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Category Archives: tourism Toronto

Exploring Historic Spadina House and Museum, Toronto

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Spadina House at 285 Spadina Road in August 2014. The view gazes northeast toward the west (left-hand) and the south facades. On the south (right-hand) side is a large second-storey veranda that has a commanding view of the city below the hill. On the first floor, below the veranda, is the glassed-in “palm room,” containing a winter garden.

Spadina House (and museum), on the brow of the hill that overlooks Davenport Road, is one of the most historic properties in Toronto. Exploring the house on a guided tour provides an intimate look into the life of the Austin family. The Austins moved into the home in 1866 and a member of the family remained in residence until 1982. Today, it mainly features the life of the Austins during the 1920s. In the warm months, visiting it also provides an opportunity to explore one of Toronto’s finest, restored Victorian gardens.

The story of the property where Spadina House is situated begins in the final years of the 18th century, when Toronto was the small colonial town of York. In 1798, the land where the house is now located was part of a 200-acre lot acquired by William Willcocks. In 1803, Willcock’s daughter, Phoebe, married William W. Baldwin, an Irish immigrant. Phoebe inherited the Baldwin property from her father’s first cousin, Elizabeth Russell, the sister of Peter Russell. Elizabeth suffered from mental illness during her later years, but did not pass away until 1822. Thus, William and Phoebe Baldwin must have gained control of the property prior to her death.

Because William Baldwin intended to erect a grand home on the land, in 1813, he commenced building an impressive roadway, 132 feet wide and a mile and a half in length, as a grand carriageway to the dwelling. The roadway led from the bottom of the hill (Davenport Road), south to Queen Street. South of Queen was Brock Street, which was connected directly to the lake.

ist Balwin by Owen Staples, done 1912.

In 1818, Baldwin finally constructed his dream home. He named it Spadina, an Anglicised version of the Ojibwa word “ishpadinaa,” meaning a “hill or a sudden rise of land.” Henry Scadding wrote rather condescendingly in “Toronto of Old,” published in 1873, that the word “ishpadinaa” had been “tastefully modified.”  On the left is a watercolour of it, painted in 1912 by Owen Staples, based on a sketch of 1888. The watercolour is in the collection of the Toronto Public Library. A description of the house is contained in a letter written by William Baldwin in 1819. “I have a very commodious house in the Country . . . The house consists of two large parlours, hall and staircase on the first floor—four bedrooms and a small library on the 2nd — three Excellent bed rooms in the attic storey or garret — with several closets on every storey, a kitchen, dairy and root cellar, wine cellar, and man’s bedroom underground.” It was indeed a luxurious residence for a “country home,” as  Baldwin owned another house in the town.

To improve the view from his residence,” Baldwin cleared 300 feet of wild growth to the south of it, between the house and the edge of the escarpment. When completed, it provided a panoramic view of the land below the heights, which included the wide carriageway that became Spadina Avenue. In the distance, the town was visible, nestled beside the waters of Lake Ontario.

2nd Baldwin House, by F W Poole, done 1912   TPL

Unfortunately, Spadina House burnt in 1835. Baldwin was now 60 years old, and rather than live on the remote property atop the hill, he moved into his mansion on the northeast corner of Bay and Front Streets. However, he erected another country home above the hill in 1836, but the one-story dwelling was more modest in size compared to the original Spadina House. The watercolour on the left depicts the second Spadina House, painted by F. W. Poole in 1912, from a sketch drawn in 1888.

William Baldwin died in 1844 and the property passed to his son Robert Baldwin. He began sub-dividing the estate, selling parcels of land to prospective buyers. By 1866, only 80 acres remained and at an auction, they were purchased by the founder of The Dominion Bank and president of the Consumers’ Gas Company—James Austin. 

James Austin was born March 6, 1813. His family immigrated to Upper Canada (Ontario), arriving in York (Toronto) in October 1829. For two months, the Austins sought to establish themselves on a farm close to York (Toronto). Unsuccessful, they settled in Trafalgar Township in the Oakville area. When James was sixteen, he was apprenticed to William Lyon Mackenzie in his printing shop. Austin spent four and a half years with Mackenzie before establishing his own printing business. After the rebellion of 1837, he relocated to the United States, since it was too risky to remain in Toronto for anyone with connections to Mackenzie, “the rebel.” In 1843, Austin determined that it was safe to return to Canada West (Ontario).

Austin had earned sufficient funds while in the United States to open in Toronto a wholesale and retail grocery business in partnership with another Irishman, Patrick Foy. Austin eventually amassed further funds by investing in banking and natural gas. In 1866, in an auction, with a successful bid of £3,550, he purchased Spadina House, built by William Warren Baldwin. He demolished the house and erected a grand residence on the site, which he named Spadina. No architect was listed. It was the third house constructed on the site that possessed the name “Spadina.”

Austin’s home had two-storeys, although a third floor was added sometime between 1905 and 1915. In 1866, the entrance hall, with its intricately carved woodwork and elaborate crown mouldings, was built to impress visitors. Austin was an avid hunter and placed two stuffed wolves on either side of the interior of the doorway. Stuffed animals of various species were very popular among the wealthy at this time. Upon entering the entrance hall, guests had an unobstructed view of the magnificent grand staircase. This added to the sense of awe that Austin was desirous of creating.

The drawing room (parlour), the most impressive room in the house, was on the right-hand (south) side of the entrance hall. For the comfort of guests, due the room’s size, it possessed two white marble fireplaces, one at each end of the room. On the south side of the drawing room was the palm room, a sunny greenhouse-like area containing many potted flowering plants, as well as palms. Large doors on the south side of the palm room opened onto the outdoor terrace that overlooked the lawns and the city in the distance, to the south.

The dining room was also on the first floor, the room’s windows facing east to catch the morning light. It was relocated in the years ahead, and the former dining room became the library. The spacious kitchen was close to the dining room. It was bright and cheerful, unlike most kitchens in wealthy homes of the period, which were in the basement. To supplement the kitchen there was a pantry, scullery, storage space, and a large built-in icebox.   

The grand curved staircase in the entrance hall led to the second floor. There was an intimate sitting room at the top of the stairs (the Blue Room). The bedrooms on the second storey were spacious and well furnished.

The home greatly impressed the citizens of Toronto. Henry Scadding in his book “Toronto of Old,” published in 1873, wrote: “. . . before us to the north, on the ridge which bounds the view in the distance, we discern a large white object. This is Spadina House, from which the avenue into which Brocks Street passes takes its name.” 

In the years after Spadina was built, other wealthy families purchased property from James Austin to erect their own mansions. By 1889, only 40 acres remained of the land that had comprised the original Austin estate. In 1892, James Austin passed the title of Spadina and the land surrounding it to his son, Albert William Austin. James Austin passed away in 1897.

Albert and Mary continued to expand Spadina. An extension was added on the north side that contained a new dining room, its windows facing west. As mentioned, the former dining room became a library, but in reality it was employed as an extension of the drawing room. During this period, Albert and Mary added two more bedrooms, improved servants’ quarters, and constructed a circular driveway and new kitchen. One of the most impressive additions was a magnificent billiard room, designed by the popular 19th-century architect W.C. Vaux Chadwick. The room also possessed colourful murals by interior decorator Gustav Hahn, who pioneered Art Nouveau in Canada.

A beautiful and visually prominent canopy of handcrafted wrought iron and glass was erected over the main door. Referred to as a “porte-cochère,” it was designed by Carrere and Hastings. It protected guests and family members that arrived by vehicle from the weather. It is likely that at the same time the enclosed porch was added, and the main doorway relocated so that it faced west, rather than south.

Albert constructed a two-storey stucco garage in 1909, which contained a chauffeur’s residence on the second floor. In 1913 a greenhouse was added to the property, its entrance possessing a Gothic-style doorway. There were now 13 bedrooms, most of them for guests. The servants at Spadina were housed on the third floor, each having their own room, though they shared a toilet, bath and sitting room. By 1913, the house was complete and appeared much the same as it appears today.

Because the family was among the most prominent in the city, an invitation to dine at Spadina was highly coveted. During formal dinners in the 1920s, Mrs. Mary Austin (wife of Albert) always sat at the head of the table, nearest to the kitchen, permitting her to inspect the food when it appeared. A small foot-pedal under the table allowed her to summons the staff surreptitiously to remove empty dishes and to signal when the next course was to be served. Thus, she controlled the pacing of the meal.

After the dining ended, guests retired to the drawing room (parlour) on the opposite side of the entrance hall. The drawing room was where they discussed the news of the day, gossiped, or were entertained. When the family was alone, in the evenings, the smaller parlour (sitting room) on the second floor was likely employed for intimate family moments.

Eventually, Albert sold all of the land of the estate except for about 10 acres. A large portion was purchased by the City of Toronto for the construction of the St. Clair Reservoir. However, Spadina House remained in the possession of the Austin family until 1982. In this year, the house, most of its contents, and the remaining land were acquired through donation and purchase by the Ontario Heritage Foundation and the City of Toronto. This was arranged by Spadina’s last resident, Anna Kathleen Thompson, the daughter of Albert and Mary Austin. At the time, she was over 90 years of age. 

The home and grounds were restored by the City of Toronto and were opened to the public as a museum in 1984.

Sources for this article :http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/austin_james_12E.html, 

https://theculturetrip.com › North America › Canada,

https://www.thestar.com › Life › Fashion & Style

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Sketch of Baldwin’s Spadina House, built in 1818. The drawing first appeared in the Evening Telegram series, “Landmarks of Toronto” in December 1888.

2nd Spadina

Sketch of the second Spadina House built in 1836. The drawing first appeared in the Evening Telegram series, “Landmarks of Toronto” in December 1888. 

1885, Spadina Collection

Spadina House in 1885, a view of the north and west facades. The porch on the west facade no longer exists and the third storey had not yet been built. Photo from the Spadina Collection.

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North and west facades of Spadina House in 1898. Photo from the Spadina Collection.

1905, Spadina Collection

View of the south facade in 1905, before the third storey was added. Photo from the Spadina Collection.

Fonds 1244, Item 4135

View of Spadina House in 1915 from a tower of Casa Loma. By this year, the third storey of the house has been added. The camera is pointed to the northeast. Toronto Archives, F 1244, item 4135.

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View gazing to the northeast at the three-storey Spadina House in 1985. The palm room and veranda above it on the second storey face south. Toronto Public Library, tspa 0113049f

1988. drawing room  tspa_0113051f[1]

The drawing room (living room or parlour) of Spadina House in 1988, one of the white marble fireplaces visible at the far end of the room. The chandeliers of cut-glass, referred to as gasoliers (gas-run chandeliers), are still in working order. They hang from the 14-foot ceiling. The doorway on the far-left leads to the library, which was originally (in 1866) the dining room. Public Library tspa 0113051f. 

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View of the drawing room in 2018, the large window facing south. The doorway on the extreme right-hand side leads to the palm room.

dining room ceiling      dining room ceiling  2

(Left photo) Ornate crown moulding above the green wallpaper in the drawing room, and in the right-hand photo, one of the gasoliers (chandeliers) with a fancy plaster medallion above it.

palm room 2    palm room 3

The palm room on the south side of the house. It is accessed from the drawing room and on its south side are doors leading to the outdoor terrace.

grand staircase

Grand staircase in the entrance hall that gives access to the second floor. The doorway at the foot of the stairs leads to an enclosed sunlit porch that was added to the house c. 1905.

stuufed wolf, outside porch

One of the stuffed wolves in the enclosed porch. Behind it is where the south-facing doorway was located in 1866, prior to the porch being built.

 

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                   View of the grand staircase from the entrance hall.

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The dining room in Spadina House, in an addition built by Albert and Mary. A large gas fireplace is at the far (north) end of the room. A thick red curtain covers the doorway where the servants entered to serve meals.

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                View of the grand staircase from the second floor.

upstairs blie room

   Second-storey sitting room (blue room) at the top of the grand staircase.

Mrs. Austin's bedroom  2

The bedroom of Mrs. Austin on the second floor level. Originally, Albert and Mary shared the same bedroom, but later, Albert slept in a separate bedroom.

kitchen 8

The kitchen on the ground floor, located beside the family’s formal dining room.

cupboard in kitchen

The kitchen cupboard containing products employed in preparing the meals for the family. 

wood stove kitchen   stoves, kitchen

(left) The wood stove in the kitchen that has gas burners atop it, and (right) a gas stove.

servant bedroom , 3rd floor

A servants bedroom on the third floor of Spadina House. The Austins had a household staff of five: a gardener, a chauffeur, two maids and a cook.

                     telephone cupboard

The small telephone room was in a former cupboard in the first-floor hallway. It was insulated with felt to muffle the voices of people who felt that they must shout into the device to make themselves heard. Many people today do the same thing when talking in public on their IPhones. On the table is a Toronto phone book from the 1920s.

Mrs. Austin's bathroom   

The Austin’s bathroom, which has a small gas burner to warm the shaving cream of the Austin men.

shaving cream warmer

     Small gas burner in the bathroom to warm men’s shaving cream.

bill. room 4

The billiard room on the ground floor, with a cork floor surrounding it to give the players better traction when playing.

1988.  billiard room  tspa_0113050f[1]

The billiard room in 1988, the cork floor around the table evident. Photo Toronto Public Library, tspa 0113050.

billard room 3

The billiard room, designed by the popular 19th-century architect W.C. Vaux Chadwick, the influence of the Art Nouveau movement evident. The murals on the upper portion of the walls depict birds, trees and a colourful sky. They were painted by interior decorator Gustav Hahn, who pioneered Art Nouveau in Canada. 

billard room

             The murals and stuffed animals in the billiard room.

built 1913

   Greenhouse with its Gothic-style entranceway, built in 1913.

garage     barn, then coach house, gardiner's cottage 1909

(Left photo) The garage with chauffer’s quarters on the second floor, built in 1909.  (right-hand photo) An outbuilding that was first a barn, then a coach house and finally, in 1909, renovated to create a cottage for the gardener.

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View looking west from under the wrought iron and glass “porte-cochère” (canopy) designed by Carrere and Hastings. It protected guests and family members that arrived by vehicles from the weather.

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               The east facade (rear) of Spadina House in 2014.

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

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

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

              Books by the Blog’s Author

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 Toronto: Then and Now®

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Amazing story of Yorkdale Plaza (Toronto)

1965 f0217_s0249_fl0199_it0001[1]

Yorkdale Plaza from the Macdonald-Cartier (401) Highway in 1964, the year the plaza opened. The camera faces southwest toward Eaton’s Yorkdale, on the east side of the plaza. Photo from the Toronto Archives, F0217, S 0249, F 019, item 0001.

When visiting Yorkdale Plaza today, I find it difficult to realize that it is the same plaza that I experienced when it opened in 1964. It has been greatly expanded during the past five decades, and though the original sections of the mall survive, they are almost unrecognizable. The story of Yorkdale is a vital part of the history of retailing in the Toronto area. It was Canada’s first indoor mall, an improvement for shoppers that particularly suited the Canadian climate. It allowed people to park, walk inside an enclosed structure, and access shops from its interior.

Yorkdale was built in an era when many suburbanites shopped at “strip malls,” constructed to accommodate those living in communities surrounding the city that owned cars. The first strip mall in the Toronto area was at Bayview and Eglinton. Many such malls still exist today, consisting of shops built in one or more rows, their front doors facing an outdoor parking lot. Customers enter the stores directly from the parking lots.

Strip malls began appearing after the Second World War, when many Torontonians were relocating from the city’s urban core to the suburbs. They were following a dream of owning larger homes on more generous-size building lots. Some of the houses they left behind in the inner city were purchased or rented by the immigrants arriving in the city. Relocating to the suburbs was facilitated by the post-war’s booming economy, which placed automobile prices within the reach of more and more Canadians. Vehicle sales skyrocketed, creating the beginning of a “car-dominated society.” It allowed people to travel greater distances to shop or attend a movie.

Eaton’s was one of the first to realize the potential of meeting the needs of the increasing number of suburbanites. Prior to the Second World War, the company’s department stores were in the downtown core. Aware of the expansion in population in the suburbs, in 1954, for the price $1.4 million, Eaton’s bought 100 acres of land located to the northwest of the city. The intent was to erect a large shopping mall on the site.

Eaton’s knew that it needed another major retailer to join in the venture. As a result, in 1961, the company offered to sell the Robert Simpson Company one half of the site if it joined in the enterprise. However, Simpsons wanted only 19 acres, on the west side of the property, and stipulated that the price must include sewage, water connections and roadways. Eaton’s agreed and spent $1 million to satisfy the terms of the deal. 

The land where Yorkdale was to be erected was cleared and ready for construction by the spring of 1962, the work commencing during the early-summer of that year. Everything was completed by February 1964. As opening day drew near, John David Eaton insisted that the mall close at 5:30 or 6 pm, similar to its downtown stores. However, the smaller retailers in the project strongly objected, since they wanted to remain open until 9:30 pm. John David finally agreed, after he was assured that employees would not be required to work longer hours than they wanted.

On Sunday, February 16, 1964, long lines of customers gathered at the various entrances to Yorkdale, waiting for the 9:30 am opening. By mid-morning, its four parking lots (6,500 spaces) were completely filled. At 2:30 pm, drivers were scouring the lots trying to find a place to park. By the end of the day, the Star newspaper estimated that 100,000 shoppers had crammed into the mall.

Yorkdale had over 1.2 million square feet of space, containing 61 retail shops, several restaurants, and multiple services. The Dominion (today their stores are named Metro)was the largest the company had ever built, containing 17 checkout counters. The week the plaza opened, some of the shops were not yet occupied, but it was still an impressive sight. For a short period of time, Yorkdale was the largest indoor shopping mall in the world. Though its size was impressive, its importance was perhaps due to another factor.

Yorkdale set the pattern for future malls across Canada. It demonstrated the advantages of locating malls near transportation hubs, which allowed shoppers access from nearby arterial roadways. As well, it showed that if retail enterprises of this size were to be successful, more than one large-scale store was required. Yorkdale actually possessed three—Simpsons on its west side, Eaton’s on its east, and a Dominion Store on the south. It was the first time that Canada’s two largest department store chains—Eaton’s and Simpsons—were under one roof. This was accomplished, even though they had been competitors across Canada for many decades.

Prior to the opening of Yorkdale, many people living in the suburbs had continued to shop downtown or visited local strip malls. Neither of these options was truly convenient. When suburbanites drove downtown, even then, parking was becoming a nightmare. Strip malls were also at a disadvantage as they were exposed to the vagaries of the Canadian weather. The appeal of Yorkdale was obvious. It offered numerous retail outlets that were closer to home than the downtown, were impervious to the weather, and possessed plenteous free parking. Torontonians were able to drive to the mall to shop indoors, enjoy a meal or snack, and attend a movie theatre, all at one destination. 

The configuration of the Yorkdale Plaza was basically an “L-shape.” The top of the “L”, the bottom, and elbow of the “L” were anchored by one of the large stores. The corridors that connected the big stores resembled indoor shopping streets, one-third of a mile long, 40 feet wide, the ceiling above them two storeys in height. The three large retailers had large open spaces in front of them, similar to a courtyard or piazza, which were three-storeys high.

Since the mall was climate controlled, shoppers were able to enjoy strolling along the wide avenue-like areas and courtyards in comfort, immune to the weather outside. The curtains in the spacious windows, located high above the shops, could be automatically adjusted to allow the proper amount of light to enter the interior of the plaza. Other pleasing features were the two large fountains as well as numerous 20-foot trees, some of them palm trees.

In 1964, Yorkdale had many popular stores — Reitman’s, Collyer Shoes, Peoples Credit Jewellers, Laura Secord Candies, Hunts Bakery, Jordan Wines, Henry Birks and Sons Jewellers, Jack Frasers Men’s and Boy’s Wear, Toy World, Kresge’s, and Eddie Black’s Camera Store. I vividly remember Coleman’s Delicatessen and its delicious corned beef sandwiches, the restaurant located near the Dominion Store. There was a Smitty’s Pancake House, which also served small steaks (the site later became “Obies”). The Encore Noshery was reputed to be the largest restaurant in Canada in a shopping centre. The beauty parlour, “Ponytails,” which catered to the needs of small children, had hobbyhorses instead of regular chairs.

Yorkdale had a cinema with two auditoriums, with combined seating for 1200 patrons. I remember seeing Mel Brook’s zany film “Blazing Saddles” at the Yorkdale Cinema in 1974. It was an afternoon matinee, attended mostly by seniors. I was one of the few persons in the audience that did not have purple-tinted hair. As a matter of fact, even then, I did not have much hair at all. As the screening progressed, I discovered that I was also one of the few that was laughing. I admit that the humour was a little off-colour— typically Mel Brooks.

Eaton’s and Simpsons both had restaurants. The Simpson’s Court restaurant overlooked the cathedral-like interior courtyard with its three-storey ceiling. I remember visiting it numerous times for lunch, usually ordering the daily special of soup, chicken-pot pie, and a salad. Eaton’s Vista restaurant was on the second floor, at the northwest corner of the store, overlooking the mall where there was a fountain. In the evenings, the Vista featured all-you-can-eat buffet, which included roast beef. I sometimes visited it on a Friday for dinner. I seem to remember that Eaton’s restaurant was later renamed “The Loft,” but I cannot find any proof of this. Memory sometimes plays strange tricks. 

Though Yorkdale was located quite a distance north of the downtown, it was connected by several arterial roadways—Highway 401, Wilson Avenue, and Dufferin Street. Market research conducted by Eaton’s had shown that the mall was likely to attract shoppers from within a 30-minute drive. This meant that people as far away as Brampton and Whitby could easily drive to Yorkdale, as well as those living north of Bloor Street. This was a potential market of almost a million shoppers. In 1966, the location became even more advantageous when the interchange at the Allen Expressway and the 401 was completed, and in January 1978, when the mall was connected to the University/Yonge subway line. 

The architect of the Yorkdale Mall and the Eaton’s Store was John Graham Consultants. The store Graham created for Eaton’s had a striking exterior, with off-white bricks containing three-dimensional patterns that accented the vertical elements of the design. Another added feature of the plaza was the underground truck tunnel that delivered goods to the retail outlets. The gigantic Dominion Store featured an underground conveyor belt that delivered customers’ purchases to a station in the south-west parking lot, where they could pick up their groceries.

John B. Parkin Associates were hired to design the Simpsons store, the architect within the firm who was assigned the work being John Andrews, a Harvard-educated Australian. During the years ahead, Andrews opened his own firm and won the contracts for the University of Toronto’s Scarborough Campus and the CN Tower.

I recall attending Boxing Day sales at Yorkdale during the 1970s; I visited early in the morning to avoid the enormous crowds, even though compared to today, they were considerably smaller. Yorkdale was where I first experienced the frustration of losing my automobile in a parking lot. I soon learned to memorize the row or section number where it was located.

During the 1980s, I visited the mall to attend the Yorkdale Antique Market. It was usually held each February and continued consecutively for three or four years. It was a large display, which fully occupied all of the “L”-shaped space. The mall also held fashion and automobile shows. On frigid winter days, for exercise, I drove to the mall in the early morning to walk within the enclosed area. When the shops opened, I enjoyed a coffee and then drove home.

In 1984, Yorkdale was expanded by an additional 153,000 square feet, with 75 new stores, at a cost of $14 million. In 1991, Sears Department store opened in the plaza. In 1999, the Rainforest Cafe began serving food in a tropical atmosphere (it closed in 2014). In 2012, an addition was erected on the southwest side of Yorkdale. It included a relocated and expanded Holt Renfrew Store, situated where the Dominion store had been. In 2015, the Sears Store on the west side of the plaza was demolished and replaced with the 70,000 square-foot Restoration Hardware (RH, The Gallery at Yorkdale), which opened in 2017. It resembled an impressive mansion with indoor and outdoor shops, a courtyard café and rooftop conservatory/park. 

In 2016, another section was built on the east side, with a Nordtrom Department Store, Uniqlo, as well as 30 more retailers. In 2017, the The Cheesecake Factory restaurant commenced operation. More expansions are planned for the future. They will be constructed in the parking lots, and the parking will be placed below ground.

Visiting Yorkdale in 2018, I lament the loss of the fountains and the large trees, particularly the palm trees. However, I thought that the massive skylights in the ceilings of the new sections were amazing. Creative in design, they allow plenteous daylight to enter the interior walking areas. In some instances, I felt I was strolling up the nave of a great cathedral.

Sources for this post:  “The Eaton’s,” Rod McQueen Stoddart Publishing, 1998 —- “The Store that Timothy Built,” McClelland and Stewart Ltd. 1969, for the 100th anniversary of Eaton’s—torontoist.com/2012/02/historicist-instant-downtown-uptown/—- The Star. 

John D Eaton cuts ribbon, Feb 1964.  DSCN2217

John David Eaton cuts the ribbon to officially open Yorkdale in February 1964. Source:  “The Store that Timothy Built,” McClelland and Stewart Ltd. 1969, published for the 100th anniversary of Eaton’s.

                1964.   Fonds 0217_s0249_fl0197_it0001_640[1]

A portion of the street-like indoor mall at Yorkdale in February 1964. View looks westward to where Simpsons was located. Toronto Archives, 0217, 0249, Fl 0197, item 0001.

March, 1964. The Star.  yorkdale-eatons.jpg.size-custom-crop.850x0-[1]

View looking west in March 1964 of Yorkdale, the Eaton’s Store in the foreground and Simpsons in the distance.

1965, 401 and Allen Expressway  tspa_0008324f[1]

Intersection of the 401 Highway and the Allen Expressway. In the lower right-hand corner of the photo is part of the parking lot of Yorkdale, Toronto Public Library, tspa 008324. 

date unknown tspa_0014666f[1]

View of the three-storey court on the south side of the Simpsons store. The curved staircase on the left leads to Simpsons Court restaurant. The photo is undated, but it is likely c. 1964. Toronto Public Library, tspa 0014666f.

                                      1968, Tor. Pub. nyhs01375[1]

Piazza-like area outside Simpsons in 1968. People in the extreme foreground are sitting on the edge of the fountain outside Simpsons. The decorative detailing on the ceiling resembles stalactites. Toronto Public Library nyhs 01375.

1969  tspa_0014663f[1]

The court space outside Simpsons in 1969. Toronto Public Library, tspa 014663.

where Simpsons was

Simpsons store became the Bay. The image above depicts the court space outside the Bay (Simpsons) in 2018. The court is now half the size it was in 1964, as the Hudson’s Bay store has been extended southward into the court. The ceiling with stalactites remains, but sadly, the fountain as well as the tall palm trees have disappeared. 

 

1970 tspa_0014661f[1]

Gazing west in 1970 along the mall section that connected Simpsons and Eaton’s. The tall plantings no longer exist. Toronto Public Library, tspa 0014661.

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View in 2018, looking eastward along the 1964-section of the mall that originally connected Simpsons and Eaton’s.  The stalactite-ceiling outside The Bay is visible.

                         1984 expansion tspa_0014667f[1]

Inspection of the new section of the mall that opened in 1984. Toronto Public Library, tspa 0014662.

                           looking east in 1984 section

                  View in 2018 of the section that was added in 1984.

1984.  tspa_0014662f[1]

Yorkdale after the new section opened in 1984. Toronto Public Library, 0014662.

1989  tspa_0014664f[2]

Aerial view of Yorkdale in 1989, looking toward the the northwest. The Eaton’s and Simpsons stores are visible, as well as the 1984 extension added to the plaza. Toronto Public Library, tspa 0014664.

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View in 1964 of the open space near Eaton’s, looking west along the section that leads to the Simpsons store. The fountain has a sculpture of three human figures. Several pods of the Eaton’s Vista restaurant are visible in the top-left-hand part of the photo. The large pods contain tables that overlook the court below. Photo from a display at Yorkdale Plaza. 

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An automobile show in front of Eaton’s Yorkdale, the large pods of the Vista restaurant” visible. Photo from display at Yorkdale.

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View looking to the west from inside the Vista restaurant on the upper level, the fountain visible in the mall below. Photo from a display at Yorkdale Plaza.

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When the fountain was dismantled, the sculpture was placed outside in the parking lot on the north side of the plaza. Photo taken February 2018.

where Eaton's was

View in 2018 of the site of Eaton’s, which went bankrupt in 1999. When Eaton’s departed, for a short period of time the space was occupied by Sears. Sears finally relocated to a new site on the west side of the mall. The escalator in the above photo ascends to the second-floor of the former Eaton’s store, where there is today an Italian-style cafe, with a sushi restaurant above it.  

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The third-floor level of the former Eaton’s store is today where the plaza’s food court is located. Photo taken February 2018.

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View from the west parking lot of Restoration Hardware (RH) in February 2018. It is on the site where the Sears store had been located. RH opened in 2017.

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View of Restoration Hardware from inside the plaza. Photo taken in February 2018.

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  Interior of the Cheesecake Factory restaurant, Yorkdale, February 2018.

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   Impressive skylight at Yorkdale outside the Nordstrom Store, in 2018.

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Yorkdale Mall in 2012. The street-like sections have many kiosks and booths that sell merchandise.

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Yorkdale Mall in 2012, a cathedral-like ceiling and skylight above the shops.

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                          Christmas display at Yorkdale in 2012.

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

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

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

              Books by the Blog’s Author

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

                  image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[2]

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

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

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

 

 Toronto: Then and Now®

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

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

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

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

 

 

                   

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Toronto’s carousels of the past and present

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The Centre Island carousel (merry-go-round) at Centreville in July 1987. Photo from author’s collection.

The carousel is one of the few amusement rides that generates feelings of nostalgia and romance. In the past, Toronto has been the home to three great carousels and I have had the pleasure of riding on two of them. Carousels are usually found in amusement parks, where they create great pleasure for children and adults alike. When watching an adult help a toddler onto the back of one of the carved animals, it is difficult to determine who derives the most pleasure—the child or the adult. It is not uncommon to see an adult riding a carousel, employing the excuse that they are merely accompanying their child for safety reasons.

Perhaps this is because many of us remember our own childhood and the great joy we experienced when we rode a carousel. Most of us cannot wait to see the same pleasure bestowed on our own children or those of our friends. Despite the newer, faster and more modern rides, as well as electronic games and the internet, the carousel from Victorian times remains one of the most treasured experiences for youngsters.

Scarborough Beach Park

One of Toronto’s earliest amusement parks was Scarborough (Scarboro) Beach Park. It was located beside Lake Ontario, south of Queen Street East, between Kew and Balmy Beaches. The land was purchased in 1906 by Harry and Mabel Dorsey for about $160,000. When the park opened on July 1, 1907 it contained an array of rides, as well as a 30-metre obelisk-like tower and an extensive midway.

The park became famous for its diving horse, which jumped headlong from a 60-foot platform into Lake Ontario. Similar to today, the most popular ride for children was the carousel. However, during the years ahead, attendance dwindled due to lack of maintenance and competition from the amusement park that opened at Sunnyside in 1922. The City of Toronto purchased Scarborough Beach Park in 1925 and officially closed it in 1930. The carousel was sold to Lakeside Park at Port Dalhousie, near St. Catharines, Ontario.

Fonds 1244, Item 149    Water chute, 1908, Scarboro Fonds 1244, item 0230  20110520-SBP2[1]

(Left) The midway at Scarborough Beach Park in 1907 (Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, item 0230). (Right-hand photo) The Water Chute at the park in 1908 (Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, item 0230).

                          1900, pictures-r-5448[1]

The tower that resembled an obelisk, at Scarborough Beach Park. Photo taken in 1900, Toronto Public Library, r- 5448.

Scarboro Beach Park pictures-r-5447[1]

Scarborough Beach Park in 1900. The structure on the far left is likely the carousel. It was sold to Lakeside Park at Port Dalhousie, but not the building that housed it. Toronto Public Library, r-5447.

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After Scarborough Beach Park was demolished, the land became a residential development. The only reminder of the park’s existence is Scarborough Beach Boulevard. It extends south from Queen Street East to the lake and is on the site of the former path that led to the entrance gate of the park. 

Lakeside Park at Port Dalhousie, Ontario

I was on the carousel in this park several times in the 1940s. When I was a child, once each summer my family visited the beach at Port Dalhousie, sailing across the Lake Ontario aboard the SS Cayuga. The magnificent carousel at Port Dalhousie was carved between the years 1898 and 1905 in Brooklyn, New York. It still operates today, and has 68 animals, including horses, lions, camels, goats, and giraffes, plus four chariots.

Before the Second World War automobiles were unaffordable, so people in Toronto spent their weekends and holiday within the city or surrounding areas. It was mainly the wealthy that were able to afford to journey on the train to cottages in the Muskoka Region or Georgian Bay. During the 1930s and 1940s, each year more than a quarter million people crossed the lake in steamships to visit Port Dalhousie. The animals on the carousel are hand-carved and the horses have real horsehair tails. Today, they are maintained by the “Friends of the Carousel”, a group that repairs them when needed. All the animals are original, except for a lion carved in 2004 to replace one that was stolen in the 1970s.

Port Dalhousie, 1930  tspa_0107728f[1]

Lakeside Park at Port Dalhousie in 1930. The building near the top of the photo is likely the carousel. (Readers: please advise me if this is incorrect) Toronto Public Library, tspa 007728.

Hanlan’s Point Amusement Park

The amusement park at Hanlan’s Point was very popular during the last few decades of the 19th century and early decades of the 20th. The city’s main baseball stadium was located there, the ride across the harbour on a Toronto ferry a treasured part of the daily excursion. It was logical to add other attractions to Hanlan’s Point to lure visitors across the bay. The original wooden stadium opened in 1897, and it was at Hanlan’s that Babe Ruth hit his first home run as a professional player. After the baseball season ended in 1925, the team relocated to Maple Leaf Stadium on the mainland, at the foot of Bathurst Street.

The amusement rides alone were not able to attract sufficient people to remain financially viable. The rides were eventually sold or demolished, and by 1930, almost nothing remained. I was unable to discover what happened to the carousel.

S.S. Trillium, (Motor Coach Department) – September 1, 1927

The Trillium docked at Hanlan’s Point on September 1, 1927. The carousel is behind the ferry, near the water of the harbour. It is unknown if the carousel remained inside the structure, as they were usually sold without the buildings that housed them. Toronto Archives, Series 0071, item 5215.

Hanlan's Point, looking south, from "B," showing refreshment booth, dock entrance and merry-go-round, (Commercial Department) – August 12, 1927

On the left-hand side of the photo is the merry-go-round (carousel) at Hanlan’s Point on August 12, 1927. The ticket booth is also visible. Behind the carousel is a refreshment stand. Toronto Archives, Series 0071, item 5157.

Sunnyside Beach and Amusement Park

Sunnyside Beach Amusement Park was officially opened by Mayor Mcguire on June 28, 1922. At the time the park had not been completed, but a few of the rides and the Bathing Pavilion were ready for visitors. After its official opening, thousands strolled along the boardwalk at Sunnyside, swam in the waters of the lake, or dived into the new swimming pool.

During the next few years, the amusement park was completed. Included among the rides was a carousel, the one that provided me with my first ride aboard one. Other popular features at Sunnyside 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, as well as the Miss Toronto beauty contests and women’s softball games. 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. Being a teenager at the time, I loved it.

The golden era of Sunnyside was from the 1920s until the early-1950s. As automobiles became more affordable, families began journeying north of the city to escape the heat and humidity 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. The beloved carousel of my youth was sold to Disneyland in Anaheim California, where it remains today. It is now called the King Arthur Carousel.

We lost this great carousel, and it appears as if we shall also lose the one at Centreville on Centre Island too.

Sunnyside_Boardwalk_Toronto_1931[1]

View looking west along the the Lakeshore Road c. 1925. To the left (south) of the boardwalk is Lake Ontario (not visible in the view on the postcard). The large structure with the domed red roof is the merry-go-round.

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The Sunnyside merry-go round (carousel) in 1945. Toronto Archives, SC 139-2 box 148489.

Other carousels now found within the GTA.

tspa_0014659f Tor. Star, 1985  [1]  From Woodside Amusement Pk,  photo by Smallbones  800px-Carousel_longshot_Philly[1]

Carousel at Woodbine Centre at Highway 27 and Rexdale Boulevard. Photo on left, Toronto Archives, tspa 0014659f. Photo on right by Smallbones.

View of carousel and surrounding flower beds at Canada's Wonderland – June 8, 1981

The carousel at Canada’s Wonderland in Vaughan at Highway #400 and  Rutherford Road. Photo was taken in 1981 and is from Toronto Archives, F 1526, file98, item 5.

Series 1465, File 362, Item 23

Children’s carousel at the CNE in the 1980s. This ride resides in Toronto only when the CNE is open. Toronto Archives, S 1465, Fl 0362, item 0023.

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                     Carousel at the CNE in 1995. Author’s collection.

Note: I have not mentioned the carousel on Centre Island. The following link will allow readers to discover its fate:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2017/08/19/rescue-torontos-antique-carousel-at-centreville/

Note: Sources employed for this post include: cec.chebucto.org/ClosPark/ScarBech.html

and www.blogto.com/city/2011/05/nostalgia_tripping_scarboro_beach_park 

and https://www.stcatharines.ca/en/experiencein/LakesideParkCarousel.asp 

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2017/08/19/rescue-torontos-antique-carousel-at-centreville/

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

To explore more memories of Toronto’s past:

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

Books by the 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.arcadiapublishing.com/Products/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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History of the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)

Fonds 1244, Item 3058

Gazing north on Queen’s Park Crescent in 1930. To the north of the museum is the Park Plaza Hotel. Toronto Archives,  Fonds 1244, Item 3058.

My earliest memories of the Royal Ontario Museum date from the 1940s, when my father took my brother and me downtown to view a parade on University Avenue. When it started to rain, he decided that we should go into the museum. I was a young boy at the time, and the dinosaurs, the Egyptian mummy, and the mounted animals in the natural history section fascinated me. The other item that I vividly remember from this visit is the tall totem pole in one of the stairwells. From the basement level, it towered skyward to near the roof. Today, these same exhibits thrill children and adults alike.

The Royal Ontario Museum has a history that spans over a century. It began in the early 20th century, at a time when Toronto was growing rapidly and the need for a world-class museum was clearly evident. A small group of influential people sought funding from the Ontario Government and the University of Toronto. As a result of their efforts, the Ontario Legislature passed The ROM Act on April 16, 1912, and the long history of this venerable institution commenced.

The facade of the new museum was to face Philosophers’ Walk, near the intersection of Bloor and Queen’s Park Avenue. The architects for the building were Darling and Pearson. The walls of the structure were covered with pale chalk-coloured bricks and terracotta. The entrance was on the north side, facing Bloor Street. It was officially opened on March 19, 1914, by the Duke of Connaught, Canada’s governor general.

An addition was added to the museum 19 years later, opening on October 12, 1933. The original section of the museum became the west wing. The addition faced Queen’s Park Crescent, the building occupying the southwest corner of Bloor West and Queen’s Park Crescent. Its walls were faced with pale-yellow bricks and Ontario limestone. The architects were Chapman and Oxley, who chose the Beau-Arts style, with richly detailed classical symbols. The main entrance was on Queen’s Park Crescent, the combined structures creating a U-shaped building.

In 1967, the museum severed its connection with the University of Toronto and became a separate entity. The ROM, as most people refer to it today, was renovated in 1984, at a cost of $55 million. It was officially reopened by Queen Elizabeth II. The next major change to the museum occurred in 2007, when another wing was added, named the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, at a cost of $320 million. Its architect the world famous Daniel Libeskind, who relocated the main entrance to Bloor Street. The museum has in its possession 6 million artefacts and attracts visitors from all over the world, as well as those living in Toronto and the surrounding area. 

Fonds 1244, Item 3046

The original Royal Ontario Museum, facing Philosophers’ Walk, in 1913. Toronto Archives, F.1244, It.3046 (1)

Oct. 15, 1929--s0071_it7253[1]

The museum facing Philosophers’ Walk on October 15, 1929. Today, it is the west wing of the ROM. Toronto Archives S0071, It. 7253 (1)

Fonds 1244, Item 1140

The 1933 addition to the ROM, facing Queen’s Park Crescent, photo taken the year it opened. The street in front of the museum is considerably narrower than it is today. Toronto Archives, F1244, It. 1140 (1) 

                        Aug. 1935.  f1231_it0683[1]

Main entrance to the ROM, facing Queen’s Park Crescent. The photo was taken in 1935. Toronto Archives, F1244, It. 0683 (1)

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The same entrance to the museum in 2012, after the entrance was relocated to Bloor Street West.

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The east facade of the ROM, facing Queen’s Park Crescent on May 28, 2015.

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View gazes west  on Bloor Street, the 1933 addition to the ROM visible, as well as the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal.

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             The Michael Lee-Chin Crystal facing Bloor Street. May 28, 2015.

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Entrance to the ROM on Bloor Street, in the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, May 28, 2015.

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      The court on the ground-floor level, inside the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, May 2015.

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

To view previous blogs about movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/links-to-toronto-old-movie-housestayloronhistory-com/

Recent publication entitled “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” by the author of this blog. The publication 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 of 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 Store and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791

Theatres Included in the Book:

Chapter One – The Early Years—Nickelodeons and the First Theatres in Toronto

Theatorium (Red Mill) Theatre—Toronto’s First Movie Experience and First Permanent Movie Theatre, Auditorium (Avenue, PIckford), Colonial Theatre (the Bay), the Photodrome, Revue Theatre, Picture Palace (Royal George), Big Nickel (National, Rio), Madison Theatre (Midtown, Capri, Eden, Bloor Cinema, Bloor Street Hot Docs), Theatre Without a Name (Pastime, Prince Edward, Fox)

Chapter Two – The Great Movie Palaces – The End of the Nickelodeons

Loew’s Yonge Street (Elgin/Winter Garden), Shea’s Hippodrome, The Allen (Tivoli), Pantages (Imperial, Imperial Six, Ed Mirvish), Loew’s Uptown

Chapter Three – Smaller Theatres in the pre-1920s and 1920s

 Oakwood, Broadway, Carlton on Parliament Street, Victory on Yonge Street (Embassy, Astor, Showcase, Federal, New Yorker, Panasonic), Allan’s Danforth (Century, Titania, Music Hall), Parkdale, Alhambra (Baronet, Eve), St. Clair, Standard (Strand, Victory, Golden Harvest), Palace, Bedford (Park), Hudson (Mount Pleasant), Belsize (Crest, Regent), Runnymede

Chapter Four – Theatres During the 1930s, the Great Depression

Grant ,Hollywood, Oriole (Cinema, International Cinema), Eglinton, Casino, Radio City, Paramount, Scarboro, Paradise (Eve’s Paradise), State (Bloordale), Colony, Bellevue

 

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Toronto’s historic Royal Alexandra Theatre

Tor. Pub. Lib. pictures-r-4963[1]

The Royal Alexander Theatre in August, 1955 , Toronto Public Library, r-4963-1

In the 19th century, King Street was one of the most fashionable residential streets in Toronto, as well as its most important business thoroughfare. Government House, the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario was located at Simcoe and John Streets, the location of today’s Roy Thomson Hall. The prestigious private school, Upper Canada College, was at one time located at the same intersection, on the northwest corner.

In the first decade of the 20th century, a group of business men, its most important member Cawthra Mulock, decided to finance the construction of a theatre to showcase legitimate theatrical productions. Most of them would be touring shows from London and New York. They purchased an 100-foot-wide lot at 260 King Street West, on the north side of the street, between Simcoe and John Streets. It had at one time been part of the previously mentioned campus of Upper Canada College.  

The syndicate hired the architect John M. Lyle, who in later years was to design Union Station on Front Street. For the theatre, Lyle chose the style that he preferred and had specialized in—Beaux-Arts classicism. It was constructed on a steel frame, which was not common in that decade. The exterior walls and floors were reinforced concrete, over two feet thick, and the walls were covered with yellow bricks. It had a Mansard roof with eye-windows inserted in it on three sides. The balconies were constructed of reinforced concrete on steel frames. There were no internal pillars, so no seat in the theatre would have an obstructed view. Sandstone blocks were placed on the facade facing King Street to create an imposing dignified appearance. The theatre was electrified so that no candles or gas lamps were required for stage or house lights, reducing the risk of fire. The stage’s fire curtain contained asbestos, woven on steel wire. There was also an automatic sprinkler system, its water supply contained in a cistern on the roof. There were sprinklers in the ceiling of the auditorium, as well as encircling the stage area and around the curtains. When it was built, it was the only truly fire-proof theatre in North America, setting the standard for theatres throughout the continent.

The stage was 45 feet wide and 35 feet in depth. The 17-foot wings were of sufficient size for the demands of most productions. Behind the stage were dressing rooms and washrooms. The space above the stage possessed extra height to accommodate most scenery and stage sets. Though the theatre was smaller than those in London and New York, the Royal Alex was a “road house,” meaning that touring groups arrived with their own scenery, which tended to be on a smaller scale than in-house productions. In the two balconies and box seats on the sides, as well as in the orchestra sections, there were plush comfortable seats. Every detail was observed to create excellent acoustics, and the auditorium was shaped according to these principles. In summer, storage spaces under the floor contained blocks of ice, so that in hot weather, vents in the floor allowed cool air into the theatre. This was in the days prior to air conditioning.

Royal permission was granted to name the theatre after the consort of King Edward VII, Queen Alexandra. It opened on August 26, 1907 with the musical production “Top O’ Th’ World,” starring  Harry Fairleigh and Anna Laughklin. During the many decades ahead, productions of Oklahoma, Kiss Me Kate, The King and I, Call Me Madam, and the Wizard of Oz had their Toronto premiers at the “Royal Alex,” as theatregoers usually refer to it. As well, Gilbert and Sullivan Operas and productions from New York’s Metropolitan Opera have been featured at the theatre.

By the late-1950s, the area surrounding the theatre had deteriorated and it was in danger of being demolished for a parking lot. In 1963, Ed Mirvish purchased the theatre for $215,000. He was quoted as saying that any real estate deal where the asking price was less than the value of the land alone, was a great buy. Mirvish restored the theatre to its early-twentieth- century grandeur and reopened it on September 9, 1963, featuring the play, “Never Too Late.” It was the beginning of the renaissance of King Street West. Today, the Bell Lightbox and Princess of Wales Theatre complement the historic Royal Alexander. It is one of the oldest continuously operating theatres in North America.

Note: I am grateful for the information contained in the book, “The Royal Alexandra Theatre” by Robert Brockhouse.

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                                                The theatre in 2012.

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                     The canopy of the theatre on King Street West.

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                                        Entrance doors on King Street.

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                             Architectural detailing of the cornice.

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                                      Interior view from the stage.

May 2012

              View of the theatre from David Pecaut Square in May 2012.

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

To view previous blogs about movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/links-to-toronto-old-movie-housestayloronhistory-com/

Recent publication entitled “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” by the author of this blog. The publication 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 of 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 Store and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791

Theatres Included in the Book:

Chapter One – The Early Years—Nickelodeons and the First Theatres in Toronto

Theatorium (Red Mill) Theatre—Toronto’s First Movie Experience and First Permanent Movie Theatre, Auditorium (Avenue, PIckford), Colonial Theatre (the Bay), the Photodrome, Revue Theatre, Picture Palace (Royal George), Big Nickel (National, Rio), Madison Theatre (Midtown, Capri, Eden, Bloor Cinema, Bloor Street Hot Docs), Theatre Without a Name (Pastime, Prince Edward, Fox)

Chapter Two – The Great Movie Palaces – The End of the Nickelodeons

Loew’s Yonge Street (Elgin/Winter Garden), Shea’s Hippodrome, The Allen (Tivoli), Pantages (Imperial, Imperial Six, Ed Mirvish), Loew’s Uptown

Chapter Three – Smaller Theatres in the pre-1920s and 1920s

 Oakwood, Broadway, Carlton on Parliament Street, Victory on Yonge Street (Embassy, Astor, Showcase, Federal, New Yorker, Panasonic), Allan’s Danforth (Century, Titania, Music Hall), Parkdale, Alhambra (Baronet, Eve), St. Clair, Standard (Strand, Victory, Golden Harvest), Palace, Bedford (Park), Hudson (Mount Pleasant), Belsize (Crest, Regent), Runnymede

Chapter Four – Theatres During the 1930s, the Great Depression

Grant ,Hollywood, Oriole (Cinema, International Cinema), Eglinton, Casino, Radio City, Paramount, Scarboro, Paradise (Eve’s Paradise), State (Bloordale), Colony, Bellevue (Lux, Elektra, Lido), Kingsway, Pylon (Royal, Golden Princess), Metro

Chapter Five – Theatres in the 1940s – The Second World War and the Post-War Years

University, Odeon Fairlawn, Vaughan, Odeon Danforth, Glendale, Odeon Hyland, Nortown, Willow, Downtown, Odeon Carlton, Donlands, Biltmore, Odeon Humber, Town Cinema

Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres

Savoy (Coronet), Westwood

Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes

Cineplex Eaton Centre, Cineplex Odeon Varsity, Scotiabank Cineplex, Dundas Square Cineplex, The Bell Lightbox (TIFF)

 

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Capturing Toronto’s past through art

26.  18x24  1995 Yonge and Queen in 1948.

Gazing north on Yonge Street from Queen Street in 1948, acrylic on stretched canvas, 18” x 24”, painted in 1995.

Toronto is one of the fastest changing cities in the world. I observe this phenomenon with a sense of pride, but at the same time lament that as the city grows vertically and expands its borders, much of its architectural history is being obliterated. Many years ago, in an attempt to preserve the images of my youth, I commenced sketching and painting city scenes, in acrylic, watercolour and oil. The above painting depicts the intersection of Queen and Yonge as I remember it as a boy, when my brother and I accompanied my mother on the old Peter Witt streetcars to visit Eaton’s during the Christmas season. By the time we departed from the store, darkness had fallen. Of course the highlight of the excursion was Eaton’s Toyland, on the fifth floor of the old Eaton’s store. To create the painting, I supplemented my memories with historic photographs from the City of Toronto Archives and sketches of the facades of the two buildings that remain at the intersection today. 

I commenced my Toronto paintings in the 1970s, and a few years later, I began retaining the city’s history by researching and writing. My books, fiction and non-fiction, are steeped in Toronto’s past. As I work, I am continually reminded that no matter how much I learn, there is so much more to discover. It is an humbling experience. I often wonder how researchers in London, Paris or Rome cope with the seemingly endless layers of history of these cities, which extend through thousands of years. My research has also caused me to greatly appreciate the writings of Bruce Bell and Mike Filey, who have expertly chronicled Toronto’s past. These historians have truly contributed much to the citizens of this city.

Below are a few more paintings that attempt to recreate scenes from past. Buildings and streetcars dominate most of them, the human figures inserted to animate the scenes or simply to provide foregrounds. Thus, they are not depicted in great detail. In all of the painting, I have employed bright vivid colours, often brushing them on the canvases without blending or mixing. The effect may be jarring to some viewers, but it is how I remember these scenes from my boyhood. When we are young, our world is bright and colourful; it is aging that dim’s our visions.   

104.  12x16  1997  Queen at Yonge looking west in 1948

Painted in 1997, the painting entitled, “Christmas Eve—1948,” is my favourite among those in this series. It most accurately reflects my boyhood memories of blustery evenings when we departed the old Eaton’s Store at Queen and Yonge Streets. It was often after 5pm, when the sun had plunged beneath the horizon and the lights of the city sparkled in the December darkness. It was on occasions such as this that my fascination with streetcars commenced and it has never departed.

The view in the painting gazes west from Queen Street East toward Yonge Street. The Christmas wreaths in the windows of the Bank of Montreal, on the northeast corner, and the decorated trees in the windows of the Simpson’s Store (now The Bay), on the southwest corner, create yuletide warmth on a snowy winter night, the wind whipping the thick flakes of white around the brightly-lit buildings. As a child, I thought it was magical. 

198.  18x24  1995 College and Yonge in 1948    

The intersection of Yonge and College (Carlton) Streets in 1948. The large building on the right-hand side is the old Eaton’s College Street Store. The painting is 18”24,” acrylic on stretched canvas, painted in 1995. Compared to the previous painting, the scene is calm, the wind more gentle, the dominance of blue hinting at  the bitterly cold temperatures, despite the bright red of the streetcars and the sign on the Kresge Store.  When writing this post, I noticed that “Kresge” is misspelled in the painting.

                    90.  20x24  1990 Bay St. in 1934

View gazing north on Bay Street in 1934, acrylic on stretched canvas, 18” x 24”, painted in 1990. This painting is not from the memories of my youth. I was fortunate to locate a copy of the book that the City of Toronto published in 1934 to commemorate the centennial of the incorporation of the city. In the book was a small black and white sketch of Bay Street. It was the inspiration for the painting, supplemented with archival photos and sketches done on location of the old buildings that remained on Bay Street in 1990. 

151.  18x24  1990 Qunne gazing toward Yonge in 1908

This is painting was created through archival photographs. The scene gazes east on Queen Street toward Yonge Street, c. 1918. The Eaton’s and Simpson’s (now the Bay) stores are visible. The Bank of Montreal, on the northeast corner of Yonge and Queen can also be seen. This building now contains an entrance to the Yonge Subway. The painting is 18”x20”, acrylic on stretched canvas, painted in 1990.

          55.  11x14  1992  Queen and Yonge in 1948

This colourful winter scene, painted in 1992, depicts shoppers boarding a Yonge streetcar to return home on “Christmas Eve in 1948.” The warmth of the family kitchen and loved ones awaiting them is foremost in their thoughts. The shoppers ignore the biting December winds, thinking of the happiness the contents of the bulky parcels that they carry will create when Christmas morning dawns. As the scene unfold, stores are being shuttered, the frantic yuletide shopping having ended, winter’s darkness quietly descending around them. The Yonge streetcar in the painting will circle Union Station at its south terminus and on its northern route travel as far as the city limits, on the brow of the hill overlooking Hogg’s Hollow. The TTC streetcar contained a small stove, fuelled by coal, to warm the passengers. Christmas morning would descend in a few hours, a time span that excited children considered a lifetime.

This scene is pure fantasy, the streetcar much larger than reality, occupying a greater portion of Yonge Street than is possible. The bright solid colours generate warmth on a cold winter canvas. As a child, I thought streetcars were larger than ocean liners, magical vehicles that transported me to wondrous locations like Kew Gardens, Woodbine Beach, the Humber River Valley, High Park and the ferry docks to journey to Centre Island.

The exaggerations of memory are a vital part of our past. Reality is something that awaits us when are older or have become teenagers, which when we were young children, meant the same. Anyone in their teens was an older person.

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

To view previous blogs about movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/links-to-toronto-old-movie-housestayloronhistory-com/

Recent publication entitled “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” by the author of this blog. The publication 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 of the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

              Note: This is a book of memories.

                      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 Store and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791

Theatres Included in the Book:

Chapter One – The Early Years—Nickelodeons and the First Theatres in Toronto

Theatorium (Red Mill) Theatre—Toronto’s First Movie Experience and First Permanent Movie Theatre, Auditorium (Avenue, PIckford), Colonial Theatre (the Bay), the Photodome, Revue Theatre, Picture Palace (Royal George), Big Nickel (National, Rio), Madison Theatre (Midtown, Capri, Eden, Bloor Cinema, Bloor Street Hot Docs), Theatre Without a Name (Pastime, Prince Edward, Fox)

Chapter Two – The Great Movie Palaces – The End of the Nickelodeons

Loew’s Yonge Street (Elgin/Winter Garden), Shea’s Hippodrome, The Allen (Tivoli), Pantages (Imperial, Imperial Six, Ed Mirvish), Loew’s Uptown

Chapter Three – Smaller Theatres in the pre-1920s and 1920s

 Oakwood, Broadway, Carlton on Parliament Street, Victory on Yonge Street (Embassy, Astor, Showcase, Federal, New Yorker, Panasonic), Allan’s Danforth (Century, Titania, Music Hall), Parkdale, Alhambra (Baronet, Eve), St. Clair, Standard (Strand, Victory, Golden Harvest), Palace, Bedford (Park), Hudson (Mount Pleasant), Belsize (Crest, Regent), Runnymede

Chapter Four – Theatres During the 1930s, the Great Depression

Grant ,Hollywood, Oriole (Cinema, International Cinema), Eglinton, Casino, Radio City, Paramount, Scarboro, Paradise (Eve’s Paradise), State (Bloordale), Colony, Bellevue (Lux, Elektra, Lido), Kingsway, Pylon (Royal, Golden Princess), Metro

Chapter Five – Theatres in the 1940s – The Second World War and the Post-War Years

University, Odeon Fairlawn, Vaughan, Odeon Danforth, Glendale, Odeon Hyland, Nortown, Willow, Downtown, Odeon Carlton, Donlands, Biltmore, Odeon Humber, Town Cinema

Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres

Savoy (Coronet), Westwood

Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes

Cineplex Eaton Centre, Cineplex Odeon Varsity, Scotiabank Cineplex, Dundas Square Cineplex, The Bell Lightbox (TIFF)

 

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Winter scenes after a Toronto storm

D'Arcy St.   7

             Houses wrapped in winter on D’Arcy Street in Toronto

February is a cruel month, when Toronto becomes locked in frost’s icy grip. However, after a snow storm, the beauty of winter in the city emerges, the sun sparkling in a cerulean blue sky. The Arctic air and drifts of snow appear as unblemished as those of the countryside beyond the city. The streets are quiet, life’s daily hum stilled by the gentle white. Images of Charles Dickens’ days of old magically appear.

I was fortunate, because in the days prior to the storm, the warmth from February’s increasingly direct rays of sunshine caused water to drip, forming long icicles on the eves, roofs and gables. I spent a delightful two hours under the winter sky, appreciating anew the beauty of Toronto in winter. Dressed warmly, I did not find it particularly cold, although my hands nearly froze while I was photographing and was forced to periodically thrust them into my pockets, a small price to pay for the pleasure that the scenes bestowed.

The photographs in this post were all taken on February 10, 2015, when the temperatures hovered around –10 degrees. I chose to photograph near Dundas Street West and Spadina Avenue, where the side streets have numerous Victorian homes.

Huron St.   23   

19th-century homes on Huron Street, a short distance north of Dundas Street West.

18.  20x24  2002

In 2002, I chose the houses in the previous photo as the subject for an oil painting. It was not until I viewed the painting this year that I realized that one of the trees in front of the houses has since been removed, and the facades of the houses and the windows have been altered. 

Baldwin St.  10

Late-Victorian houses on Baldwin street, between Spadina Avenue and McCaul Street. The wire fences and recycling bin betray that the scene is in the 21st century.

Baldwin St.  11   Baldwin St.   12

A 19th-century home on Baldwin Street, with a bay window on the ground-floor level (left photo), and a close-up view of the right-hand window on the second storey (right-hand photo).  

              Balwin St.  2

       Houses on Baldwin Street on February 10, 2015.

Balwin St.  7   Balwin St.  8

Houses on Baldwin Street with a shared Victorian porch containing ornate woodwork trim and spindle-work. The house on the right-hand side has a Christmas wreath, ready for next  December, I suppose.

                      Baldwin St.  14

Baltic ivy clinging to a building on Baldwin Street—a touch of greenery amid the winter white.

   corner D'Arecy and Huron (SE)

Store on the southeast corner of D’Arcy and Huron Streets, which has a reproduction of Van Gough’s painting of June 1889—“Starry Night” on its north wall.  

Balwin St. at Spadina, NW corner   Balwin looking west to Spadina

A picnic table, posts, recycling bins and graffiti art are all enhanced by winter’s sunlight reflecting from the snow. Photos taken on Baldwin near Spadina Avenue.

D'Arcy St.   14    DSCN5808

                                   Icicle magic on Huron Street.

n. side of Baldwin

Colourful Kensington—the north side of Baldwin Avenue, between Augusta and Kensington Avenue.

                          Baldwin in market

North side of Baldwin Street near Kensington Avenue, in the Kensington Market. 

Augusta and Kensington

Casa Acoreana on the northeast corner of Baldwin and Augusta Avenue in the Kensington Market. I believe that this shop has the best selection of spices and herbs in the city.

                        Balwin St.    5

                   Kensington Market—drifts on south side of Baldwin Street.

DSCN5801

Gazing east on Dundas Street West from near Spadina Avenue, in China Town.

terrace, Feb. 10, 2015

             A terrace garden in downtown Toronto, draped in snow .

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

To view previous blogs about movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/links-to-toronto-old-movie-housestayloronhistory-com/

Recent publication entitled “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” by the author of this blog. The publication 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 of 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 Store and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791

Theatres Included in the Book:

Chapter One – The Early Years—Nickelodeons and the First Theatres in Toronto

Theatorium (Red Mill) Theatre—Toronto’s First Movie Experience and First Permanent Movie Theatre, Auditorium (Avenue, PIckford), Colonial Theatre (the Bay), the Photodome, Revue Theatre, Picture Palace (Royal George), Big Nickel (National, Rio), Madison Theatre (Midtown, Capri, Eden, Bloor Cinema, Bloor Street Hot Docs), Theatre Without a Name (Pastime, Prince Edward, Fox)

Chapter Two – The Great Movie Palaces – The End of the Nickelodeons

Loew’s Yonge Street (Elgin/Winter Garden), Shea’s Hippodrome, The Allen (Tivoli), Pantages (Imperial, Imperial Six, Ed Mirvish), Loew’s Uptown

Chapter Three – Smaller Theatres in the pre-1920s and 1920s

 Oakwood, Broadway, Carlton on Parliament Street, Victory on Yonge Street (Embassy, Astor, Showcase, Federal, New Yorker, Panasonic), Allan’s Danforth (Century, Titania, Music Hall), Parkdale, Alhambra (Baronet, Eve), St. Clair, Standard (Strand, Victory, Golden Harvest), Palace, Bedford (Park), Hudson (Mount Pleasant), Belsize (Crest, Regent), Runnymede

Chapter Four – Theatres During the 1930s, the Great Depression

Grant ,Hollywood, Oriole (Cinema, International Cinema), Eglinton, Casino, Radio City, Paramount, Scarboro, Paradise (Eve’s Paradise), State (Bloordale), Colony, Bellevue (Lux, Elektra, Lido), Kingsway, Pylon (Royal, Golden Princess), Metro

Chapter Five – Theatres in the 1940s – The Second World War and the Post-War Years

University, Odeon Fairlawn, Vaughan, Odeon Danforth, Glendale, Odeon Hyland, Nortown, Willow, Downtown, Odeon Carlton, Donlands, Biltmore, Odeon Humber, Town Cinema

Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres

Savoy (Coronet), Westwood

Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes

Cineplex Eaton Centre, Cineplex Odeon Varsity, Scotiabank Cineplex, Dundas Square Cineplex, The Bell Lightbox (TIFF)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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