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Category Archives: Toronto Horticultural Society

Alllan Gardens (Toronto) and the Palm House

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

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

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

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

A very worthwhile goal, I thought.

Feb. 19, 2019.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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        Palms beneath the great glass dome of the Palm House.                              

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

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                            Serious photographers in the Palm House. 

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              Gazing skyward from beneath the dome of the Palm House.

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

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

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

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

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

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                            Winter displays of tulips and white amaryllis.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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                                        Close-up view of the turtles.

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               Orchards in the south Tropical Greenhouse. 

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                         Blooms in the south greenhouse at Allan Gardens.

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

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

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

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

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

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

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

              Books by the Author

               DSCN2207_thumb9_thumb2_thumb4_thumb_  

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

                  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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Historic Greenhouses in Allan Gardens—Toronto

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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                        Interior of the pavilion that opened in 1879.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources for this post on Allan Gardens:

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

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

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

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

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

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

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

              Books by the Author

               DSCN2207_thumb9_thumb2_thumb4_thumb_  

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

                  image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb

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

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

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

 

 Toronto: Then and Now®

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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