RSS

Category Archives: Toronto’s lost buildings

Stories of Honest Ed’s Bargain Store

DSCN0381

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.

image

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.

DSCN0395

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

  DSCN0397  DSCN0400

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

DSCN0404

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

DSCN0392

                                      Inside the store in 2015.

DSCN0391

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.

DSCN0379

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

image

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

image

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.

DSCN0382

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

 

Tags: , , ,

Salvation Square at the Toronto Eaton Centre

1890s- pictures-r-658[1]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fonds 1244, Item 1998

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

                    Fonds 1244, Item 2561

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

1953.  pictures-r-630[1]

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

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

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

                  Series 1465, File 466, Item 4

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

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

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

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

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

DSCN1208

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

DSCN1209

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

                   Salvation_Army_Territorial_Headquarters_Map[1]

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

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

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

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

Books by the Blog’s Author

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

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

   To place an order for this book, published by History Press:

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

Book also available in most book stores such as Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox and AGO Book Shop. It can also be ordered by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

                                 image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[2]    

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

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

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

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Tags: , , , ,

Lost Toronto, the Central Building—45 Richmond St. West

                        Fonds 444, Item 21

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

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

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

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

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

                           Fonds 444, Item 20

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

Fonds 444, Item 22

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

Map of 45 Richmond St W, Toronto, ON M5H

      Location of the Central Building at 45 Richmond Street West.

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

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

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

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

Books by the Blog’s Author

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

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

   To place an order for this book, published by History Press:

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

Book also available in most book stores such as Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox and AGO Book Shop. It can also be ordered by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

                                 image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[2]    

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

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

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

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tags: , ,

The north St. Lawrence Market—demolished 2016

image

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

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

DSCN6445

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

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

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

1898 water colour pictures-r-5181[1]

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

1898  pictures-r-6039[1]

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

DSCN6553  

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

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

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

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

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

Series 1465, File 415, Item 6

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

painting, c. 1945  I0003149[1]

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

1957  e010955318-v8[1]

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

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

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

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

DSCN1580

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

image

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

image

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

image

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

DSCN1545  DSCN1544

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

DSCN1558

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

image

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

DSCN1568

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

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

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

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

Books by the Blog’s Author

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

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

   To place an order for this book, published by History Press:

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

Book also available in most book stores such as Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox and AGO Book Shop. It can also be ordered by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

                                 image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb    

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

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

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

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tags: ,

Benvenuto—Toronto’s mansion on the hill—demolished 1932

1890, pictures-r-2084[1]

Benvenuto in 1890 — home of Simeon Henan Janes and later, Sir William Mackenzie, on the hill above Davenport Road, on the west side of Avenue Road.

Fonds 1244, Item 7072

Gazing south on Avenue Road from Edmund Road (south of St. Clair Avenue West) in 1910. The large stone retaining wall, on the west side of the steep hill (right-hand side of photo), is one of the few traces that remain of the great estate named Benvenuto. When paving Avenue Road and constructing the streetcar tracks, the road was cut into the side of the hill to reduce the incline. In the far distance, the clock tower of the Old City Hall is visible.

The steep hill on the north side of Davenport Road played a major role in the development of Toronto. The prominent landform was created after the ancient Lake Iroquois receded. Until that time, the land south of the Davenport Road was under water, including all of downtown Toronto. As the lake level dropped, its former shoreline loomed high over the old lake bed below.

When the early settlers arrived in York (Toronto), the enormous hill created a barrier to northern expansion. Before roads were cut into the hill to reduce its steep incline, climbing it on foot or horseback was exceedingly difficult. In the 1790s, it was daunting task for Lieutenant Governor Simcoe’s troops to built Yonge Street up over the hill to create a military supply route. During the years ahead, other roadways ascended the hill, Avenue Road being one of them.

Simeon Henan Janes was among the first men to build a home on the heights, with their commanding view of the city below. Janes was a prosperous real estate developer, who purchased land and built many magnificent brick homes that still exist today in the Annex District of the city. Living in a mansion on Jarvis Street, which in the 1880s was a wealthy residential area, he was desirous of building an even grander home. To fulfill his dream, he purchased a large piece of land on the hill overlooking Davenport Road, on the west side of Avenue Road. Today, the site would be at the southwest corner of Avenue Road and Edmund Road. The property overlooked the city below, and possessed a commanding view of the lakefront and the waters of Lake Ontario.

Janes intended that his a home would reflect his great wealth. Construction commenced in 1888, its architect being an American — A. Page Brown. He named it “Benvenuto,” the Italian word meaning “welcome.” However, because Brown relocated his firm from New York to San Francisco, the designs were actually assigned to Frank L. Ellingwood. The walls of Benvenuto and the two towers on its south side, were built of huge blocks of rough limestone, quarried at Kingston. The roof consisted of red terracotta tiles.

Because of the difficulty of heating the house during Canada’s severe winters, the windows were small within the massive walls. Most of them were rectangular, although those in the west tower and the two windows on the ground floor, to the left of the east tower, were topped by round Roman arches in the Romanesque Revival style of architecture. Indeed, in many ways, the heavy fortress-like appearance of the structure reflected the Romanesque Revival style. The same type of stone employed for constructing the house was used for the retaining wall that faced Avenue Road, on the east side of the estate.    

In most grand houses in the 1880s and 1890s, the entrance hall was where people were greeted, and thus, it was an important space, since it was where guests received their first impressions of their hosts. In Benvenuto, the hall featured a fireplace, as it was built in the days prior to central heating. It was also a place to allow visitors to warm themselves on cold winter days and evenings. The hall displayed several large pieces of art, and the grand staircase was accessed from the hall. The staircase possessed a landing that showcased more of the family’s art. The dining room and parlour were entered from the hall; their doorways had sliding doors and heavy draperies, such features necessary to control chilly draughts.

In 1897, Benvenuto was sold to Sir William Mackenzie, a railway contractor, who was knighted on January 1, 1911 for his contribution in developing western Canada. In 1914, Mackenzie commissioned the architects Darling and Pearson to design a service wing on the east side of the mansion. The Mackenzie family was prominent in Toronto’s social scene and entertained lavishly at their new home. Invitations to their garden parties, music evenings, and costume parties were highly prized. When Mackenzie died in 1924, rising property taxes and inflationary real estate prices meant that the house became too costly to maintain as a private residence.

As the number of homes built above the Davenport Road hill increased, more streets were constructed. Edmund Avenue was cut through the Benvenuto estate, separating the estate’s out-buildings from the main house. In 1926, land from the Mackenzie property was sold and became the site of an apartment building, its address 400 Avenue Road. The following year, another apartment building was constructed on the southwest corner of Edmund and Avenue Roads, its postal address 398 Avenue Road. Both these buildings remain today and are considered prestigious addresses. Eventually, Benvenuto was vacant and lacking the size and charm of residences such as Casa Loma and Oaklands (on the east side of Avenue Road), it was demolished in 1932. 

I do not remember Benvenuto as it disappeared before I was born. However, when travelling on the Bay streetcars on Avenue Road in the 1940s, I saw the stone retaining wall on the west side of the hill that descended towards Davenport Road. I never realized that they had been a part of a grand estate. Fortunately, these wall remain today.

Main reference source: “Lost Toronto,” by William Dendy

view from Ben. 1890.  pictures-r-2040[1]

Gazing south across the city from Benvenuto in 1890. Toronto had not yet extended up the hill at Avenue Road, which can be seen in the photo. The street is not paved and there is no streetcar line. Toronto Public Library, r- 2040.

hallway, 1890, pictures-r-4749[1]

The grand entrance hall of Benvenuto in 1890, with its rich panelling, impressive fireplace, and the some of the family’s art collection. Toronto Public Library, r- 4749. 

image

        Dining room in 1890, Toronto Public Library, r- 2079.

drawing room, 1890,  pictures-r-4753[1]

The drawing room (parlour) of the home in 1890. Perhaps this photo best illustrates the extreme wealth of the Janes’ family. Toronto Public Library, r- 4753. 

Fonds 1244, Item 328A  

Benvenuto in 1910, taken the same year as the photo of the streetcar ascending the hill on Avenue Road. The above picture depicts the south and west facades of the mansion. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 0328. 

Fonds 1244, Item 1046A

Noel Marshall and women in the gardens of Benvenuto c. 1910. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 1046.

on hill, 1910.  f1231_it1294[1]

Horse and buggy on the hill on Avenue Road in 1910, the streetcar tracks evident. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 1294. 

               Fonds 1244, Item 319  

Gates at entrance to Benvenuto in 1910. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1234, Item 0319.

Fonds 1244, Item 10006

View from Benvenuto, looking south over the city c. 1930. In the far distance can be seen the Royal York Hotel on Front Street and the Bank of Commerce (CIBC) on King Street West. The east side of Benvenuto is in the foreground. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 10006.

Series 65 -Metropolitan Toronto Planning Department Library collection of Alexandra Studio photographs

Gazing south on Avenue Road in 1960. The land required for the widening the roadway was taken from the east side, from the grounds of Del La Salle College. Toronto Archives, S 0065, file 10034, id 0001. 

DSCN1060

Gazing south on Avenue Road at the retaining wall on the west side of the avenue. The wall is south of St. Clair Avenue, the photo taken in October, 2016. The wall was constructed by Simeon Janes, and similar stone blocks, quarried in Kingston, Ontario, were employed to build Benvenuto.

DSCN1065

Gazing north on Avenue Road toward St. Clair Avenue. This section of the wall is north of Edmund Avenue. In Simeon Janes’ day, the wall extended continuously, but a portion of it was demolished when Edmund Road was cut through the estate. Photo taken October 14, 2016. 

DSCN1070

The apartment building at 400 Avenue Road that was constructed in 1926 on the Benvenuto Estate. Photo depicts the south facade of the apartment, on Edmund Road in October 2016. 

Oaklands, Oct. 14, 2016.

Oaklands mansion, built in 1860 for John Macdonald, a wholesale goods merchant. This estate was a neighbour of Benvenuto, on the crest of the hill on the east side of Avenue Road. It is today a part of De La Salle College. Photo taken October 2016.

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

 

 

       

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Moss Park—home of William Allan

1897, pictures-r-3661[1]

Moss Park, the palatial residence of William Allan. Photo taken in 1897, collection of the Toronto Public Library, r- 3661.

William Allan was one of the most influential men in the town of York (Toronto). His mansion, Moss Park, was perhaps the grandest residence ever built in the town. If it were in existence today, it would be considered an architectural treasure. However, there are very few photographs of this magnificent structure that have survived. I found this deficiency to be very surprising, especially considering the number of photos that exist of homes of much lesser importance. Gathering visuals to support this post involved considerable searching.

William Allan was born in 1772 on Moss Farm, in Huntly, near the city of Aberdeen, Scotland. Immigrating to North America, he eventually settled in Niagara, where he gained wealth and influence by selling supplies to the British garrisons at Niagara and York, for a Montreal company. In 1795, he relocated to the colonial capitol of York (Toronto), where he was granted a town lot and 200 acres of land. Due to the experience he acquired while working for his previous employer, he had an advantage over the other businessmen in the town, and his wealth increased substantially.

In 1797, William Allan and Alexander Wood formed a partnership and opened a general store that sold supplies to the garrison at Fort York. The same year, Allan sought to exchange his town lot for property closer to the lake. In 1798, he was granted title to land directly beside the shoreline. On the north end of the property, on King Street, he built a home. On the south end, beside the water, he constructed a wharf — Merchant’s Wharf. It was at the foot of Frederick Street, and was one of the earliest docking facilities for large sailing vessels. The partnership with Alexander Wood ended in 1801, and Allan continued his business enterprises on his own.

He was appointed collector of customs in 1800 and the postmaster general in 1801. His first home, on southeast corner of King and Frederick Streets, was a short distance north of the shoreline. Today, due to landfill, the site is quite a distance from the lake (see map below). His residence served as the post office and custom house.

Allan became an officer in the York Militia during the first decade of the 19th century. During the War of 1812, after the American invaders occupied the town in 1813, he performed a major role in negotiating the terms of surrender. Although his store was looted, he received compensation following the war, which provided funds for further financial ventures.

In 1819, Allan purchased the 100-acre park lot #5 from Surveyor General David William Smith, who had returned to Britain not long after Lieu. Governor Simcoe granted him the property. Allan now owned the land from Queen Street north to Bloor Street, between Sherbourne and Jarvis Streets. Other than Queen Street, which was then named Lot Street, the other streets did not exist, as the land was forested rural property to the east of the town. On the southwest side of the estate, there was a ravine containing a gurgling brook, which added to the rural quality of the site.

In 1827, he commenced building a grand mansion on the south end of the park lot, which contained thick stands of pine. It was west of Sherbourne, east of Jarvis Street, and between Queen Street and today’s Shuter Street. The home’s main entrance faced east toward to where Sherbourne Street now exists. Allan named his residence Moss Park, after his birth place.

The large south portico on the south side, facing Queen Street, was very grand, but it was mainly ornamental. It had no steps leading to it or a carriageway. It was meant to impress those who passed in the distance, on Queen Street. The east facade, which faced Sherbourne Street, was the main entrance to the residence.

In 1833-1844, Allan hired John. G. Howard to design additions to the mansion, which included a Grecian-style porch over the front door. It possessed four Ionic columns, two-storeys in height, with a pediment above them. In 1841, a bath was installed with hot and cold water. Allan passed away in 1853, and his son, George Allan then resided in the house, until his death in 1901. The City of Toronto eventually purchased the property, but unfortunately, the grand mansion was demolished shortly thereafter (c. 1905). 

  Frederick St, page 252, John Ross Rob. DSCN0941

The home of William Allan on the southeast corner of Frederick and King Street East. Sketch from John Ross Robertson’s book, “Landmarks of Toronto,” page 252. 

data=RfCSdfNZ0LFPrHSm0ublXdzhdrDFhtmHhN1u-gM,ot-xB63fC-m1wy31W4Mf3poplyqlxnZxm4jql4ORidYMBwMZB9j8JzgXB45Gbs6l1ZXTb5BdvADyRciJd0kQsSBay3oFDVfEJzki9U9[1].png

The corner of King Street East and Frederick Streets, where Allan’s first home was constructed. The map illustrates how far from the lake the site is today. The land south of Front Street is landfill.

           image 

Map depicting the mansion, Moss Park. The map is after the late-1830s, as the name “Queen Street” appears.  Moss Park is north of Queen Street, with Sherbourne Street on the east (far right-hand side) and Jarvis Street on its western side (far left-hand side). The north service wing on Moss Park is visible, as well as the east and south porticos. The map also shows Hazelburn, the residence of the Jarvis Family. The brook cutting diagonally across the property is shown in blue.

The water colour by John G. Howard illustrates the rural qualities of Moss Park when it was built to the east of the town of York, between the years 1827 and 1829. The two people in the foreground, walking past the estate, are on Lot Street (Queen Street). One of them is pointing to the mansion, Moss Park.

  Canada archives e010965833-v8[1]  300px-Leah_Allan_wife_of_William_Allan[1]

(Left) undated portrait-photo of William Allan and his signature, Canada Archives, e 10965833-v8 and the right-hand photo, his wife Leah Allan.

1854 map, lots for sale  -r-144[1]  1854 map, lots for sale,  maps-r-2[1]

Maps authorized by George Allan in 1854 to sell small plots of land on the estate he inherited in 1852. Toronto Public Library, r- 144 (left-hand map) and r-2 (right-hand map).

1880-- pictures-r-3657[1]        

This photograph of Moss Park in 1880, from the collection of the Toronto Public Library (r-3657). It illustrates the forested appearance of the estate.

Aug. 3, 1889, in Evening Telegram, pen and ink,  -r-3658[1] 

The sketch of Moss Park from John Ross Robertson’s book, “Landmarks of Toronto,” page 560. It was reproduced in the Evening Telegram newspaper on August 3, 1889. It depicts the east and south facades of the mansion. The above copy of the sketch is from the Toronto Public Library, r- 365.

pictures-r-3663[1]

Ornithological Museum (nature museum) in the former dining room of Moss Park. This is the only photo that I was able to find that hints at the grandeur of the interior of Moss Park. Toronto Public Library, r- 3663.

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

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

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

Books by the Blog’s Author

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

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

   To place an order for this book, published by History Press:

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

Book also available in most book stores such as Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox and AGO Book Shop. It can also be ordered by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

                                 image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[1]    

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

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

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

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Tags: , ,

History of Toronto’s Swiss Chalet

Series 1465, File 280, Item 19

Toronto’s first Swiss Chalet on Bloor Street West, the entire block of buildings in the photo demolished in 2002. Photo from the Toronto Archives, taken between the years 1980 and 1998, Series 1465, File 10280, Item 0019.

The first Swiss Chalet opened in 1954 at 234 Bloor Street West, near the northeast corner of Bloor and Bedford Road. It was the beginning of a restaurant chain that was to become an icon of Canadian family-style dining. It became so popular that it was reported that a Canadian once jokingly quipped, “If America is such a great country, why don’t they have a Swiss Chalet?” This was prior to the chain opening outlets in the United States.

The founder of the chain of restaurants was Maurice Mauran of Montreal, in partnership with another businessman. In 1948, before opening in Toronto, Mauran introduced his barbequed-style chicken in Montreal, in his Chalet-Bar-B-Q restaurants. Apparently he was inspired by the Swiss method of cooking chickens, which consisted of skewering the birds on a spit and roasting them over an open flame. Because the birds rotated on the spit, they cooked in their own juices.

The first Swiss Chalet was located on busy Bloor Street, in close proximity to Varsity Stadium and Varsity Arena. As it was an instant success, two more restaurants were opened. One of them was at 362 Yonge Street, which still exists, and another one was on Yonge Street south of St. Clair.  The decor in the dining room of the restaurant on Bloor Street contained carved dark-wood panelling, dark ceiling beams, and small fake windows with frilly cotton curtains. It was an attempt to create the appearance of a Swiss mountain hideaway, such as in the children’s story, “Heidi,” by Joanna Spyn.

As a teenager in the 1950s, I dined in all three of these sites, mainly when attending movie theatres located within walking distance of them. The chickens were barbequed in an oven containing glowing charcoal, which imparted their unique taste. The prices were reasonable, and being teenager with a bottomless gut, I always ordered the half-chicken dinner. The restaurant on Bloor Street also had a banquet room in the basement level, for private functions. I was in this space on one occasion, with a group that performed in Varsity Arena, later in the evening. There were about 35 of us, and we enjoyed the meal immensely.

Before cooking, the chicken were rubbed with salt, and then, roasted for an hour and fifteen minutes. At the Bloor Street site, in the 1950s, the chicken was served with fries or  a baked potato, the fries cut daily rather than previously frozen. The meal also included dipping sauce and half of a toasted hamburger bun. A small bowl of water, with pieces of lemon in it, allowed a patron to rinse the fingers after eating. There were no ribs or other items on the menu; these were added during the years ahead.

I enjoyed the chicken immensely. However, I recently read some online reviews, and although there were many who enjoyed the meals, there were some that did not. However, I did not read any comments that indicated that the reviewers were aware that the chicken was roasted over real charcoal. Some compared it with St. Hubert chicken, which was roasted, not barbequed, and the sauce was more like home-style chicken gravy. I enjoyed it as well, but I preferred the chicken at Swiss Chalet.

I found it interesting that Maurice Mauran was also the creator of Harvey’s Hamburgers. His first location opened in 1959, on the southeast corner of Yonge and Observatory Lane in Richmond Hill. Similar to his Swiss Chalet, the burgers were flame grilled, and said to be the first in Toronto to employ this method. An article in the Telegram newspaper reported that Mauren had intended to name his hamburger restaurant “Henry’s.” However, while flipping through the telephone directory, he noticed an ad for John Harvey Motors at 2300 Danforth Avenue, known as Harvey’s. He liked the sound of the name, and decided to call his restaurant “Harvey’s.”

In 1963, Mauran opened a Harvey’s on Bloor Street, a few doors west of his Swiss Chalet. In 1977, the chain was bought by Cara Foods, and was operated by Toronto-based Foodcorp Limited, a subsidiary of the parent company. In 2002, there were 190 outlets in North America.

Mauran later became a highly successful mutual funds manager, possessing residences in England, Monaco, and Ft. Lauderdale.

The entire block of buildings where the first Swiss Chalet was located was demolished in 2010 to erect a 32-storey condominium named 1 Bedford. It overlooks the rebuilt Varsity Stadium. As a footnote, Cara Foods purchased St. Hubert Chicken in 2016 for $577 million. That was certainly not “chicken feed.”

Sources: everything2.com, www.thestar.com (Bill Taylor) and www.blogto.com (Chris Bateman).

c. 1912  2011713-varsity-stadium-1906-10-f1244_it0528[1]

View gazing east on Bloor Street c. 1912, the north side of the street (left-hand side of photo) containing large residential homes. Bedford Road is directly across from Varsity Stadium. Structures were added across the front of these homes, where the lawns were, to convert them into commercial premises. The building containing the first Swiss Chalet does not appear to be in one of them. It is likely that the home on the site was demolished to create a new building. Toronto Archives, Fond 1244, Item, 0528. 

  Series 1465, File 280, Item 19

The surroundings of the first Swiss Chalet at Bloor and Bedford Road. The roofs of some of the old homes remain visible. Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 10280, Item 0019.

                           DSCN1121

Gazing toward the northeast corner of Bloor and Bedford Road in October 2016. The 32-storey condo (1 Bedford) occupies the block where the Swiss Chalet and the Harvey’s were located. 

DSCN8176

The Swiss Chalet at 362 Yonge Street, which was among the first outlets in Toronto. Photos taken in 2014.

DSCN8175

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

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

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

Books by the Blog’s Author

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

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

   To place an order for this book, published by History Press:

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

Book also available in most book stores such as Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox and AGO Book Shop. It can also be ordered by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

                                 image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[2]    

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

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

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

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

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

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

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

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

 

Tags: , ,