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Category Archives: Toronto

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. 

3. c. 1933  Fonds 1244_it7360[1]

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.

Series 1465, File 514, Item 20

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 Colonial Tavern – demolished

            1973 Yonge St. Mall, Tor. Archives, Series 377, It. 782  colonial_feature1[1]

The Colonial Tavern during the summer of 1973, when Yonge Street was closed to vehicle traffic to create a pedestrian mall. In the photo, the  facade of the Colonial appears curved, but the other pictures reveal that it was actually straight (see photos at end of post). Photo from the Toronto Archives, Series 377, Item 782

The Colonial Tavern at 201-203 Yonge Street opened in 1947, between two historic bank buildings, opposite today’s Eaton Centre, In its heyday during the 1950s and 1960s, the tavern was one of the most popular music venues in Toronto. In the 1940s and 1950s, Yonge Street was not only the “main drag,” but was the centre of the city’s nightlife and entertainment. The section of Yonge between College and Queen was where Hollywood-style bright lights, flashing neon signs, and boisterous crowds created an exuberance that was unequalled in Canada. The names of the popular night spots on Yonge from those decades still reverberate after all these years—Friar’s Tavern, Le Coq D’ Or, Steele’s Tavern, Zanzibar, Edison Hotel, Brown Derby, and the jewel in the crown, the Colonial. The only other popular jazz joints were the Town Tavern (16 Queen Street East), and George’s Spaghetti House at 290 Dundas Street East.

In the 1890s, the site where the Colonial opened was the location of the Athlete Hotel, which in 1918 was renamed the Scholes Hotel. It was purchased by Goodwin (Goody) and Harvey Lichenberg in 1947, renovated, and opened as the Colonial Tavern. It was the second establishment, after the Silver Rail, to receive a liquor license from the LLBO, following the relaxing of Ontario’s liquor laws. The Colonial was a jazz and blues venue, which defied the norms of the times when it booked an all-black dance band group—Cy McLean and the Rhythm Rompers. Cy was a pianist by profession, who formed a band in 1937. During the swing era of the 1940s, it was Canada’s only all-black orchestra. When it played at the Colonial, it was its first performance in a mainstream venue.

During the 1950s, the Colonial was Toronto’s main music venue. However, on July 24, 1960, a disastrous fire gutted it. Two years were required to rebuild, and when it reopened in 1961, the building that had been Scholes Hotel, was replaced with a structure that was only two storeys in height. It was now more intimate, the tables and chairs grouped closely around the stage. The ceiling was low, but there was sufficient height to accommodate a balcony. The singers that performed at the Colonial were among the greatest names of jazz and the blues—Miles Davis, Carmen McRae, Thelonius Monk, Art Blakey, Dave Brubeck, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzie Gillespie, Benny Goodman, Sarah Vaughan.

In 1971, the first Yonge Street Mall was created. Because the street was closed to vehicle traffic, sidewalk cafes dotted the strip, the Colonial’s cafe being one of the most popular. The Litchenbergs hired twenty extra employees to handle the crowds. The mall experience was recreated again in 1972, 1973, and for eight weeks in 1974. It was during the 1970s that I visited the Colonial. I was too enthralled with the performance on stage to remember many details about its interior. However, I do recall that it was a cozy venue, where no seat was very far from the performers.  

By the mid-1970s, jazz was declining and the Colonial became more or less a discotheque. In the late-1970s, the basement of the Colonial was rented to various punk bands such as Teenage Head and Vilestones. The downstairs space was referred to by various names, the most well known being the “Colonial Underground.” During this decade the legal drinking age was 21, and the basement venue was a magnet for underage teenagers who wanted to defy the laws, the most commonly feared words being, “Let me see your ID.” Though the Colonial featured punk bands during these years, it is today remembered as a jazz and blues venue. Also during the 1970s, Wayland Flowers and his puppets—Madame and Crazy Mary—performed at the Colonial. Flowers was later to play at the Royal York’s Imperial Room. 

The Colonial was sold In the late-1970s and during the years ahead, it slowly deteriorated. It mainly featuring rock bands and exotic waitresses. As well, the famous Yonge Street strip, where the venue was located, also started to become seedy. It was during these years that the clubs, bars, and taverns began to close. The murder of a young shoeshine boy in 1977 finally created the impetus for the City to clean up the street. However, the sanitized version of “the strip” never achieved the buzz and excitement of former decades, as the music clubs had disappeared.

The Colonial lingered on, but it had lost its lustre. Robert Fulford wrote in the Toronto Star in 1987 that the famous jazz venue offered bad food, surly waitresses, and patrons that were loud and drunk. He also stated that the low ceiling made the space feel cramped and that it appeared as if the space was a tunnel with a bulge in the middle. The tables close to the stage, he stated, suffered from music that was too loud, and the tables at the back gave a person the sense of over-hearing the music, rather than hearing it. However, Fulford grudgingly admitted that none of negative features mattered, “because of the quality of the music.” The same year that Fulford visited the Colonial, it permanently shuttered its doors.

The site was purchased by investors that intended to reopen it as a hotel, but the plans never materialized. In 1982, the City bought the property to build a space that would connect Massey Hall with the Elgin Theatre, forming a theatre complex in the heart of Toronto. However, in 1987, due to a lack of funds, City Council voted to demolish the Colonial and create a parkette. Another great idea never saw the light of day.

Edward Keenan wrote an article about the city in the Toronto Star on September 22, 2016: “And the thing about big plans with no money behind them is that they inspire hope and then gather dust on a shelf for decades and then inspire cynicism about the next big plans that come along.” He was referring to the plans to construct a public park over the rail lands, but the same might be said of the idea for a theatre complex in the centre of the city.

scholes hotel c. 1945, Fonds 1257, S1057, Item 537  [1]

The charming Scholes Hotel in 1945, where the Colonial opened in 1947, the two historic bank buildings on either side of it. This is the building that was gutted by fire on July 24, 1960. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 537.

mid- 1970s, F124, fl002,id0066  colonial[1] - Copy

The rebuilt Colonial Tavern that reopened in 1961, as it appeared in the mid-1970s. Toronto Archives, Fonds 124, File 002, id 0066.

                     Series 377, Itm. 545 colonial_copy-225x300[1].png

The Colonial and its patio in the 1970s, when Yonge Street was closed to create a mall. Toronto Archives, Series 377, Item 545. 

f0124_fl0003_id0123[1] - Copy     

The Colonial in the 1980s, when it possessed a rather dreary facade. Toronto Archives Fonds 0124, File 0003, id 0123. 

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The site in December 1987, after City Council voted to demolish the Colonial. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1024, File 0003, id 0123.

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The site where the Colonial once stood, between the two historic bank buildings on Yonge Street. The construction of the Massey Tower occupies most of the site. Photo was taken on September 19, 2016. 

To discover more about Yonge Street when it was the musical heart of Toronto—a link to Edward Keenan’s article in the Toronto Star on September 29, 2016.

torontostar.newspaperdirect.com/epaper/viewer.aspx?issue…33…

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[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 direct 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: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Toronto’s Board of Trade Building (demolished)

1900  20101227-1900-Board_of_Trade_Building_Front_Street[1]

The Board of Trade Building in 1900, located at 2-8 Front Street East, at Front and Yonge Streets. Photo from the Toronto Archives, Fonds 1568, Item 0217.

As the 19th century progressed, Toronto continued to prosper as it was the provincial capital and a major financial centre. Thus, a Board of Trade was established in 1845 to promote the interests of the business community. In 1884, the Board amalgamated with the Corn Exchange and a larger building was required. Members of the Board felt that it was important that the new headquarters reflect the prosperity and importance of the city. To ensure that this was accomplished, an architectural competition was initiated, the budget for the structure set at $200,000. Eight American and eleven Canadian designs were submitted, which were evaluated by Professor Ware of the Columbia University Department of Architecture. He recommended three of the designs, two of them Canadian and one American, and then allowed the Board to decide which firm should be granted the commission.

Many Torontonians were upset when the Board chose a British company with offices in New York, instead of the well-known Canadian firm of Darling and Curry. To add strength to the dispute, it became known that Professor Ware had stated that the Toronto company’s submission was superior. Despite the howls of protest, the Board hired the American architectural firm.

During the construction, three floors of brickwork collapsed to the ground because the support beams were unable to sustain the weight. The architects dismissed the building company, and shortly after, the Board dismissed the architects. Edward A. Kent from a Buffalo firm was hired to complete the building, according to the original designs. When the Board of Trade Building was completed in 1892, it was $140,000 over budget. With its Gothic and Romanesque designs, the building was a picturesque structure that attracted great attention from tourists and local citizens alike. It was a favourite among those who purchased postcards of Toronto, in an era when postcards were a highly popular.

Despite the many problems that had occurred, most critics agreed that the seven-storey structure was one of the finest in Toronto. It was felt that it ably represented the ideals and prosperity of the city. They ignored the fact that it was almost an exact replica of the Boston Chamber of Commerce Building, erected a few years earlier. By far the most impressive structure on Front Street, it overshadowed the warehouses and commercial structures to the east and west of it. The tower above the seventh floor, with its Turkish influences, dominated the corner. Its facades were faced with bricks from Toronto brickyards, and Credit Valley sandstone was employed for decorative trim. The windows on the top floor had gabled arches above them. They were the largest windows in the structure, allowing generous light to enter the top floor where the board meetings were held. On the same floor was the club room.

The Board of Trade occupied the building until 1914, when it sold the premises and relocated north on Yonge Street to the Royal Bank Building (at King Street). In 1921, when the Toronto Transportation (Transit) Commission was created to operate the streetcars and buses of the city, it moved into the former Board of Trade Building. The TTC remained in the premises until 1958, when it relocated to Yonge and Davisville.

The Toronto Board of Trade Building was demolished in 1958. During the 1960s, many of the other 19th-century buildings on Front Street were also demolished. The Flat Iron (Gooderham) Building and the warehouses on the south side of Front, west of Jarvis Street, were among the exceptions.

After the demise of the Board of Trade Building, there was an expansive parking lot on the site. However, in 1982, a 13-storey office complex of glass and steel was constructed on the location—the EDS Office Tower. It is today directly across from the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts.

                                                             * * *

I remember the Board of Trade Building as I passed it many times when visiting the St. Lawrence Market in the 1950s. I travelled to the market via the old Yonge streetcars, disembarking  at Yonge Street and walking east along Front Street. However, being a teenager at the time, I never stopped to admire this exceptional building. I now regret my lack of interest.

Sources: William Dendy, “ “Lost Toronto,” archiseek.com

c. 1890  I0001936[1]

Board of Trade Building, the photo taken shortly after it opened in 1892. Ontario Archives, 10001936.

c. 1890  I0001937[1]

   The building’s entrance on Front Street in the 1890s. Ontario Archives 10001937.

1900  pictures-r-5926[1]

Stereoscopic photo of the building, dated 1900. Toronto Public Library Collection, r-5926

1910- r-2169[1]

Postcard of the building, dated 1910, gazing east along Front Street. The old Bank of Montreal, now the Hockey Hall of Fame, is on the left-hand side of the photo. Toronto Public Library Collection, r-2169

Fonds 1244, Item 10072

Gazing north on Yonge Street in 1912, from the roof of the old Customs House (now demolished) on the southwest corner of Front and Yonge Streets. The Board of Trade Building is on the right-hand(east side) of Yonge. Toronto Archives, F1244, Item 10072.

Head Office Building, Front and Yonge – March 2, 1923

The Board of Trade Building on March 2, 1923. View looks toward the northeast corner of Front and Yonge Streets. Toronto Archives, S 0071, Item 1905.

Fonds 1266, Item 1860

View of the north side of Front Street on January 15, 1924. The Board of Trade Building is visible on the northeast corner of Front and Yonge. The construction site in the foreground remained empty for quite a few years. However, in 1929, the Dominion Building (Federal Customs building) was constructed on it. Toronto Archives, F1266, Item 1860.

Fonds 1244, Item 7189

Gazing east along Front Street at the north side of the street, c. 1930. The Bank of Montreal, built in 1885, on the northwest corner of Front and Yonge, is where the Hockey Hall of fame is located today. Toronto Archives, F1244, Item 7189.

1954  pictures-r-5928[1] (2)

The Board of Trade Building in 1954, Toronto Public Library, r-5928.

Former TTC Head Office located at Yonge and Front Sts – December 13, 1958

The Board of Trade Building in 1958, when it was being prepared for demolition. Toronto Archives, F1526, F10040, Item 0016.

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/

The publication entitled, “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” was written by the author of this blog. It 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:

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

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Shop, and 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, published by Dundurn Press, containing 80 of Toronto’s former movie theatres will be released in June, 2016. It is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It contains over 125 archival photographs and relates interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating histories.

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

Another publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. This book will be released in June 2016. For further information follow the link to Amazon.com  here  or contact the publisher directly by the link shown below:

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

 

Tags: ,

Memories of springtime in Toronto in the 1940s

DSCN0649  DSCN0621

Sometimes, I teasingly tell people that there are three terrible aspects of living in Canada – January, February and March. However, I quickly add that because of our seemingly never-ending winters, the arrival of spring is perhaps more eagerly appreciated than in latitudes further south. I was born in Toronto and spent my boyhood in the city during the difficult years of Second World War. Sometimes, I compare the spring seasons of the war-years with those of today.

I was in this reflective mood in May of this year (2016), when I gazed at the delicate purple blossoms on the redbud in the park across from my condominium. When I was a boy, I do not recall ever having seen these exquisite flowering trees. In the 1940s, our climate was far colder than today, and redbud were unable to survive Toronto’s frigid winters. This realization caused me to think about other changes over the years, and realize how different springtime was during my childhood. (redbud shown on lower left)

DSCN0615 In past decades, our daily activities centred more closely around the seasons. There were no thermal double-glazed windows, so one of the first rituals of spring was watching my father remove the storm windows on our house. After they were stored in the basement, lacking air conditioning, screens were installed to allow the circulation of the air within the rooms during the summer ahead. Another sign of the new season was the end of the weekly doses of cod liver oil. There were no capsules or sugar-coated versions of the nasty-tasting oil, so the cessation of winter’s medicine caused me to quietly celebrate.

In winter, similar to most children, I did not go much after dark. However, with the arrival of the longer evenings of spring, I was allowed to venture out after supper, although I was expected to return home when the streetlights came on. The laneways behind the houses were the best playgrounds, as they were secluded from adults’ prying eyes. While playing games like “kick-the-can” or “hide and go seek” in the laneways, my friends and I also peered over the backyard fences at the gardens. We noticed that soil was being prepared for the spring planting of seeds —mainly carrots and beets.

While examining the gardens, my friends and I also observed the fruit trees in blossoms, and noted those that might be worthy of raiding in the autumn seasons. Sour (Montmorency) cherries would be available for plundering in June, the apples, peaches and pears eluding us until late-August. However, in May, rhubarb patches were ready for a “pulling session.” We held contests to determine who was able to crunch on the most sour stalks before calling it quits. We never mentioned the number of times we went to the toilet later that night.

When I arrived inside the house, because the streetlights had come on, my mother was often examining an Eaton’s Spring Catalogue, a smaller version of the one that appeared each year well in advance of the Christmas season. My father was relaxing and reading the newspaper, having placed aside the seed catalogues, since he had already purchased those that he required.

My mother also enjoyed gardening. Each spring she planted flowers seeds in pots. As the days warmed, in the mornings she carried them outside and positioned them in a sunny spot at the rear of the house. In the evening, she brought in again, until after May 24th holiday. My parents never purchased plants in a nursery or at a corner store. The frugality of the war years did not allow such extravagance, although seedlings were available at the St. Lawrence Market for families with thicker wallets.

In May, in our backyard garden the pink peonies were in bud, purple iris and hollyhocks were pushing upward, and bleeding hearts were in bloom in a sheltered spot beside the south fence. A bunch of lilacs from the bushes at the rear of the garden was in a vase on the kitchen table. Outside on the street, the mature maple trees flanking the avenue were dropping their tiny bright-green flowers, carpeting the pavement and sidewalks. The bright greens of spring never lasted long, before slowly turning to the deep greens of summer. 

My attire changed dramatically to accommodate the new season. I put away the rubber boots I had worn all winter, with their thick inner-soles and heavy wool stockings, and put on my scampers. These shoes I would wear until the cold weather returned. Some kids wore “running shoes”, today more commonly referred to as “sneakers.” In the 1940s, the term sneakers was unknown to me. My britches (pants), with the long socks that came up to the knees, disappeared and I now wore overalls.

At school, our reading program closely followed the Canadian seasons. In grade one, the official reader was the “Mary, John and Peter” book. Authorized by the Minister of Education, it was designed and illustrated under the supervision of The Ontario College of Art, and sold by the T. Eaton Company.

                  DSCN0686            

The “Mary, John and Peter” grade-one reader. Every child in Ontario during the war years commenced their reading lessons with this book. The cover illustrates that its first pages were devoted to autumn, the beginning of the school year. The copy of the book shown above was printed in 1933.

DSCN0687

The first pages inside the cover of the reader. I still remember the first time I opened the book in September of 1944.

DSCN0690

In the spring of 1944, when we read the story “The Little Red Tulip,” I knew that our teacher had officially recognized the spring season.

There were other signs of spring that occurred at school. The girls commenced bringing their skipping ropes to school, the most intricate type of skipping being double-dutch. It was amazing to observe two sets of ropes whirling in the air as the girls skipped in and out of them. As well, squares were marked with chalk on the pavement in the schoolyard to play hop-scotch. I might add that the chalk was usually stolen from the blackboard ledges when the girls lined up beside them to depart for recess or lunch. Another popular game was “pick up the jacks. ”In the 1940s, boys and the girls were segregated in the schoolyards, so these activities mainly occurred in the girls’ yard.

In the boys’ yard, pockets bulged with glass marbles, sometimes referred to as “dibs or allies.” Various competitive games were employed to try to win some of the other boys’ collections. The most highly prized marbles were the larger ones, referred to as “boulders.” We traded cards with photos of movie stars, obtained from packages of bubble gum. It was not until the 1950s, with the advent of television, that hockey and baseball cards were inserted into bubble gum packages. 

Another signal that spring was in the air was the arrival of the “yo-yo man.” A promoter for a yo-yo company stood outside the schoolyard fence during recess and performed amazing trick with them, the hardest of them being “the sleeper.” It enticed many children to visit a local store and buy a yo-yo while purchasing penny candy.

Spring brought other changes. The sign placed in the front window of our house for the iceman was reversed to indicate that 50 pounds of ice were required for the icebox. All winter, 25 pounds had been sufficient. With the warmer weather, we lifted the canvas cover at the back of the ice truck to retrieve small shards of ice to suck on. The wooden box that my father had placed in the kitchen window to keep food cool was removed for the season. The temperature inside the box was regulated by adjusting the height of the window. It was a practical way of obtaining extra space to keep food fresh during the winter season.

The month of May was also when the first of the trucks from Nova Scotia appeared on our street, selling fresh spring salmon. They packed the fish in ice and drove non-stop from the Atlantic region to Toronto. It was one of the highlights of the year, equalled only by the appearance later in the season of the farmers’ trucks from Niagara, which delivered strawberries and asparagus. My mother thoroughly enjoyed berating the vendors about their prices, while silently giving thanks for the change in the menu at the kitchen table.

Today, I anticipate the arrival of spring as much as when I was a child. Each year, on a warm sunny day, I walk around the city and appreciate again the arrival of the new season. Below are a few of the photographs taken on May 16, 2016, during my excursion this spring. 

DSCN0614

Redbud in bloom in St. Andrew’s Playground, beside the brick wall of the Waterworks (Maintenance) Building on Brant Street.

                     DSCN0623

Trees in flower on the south side of Dundas Street West, near Augusta Avenue, on the north side of the Alexandra Park Co-op Housing.

21 Kensington Ave.   

        Lilacs in front of 21 Kensington Avenue in the Kensington Market

DSCN0624

Houses and blossoms on the west side of Kensington Avenue, south of St. Andrew’s Street.

                     106 Kensington Ave.

Peonies in bud at 106 Kensington Avenue, in the Kensington Market.

96 Baldwin Ave.

Tulips and forget-me-not flowers in the front garden at 96 Baldwin Avenue.

101 Baldwin Ave.

                         Dandelions and violets at 101 Baldwin Street 

DSCN0642   DSCN0643

          University Avenue, gazing north toward College Street.

DSCN0644   DSCN0645

Pansies in front of the Canada Life Building on University Avenue.

DSCN0657

Daffodils in the rear garden of Campbell House, built in 1822, on the northwest corner of University Avenue and Queen Street West.

DSCN0663

Trees in front of the north facade of Osgoode Hall on Queen Street West, near University Avenue.

              DSCN0666

View of Toronto’s Old City Hall from the gardens on the east side of Osgoode Hall.

DSCN0667

             View of the New City Hall from the gardens on the west side. 

                    DSCN0671

Gazing north from Queen Street East at the Metropolitan United Church, at Queen Street East and Church Street.

                  DSCN0680

View of St. James Cathedral on King Street East from the gardens on the east side.

DSCN0682

Gazing west towards St. James Cathedral from the east side of St. James Park.

DSCN0679

View of the north and west facades of the St. Lawrence Hall on King Street East at Jarvis Street, from the gardens of St. James Park.

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/

The publication entitled, “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” was written by the author of this blog. It 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:

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

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Shop, and 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, published by Dundurn Press, containing 80 of Toronto’s former movie theatres will be released in June, 2016. It is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It contains over 125 archival photographs and relates interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating histories.

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

Another publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. This book will be released in June 2016. For further information follow the link to Amazon.com  here  or contact the publisher directly by the link shown below:

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

 

 

 

 

Tags: , ,

Toronto’s Sunnyside Amusement Park (demolished)

1923, Mike Filey

Sunnyside Amusement Park in 1923. When I visited it as a child in the 1940s, its appearance was basically the same, so the above photo depicts Sunnyside as I remember it. Photo from the Mike Filey collection, in the Toronto Archives.

Today we live in a world where people are extremely mobile and well-connected via social media. Toronto in the 1940s was vastly different. Few households owned a phone, due to the high rental costs, and cell phones were science fiction, relegated to the comic sections of the newspapers. Automobiles were prohibitively expensive, and were not being manufactured since the companies were busy assembling tanks and vehicles for the war in Europe and the Pacific. Adding to the difficulties of owning a car, rubber tires and gasoline were rationed.

Thus, 1940s Toronto was a narrower world than that of today. People tended to purchase or rent houses within close proximity to friends and relatives, so they were able to walk to each others’ houses to converse about the trials and joys of life. Chatting with neighbours often occurred over a fence in the back garden, particularly on Mondays, which was washing day for most families. Corner stores and greeting neighbours when walking along the sidewalk also provided opportunities for exchanging information. For more important news, such as the war front, most households owned a radio. To keep in touch with family members who lived beyond the neighbourhood, a visit by streetcar or bus was necessary. If they were further afield, hand-written letters or postcards were sent.

Because owning an automobile was beyond the reach of most households, the majority of families were confined to the city. If they wished a day-trip away from the neighbourhood, in summer they visited places such as High Park, the Humber Valley, Scarborough Beach, and Kew Beach. Centre Island and Hanlan’s Point were other popular summer destinations, a ferry ride across the harbour considered an added attraction. However, in my family, the favourite day-trip was a visit to the Sunnyside Amusement Park and the sandy beach nestled beside it. Even on the hottest day, the breezes from the lake were cool and refreshing. 

We always arrived at Sunnyside via the Queen Streetcar, disembarking at Roncesvalles Avenue, where it intersected with King and Queen Streets. Walking across the Sunnyside railway bridge, we descended the iron stairs to the amusement park below. As we walked past the rides, which included an enormous rollercoaster named the Flyer, I longed to be of an age to climb aboard them. Alas, I was confined to the merry-go-round, now usually referred to as a carousel. Where Sunnyside’s rides were located is today where the Gardiner Expressway exists.

1945-  SC139-2 box 148489

The merry-go-round at Sunnyside in 1945. It was eventually relocated to Disneyland in California. The Flyer (rollercoaster) is evident in the background. Photo from the Toronto Archives, SC 139-2, Box 148489.

The History of Sunnyside

In 1912, Toronto’s city councillors voted to erect an amusement park at Sunnyside, to the west of the downtown, beside lake Ontario. Projected to cost $19 million, work began in 1913, but construction stopped when the First World War began in 1914. After the war, the project resumed, and over 1400 acres of land were reclaimed from the lake. The final stage was to landscape the newly created land with top soil and sodding.

By 1919, as work on Sunnyside proceeded, it was evident that a new roadway was required, which meant replacing the old Lakeshore Road. Completed within a year, the 54-foot-wide, four-lane Lakeshore Boulevard West was opened. Two year later, on June 28, 1922, the amusement park was officially inaugurated by Mayor Mcguire. At the time, Sunnyside Amusement Park had not been completed, but a few of the rides and the Bathing Pavilion were ready for visitors. The Bathing Pavilion, designed by Alfred Chapman, costing $300,000, accommodated 7700 bathers, and had a roof garden where 400 guests could purchase refreshments and snacks. To enter the pool, the cost was 25 cents for adults and 15 cents for children. However, there was a 1100’ free bathing area to the south of the Pavilion, and another at the western end of Sunnyside, close to the east bank of the Humber River.

After its official opening in 1922, thousands strolled the boardwalk at Sunnyside, swam in the waters of the lake, or dived into the new swimming pool. The Palais Royal, built at a cost of $80,000, also opened the same year. Walter Dean’s Boat Building Factory was in the basement level, so only the main floor was occupied by the dance pavilion. However, due to the dance hall’s success, it was not long before it encompassed the entire structure. It became one of the most popular dance venues in Toronto and featured many of the popular big bands. Its main competition was Palace Pier.  

During the next few year, the amusement park was completed. Popular features were the concession stands, dance pavilion, and an open-air theatre called the Band Stand. The annual Easter Parade was held on the boardwalk at Sunnyside. The Miss Toronto beauty contests and women’s softball games were also well attended. The Sunnyside rollercoaster, named the Flyer, was a wooden structure. I rode it many times in the 1950s and can still recall how the cars swayed from side to side as they descended from the highest section of track. This added greatly to the sense of danger.

The golden era of Sunnyside was the 1930s and 1940s. During the late-1940s and early-1950s, automobiles became more affordable and families began journeying north of the city to escape the heat of a Toronto summer. The lakes of Muskoka and the beaches of Georgian Bay were the most popular.

In 1955, the Toronto Harbour Commission ordered the demolition of Sunnyside. By the end of 1956, the summer retreat that previous generations had known and loved, was but a memory. The land is now beneath the Gardiner Expressway and the widened Lakeshore Boulevard.

153822-4, Series 2375, Ite, 4

Sunnyside, likely during the late 1920s, the view gazing west along the Lakeshore Boulevard. The merry-go-round is the large round structure on the right-hand side (north) of the Lakeshore Boulevard. Toronto Archives, Series 2375, Box 153822.  

Band Stand, c. 1939, Box 153800, SC 156-180

The Band Stand at Sunnyside in 1939, when the Peoples Credit Jewellers Community Sing Song was in progress. Toronto Archives, SC 156-180, box 153800.

Fonds 1034, Item 844

A concession stand at Sunnyside in 1929, Toronto Archives, F1034, Item 0844.

concess. Stand pre 1922

                                        Refreshment stand c. 1922.

fonds 1266, Globe and Mail fonds

Crowds at Sunnyside in 1924, Toronto Archives, Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266, Globe and Mail Fonds.

Fonds 1266, Item 4392

   Sunnyside on December 24, 1924. Toronto Archives, F1266, Item 4392.

f1231_it0653[1]  beach 1935

Sunnyside Beach on August 21, 1935. The view faces east. Toronto Archives, F1231, Item 0653.

f1231_it0658[1] 1929

     The Sunnyside Pool in 1929, Toronto Archives, F1231, Item 0658.

Links to further information on this blog about Sunnyside:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/02/03/a-pictorial-journey-to-torontos-old-sunnyside-beach-part-two/

 https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/01/30/in-mid-winter-recalling-the-sunshine-of-torontos-sunnyside-beach/

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/

The publication entitled, “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” was written by the author of this blog. It 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:

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

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Shop, and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

                                 image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb    

Another book, published by Dundurn Press, containing 80 of Toronto’s former movie theatres will be released in June, 2016. It is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It contains over 125 archival photographs and relates interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating history.

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

Another publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. This book will be released on June 1, 2016. For further information follow the link to Amazon.com  here  or to contact the publisher directly:

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

 

 

 

Tags: ,

Toronto’s Cyclorama (demolished) on Front Street

f0124_fl0003_id0058[1]

In the foreground is the building that once housed Toronto’s Cyclorama, on Front Street West. The photo was taken c. 1975, the year prior to its demolition. The Walker House (Hotel) is to the east (left) of the Cyclorama and the Swiss Bear Restaurant (with the pointed roof) is between the two structures. Both of these have also been demolished. In the distance (far left) is today’s Union Station. Toronto Archives, F0124, fl. 0003, id. 0057. 

When I was a teenager in the 1950s, Front Street as depicted in the above photo was very familiar to me. I drove or walked past this section of the street many times, but knew very little about the history of the rather strange looking parking garage that was circular in shape. My father had told me that it had once contained some sort of enormous painting, which encircled its interior. However, he knew nothing more about the structure. It was built long before he arrived in the city in 1921, and he had never been inside it.

I did not pursue the matter any further, as being a teenager I was busy with other things. In my mind, it remained simply an odd-shaped parking garage that was quite ugly, and thus I did not take much notice when I heard that it was being demolished. However, when researching the cyclorama for this post, I discovered that it was once an important part of Toronto’s entertainment scene.

Cycloramas were popular in the final decades of the nineteenth century as they presented dramatic scenes in blazing colours. Photography was in its infancy and there were no coloured photographs other than those that were hand-tinted. The only way of depicting colourful scenery or important events was by creating paintings with oils or watercolours. As a result, in the 1880s, in Europe and North America, large buildings were constructed to display huge 360 degree canvases. They wrapped around the interior of the structures and viewers stood on stages in the centre of the paintings or on walkways. Erected for public entertainment, these buildings were named cycloramas because they were cylindrical in shape.

Toronto’s Cyclorama was typically round in appearance, similar to others world-wide. However, it actually possessed 16 flat sides, the resulting hexadecagon looking like an enormous circle. It was a combination of an art gallery and an amusement arcade. Around the interior of the brick building, which was the equivalent of three storeys in height, in which multiple canvases were connected to create a 400-foot continuous scene. The painting was 50 feet high, the dome above it coloured to resemble the sky. Created by an Austrian artist, August Lohr, the perspective was increased to simulate a 3D effect. Erected by the Toronto Art Exhibition Company Ltd., the building’s architects were Kennedy and Holland. It was located on the south side of Front Street West, between York and Simcoe Streets. The old Union Station (now demolished), was immediately to the south of it.

When Toronto’s cyclorama opened on September 13, 1887, it was a colourful and amazing sight for 19th-century visitors. The first presentation was a panoramic view of the Battle of Sedan, one of the bloodiest battles of the Franco Prussian War of the 1870s. In front of the the scene were real and manufactured artefacts (weapons, uniforms , a real horse that was stuffed, a cannon, etc.). To add realism, at peak viewing times costumed actors portrayed soldiers, sound effects were added, and sometimes smoke to simulate the after effects of cannon fire. Visitors paid 25 cents to enter the building, and viewed the art work from a walkway that allowed them to move around the entire circle. The concept was a great success.

In 1889, the Battle of Gettysburg was shown at the cyclorama. Then, the Battle of Waterloo was the subject, and next, Jerusalem on the Day of the Crucifixion. Historic and religious themes were the favourites of cycloramas in Europe as well as in North America. 

However, as the 20th century approached, technology continued to advance and magic lantern shows (slides) began to reproduce authentic scenes of nature, cities, and even important events. These were followed by silent movies that were often filmed on real locations. Attendance at cycloramas throughout the world slowly declined.

Toronto’s cyclorama was seized by the City of Toronto about the year 1898, for non-payment of $2095 in taxes. It remained empty for many years, and was in danger of being demolished. Finally, in 1927, it was purchased by the Petrie Machinery Company for a showroom and factory. A few years later, it was remodelled to create a parking garage for the nearby Royal York Hotel, which opened in June, 1929. The conversion of the cyclorama into a garage presented many engineering problems. In the 1940s, the cyclorama became a showroom for Elgin Motors, and finally, a parking garage for Avis Car Rentals. 

In 1976, the cyclorama was purchased, and along with the Walker House Hotel, was demolished to erect Citigroup Place. Today, when I drive southbound on York Street to reach the Gardiner Expressway, at Front Street I often think of the old Walker House and Toronto’s Cyclorama.

Map of 121 Front St W, Toronto, ON M5J

                         Site of Toronto’s Cyclorama.

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Postcard from 1906, depicting the cyclorama when it was the Petrie Machinery Emporium. The view is from Front Street, the old Union Station erected in 1873, to the west of it. All these buildings have been demolished. Image from skritch.blogspot.com

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The cyclorama in 1922, when it was the Petrie Machinery Company showroom and factory. Toronto Archives, F1244, Item 1099.

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The dome of the cyclorama on December 6, 1923. Toronto Archives, F1548, S0393, Item 20964.

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This photo was taken on June 3, 1926. It gazes toward the northwest, the three towers of the Union Station, erected in 1873, on the left-hand side. The taller tower to the north of the three towers is the section of the station on Front Street. The south and east sides of the cyclorama are visible, as well as the Walker House beside it, on the east side. The bridge crossing over the railway tracks is on York Street. Toronto Archives, F1580, Item 0017.

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This panoramic view gazes at the south (rear) and east sides of the cyclorama, the Walker House to the east of it. York Street is between the Walker House and Union Station, which opened in 1927. Front Street is on the north side of the buildings. The Queen’s Hotel, where the Royal York Hotel is today, is across from Union Station. The clock tower of the Old City Hall is in the upper left-hand corner. Photo was taken c.1927, and is from the collection of the Toronto Archives, F1231, Item 0100 (1).

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Split image depicting the cyclorama in the 1940s (left) and a sketch of the cyclorama in the late-19th century. Image from www.BlogTo.com  

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Undated photo of the interior of the cyclorama, when floors had been built inside it to convert it into a parking garage. Image from pinterest.com.

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View of the north (front) side of the cyclorama on Front Street in 1953, the Walker House to the east of it. Toronto Public Library r-3686.

Walker House - view from York St below University Ave – January 7, 1975

The south side of the cyclorama and the Walker House (foreground) on January 7, 1975. View gazes west on Station Street from York Street. Toronto Archives, F1526, Fl 0051, Item 0001 

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The site where the cyclorama and the Walker House were located, on Front Street to the west of York Street. Photo taken in March 2016.

A link to discover more about the old Walker House Hotel to the east of the cyclorama:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2016/04/12/walker-house-hotel-demolished-front-and-york-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/

The publication entitled, “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” was written by the author of this blog. It 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.  

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   To place an order for this book:

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

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Shop, and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

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Another book, published by Dundurn Press, containing 80 of Toronto’s former movie theatres will be released in June, 2016. It is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It contains over 125 archival photographs and relates interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating histories.

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

Another publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. This book will be released in June 2016. For further information follow the link to Amazon.com  here  or contact the publisher directly by the link shown below:

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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