paradise, the old Kitchener Theatre was gutted, very little of it being retained.

The present-day cinema opened in 1937, its architect being the Lithuanian-born Benjamin Brown, one of the city’s most famous architects. He had previously designed the Reading Building in 1925, the Tower Building in 1927, and Balfour Building in 1930, all located on Spadina Avenue. Brown also was the architect of the infamous Victory Theatre. Benjamin Brown chose the Art Deco style for the Paradise Theatre. The tall rectangular windows on the second floor and the narrow rows of raised bricks create the impression of extra height. Its cornice is relatively unadorned, with a raised centre section in the central position, typical of many Art Deco buildings. When it opened in 1937, its auditorium contained a small stage, with dressing rooms to accommodate actors when live performances were offered. It was an intimate theatre, containing a small lobby and less than 500 seats in its auditorium, including the balcony.

The theatre changed ownership several times during the decades ahead, but except for a period in the 1980s, when it screened soft porno and was named Eve’s Paradise, it always retained its original name. It screened Italian films in the 1960s. In the 1990s it was a repertoire theatre, part of the Festival chain.

By the early years of the 21st century, it had become somewhat shabby, its projectors having insufficient power to properly illuminate the film-prints, and the sound system was in poor shape. It closed in 2006, but in 2007 was listed as a Heritage Property. Unfortunately, because the laws are very lax, this did not ensure that it would not be demolished.

However, this story has a happy ending. The Paradise Theatre was purchased by Moray Tawse, who plans to restore it to its original glory. It will become an arts centre and community theatre, a true addition to Toronto’s cultural scene.

To view plans for the redevelopment of the Paradise Theatre, google: www.insidetoronto.com

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This photo of the Paradise Theatre was likely taken in 1937, the year it opened, as the film starring Sonja Henie was released in 1936. Ontario Archives, 1150 N-147.

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Undated photo of the auditorium of the Paradise. Photo from Ontario Archives.

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Interior view of the auditorium, looking southward from the stage. Toronto Archives, Series 1278, File 127, Item 2306.

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            Lobby of the Paradise. Photo from the Ontario Archives.

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Toronto Real Estate Board ad for the theatre. It was screening Italian films at the time so it was likely in the 1980s.. 

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In 1943, this letter was sent to the Motion Picture Censorship and Theatre Inspection Branch. Letter now in the Ontario Archives. 

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View of the Paradise on the northwest coroner of Bloor and Westmoreland during the summer of 2014.

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                 Marquee and the sign of the Paradise (2014).

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                             Brick designs on the facade of the theatre.

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The lobby and entrance door to the auditorium of the Paradise in 2014.

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Gazing west along the busy section of Bloor Street West, where the Paradise is located.

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

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

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

              Books by the Blog’s Author

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“ 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. It can also be ordered by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

 

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“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 Story of the Roy Thomson Hall

July 2018

Roy Thomson Hall in July 2018, looking east on King Street West toward Simcoe Street.

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  Roy Thomson Hall in Winter,” view looking south on Simcoe Street toward King Street West in 2008. Painting is acrylic on Masonite, 16”x20”

My earliest memories of the site where the Roy Thomson Hall is located dates from the 1960s. During that decade King Street West, near  the intersection of Simcoe Street, was beginning its transformation from a sadly neglected district into the trendy avenue that it is today. The amazing change began in 1962, when Ed Mirvish purchased the Royal Alexandra Theatre and the following year opened a restaurant to lure theatre patrons. He believed that fine dining and theatre, were meant to go together. Mirvish’s restaurant was the soon-to-be famous Ed’s Warehouse, which specialized in prime rib beef. After it opened, I began visiting the King/Simcoe area more frequently to dine and attend the Royal Alex. Eventually I purchased a Mirvish subscription, my theatre seats being in the front row of the first balcony.

In the 1960s, Ed Mirvish maintained a strict dress code for those who entered his warehouse restaurant. Unlike today, such a policy was common among the finer restaurants of the city. However, it was considered especially essential by Ed Mirvish as across the street from his restaurant were the rail yards of the  Canadian Pacific and Canadian National Railways, At any given time, the tracks contained row after row of unsightly boxcars that had recently delivered cargo to Toronto. However, the boxcars also bought stow-away men, often referred to as “hobos.” These men were transients who were down on their luck, so travelled from city to city by stowing away in boxcars. The dress code at Ed’s was considered a simple way to deter these men from entering the restaurant. In retrospect, I suspect that none of these men would ever have attempted to enter the restaurant as it was obviously beyond their means.

There is a story about Ed Mirvish that I have often repeated to friends. It demonstrates how seriously the staff at Honest Ed’s enforced the dress code. When I was in my early  twenties, my family took me out to dinner for my birthday, but kept their choice of restaurant a surprise. I inquired if I should wear a tie and jacket, and was told that they were unnecessary. When we arrived, I discovered that the restaurant was Ed’s Warehouse, on King Street. My family had been unaware of the dress code.

The maître’s informed us that in order to enter the restaurant my brother, dad and I required jackets and ties, and offered to provide us with these from an assortment of items that they kept for such situations. He explained that the reason for the requirement was to prevent vagrants from the rail yard from entering the establishment. We were offended as the clothes they offered were wrinkled, worn, appeared not too clean. Besides, I was certain that we did not look like hobos as we were attired in a freshly laundered sport shirts and neatly pressed trousers.

Then, Ed Mirvish appeared on the scene and inquired, “What’s the problem?”

I explained.

He smiled, apologized, and told the waiter, “Escort them to the table that has been reserved for them.”

My family and I enjoyed the roast beef meal. The sour dill pickles, and bread rolls were excellent, and the spumoni  ice cream was great for dessert. I think the roast beef was the best I ever had in Toronto. When the cheque arrived, it had been reduced by fifty per cent. Ed Mirvish was a very smart businessman, as well as a big-hearted individual. My family never forgot his generosity.

Now, on with the story of the land across from the restaurant where the rail yards were located. Though they continued to be a problem for Ed’s theatre and restaurant, he made them a success through shrew marketing. One such example is that when patrons  purchased theatre subscriptions, they received a $20 coupon for dining at the Warehouse. In those days, the coupon covered the cost of the meal if a person did not order any alcohol. As a result, the Royal Alex was well attended as it offered mayor hits from Broadway and London and Ed’s Warehouse offered quality meals at a reasonable price.

However, it was not long before the site of the rail yards became such valuable real estate that the railroads decided to sell it and relocate to the suburbs.

It is worth relating a little of the history of the property where the Roy Thomson Hall is located today. It has played a major role in the history of Toronto since 1798, when Elmsley House occupied southeast corner of King and Simcoe Streets. It was the home of Chief Justice John Elmsley, the speaker of the House of Assembly. In that century, his residence was considered remote from the town of York (Toronto), which was clustered around the eastern end of the harbour.

1854, Vic's birthday first_government_house_in_toronto_18541-tor-ref[1]

The drawing on the left depicts Elmsley House in 1854, on the occasion of the birthday of Queen Victoria on May 24th of that year. In 1815, Elmsley House was considered such an impressive home that it was purchased by the Government of Upper Canada to serve as the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor of the province. Unfortunately, the structure no longer exists today as it was destroyed by fire in 1862. This was the fate of many of Toronto’s 19th-century structures. The best that can be said is that at least Elmsley House was not demolished by the indifference on the part of 20th-century city councils.

The building that replaced the destroyed house was an even grander mansion, completed in 1870 at a cost of $105,000. The architects were Edward Gundry and Henry Langley. Langley, a Toronto-born architect, also designed the tower and spire on St. Michael’s Cathedral, as well as the original Metropolitan United Church on King Street East, and Jarvis Street Baptist Church. When the new Government House was built, King Street was becoming a fashionable residential address, where many of the elite of the city had built their homes.

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The right-hand picture is a watercolour of Government House, built in 1870, on the southwest corner of King and Simcoe.

By the turn of the 20th century, King Street was again changing dramatically. It was becoming an industrial area, as the land to the south of the Government House was increasingly being built upon by the railways. Also, the Ontario Legislature had relocated in 1893 from its location on Front Street, east of Simcoe Street, to Queen’s Park. This meant that the site of the Government House was no longer considered a suitable location for the domicile of the lieutenant governor of the province.

In 1912, Government House and the surrounding lands on the southwest corner of King and Simcoe were sold to the Canadian Pacific Railway. However, in the 1960s, further changes were again on the horizon. This occurred after Ed Mirvish purchased and restored the Royal Alexandra Theatre and opened his warehouse restaurant. One of the few drawbacks Mirvish’s endeavours faced was that when his patrons and guests attended the theatre or restaurant, they gazed across King Street at the unsightly rows of Canadian Pacific and Canadian National boxcars. They were located immediately to the south of a narrow parking lot adjacent to King Street.  

Next, the street commenced its transition to the lively street scene that is familiar to Torontonians today. It began when the rail yards were purchased by the city as the site for Toronto’s new concert venue, which was to replace Massey Hall as the premier concert hall of the city. Securing funds for the $57-million building had commenced in 1977, the fundraising committee chaired by Pierre Trudeau, William Davis, Paul Godfrey, and David Crombie. The new structure was to be named after Roy Herbert Thomson, father of Ken Thomson, in recognition of the $4.5 million that the Thomson family had donated toward the building fund. The new hall was to be the home venue for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. Construction began in 1978 and the official inauguration of the concert was held on September 13, 1982.

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Within the 2600-seat hall was an enormous pipe organ, which cost over $650,000 and more than 20,000 hours of labour. The organ possessed two consoles and duplicate key action. Organists could play either from the console in the organ gallery or from a moveable detached console on the stage. It was officially ready for its first performance on September 18, 1982, just five days after the hall opened. This instrument is today among the finest organs in the world. To celebrate the official opening of the hall, a week-long series of festive events was held.

During the decades ahead, the hall received much criticism, particularly from members of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) who complained about its poor acoustics. In response to these criticisms, in 1989 planning began for renovations to the hall. They did not come to fruition until 2002, when the hall closed from March 11th until August 9th of that year.

The $24-million renovation project, directed by acousticians Artec Consultants Inc. (New York) and architects Kuwabara, Payne, McKenzie Blumberg (Toronto) entailed an overhaul of the auditorium’s acoustic design, size and shape. A large rehearsal hall, dressing rooms, extensive musician support areas and backstage facilities were included as well as a broadcast and recording area. The corporate offices, libraries and archives of its two major tenants were all located on a lower level. The grand reopening was held on September 21, 2002 with a gala concert to mark the occasion.

Today, the Roy Thomson Hall remains Toronto’s jewel in the crown for concerts and special events, rivalled only by the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, Other excellent concert venues are the Carlu, the North York Centre for the Performing Arts, and Meridian Hall (Sony Centre). Also, Massey Hall is now being restored and in the future it may again take its place among the best concert halls in the city. 

date 1975.  Fonds 124, fl0124, id 0004-Thomson-AerialRail[1]

Ariel view of the intersection of King West and Simcoe Streets in 1975. On the left-hand side, at the centre of the picture, is the Royal Alexandra Theatre. St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church is on the right-hand side, surrounded by tall buildings that seem to diminish its handsome facades and ornate towers. The rail yards are visible on the south side of King Street, south of a narrow parking lot. There are buildings on the southwest corner of the intersection, which were demolished when the site was purchased by the city. Toronto Archives, Fonds 124, fl 0124, id 0004.

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View of the southwest corner of Simcoe and King Street west in the late-1970s, the site cleared of the buildings on the southwest corner to allow the construction of the Roy Thomson Hall. St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, located on the southeast corner of the intersection, is prominently visible on the east side of Simcoe Street. Photo from the Toronto Archives, F0124, fl0003, id 00671. 

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Interior view of the Roy Thomson Hall in 1981, the year prior to its opening. Toronto Public Library tspa 0110582 .

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Performing the final touches to the lobby of the hall in preparation for the grand opening in 1982.

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Interior view of the hall in 1982, the year the building opened. There are many individual lights hanging from the ceiling. The people in the foreground of the photo are sitting in the choir loft. Toronto Public Library, tspa 0110604.

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Queen Elizabeth II entering the hall to attend a Royal Gala on October 1, 1984. Toronto Public Library tspa 123336.

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Interior view of the hall in 2012, the stage set for a Christmas performance of Handel’s Messiah, featuring the Mendelsohn Choir and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.  

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The stage of the hall after the performers were in place, ready to perform the Symphony, heralding the beginning of the Messiah.

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View of the hall, the camera facing east on King Street toward Simcoe on September 10, 2015.

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Looking north on Wellington Street West at the rear of the Roy Thomson Hall on March 10, 2013.

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The north side of the hall on September 10, 2015, the reflecting pool and fountain in the foreground. The pool is situated parallel to King Street West. 

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Gazing southward on September 1, 2012  at Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall from the north side of the hall from the reflecting pool.

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The east side of the hall on Simcoe Street, the CN Tower in the background.

Links to discover more about heritage sites mentioned in this post: 

Royal Alexandra Theatre Windows Live Blog https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2015/05/18/torontos-historic-royal-alexandra-theatre/

Government House: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/torontos-lost-architectural-gemsthe-site-occupied-by-the-roy-thomson-hall/

Ed’s Warehouse Restaurant: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2016/11/15/eds-warehouse-restaurant-closed-in-1999/

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_[2]  

“ Lost Toronto”— published by Pavilion Press (London, England) the book features detailed archival photographs that recapture 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[2]

“Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again” Published by Dundurn Press, this book explores 81 theatres. It contains over 125 archival photographs, with interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating histories. Note: a review of this book was published in Toronto Life Magazine, in the 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 Third York County Court House (Adelaide St.)

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The Adelaide Street Court House where justice was served from 1852 until 1900. Photo taken March 2019.

Toronto’s third court house no longer serves justice. Instead, it serves food, as it is now the site of a Terroni Restaurant. Visitors today no longer examine postings of pending court cases, but instead peruse menus that offer southern Italian cuisine and thin-crust pizza. Located at 57 Adelaide Street East, the building is a short distance west of Church Street, not far from Toronto’s famous St. Lawrence Market. When the court house was built, it was in the commercial and residential heart of the city. The impressive pre-confederation structure delivered justice to the residents of Toronto from 1852 until 1900. However, there were two other court houses that preceded the one on Adelaide Street East.

Toronto’s (York’s) first court house was commissioned by Governor Simcoe, shortly after he arrived in the colonial settlement in July 1793. At the time, the town of York consisted of merely a few roughly-hewn log homes, huddled around the eastern end of the harbour. After Simcoe declared York to be the provincial capitol, he ordered the construction of brick buildings to house its legislative assembly. They were to be located at the eastern side of the town, and were to include under their roof a Court of the King’s Bench. As there was no police force in York in that day, the soldiers at Fort York maintained law and order, and any legal matters were settled in the court within the legislative assembly buildings. Unfortunately, these structures were put to the torch by the American troops when they invaded York in April of 1813. All legal documents and law books books were also consumed in the flames.

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York’s first Legislative Buildings that contained the first Court of the King’s Bench. The sketch was first reproduced in the Evening Telegram [newspaper] series, “Landmarks of Toronto”and is included in John Ross Robertson’s book of the same name, published in 1894 (page 353).

After the War of 1812 finally ended, much of the town of York remained severely damaged due to the American invasion. When planning the reconstruction, the government decided that when the legislative buildings were rebuilt, rather than include a court within them, a different site would be chosen. Though the town’s population was only about 700 persons, it was, after all, the capitol of the province. Officials felt that a separate court house would more appropriately recognize the town’s importance.

As a result, the government purchased the home of Alexander Montgomery, which was located on Richmond Street East, between today’s Victoria and Yonge Streets. Though the house was actually closer to Queen than to Richmond, its main entrance faced south, toward Richmond Street. Thus, local citizens referred to as the Richmond Street Court House. Designed in the neo-classical style, the home was a two-story, plain, wood-frame building with nine rectangular windows in its south facade. The home served the town of York as a court house until 1826. 

Court House, 1815-26 Richmond w. of Vic. picture 1912.   -r-3941[1] 

Alexander Montgomery’s home in York (Toronto) on Richmond Street East, near Victoria Street. The above watercolour was painted about the year 1888 and was based on a pen and ink sketch reproduced in the Evening Telegram [newspaper] series, “Landmarks of Toronto” on February 2, 1889. The sketch also appears in the book entitled, “Landmarks of Toronto” (Volume 1, page 320).

As the town of York continued to grow, it was evident that the home of Alexander Montgomery was unable to handle the needs of the judicial system. A larger court house was deemed necessary. In that decade, King Street remained the town’s most prominent street and also was where most of the shops and important buildings were located. Thus, it was logical to situate the new court house on this street. When the Montgomery house was vacated by the court, it was employed by the Children of Peace for their religious services.

When the building plans for the new court house were finalized, it was decided to recess it 40 feet back from King Street. However, its main entrance faced Church Street, on the structure’s east side. The two-story building, with the basement-level partly above ground, was an impressive sight. Constructed of red bricks, its south facade on King Street possessed four stone pilasters (three-sided faux pillars) that ascended from the first floor to the triangular pediment above the facade. Two pilasters adorned the east and west facades as well. On the west side of the roof was a row of tall chimneys to heat the spacious rooms during Toronto’s frigid winters.

John Hayden was the contractor for the building, which cost the government about 1800 pounds. Because the court house was the most important structure on the square, the square became known as “Court House Square.” This structure was remained a court house from 1827 until 1852.

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King St. E., looking east from Toronto Street, at what was then known as “Court House Square.” The large structure on the left-hand side of the painting is the town jail (1827-1840). To the right of it is the Fire Hall, which has a tall tower. This building was actually located on Church Street. The building to the right of the Fire Hall is the Court House (1827-1853) and to the east (right-hand side) of it, is St. James’ Anglican Church (destroyed by fire in 1849). The watercolour was painted by John G. Howard in 1835 and is from the collection of the Toronto Public Library (r-3952).

court house 1827-53 picture 1835, John G Howard  pictures-r-3942[1]

The court house on King Street East. Beside it, to the east, is St. James Anglican Church. Church Street separates the two buildings. Watercolour from the collection of the Toronto Public Library (r-3952).

Sketch of the public hangings of Samuel Lount and Peter Matthews on April 12, 1838. The horrific spectacle attracted a huge crowd of spectators. The artist of the sketch was standing on the corner of today’s King and Toronto Streets, just across from where the King Edward Hotel is now located. In the background of the sketch is the King Street Court House. The two men were executed for their role in the Rebellion of 1837, led by William Lyon Mackenzie. 

By the 1850s, it was evident that the court house on Court House Square was no longer adequate. This entailed the construction of a third county court house, to be located at 57 Adelaide Street East. Thankfully, it has survived into the modern era, one of the few remaining structures from the city’s pre-Confederation period. It is today a Terroni Restaurant.

The third court house served the county of York from 1852 until 1900, when the courts were relocated to the new City Hall (now referred to as the Old City Hall), located at the head of Bay Street, at Queen Street West. The contract for the architectural plans was given to Cumberland and Ridout, the same firm that also designed St. James Anglican Cathedral at King Street East and Church Street.

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The building in the centre of the three structures is the York County Court House (Adelaide Street Court |House.) The photo was taken in 1867, from the collection of the Toronto Public Library, r-4428.

The three-storey York County Court House of 1852 was constructed of white bricks and stone, although today its facades appear darkened by the passage of time. Eric Arthur in his book, “No Mean City”, described the Greek-influenced front of the building as, “austere, heavy, and forbidding”. This may be true, but having visited its interior in April of 2019, I can attest to the fact that it is grand and spacious as befits a building of such prominence.

Its north facade on Adelaide Street East has four impressive pilasters (three-sided columns), two on each side of the entrance. As well as housing the court room, the structure contained the offices of the County Treasurer, the Clerk of the Council, the Division Court, the Clerk of the Peace and the Sheriff. Many of the original facilities of the Courthouse still remain, such as the marble trim around doorways. Also, I am told that the old jail cells remain, a poignant reminder of the grim life prisoners experienced behind bars in those years of long ago. During this period, the death penalty was employed for about 120 different crimes. However, in 1865, hanging was finally restricted as punishment for the crimes of murder, rape and treason.

Also remaining is the doorway where the judge and the Crown Council entered the building from the rear, and then, ascended a grand staircase to the criminal court room on the second floor.

Over the decades, the third court house was the sight of many important events. On the morning of March 10, 1862, a sizable crowd gathered outside it to observe the hanging of James Brown on a scaffold erected behind the court house. Brown was executed for his role in the death of the journalist and politician John Sheridan Hogan, during an attack by the dreaded “Brooks’ Bush Gang.”

An article by James Bradburn stated: “After a night of prayer and a breakfast of coffee and cake, Brown asked a clergyman to find the woman he lived with and to urge her to turn away from her sinful ways. At 9:45 a.m. the sheriff arrived to lead Brown to the scaffold, where the condemned man proclaimed his innocence, despite having been [quote] ‘a very bad man.’ At 10 am Brown became the last man to be hung in public in Toronto.” 

When the Don Jail opened in 1864, hangings were moved indoors to a space inside within the prison. Today, the site of the last public hanging is a pleasant garden area at the rear of the AdelaIde Street Court House, where customers of the Terroni restaurant are able to dine alfresco. 

When the Group of Seven was formed In 1909, the third Toronto court was unoccupied, as the courts had been relocated to Bay and Queen. The Arts and Letters Club of Toronto then rented it for their meetings. The private club’s members included writers, architects, musicians, painters, graphic artists, actors, and others working in or with a love of the arts.

Some of the club’s most well-known members were  the Group of Seven — Tom Thomson, Lawren Harris, Frederick Varley, Arthur Lismer, A.Y. Jackson, Franklin Carmichael J.E.H. MacDonald and Frank Johnston. During the years the building was home of the Arts and Letters Club, many important cultural events were held within its walls, including concerts by Pablo Cassals and Sergei Rachmananov. The club entertained many famous people, among them Sir Wilfried Laurier, Vincent Massey, Sir Ernest MacMillan, Dr. Healey Whillan, and Sir William Mulock and many of Toronto’s finest citizens. Finally, the club relocated to St George’s Hall on Elm Street, in 1920.

For several years, the old courthouse contained The Court House Market Grill and Restaurant. Today, as mentioned, it is a Terroni’s Restaurant.

Source www.lostrivers.ca/content/points/Courthouseadelaide.html

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View gazing west on Adelaide Street East in 1899. The court house is the building that is the second from the right. Toronto Public Library, r- 4423.

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(Left-hand photo) Support column in  the court house. (Right-hand photo), similar court house columns, photo taken on April 27, 2019. The tops of the columns (capitals) do not match so they are either not the same pillars or have been changed.

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Cast-iron fireplace in the court house in 1899 (left) and a similar fireplace in the court house on April 27, 2019.

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Grand staircase located on the left-hand side after a person enters the building. The stairs lead to the courtroom on the second floor. Photo taken April 2019.

Musty Memories of Old Court House on Adelaide Street”

(Article is from the Toronto Star, June 15, 1901, written by Bill Gladstone. www.billgladstone.ca/?p=7237

Even as you enter the building the hinges on the door cry out in agony, caused by years of faithful service. These doors have received all kinds of knocks. Their end may be far off, but doubtless before long they will be relegated to the oblivion of a second-hand dealer’s yard.

An unmistakably well-worn path leads the inquiring stranger in either direction from the door. No matter which way is taken, a flight of stairs carries one to the first floor, the scene of many a memorable struggle. Here in the Assize Court the combatants — the representative of the Crown, personating law and justice, and the counsel for the criminal — strove on memorable occasions for the rich stake of a human life. The noon-day sun casts a wan touch on the faded room.

One door reads “Public,” and the opposite one “Jury.” Following the door labelled “jury,” a well-worn passage leads to the jury box, where twelve good men and true oft listened to the words “may it please your honour, gentlemen of the jury.” The chairs are still in the positions in which thoughtless jurymen had pushed them when leaving the box after hours of wearied deliberations within a locked room. The counsels’ tables still have the blotters flung carelessly just as they were left when learned lawyers blotted their jottings and hastily threw them aside.

The prisoners’ dock still remains the center of attraction, even though now vacant. The axes, which, according to an ancient tradition, were turned towards a condemned prisoner, appear lost. While standing looking at the dock the mind involuntarily wanders to the prisoners who have stood there, heard their case tried, anxiously awaiting the jury, felt the awful silence preliminary to the verdict, and left its environments encircled in iron, condemned criminals, or joyful, free men, to be clasped by loved ones who never would believe them “guilty.”

There, too stands the judges’ bench, whereon have sat Judges Harrison, Cameron, Hagarty, Galt, Rose, McKenzie, and others, many of whom have gone to higher courts. But follow a well-worn track in the floor which leads to the prisoners’ temporary quarters and down a narrow, dark, and gloomy stairway which brings one to the cells, where many a man has sat awaiting the conveyance to carry him to the prison where he should receive the just reward of his offence. The prisoners’ cell is a dark room with one heavily-barred window, high up in the wall, with a bench going around the room, whereon have sat hundreds of thieves, and murderers, and other felons.

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The York County Court House c. 1899, when the court was in session. Photo from Toronto Public Library, r-2329.

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An office in the courthouse in 1899, photo from the Toronto Public Library, r-4416

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The court house building on February 17, 2019. The Terroni sign is prominent on its facade.

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Inside view of the entrance to the Terroni Restaurant that was once the entrance to the courthouse. Photo, April 2019.

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The Courthouse Square at the rear (south side) of the courthouse, This is where public gatherings and hangings were held (photo April 2019).

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(Left-hand photo) A fireplace in the Terroni Restaurant. (Right-hand photo) The court house interior in 1918 when the Arts and Letters Club occupied the building.

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The Adelaide Street Court House in April 2019, the view showing the north facade facing Adelaide Street.

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_[2]  

“ 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[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

 

Tags: , ,

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 front 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 visit Allan Gardens several times a week. I intend to do this 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.

On this day, 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 and special events. Under its enormous dome, tall leafy palms and other tropical plants grow in profusion. 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. Another attraction in Allan Gardens is on the east side of the park, the statue of Robert Burns, placed there in 1902.

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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), located 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 encircles the fountain. In the background, visible is the east (front) facade of the Palm House, which has two large pillars, one on either side of the central entrance. Today, there are large windows where the pillars and centre entrance were once 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. In this photo, it can be seen that 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 a high-rise building, heralding the beginning 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 — a veritable endless jungle of greenery.

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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 but never with tulips. They were of course 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. It was in July 1902 that the 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_[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[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[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

 

Tags: , , , ,

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.

1880  pictures-r-5572[1]   dscn02491[1]  

(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. 

1890s of the pav. built in 1879 pavilion  pictures-r-5580[1]

                        Interior of the pavilion that opened in 1879.

June 6, 1895 from Rose Garden  . f1548_s0393_it0253[1]

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.

                    cityhall- 1960s  a-r4-15[1]

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

June 22, 1964.  f1268_it0462[1]

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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