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Category Archives: Toronto history

History of the Park Plaza Hotel (Park Hyatt)

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The Park Hyatt Hotel, located at 4 Avenue Road, is on the northwest corner of Bloor Street West and Avenue Road. Constructed between the years 1926 and 1929, it was originally named the “Queen’s Park Plaza Hotel.” Its architect was Stratford-born Hugh G. Holman, who designed it in the Art Deco style. In the 1920s, the classical styles of the previous century were giving way to buildings with setbacks that narrowed them in width as they rose to their summits, similar to the ziggurats of ancient Babylonia.

The ground floor of the Queen’s Park Plaza Hotel and the second-floor above it formed a podium. The two floors of the podium were each the equal of two-storeys in height. Above the podium were ten more floors, which extended upward to the lower cornice. Above it were three more storeys, and perched at the top, on the eighteen floor, there was the rooftop garden and restaurant/bar. However, due to the Great Depression that descended in 1929, construction stopped before the hotel’s interior was finished.

In 1935, Morrow Oxley of the firm Chapman and Oxley was hired to complete the building. It finally opened on July 11, 1936, when its name was changed to the Park Plaza Hotel. In order for it to be financially viable, it offered hotel rooms, residential apartments, and 30,000 square feet of office space. It was among the city’s most luxurious hotels and its apartments among the most prestigious. The apartments had been decorated by W. and J. Sloane. The facilities included three restaurants and a rooftop garden. After the opening, problems soon appeared. The hotel had been constructed above a meandering branch of Taddle Creek, which crossed Bloor Street and flowed south through Philosopher’s Walk. As a result, the structure began to sag slightly, causing the elevators to sometimes malfunction. The solution was to stabilize the foundations by permafreezing the ground.

The rooftop restaurant and bar were originally for the exclusive use of the apartment owners, but in 1937, they were opened to the public. In that year, to the south, there was an unobstructed view of the lake and the Toronto Islands. Immediately below it was Varsity Stadium, where the Argonaut football games could be viewed. Also visible were the roof of the Royal Ontario Museum and green copper-topped roofs of the legislative buildings at Queen’s Park.

In 1956, a 14-storey north tower was added, its architect being Page and Steel. Built in a modernist style, it was of brick, concrete, glass, and metal. The design was the work of Page and Steeles’ talented Peter Dickenson, who was as influential in the 1950s, as the famous Art Deco architects had been in the 1920s. The two towers were linked by a two-storey podium.

DSCN1186Joe Gomes, a Portuguese immigrant, commenced working as a waiter in the hotel in 1959. Two years later, he was promoted to being a bartender at the rooftop bar. Since the Park Plaza was on the edge of the Yorkville District, for over five decades, he observed the ever-changing life of the area from behind the bar. Following the turmoil of the “hippy generation” in Yorkville in the 1960s, it slowly became one of the most prestigious districts in Toronto. The hotel’s bar and restaurants became a favourite of the city’s arts and literary community during the 1970s and 1980s. During these decades, the celebrities Joe Gomes chatted with while serving a drink included Duke Ellington, Pierre Trudeau, Lester B. Pearson (whose favourite was gin and tonic), Christopher Plummer, Burt Reynolds, Russell Crowe, Paul Anka, and John Wayne. The newspaper above has a photo of Joe Gomes on the front page of the Toronto Star.

In 1999, the Hyatt chain bought the Park Plaza and changed its name to the Park Hyatt. At the beginning of the 21st century, the rental prices on Bloor Street, west of Yonge, were among the most expensive in Canada, and the Park Hyatt was in the heart of it.

In 2014, the property was sold to Oxford Properties for $90 million. Extensive renovations were carried out to unify the architecture of the two properties, the designs the responsibility of KPMB architects, the restoration by ERA architects. The 2-storey podium was demolished. The structure that replaced it was larger, and was located further back from the street. In front of it was a crescent-shaped driveway to accommodate those who arrived by cars and limousines. The south tower then contained only apartments, and the north tower was a 220-room hotel. The north tower received a new external elevator core and a lobby on the second floor.     

Today, the hotel is one of the finest hotels in Toronto. Its rooftop bar is as well-loved today as it was during the years when it first opened. However, the view toward the south, in the distance, is now of the skyline of the financial district and the CN Tower. Immediately below the bar is the roof of the Crystal of the Royal Ontario Museum.

The author is grateful for information from http://losttoronto2, www.the star.com, www.ontario-travel-secrets.com, urbantoronto.ca, and torontoist.com.

Bloor St, looking west, to Avenue Road, 2:12 p.m., (Way Department) – April 27, 1929

The camera is pointed west on Bloor Street in April, 1929. The Park Plaza Hotel, not yet opened to the public, is on the northwest corner of the intersection of Bloor and Avenue Road. Toronto Archives, S 0071, item 6776. 

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Gazing north on Queen’s Park toward Bloor Street c. 1933. In the foreground is the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), the Park Plaza Hotel in the background. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244. item 7360.  

2.  Oct. 29, 1934, s0372_ss0052_it1713[1]  1934

Looking north on Queen’s Park toward Bloor Street on October 29, 1934. Trees are being removed to facilitate the widening of Queen’s Park. The Royal Ontario Museum is on the west side of the street, the Park Plaza Hotel in the background. Toronto Archives, S 0372, SS 0052, item 1713.

            1. 1954.  pictures-r-4855[1]

The camera is pointed north on Queen’s Park toward Bloor Street in 1954. The Park Plaza Hotel dominates the scene. Travelling west on Bloor Street is a PCC streetcar. Toronto Public Library, r- 4855.

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The Park Hyatt in 2017, a section of the Crystal of the Royal Ontario Museum in the foreground.

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View of the south (1936) tower on Bloor Street, and the north (1959) tower to the north (right-hand side of photo) on Avenue Road.

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Windows on the south facade facing Bloor Street. The rooftop bar is visible at the summit.

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The rooftop bar, the windows facing south that overlook Queen’s Park, and in the distance, the city skyline and the CN Tower. 

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                        The lobby for the apartments in the south tower.

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The luxurious Interior of the two-storey rebuilt podium that connects the two towers.

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Main entrance to the Park Hyatt from Avenue Road, the modern north tower in the background.

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The entrance on Bloor Street that at one time was the main entrance that gave access to the south tower (left-hand photo) and the Art Deco detailing directly above it (right).

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View looking north on Queen’s Park toward the magnificent Park Hyatt Hotel, the Royal Ontario Museum in the foreground on the left.

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

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

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

Books by the Blog’s Author

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

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

   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)

                                 image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb    

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

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

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

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

Another publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. It contains archival and modern photos that allow readers to compare scenes and discover how they have changed over the decades. 

Note: a review of this book was published in Spacing Magazine, October 2016. For a link to this review:

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

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

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

 

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Stories of Honest Ed’s Bargain Store

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The first time I visited Honest Ed’s at 581 Bloor Street West was in 1950, two years after it opened. I was 12 years old that year, and was a delivery boy for the Star newspaper, in which I had seen had seen the store’s ads advertising its low prices. Located at the corner of Markham and Bathurst Streets, the bargain emporium derived its name from its owner, Ed Mirvish, and the store was attracting considerable attention.

I will always remember the occasion. I had a few dollars extra that I had earned on my paper route, and as I had heard that prices on puzzles and games were cheap, I accompanied my mom and grandmother to the store. We departed on a Saturday morning and arrived shortly after it opened, at 9 am. The first thing that caught my attention was the wacky signs, painted in huge letters on the walls: “We open weekdays at noon, as our staff likes to sleep in.” “If you gotta glow, you gotta glow!” “Customers glow with happiness at Ed’s amazing bargains.” “Honest Ed’s, where only the floors are crooked.” “Our service is rotten, so serve yourself.” “Honest Ed’s no beauty. Whaddya expect at these prices, a movie star?”

Entering the store, I was amazed by the crowded interior. The store was comprised of several old houses, which had been gutted and connected. It was filled with display counters that overflowed with merchandise. The floors actually did sag, but prices were indeed reasonable. I saw Ed Mirvish at one of the noisy cash registers as he rang up sales. I recognized him from a newspaper picture I had seen. My mom and grandmother departed with several bags of goods, mostly clothing, grocery items and cleaning supplies that my mom said were great bargains. I purchased a jigsaw puzzle.

Several weeks later, while delivering my newspapers, I noticed an article about Honest Ed. I read it. This was when I learned a little about Ed Mirvish. He had been born in Virginia in 1914, the son of Jewish immigrants from Lithuania. In 1923, the family moved to Toronto and opened a store on Dundas Street, where they lived above it. Ed’s father died when he was fifteen, and he took over the business.

He opened Honest Ed’s on Bloor Street in 1948, selling merchandise from bankrupt companies and fire sales. Employing humorous slogans, he was highly successful in promoting his wares. Little did I realize that during the years ahead, his store would become an institution in Toronto, and that I would eventually be a subscriber at the wonderful Royal Alexandra Theatre, which he purchased and restored.

In the 1950s, when I was in high school, I worked for one summer at the Dominion Bank on the southeast corner of Bloor Street and Dovercourt Road. In this decades, the Dominion Bank had not yet amalgamated with the Bank of Toronto to form the Toronto Dominion Bank (TD Bank). At the bank branch where I worked, Ed Mirvish’s was the most important customer. He maintained a large amount of cash in his account to be able to purchase goods from bankrupt companies. He bought the merchandise at low prices and sold them in his store at prices that undercut his competitors.

During the late 1950s, Ed’s continued to expand, eventually occupying the entire block on the south side of Bloor Street, between Bathurst and Markham Streets.   

Ed Mirvish was to enter my life again in the late-1960s. This story illustrates the type of man that he was. My family took me out to dinner for my birthday, but they kept their choice of restaurant a surprise. I inquired if I should wear a tie and jacket and my brother told me that they were unnecessary. When we arrived at the restaurant, we discovered that a tie and jacket were mandatory as it was Ed’s Warehouse on King Street. The waiter offered to provide the proper attire from the jackets and ties that they kept for such situations. He explained that they required the dress code to prevent vagrants from the opposite side of King Street, where there were railroad tracks, from entering the restaurant. We were offended, as the clothes they offered were grubby looking, and we were certainly not hobos. We were wearing freshly starched sport shirts and neat trousers.

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

We explained.

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

We enjoyed the meal of roast beef, green peas, and mashed potatoes. The dill pickles, bread rolls, and spumoni ice cream for dessert added to our pleasure. I think the roast beef was the finest ever served in Toronto.

When the cheque arrived, Honest Ed had reduced the bill by 50 per cent.

Ed Mirvish was a very smart businessman as well as a big-hearted individual. My family never forgot his generosity.

I was very sad when I heard that Ed’s son, David Mirvish, had decided to close the store on December 31st, 2016. The bargain store was an important part of the Toronto scene for over six decades. However, with competition from online shopping and stores such as Walmart, Honest Ed’s  was no longer the attraction that it once was. As well, many of those who had shopped there regularly, had relocated to suburban homes where there were shopping in malls nearby. Times change, and those who own commercial properties must change as well.

Though I had not shopped at Honest Ed’s for many years, I will miss the bright lights and flashing signs that dominated the corner of Bathurst and Bloor.

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Honest Ed’s on Bloor Street in the 1960s, when the store occupied the entire city block from Markham to Bathurst Streets. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, S 1057, Item 0465.

Series 1465, File 622, Item 18

View of Ed’s, looking east on Bloor Street from Markham Street in the 1980s. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1465, fl 0622, Item 0018.

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The west facade of the store on Markham Street in the 1980s. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1465, fl 0514, Item 0020. 

Sept. 23, 2013

The east facade of Honest Ed’s on Bathurst Street on September 13, 2013.

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Night view of the store, looking east on Bloor Street from west of Bathurst Street.

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           Some of Ed’s signs posted on the front of the store.

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The northeast corner of the store at Bathurst and Bloor Streets in September 2015.

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                                      Inside the store in 2015.

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A collection of items that were once in Ed’s Warehouse Restaurant on King St. West. The display was in a window that faced Bloor St. Photo taken in 2015.

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View of the northwest corner of the store in 2015, at the corner of Markham and Bathurst Streets.

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Another view of the northwest corner of the store in 2015, at the corner of Markham and Bathurst Streets.

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The alley on Bloor St., located between two of the sections of the store, which were connected by a passageway on the second floor level.

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Signage of the store on the Bloor Street, which created fame for Honest Ed’s.

Below is further information on Honest Ed’s that was provided by Gerry Tsuji. I am very grateful for his input as insight such as he possesses can be so easily forgotten.

When Ed was just starting out, my dad was a cook at a restaurant on the SE corner of Bloor-Bathurst a few doors in from Bathurst.  He remembered Ed coming in for breakfast every morning, newspaper in hand.  A small pleasant man.
I don’t think he received enough credit for supplying working class folks with many of their daily necessities at prices they could afford.  My family and the families of my buddies would fall into that category.  Clothes, school supplies, toys/games, household products, even food… Ed carried it all.  His loud, garish store made a lot of people’s lives, a little bit easier.
His store continued to evolve over the years too.  From his original store located in a house to his eventual store on Bloor, I can recall a sporting goods section where he carried ice skates and hockey sticks to baseballs and mitts.  This gave way to a shoe department where he sold what we laughingly called cardboard shoes because they fell apart when wet.  He had a whole floor devoted to toys and games at one time.  For awhile, he had a little snack bar on the third floor too.  More recently, he even added a pharmacy.  He certainly wasn’t afraid to try new things.
He left behind, an incredible legacy.

Ed’s had a shoe department at one time.   I mentioned his cardboard shoes in my previous email but we also bought our running shoes there.  They were very inexpensive and they lasted an unusually long time.  Two important considerations for us at the time.  They were a strange green colour instead of the usual black-white combination and they were so heavy, it was like wearing anchors on our feet.  They were actually called running boots.  We laughed at them even then.

He also had a large toy/game department.  At one time, it occupied pretty much his entire third floor.  He sold plastic model kits which included high end Lindberg models of iconic ships like the Bismarck.  They were 36″ long, motorized so that they could be ‘programmed’ to sail in figure eights or circles and the guns would go up and down.  As kids, we’d go to Ed’s to drool over these kits.  Eventually, one of us came up with the money to buy one.  We built it, took it to High Park on our bikes and promptly managed to sink it.  Since, it was in a small pond (not Grenadier), one of my buddies bravely volunteered to wade in for it, cut his foot open and thus ended the saga of the Bismarck.
Ed’s had a decent sporting goods section too.  I remember buying CCM Comet hockey sticks there for $1.25 when the latest curved, fibreglass models sold elsewhere for $10 and more.  As plain a hockey stick as there could possibly be but they served their purpose.

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

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

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

Books by the Blog’s Author

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

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

   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)

                                 image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb    

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

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

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

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

Another publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. It contains archival and modern photos that allow readers to compare scenes and discover how they have changed over the decades. 

Note: a review of this book was published in Spacing Magazine, October 2016. For a link to this review:

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

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

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

 

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Toronto’s mysterious Queen Alexandra Gates

1932-  s0372_ss0001_it1087[1]

The Queen Alexandra Gates appear in the above photo, taken in 1931. They are the stone pillars that appear at the north end of Queen’s Park, where it intersects with Bloor Street West. On the left, a small portion of the Park Plaza (Hyatt) Hotel is visible, and on the right is the Anglican Church of the Redeemer. The gates are somewhat of a mystery, as they no longer exist at Queen’s Park and Bloor Street, but are on another location. Photo from the Toronto Archives, S 0372, SS 0001, Item 1087.

In 1901, funds to build the Queen Alexandra Gates were donated by the Daughters of the Empire (Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire—IODE) to commemorate the royal visit to Toronto on October 10th and 11th of Prince George, the Duke of Cornwall, and Mary, Duchess of Cornwall. The gates were named after Prince George’s mother, Queen Alexandra, the consort of King-Emperor Edward VII. In 1910, Prince George was to ascend the throne as King George V, his consort being Queen Mary.

Queen Alexandra was born in 1844 in Copenhagen, Denmark. In 1863, she married Britain’s Prince of Wales, Edward, the eldest son of Queen Victoria. In 1901, following the death of Victoria, Edward ascended the throne as King Edward VII. His consort, Queen Alexandra was a beautiful and intelligent woman, who quickly became highly popular throughout the British Empire. Toronto was a British colonial city at the turn of the 20th century and treasured its links to the crown. Public buildings, streets, parks and gateways were often named after members of the royal family.

In 1901, where the Queen Alexandra Gates were erected at Queen’s Park and Bloor Street, there remained many undeveloped parcels of land. The small village of Yorkville was a short distance to the northeast of the intersection. Yorkville was amalgamated with the city in 1883, but in 1901, Torontonians still considered it a considerable distance from the downtown as public transportation was slow. Thus, the Alexandra Gates were also viewed as being located in a slightly remote area, to the northwest of the city.

The gates consisted of stone pillars on either side of the roadway, with wrought iron lamps on top of each pillar. The lamps resembled the heads of serpents, typical of Edwardian fanciful designs that were in vogue in London, the capital of the Empire. Designed by Chadwick and Buckett, for their official opening by the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall on October 10, 1901, the gates were decorated with flowers and multiple ribbons of red, white and blue. The inauguration of the gates was exceptionally well attended as people were aware that the future king and queen were present.

During the years ahead, several times, the gates were moved further apart to facilitate the widening of Queen’s Park, as well as Avenue Road. In 1962, because of another widening, it was decided to remove the gates entirely. Fortunately, unlike most historic Toronto structures, rather than demolish them, they were relocated to the north end of Philosopher’s Walk. In their new location, they were on the south side of Bloor Street, on the west side of the original building of the Royal Ontario Museum.

In 1990, the lamps were restored by the faculty of the University’s Facilities and Services. In 1995, the gates and the entire length of the Philosopher’s Walk were fully restored by the University of Toronto. In 2006, at the south end of the walk, another gateway was constructed to commemorate the contributions to the university of Avie Bennett, owner of McClelland and Stewart.

Thus, the Alexandra Gates remain today as a reminder of Toronto’s past and its connections to the royal crown, even though they are now located in a modern multi-cultural city.

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Queen Alexandra, consort of King Edward VII, for whom the gates were named.

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The Queen Alexandra Gates in 1901, when they were decorated for their inauguration by Prince George and Princess Mary. The view looks south on Queen’s Park. Through the archway can be seen the fence that is on the east side of the property where the new wing of the Royal Ontario Museum was built in 1933. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 0180.

Fonds 1244, Item 1382

Fire wagon racing westward on Bloor Street in 1912, the Lillian Massey Building and the east pillar of the Queen Alexandra Gates in the background. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 1382.

Fonds 1244, Item 7279

View gazing south on Queen’s Park, which is unpaved, to where it terminates at Queen’s Park Circle that surrounds the Ontario Legislative Building. On the left (east side of the road) is the Lillian Massey Department of Household Science Building, erected 1912. The photo was likely taken the same year. On the right-hand side of the photo, a narrow slice of the Queen Alexandra Gates can be seen. As well, on the right are visible the fence and pathway that are located where the ROM is today. Photo from the Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 7279. 

Fonds 1244, Item 1140

View from the north side of Bloor Street in 1933. The camera faces the southwest corner of Queen’s Park and Bloor Street, the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in the background. The Queen Alexandra Gates are visible on either side of the narrow roadway, which accommodates only two lanes of traffic. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 1140.

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View looking north on Queen’s Park, from south of Bloor Street, in 1934. The trees are being removed to facilitate the widening of Avenue Road. In the distance are the Park Plaza Hotel (Park Hyatt). Construction began on the hotel in 1928, but its opening was delayed because of the Great Depression. The Royal Ontario Museum and Lillian Massey Building are also visible. The widening of the roadway necessitated that the stone pillars of the Queen Alexandra Gates be moved further apart. Toronto Archives, S 0372, SS 0052, Item 1713.

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The Queen Alexandra Gates at the north end of Philosopher’s Walk in 2016. In the background are the shops and high-rises on the north side of Bloor Street West.

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   Gazing north on Philosopher’s Walk at the Queen Alexandra Gates in 2016.

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The north side of the gates, looking south into Philosopher’s Walk. The original building of the Royal Ontario Museum (now the west wing) is visible in the background.

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The crown and ornate letter “A” for Alexandra on the north side of the east pillar. 

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              The north side of the gate, viewed from the east side. 

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The top of the gates with the ornate heads of serpents, their mouths holding the lamps.

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The Queen Alexandra Gates, in the background Varsity Arena (University of Toronto).

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

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

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

Books by the Blog’s Author

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

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

   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)

                                 image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[1]    

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

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

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

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

Another publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. It contains archival and modern photos that allow readers to compare scenes and discover how they have changed over the decades. 

Note: a review of this book was published in Spacing Magazine, October 2016. For a link to this review:

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

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

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

 

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Salvation Square at the Toronto Eaton Centre

1890s- pictures-r-658[1]

Salvation Square was once the site of The Salvation Army Territorial Headquarters. The above photo, taken c. 1890, is from the collection of the Toronto Public Library, r-658.

The small square on the west side of the Eaton Centre is named “Salvation Square” in recognition of an important Salvation Army building that at one time dominated the northeast corner of the intersection of Albert and James Streets. The building has been demolished, and the section of Albert Street east of James St., is now absorbed into the Eaton Centre.

The British evangelical church that is today affectionately referred to as the “Sally Ann,” arrived in Toronto is 1882. Because it was a church organized along military lines (a Christian army), it employed military terminology for many of its activities. When it held its first services, referred to as “meetings,” they were considered rowdy and theatrical by the traditional churches. They worshipped in whatever public spaces were available; on a few occasions they held meetings above a blacksmith shop. To attract people to their indoor meetings, they conducted “open air services,” which were held on street corners.

Desiring a more permanent place to worship, in April of 1882 they purchased land and erected a “barracks” (small building) at 54 Richmond Street West. In that decade, the street was known as Little Richmond Street. The modest building was covered with roughcast (lime, cement and gravel) and likely accommodated about 150 people. It was built to the west of the town, which in those years centred around King and Yonge Streets. Thus, the barracks was in an area that was not yet fully urbanized. To the west of the barracks was a lumber yard, and to the east of the barracks, as far as McDougall Lane, there were open fields. However, to the east of McDougall Lane, as far east as Spadina Avenue, there were prosperous brick houses. Today, the site of the Army building is where the condo 500 Richmond Street is located.

Requiring larger premises, the Army relocated to Terauley Street. Today, the street has been renamed Bay Street. Terauley was the section of Bay north of Queen Street. The new hall was named the Coliseum, and it seated about 300 persons. From this location, the Army soon expanded. It opened “outposts” (beginning churches) across the city. They included congregations on Lisgar and Lipincott Streets, and in Yorkville, Parkdale, Dovercourt, West Toronto, Riverdale, Wychwood, and Earlscourt.

By 1880s, the organization extended from St. John’s Nfld. to Victoria B.C. Thus, a larger building was needed in downtown Toronto to accommodate its territorial headquarters for Canada and Bermuda. As a result, in 1886,  land was purchased on the northeast corner of James and Albert Streets. The four-storey structure contained the offices necessary for the needs of the territory, as well as an auditorium for large rallies, concerts, and services. It also was home to the Toronto Temple Corps, which was a functioning congregation. The architecture of the building reflected the military roots of the organization.

The building on Albert Street contained towers, battlements, Roman arches, a parapet, a central tower, and towers on the east and west corners of the south facade. The interior auditorium was considered enormous, its extra wide platform capable of containing at least four full-size Salvation Army bands (35-40 men in each). A series of pilasters (three-side columns) on the walls supported the large ceiling arches that sustained the roof. The pilasters were of wood, carved in simple designs, and stained a dark colour. The ceiling was covered with sheets of rolled tin, richly embossed to resemble decorative plastering, this style being popular in the 19th century. Doors on either side of the platform allowed bandsmen and songster brigades (choirs) to enter. If viewed from the rear of the auditorium, the piano was on the right-hand (east) side of the platform. In the body of the auditorium were rows of wooden chairs with hinged seats. The gallery at the rear (south) of the auditorium was reached from stairs in the lobby.

This building was demolished in 1954 and replaced with a modern structure that was much admired among architectural professionals. It was designed by John B. Parkins Associates, which in 1964 designed the Yorkdale Shopping Centre. The new Army Headquarters also contained a large auditorium for rallies, concerts and services. As well, it was where the Temple Corps (congregation) held its services. The structure opened in 1956, but was demolished in 1995, and the site incorporated into the Eaton Centre. The headquarters for the Salvation Army relocated to 2 Overlea Boulevard in East York.

Fonds 1244, Item 1998

View of the northeast corner of James and Albert Streets in 1912, when the Salvation Army Headquarters was decorated to welcome General Booth, the founder of the organization. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 1998. 

                    Fonds 1244, Item 2561

The north side of Albert Street in 1912,  showing the decorations on the headquarters building to welcome the general. It was to be his last visit, as he died later in the year. Photo from the Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 2561.

1953.  pictures-r-630[1]

The headquarters building in 1953, photos from the Toronto Public Library, r- 630

Corner of James St. and Albert St., looking north-east

The modern building that opened in 1956. The photo was taken in 1972, and shows the lower portion of the building on the northeast corner of Albert and James Streets. Toronto Archives, Series 0831, File 0067, Item 0002.

                  Series 1465, File 466, Item 4

South facade of the new headquarters on Albert Street in the 1970s, Toronto Archives, Fonds 1465, File 10466, Item 0004.

                              View of Eaton's Bargain store and Salvation Army on Albert Street west of Yonge Street – April 11, 1977 

Gazing west on Albert Street toward Bay Street in 1977. The building to the west of The Salvation Army Headquarters is the old Eaton’s Annex, which was connected by a tunnel under Albert Street to the Queen Street store. It later became the Eaton’s Bargain Centre, and was destroyed by fire in 1977. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 0085, Item 0076.

                                  View of Salvation Army at James and Albert Streets – April 14, 1977

The camera is pointing south on James Street toward Queen Street. On the right-hand side is the east facade of the Old City Hall. Toronto Archives Fonds 1526, File 0086, Item 0034.

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When The Salvation Army Headquarters was demolished, the site was incorporated into the Eaton Centre, and today a portion of it contains the Chapters/Indigo store (on the 2nd and 3rd storeys). Photo taken October 24, 2016. 

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The square in front of the site where the headquarters building was located is now named “Salvation Square.” Photo taken in 2016. 

                   Salvation_Army_Territorial_Headquarters_Map[1]

Google map showing the location where the Salvation Army Headquarters was located. Albert Street no longer extends east to Yonge, as it is now part of the Eaton Centre.

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

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

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

Books by the Blog’s Author

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

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

   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)

                                 image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[2]    

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

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

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

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

Another publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. It contains archival and modern photos that allow readers to compare scenes and discover how they have changed over the decades. Note: a review of this book was published by 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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Lost Toronto, the Central Building—45 Richmond St. West

                        Fonds 444, Item 21

The Central Building on the south side of Richmond Street West, between Yonge and Bay Streets, c. 1928. Toronto archives, F 044, Item 0021.

The Central Building at 45 Richmond Street West was not among the structures that architectural preservationists would likely have fought to save from the wrecker’s ball. Built between 1927 and 1928, it was rather plain, its facade containing few architectural ornamentations. It was an oddity for the decade in which it was constructed, as most 1920s commercial buildings tend toward a little more exuberance. Its architects were Baldwin and Greene, who also designed the Concourse Building at 100 Adelaide Street West. In contrast to the Central, it contained one of the finest Art Deco facades in the city. Today, its south facade remains much admired. If the Central Building had survived, I doubt that it would elicit the same respect and admiration that the Concourse building has generated.

The Central’s architects also created the Claridge Apartments, on the southwest corner of Avenue Road and Clarendon, three blocks south of St. Clair Avenue. Its ornate Romanesque architecture, with a lobby decorations by The Group of Seven’s J. E. H. MacDonald, is a testament to the skills and artistry of Baldwin and Greene.

The 12-storey Central Building was constructed of beige bricks, its north facade possessing only a few elements of Art Deco design. On the side of this facade, near the corners of the building, there were faux ancient hieroglyphs, which began on the 3rd floor and ascended to the 11th. The cornice at the top was exceedingly unornamented, but the sub-cornice below it, possessed a few interesting designs in the brickwork. However, these details were lost to those who strolled by on the sidewalks as they were too high to be seen on the narrow street where it was located. In contrast, the two-storey entrance on the ground floor was well ornamented and contained an impressive Roman arch. On the fifth floor, in a central position, was a rather odd looking bay window. There is no record of why this was included, but I assume that the room behind it had special significance, such as a board room or a chief executive’s office.    

The building was demolished to create a parking lot to accommodate the many cars that daily enter the city’s downtown core. I was unable to discover the date of the building’s demise, but it was likely in the 1940s or 1950s.

                           Fonds 444, Item 20

Entrance to the Central Building at 45 Richmond Street. The doors were recessed into the archway. Toronto Archives, S 044, Item 0020.

Fonds 444, Item 22

The generous use of marble, the decorative ceiling, and light fixtures reflect the best of the Art Deco period. Toronto Archives, F 044, Item 0022.

Map of 45 Richmond St W, Toronto, ON M5H

      Location of the Central Building at 45 Richmond Street West.

Source: “Toronto Architecture, a City Guide,” by Patricia McHugh.

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

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

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

Books by the Blog’s Author

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

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

   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)

                                 image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[2]    

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

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

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

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

Another publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. It contains archival and modern photos that allow readers to compare scenes and discover how they have changed over the decades. 

Note: a review of this book was published in Spacing Magazine, October 2016. For a link to this review:

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

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

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

 

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The north St. Lawrence Market—demolished 2016

image

The north building of Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market in  2013. The view gazes toward the northwest corner of Jarvis and Front Streets. In the background, on King Street East, are the St. Lawrence Hall and the spire of St. James Cathedral.

The north building of the St. Lawrence Market was situated on the original site of York’s (Toronto’s) first farmers’ market square. At first, the market square was simply an open field with a water pump, where local farmers sold their produce and livestock. Early, each Saturday morning, farmers arrived from neighbouring townships, having departed their farms long before daybreak, travelling by horse and cart along the muddy roads that led to the town of York. About the year 1815, at the north end of the square, adjacent to King Street, they erected a small wooden shelter, measuring 35’ by 40’. In 1820, the sides of the structure were enclosed to form a brick building. However, in 1831, an impressive quadrangular market complex was constructed, stretching from King Street on the north to Front Street on the south.

DSCN6445

The above picture is a photo of a model of the quadrangular market building of 1831.  (City of Toronto Archives)

In the foreground of the above picture is the north facade of the red-brick market building on King Street East. The facade had three archways, each located above an entrance to the building. The complex included a rectangular courtyard for farmers’ carts and wagons. Surrounding the courtyard were sheltered spaces to accommodate stalls for butchers, fish merchants, and vegetable sellers. The covered sections protected vendors and customers from the whims of York’s (Toronto’s) cruel winter weather.

In 1834, the town of York was incorporated as a city and renamed Toronto. Because there was no City Hall, for a decade after its incorporation, city officials met in the red-brick structure on King Street, at the north end of the St. Lawrence Market complex. In 1849, a fire swept along King Street that destroyed the market. When they rebuilt in 1851, the new two-storey market building was a mixture of architectural styles, with windows topped by Roman arches and others that were rectangular. On the north end of the site, a grand hall was added – the St. Lawrence Hall. It became the cultural centre for the city, where citizenry gathered for recitals, concerts, and important speakers.

1898 water colour pictures-r-5181[1]

Painting depicting the north market of the St. Lawrence Market building, in 1898. This is the structure that was erected in 1851. The view gazes from the southeast corner of Front and Jarvis Streets, the cupola on the St. Lawrence Hall and the spire of St. James Cathedral visible in the background. Toronto Public Library, r- 5181.

1898  pictures-r-6039[1]

Photo taken in 1898, showing the same view as the painting. It is likely this photo was the inspiration for the painting. There were streetcars on Front Street. Toronto Public Library, r- 6039.

DSCN6553  

View of the east and south sides of the market building erected in 1851. The cattle are being herded east along Front Street. The streetcar tracks are visible, even though the  roadway is unpaved. The photo is undated but is likely c. 1898.

n. market- 1850-1904  pictures-r-6041[1]

View of the east side of the market, looking north on Jarvis Street toward King Street East. The sign for W. E. Dobson Cigar Factory on the south wall of the St. Lawrence Hall belonged to a company that operated from 1883-1898. Toronto Public Library, r-6041.

In 1899, the north market buildings was demolished and another structure erected. Construction was completed in 1904, the architect being John W. Siddal. The style of the building matched that of the south market structure on Front Street. I was inside this building many times during the 1950s and 1960s. I remember its architecture as being rather dreary, its interior cavernous, and on cold days it was drafty. Because the windows were built high up in the walls, it was not well lit, especially on winter mornings. The brick walls and cement floors added to its austerity.

However, the colourful activity on Saturday mornings more than compensated for the structure’s dismal appearance. The interior was composed of one main, open space, the overhead beams visible. At the north end there was a stage to allow the building to be employed for political meetings or community events, as well as entertainers. Unlike the south market, where there were permanent kiosks and stalls, merchants sold their goods from folding tables, which were set-up every Saturday morning. The farmers paid a rental fee to acquire a space. This building was demolished in 1968. 

Series 1465, File 415, Item 6

Plans drawn in 1900 that depict the design for the building to replace the north market building erected in 1851. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1465, File 0425, Item 0006.

painting, c. 1945  I0003149[1]

Painting showing the north St. Lawrence Market c. 1945. The view is of the west side of the structure, the St. Lawrence Hall visible on its north side. 

1957  e010955318-v8[1]

Scene in the north market in 1957, the folding tables visible for displaying goods. Canada Archives, 010955318.

In 1968, a sleek new building was erected. I was in this building on many occasions as well. It was as spacious as its predecessor, the equivalent of two storeys, though not as cavernous. Its walls were composed of light-beige (almost white) bricks. On Saturday mornings, when the farmers’ market was held, the interior was brightly lit. In warm weather, around its exterior there were stalls for farmers who were unable to rent interior spaces. On the north end of the interior there was a stage to accommodate community events. On Sunday mornings, the building was employed as a flea market. During the remainder of the week, the interior space was available for rent.

Overhead view of the rear of St. Lawrence Market, from the King Edward Hotel – July 6, 1974 

Aerial view of the north market building in the 1970s or 1980s, the camera pointed east. On its north side (left-hand side of the photo) is the St. Lawrence Hall, its cupola possessing a green copper roof. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 0016, Item 0003.

DSCN1580

View in 2012 of the north market building’s south facade on Front Street, the spire of St. James Cathedral and the cupola of the St. Lawrence Hall in the background.

image

      Interior of the north market building on a Saturday morning in 2012.

image

     Interior view, showing the stage at the north end of the space.

image

   Spaces for farmers’ stalls on Jarvis Street, on the east side of the north market building.

DSCN1545  DSCN1544

   Vendors on the east side of the north market building in 2012.

DSCN1558

Vendors’ tents on the west side of the building on an autumn Saturday morning.

image

View from the southeast corner of Jarvis and Front Streets in October 2016, the hoarding around the building to facilitate its demolition.

DSCN1568

Artist’s concept of the new structure to replace the former north market building. View looks from the southeast corner of Jarvis and Front Streets.

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

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

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

Books by the Blog’s Author

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

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

   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)

                                 image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb    

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

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

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

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tags: ,

History of Fran’s Restaurant on College Street

DSCN1040

Fran’s restaurant on College Street is the type of eatery that is found in many cities throughout the world. They are not necessarily known as famous gourmet destinations, but rather as places where people seek good food at modest prices. For several decades, Fran’s on College Street is where people grabbed a burger or sandwich with fries prior to a Leaf’s game at the Gardens, or enjoyed a coffee and slice of pie after a hockey game. Late-night inhabitants of the city visited the restaurant after imbibing generously in the bars and pubs on the Yonge-Street strip, in the days when it was Toronto’s entertainment centre. Women often met at Fran’s after shopping at Eaton’s College Street, across the road from the restaurant.

The Eaton’s College Street store is gone, the entertainment district has relocated, and the Leaf’s have departed from the Gardens. However, Fran’s still serves food to the breakfast, lunch and dinner crowds, and remains a destination for those who inhabit Yonge Street during the late-evening and early-morning hours.  

My earliest recollections of Fran’s are from the year 1957, when I worked at the British American Oil Company on the northwest corner of Bay and College. Each workday morning, I journeyed south on the Yonge Subway to the College Station. At that time, the subway had been in service for only three years. Walking west on College Street, I visited Fran’s to purchase two take-out coffees, one for a fellow worker and the other for myself. Visiting Fran’s was a pleasurable morning ritual.

In October of 2016, I revisited the restaurant to relive a few fond memories. On this occasion, the coffee and the clubhouse sandwich with fries, were just as good as ever. Although the dining room had retained its family-style atmosphere, major changes were visible. A street patio and open rooftop deck had been added. Thus, although the eatery had changed, it had also remained the same. Fran’s is still a vital part of the city’s restaurant scene for comfort food.

Fran’s Restaurants were opened by Francis (Fran) Deck, who relocated from Buffalo to Toronto in 1940. His brother Greg remained in Buffalo and managed his own chain of eateries. Fran brought  his experience from Buffalo to Toronto, and opened a restaurant that offered good food and low prices, available 24 hours a day. Along with his wife, Ellen Jane, Fran’s first restaurant was at 21 St. Clair Avenue West, a short distance west of Yonge Street. Containing only 10 seats, it was a small diner that specialized in hamburgers, steaks and wheat cakes. However, it soon became well known for its chili, rice pudding and apple pie. Late-night bottomless cups of coffee and over-sized breakfasts also became highly popular. The famous pianist, Glenn Gould was a regular customer at Fran’s on St. Clair, as he lived nearby.

Fran was reputed to have been the first to use the term “banquet burger,” which was a burger served with bacon and cheese. The term is now employed widely in restaurants throughout North America. He also created his own brand of coffee, which was sold in his establishments.

In 1945, Fran opened another site at 2275 Yonge Street, near Eglinton, another at 1386 Bathurst Street south of Vaughan Road, and the location on College Street near Yonge in 1950. Others were opened in the years ahead, including one in Hamilton and another in Barrie. The head office of the company was on Mt. Pleasant Road, north of Merton Street.

Fran Deck died in an automobile accident in Arizona in 1976. The business was sold to investors, but Joon Kim purchased the College Street site in 1997. The St. Clair and Yonge Street sites have now closed, but the business on College Street remains. In 2004, a Fran’s was opened on the northwest corner of Shuter and Victoria Streets. Fran’s had a booth in the Food Building at the CNE in 2014, when it offered deep-fried rice pudding.

On May 14, 2012, Leonard Cohen was awarded the Glenn Gould Prize in a gala concert in Massey Hall. Afterward, Cohen topped off the evening with a visit to Fran’s.

The source for much of the information for this post was derived from a display in a glass showcase in the entranceway of the College Street restaurant. Other sources were www.timeoout.com, and torontothenandnow.blogspot.com

                image

                               A Fran’s menu from earlier years.

View of College Street looking west at Yonge Street – June 7, 1981

The camera is pointed west on College Street in 1981, from near the intersection at Yonge Street. The canopy of Fran’s Restaurant is visible in the distance, on the north side of College Street. Toronto Archives, F1526, File 0071, item 0065.

                      View of College Street near Yonge Street – May 31, 1981

View looking east along College Street toward Yonge Street on May 31, 1981, Fran’s Restaurant is on the left-hand (north) side of the street. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 0071, Item 0073.

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View of Fran’s in October 2016, with rooftop area and a cafe on the sidewalk level.

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               The neon sign on Fran’s, photo taken in October, 2016.

image

               Fran’s dining room on College Street in 2016.

                   DSCN1049

                   Sketch of Fran’s on its 50th anniversary in 1990.

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

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

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

Books by the Blog’s Author

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

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

   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)

                                 image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[2]    

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

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

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

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

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

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

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

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

  

 

Tags: ,