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Category Archives: tourism Toronto

The Story of the Roy Thomson Hall

July 2018

Roy Thomson Hall in July 2018, looking east on King Street West toward Simcoe Street.

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  Roy Thomson Hall in Winter,” view looking south on Simcoe Street toward King Street West in 2008. Painting is acrylic on Masonite, 16”x20”

My earliest memories of the site where the Roy Thomson Hall is located dates from the 1960s. During that decade King Street West, near  the intersection of Simcoe Street, was beginning its transformation from a sadly neglected district into the trendy avenue that it is today. The amazing change began in 1962, when Ed Mirvish purchased the Royal Alexandra Theatre and the following year opened a restaurant to lure theatre patrons. He believed that fine dining and theatre, were meant to go together. Mirvish’s restaurant was the soon-to-be famous Ed’s Warehouse, which specialized in prime rib beef. After it opened, I began visiting the King/Simcoe area more frequently to dine and attend the Royal Alex. Eventually I purchased a Mirvish subscription, my theatre seats being in the front row of the first balcony.

In the 1960s, Ed Mirvish maintained a strict dress code for those who entered his warehouse restaurant. Unlike today, such a policy was common among the finer restaurants of the city. However, it was considered especially essential by Ed Mirvish as across the street from his restaurant were the rail yards of the  Canadian Pacific and Canadian National Railways, At any given time, the tracks contained row after row of unsightly boxcars that had recently delivered cargo to Toronto. However, the boxcars also bought stow-away men, often referred to as “hobos.” These men were transients who were down on their luck, so travelled from city to city by stowing away in boxcars. The dress code at Ed’s was considered a simple way to deter these men from entering the restaurant. In retrospect, I suspect that none of these men would ever have attempted to enter the restaurant as it was obviously beyond their means.

There is a story about Ed Mirvish that I have often repeated to friends. It demonstrates how seriously the staff at Honest Ed’s enforced the dress code. When I was in my early  twenties, my family took me out to dinner for my birthday, but kept their choice of restaurant a surprise. I inquired if I should wear a tie and jacket, and was told that they were unnecessary. When we arrived, I discovered that the restaurant was Ed’s Warehouse, on King Street. My family had been unaware of the dress code.

The maître’s informed us that in order to enter the restaurant my brother, dad and I required jackets and ties, and offered to provide us with these from an assortment of items that they kept for such situations. He explained that the reason for the requirement was to prevent vagrants from the rail yard from entering the establishment. We were offended as the clothes they offered were wrinkled, worn, appeared not too clean. Besides, I was certain that we did not look like hobos as we were attired in a freshly laundered sport shirts and neatly pressed trousers.

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

I explained.

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

My family and I enjoyed the roast beef meal. The sour dill pickles, and bread rolls were excellent, and the spumoni  ice cream was great for dessert. I think the roast beef was the best I ever had in Toronto. When the cheque arrived, it had been reduced by fifty per cent. Ed Mirvish was a very smart businessman, as well as a big-hearted individual. My family never forgot his generosity.

Now, on with the story of the land across from the restaurant where the rail yards were located. Though they continued to be a problem for Ed’s theatre and restaurant, he made them a success through shrew marketing. One such example is that when patrons  purchased theatre subscriptions, they received a $20 coupon for dining at the Warehouse. In those days, the coupon covered the cost of the meal if a person did not order any alcohol. As a result, the Royal Alex was well attended as it offered mayor hits from Broadway and London and Ed’s Warehouse offered quality meals at a reasonable price.

However, it was not long before the site of the rail yards became such valuable real estate that the railroads decided to sell it and relocate to the suburbs.

It is worth relating a little of the history of the property where the Roy Thomson Hall is located today. It has played a major role in the history of Toronto since 1798, when Elmsley House occupied southeast corner of King and Simcoe Streets. It was the home of Chief Justice John Elmsley, the speaker of the House of Assembly. In that century, his residence was considered remote from the town of York (Toronto), which was clustered around the eastern end of the harbour.

1854, Vic's birthday first_government_house_in_toronto_18541-tor-ref[1]

The drawing on the left depicts Elmsley House in 1854, on the occasion of the birthday of Queen Victoria on May 24th of that year. In 1815, Elmsley House was considered such an impressive home that it was purchased by the Government of Upper Canada to serve as the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor of the province. Unfortunately, the structure no longer exists today as it was destroyed by fire in 1862. This was the fate of many of Toronto’s 19th-century structures. The best that can be said is that at least Elmsley House was not demolished by the indifference on the part of 20th-century city councils.

The building that replaced the destroyed house was an even grander mansion, completed in 1870 at a cost of $105,000. The architects were Edward Gundry and Henry Langley. Langley, a Toronto-born architect, also designed the tower and spire on St. Michael’s Cathedral, as well as the original Metropolitan United Church on King Street East, and Jarvis Street Baptist Church. When the new Government House was built, King Street was becoming a fashionable residential address, where many of the elite of the city had built their homes.

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The right-hand picture is a watercolour of Government House, built in 1870, on the southwest corner of King and Simcoe.

By the turn of the 20th century, King Street was again changing dramatically. It was becoming an industrial area, as the land to the south of the Government House was increasingly being built upon by the railways. Also, the Ontario Legislature had relocated in 1893 from its location on Front Street, east of Simcoe Street, to Queen’s Park. This meant that the site of the Government House was no longer considered a suitable location for the domicile of the lieutenant governor of the province.

In 1912, Government House and the surrounding lands on the southwest corner of King and Simcoe were sold to the Canadian Pacific Railway. However, in the 1960s, further changes were again on the horizon. This occurred after Ed Mirvish purchased and restored the Royal Alexandra Theatre and opened his warehouse restaurant. One of the few drawbacks Mirvish’s endeavours faced was that when his patrons and guests attended the theatre or restaurant, they gazed across King Street at the unsightly rows of Canadian Pacific and Canadian National boxcars. They were located immediately to the south of a narrow parking lot adjacent to King Street.  

Next, the street commenced its transition to the lively street scene that is familiar to Torontonians today. It began when the rail yards were purchased by the city as the site for Toronto’s new concert venue, which was to replace Massey Hall as the premier concert hall of the city. Securing funds for the $57-million building had commenced in 1977, the fundraising committee chaired by Pierre Trudeau, William Davis, Paul Godfrey, and David Crombie. The new structure was to be named after Roy Herbert Thomson, father of Ken Thomson, in recognition of the $4.5 million that the Thomson family had donated toward the building fund. The new hall was to be the home venue for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. Construction began in 1978 and the official inauguration of the concert was held on September 13, 1982.

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Within the 2600-seat hall was an enormous pipe organ, which cost over $650,000 and more than 20,000 hours of labour. The organ possessed two consoles and duplicate key action. Organists could play either from the console in the organ gallery or from a moveable detached console on the stage. It was officially ready for its first performance on September 18, 1982, just five days after the hall opened. This instrument is today among the finest organs in the world. To celebrate the official opening of the hall, a week-long series of festive events was held.

During the decades ahead, the hall received much criticism, particularly from members of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) who complained about its poor acoustics. In response to these criticisms, in 1989 planning began for renovations to the hall. They did not come to fruition until 2002, when the hall closed from March 11th until August 9th of that year.

The $24-million renovation project, directed by acousticians Artec Consultants Inc. (New York) and architects Kuwabara, Payne, McKenzie Blumberg (Toronto) entailed an overhaul of the auditorium’s acoustic design, size and shape. A large rehearsal hall, dressing rooms, extensive musician support areas and backstage facilities were included as well as a broadcast and recording area. The corporate offices, libraries and archives of its two major tenants were all located on a lower level. The grand reopening was held on September 21, 2002 with a gala concert to mark the occasion.

Today, the Roy Thomson Hall remains Toronto’s jewel in the crown for concerts and special events, rivalled only by the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, Other excellent concert venues are the Carlu, the North York Centre for the Performing Arts, and Meridian Hall (Sony Centre). Also, Massey Hall is now being restored and in the future it may again take its place among the best concert halls in the city. 

date 1975.  Fonds 124, fl0124, id 0004-Thomson-AerialRail[1]

Ariel view of the intersection of King West and Simcoe Streets in 1975. On the left-hand side, at the centre of the picture, is the Royal Alexandra Theatre. St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church is on the right-hand side, surrounded by tall buildings that seem to diminish its handsome facades and ornate towers. The rail yards are visible on the south side of King Street, south of a narrow parking lot. There are buildings on the southwest corner of the intersection, which were demolished when the site was purchased by the city. Toronto Archives, Fonds 124, fl 0124, id 0004.

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View of the southwest corner of Simcoe and King Street west in the late-1970s, the site cleared of the buildings on the southwest corner to allow the construction of the Roy Thomson Hall. St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, located on the southeast corner of the intersection, is prominently visible on the east side of Simcoe Street. Photo from the Toronto Archives, F0124, fl0003, id 00671. 

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Interior view of the Roy Thomson Hall in 1981, the year prior to its opening. Toronto Public Library tspa 0110582 .

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Performing the final touches to the lobby of the hall in preparation for the grand opening in 1982.

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Interior view of the hall in 1982, the year the building opened. There are many individual lights hanging from the ceiling. The people in the foreground of the photo are sitting in the choir loft. Toronto Public Library, tspa 0110604.

                                                    Oct 1, 1984, Royal Gala, outside hall  tspa_0123336f[1]

Queen Elizabeth II entering the hall to attend a Royal Gala on October 1, 1984. Toronto Public Library tspa 123336.

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Interior view of the hall in 2012, the stage set for a Christmas performance of Handel’s Messiah, featuring the Mendelsohn Choir and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.  

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The stage of the hall after the performers were in place, ready to perform the Symphony, heralding the beginning of the Messiah.

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View of the hall, the camera facing east on King Street toward Simcoe on September 10, 2015.

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Looking north on Wellington Street West at the rear of the Roy Thomson Hall on March 10, 2013.

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The north side of the hall on September 10, 2015, the reflecting pool and fountain in the foreground. The pool is situated parallel to King Street West. 

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Gazing southward on September 1, 2012  at Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall from the north side of the hall from the reflecting pool.

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The east side of the hall on Simcoe Street, the CN Tower in the background.

Links to discover more about heritage sites mentioned in this post: 

Royal Alexandra Theatre Windows Live Blog https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2015/05/18/torontos-historic-royal-alexandra-theatre/

Government House: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/torontos-lost-architectural-gemsthe-site-occupied-by-the-roy-thomson-hall/

Ed’s Warehouse Restaurant: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2016/11/15/eds-warehouse-restaurant-closed-in-1999/

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

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

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

              Books by the Author

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

                  image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[2]

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

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

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

 

 Toronto: Then and Now®

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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Historic Greenhouses in Allan Gardens—Toronto

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1890s of the pav. built in 1879 pavilion  pictures-r-5580[1]

                        Interior of the pavilion that opened in 1879.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources for this post on Allan Gardens:

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

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

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

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

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

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

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

              Books by the Author

               DSCN2207_thumb9_thumb2_thumb4_thumb_  

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

                  image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb

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

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

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

 

 Toronto: Then and Now®

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Toronto’s New City Hall—Past and Present

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                                Toronto’s New City Hall

Many cities throughout the world have landmark structures that are easily recognized, even when there are no captions or context that identify their location. A few prime examples are the Eiffel Tower, United Nations Building, Golden Gate Bridge, Coliseum, Taj Mahal, and Buckingham Palace. If photos of these buildings are displayed, there is no need to identify the city where they appear as they have been well known for decades and in some instances, for centuries.

Toronto possesses two such structures—the CN Tower and the New City Hall. When I was travelling across Europe and Asia in the late-1970s, in the windows of travel agencies, I sometimes saw photos of the New City Hall and the CN Tower. The images were being employed to promote Toronto as a tourist destination. Most people I talked to readily knew where these landmarks were located.

Toronto was not always as well known internationally as it is today. In the 1930s, the city remained a quiet and loyal part of the old British Empire. During the Second World War its economy expanded as it focussed on contributing to the war effort. After peace was declared in 1945, growth was stimulated exponentially by the pent up demand for housing, commercial buildings and entertainment. The post-war years were also when immigration increased immensely as thousands of people chose Toronto as their new home. The city’s growth continued unabated throughout the 1950s. At the end of the decade, development was further intensified by the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959. Ships were now able to bi-pass Montreal, which was at that time was Canada’s largest city. Thus, the 1960s became a period of extremely robust construction.

Unfortunately, because of the city’s rapid expansion during this decade, many of the city’s heritage buildings were demolished. Many low-rise structures in the downtown were destroyed and replaced with towering skyscrapers. It was as if City Council had embraced the motto: “out with the old, in with the new.” Most Torontonians embraced this viewpoint, feeling it was necessary if the city were to enter the modern era.

As a result, few objections were raised about the destruction of older buildings, including those that had survived for over a century. Many believed that these structures had little to contribute to the new urban scene. As well, the voices of those concerned about architectural preservation were mostly absent from the scene.

Unfortunately, some developers, aided by politicians, continue to favour this destructive attitude today, though I admit that things are improving.

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A prime example of the destruction this attitude caused is the demolition of the Board of Trade Building on the northeast corner of Front and Yonge Streets. Built in 1892, it was demolished in 1959 and remained a parking lot until another structure was erected on the site in 1982. The left-hand photo depicts the building constructed in 1982, and the right-hand photo the Board of Trade Building erected in 1892. Readers are invited to compare the two structures and judge accordingly. For more information about the Board of Trade Building: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2016/06/11/torontos-board-of-trade-building-demolished/

However, despite the damage created by city planners of the 1960s, it was during this decade that Toronto built a magnificent New City Hall. It began when City Council and Mayor Nathan Philips initiated a world-wide search for an architect. Five hundred and twenty submissions were received from forty-two countries, the winning design by a Finnish architect — Viljo Revell.

Its construction commenced on November 7, 1961, its architecture a dramatic break from the ultra-conservative styles of the past. For over a century, since its incorporation as a city in 1834, Toronto had produced some remarkable buildings, but few that ever created as much praise and condemnation as the New City Hall.

When architectural drawings of it were published in the newspapers, reviews were mixed. One reporter wrote that Revell was to be Mayor Philips’ Christopher Wren, who had designed St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Others declared that the design of the new council chamber resembled an ugly giant oyster, and expressed doubts that any pearls of wisdom would ever be expressed within it.

As construction costs continued to soar, many citizens felt that the entire project was fishy. After all, politicians at City Hall were well known to hook and gut taxpayers by wasting dollars on grand schemes. The unfamiliar futuristic design of the new civic building appeared to be proof of this suspicion. The council chamber in the New City Hall was also compared to a flying saucer. Some expressed the opinion that it might float upward into the skies above due to the political hot air that would be produced inside it by politicians.

However, as the edifice neared completion, people gazed in wonder at the oyster-like city hall chamber, nestled between the two majestic curving towers. Comparisons to fishy endeavours faded from the minds of most citizens, although some still questioned the $25 million building costs. The structure possessed many impressive features, the one that perhaps garnered the most attention being the pillar that supported the council chamber. It was twenty feet in diameter and extended down to the bedrock below. The two towers were not energy efficient by today’s standard, but they were impressive to behold. It was as if Toronto had architecturally finally entered the 20th century.

When the building was officially opened on September 13, 1965 by Governor General Georges Vanier, the weather was cloudy, but nothing dulled the enthusiasm of Torontonians. Fighter planes roared across the sky above the towers and fireworks crackled, sputtered and exploded in the air above it. Mayor Jean Drapeau of Montreal was heard to remark glumly that he doubted that his city would have ever have a building to match it.

                    cityhall- 1960s  a-r4-15[1]

Construction site of the New City Hall in 1961, the oval shape of the two towers already evident. The view faces northwest, and in the background are the Toronto Armouries on University Avenue and the Registry Building, located on the west side of the New City Hall (both these buildings have since been demolished). Image is from the Toronto Public Library, a-r4-15

June 22, 1964.  f1268_it0462[1]

Taken on June 22, 1964, the photo looks northeast from the space that became Nathan Phillips Square. In the foreground is the old Registry Building that is being demolished. To discover the history of this neo-classical structure, follow the link https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2016/03/11/torontos-old-registry-office-building/ . The above image is from the Toronto Archives, Fl268, it462.

f0124_fl0001_id0135[1]

View of the New City Hall in 1964 as construction nears completion. City of Toronto Archives, F1025, fl 0001, id. 0135.

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The New City hall in the late-1960s. Toronto Archives F0124, fl0002, id 0002.

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Skaters on the ice in the reflecting pool in Nathan Philips Square, view gazing north. Photo January 15, 2019. 

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Summer in Nathan Philips Square, view looking north toward the twin towers of the New City Hall, the curved pillars in the foreground extending over the east side of the reflecting pool. Toronto Archives, F 0124, fl 0003, id 0092.

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Reflecting pool in Nathan Philips Square, the Canada Life Building in the background and the north facade of the Sheraton Centre Hotel on the upper left-hand corner of the photo.

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The 20-foot diameter column that supports the spaceship-like council chamber. The pillar rests on the bedrock below.

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City Hall Chambers where city council meets. Photo taken during Doors Open in 2012.

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      The mayor’s office in the New City Hall, photo taken in 2012.

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View from the roof of the Old City Hall, looking west toward the Canada Life Building on University Avenue.

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View from the roof of the New City Hall, gazing south over Nathan Philips Square. The large building facing north overlooking the square is the Sheraton Centre Hotel at 123 Queen St. West. Behind it is the CN Tower. On the right-hand (west) side of the square is the eastern part of Osgoode Hall. 

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View looking east on Queen Street West from the south side of Nathan Phillips Square. The food trucks have been a familiar part of the scene for decades. The tower of the Old City Hall is visible in the background. 

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              View from south side of Nathan Philips Square.

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View gazing north from Nathan Philips Square at the New City Hall in the summer of 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 Author

               DSCN2207_thumb9_thumb2_thumb4_thumb_[1]  

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

                  image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[1]

“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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King Street West Toronto—a destination

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When the King Street Pilot Project began in November 2017, it was hoped that it would serve several purposes. To achieve these goals, left-hand turns of vehicles were restricted, allowing streetcars the preferential right of way in order to reduce transit times for TTC riders. It worked! Ridership increased. Also, by restricting cars, more space was opened for outdoor cafes and pedestrians. It was intended that the improved landscaping, cafes, and open spaces would make King Street a destination in its own right.I strolled along King Street on Saturday, September 28, 2018. Although there remains controversy about the project, I believe that the hopes for the street have been fulfilled. It is indeed a destination worth visiting. On September 28th, the afternoon was cool, the high temperature of the day being only 15 degrees. However, it was sunny with clear blue skies. Although some of those who visited King Street found it too cool to sit out, many people seemed not to be bothered by the low temperatures. They relaxed in the cafes and patio chairs in the pale autumn sun. The street appeared magnificent as the flowers, shrubs and trees had grown considerably over the summer months. It made me realize how much greener the street might appear if the landscaping were permanent and more trees were planted.Below are a few pictures of the street on September 28, 2018. They were taken on a Saturday afternoon when the street was not particularly busy.image

Gazing west on King Street from Brant Street. The chairs and tables have been removed for the season from Cibo Restaurant’s patio. However, the red geraniums still create a pleasing ambience for those who stroll along the avenue.DSCN3421

Despite the cool air, it was pleasant to sit in a muskoka chairs to read, text, check emails, or simply observe the passing scene.image

     The view looks east toward Spadina Avenue from near Brant Street.DSCN3429

A restaurant and its cafe on the south side of King Street, across from the Bell Lightbox. A streetcar is reflected in the window of the eatery. The streetcars add animation and colour to the street and people do not seem to be bothered by sitting so close to them.DSCN3427

People relax by the greenery positioned near the sidewalk as a streetcar glides past. Photo taken at King and Peter Streets.image

King and John Streets, a great corner to observe the passing scene. In the background is the Bell Lightbox.image

People enjoying the sunshine in chairs on the south side of King Street, across from the Royal Alexandra Theatre. The smaller trees were placed as part of the King Street Pilot Project and are labelled as being part of a growing “urban forest.”To compare these photos with those taken in the street during early-summer of 2018, click on the links below:https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2018/07/04/impressions-of-the-king-st-pilot-project/https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2018/07/14/torontos-king-street-pilot-project-part-two/To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/For more information about the topics explored on this blog:https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2016/03/02/tayloronhistory-comcheck-it-out/              Books by the Author               DSCN2207_thumb9_thumb2_thumb4_thumb_   “ Lost Toronto”—employing detailed archival photographs, this recaptures the city’s lost theatres, sporting venues, bars, restaurants and shops. 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. (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)                  image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[1]“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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TIFF 2018 – Festival Street (King St. West)

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The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is one the city’s most highly anticipated events. During the first 4 days of the 10-day festival, a section of King Street West (between Peter St. and University Avenue) was cordoned off to create Festival Street. The avenue became alive with the sounds, colour and action generated by one of the largest and most important film festivals in the world. Founded in 1976, it has grown exponentially, each year adding more features and events to enchant movie-goers and the general public. This year, held September 6th to the 16th, the festival is the most exciting I have ever experienced.

I will not explore the history of the festival, as a post I wrote in 2014 covered this topic. For a link to this post:  https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/01/19/torontos-architectural-gemsthe-bell-lightbox-tiff/

This year’s Festival Street became a food fair as outdoor cafes were more numerous and more expansive. As well, there were many food trucks serving ethnic and gourmet menus. People seemed to be enjoying the culinary treats as much as wandering King Street, many of them hoping to spot a movie star. It was a constant delight, as many companies offered complimentary samples of their products.  Another change was that the north/south streets of Peter and John were more utilized than in previous years.

For those who were unable to visit the Festival Street on King Street West, or for those who wish to relive a few memories of their visit, this post features photos taken on the night of Friday, September 7th and during the daylight hours of Saturday September 8th. 

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The Bell Lightbox at the corner of John and King Streets. Throngs crowd the entranceway where the stars enter to walk the red carpet.

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Sidewalk cafes on the south side of King Street, opposite the Bell Lightbox.

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Looking south on John Street from King Street West. A stage is visible in the distance, near Wellington Street.

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The Air France Bistro on King near Simcoe Street, where many people enjoyed being photographed beside the miniature Eiffel Tower.

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     A couple pose in front of the miniature replica of the Eiffel Tower

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Crowds in front of the Princess of Wales Theatre awaiting the appearance of the stars.

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The Royal Alexandra Theatre where the popular musical “Come From Away” is playing. The chairs and the trees in the foreground are part of the King Street Project.

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The Roy Thomson Hall at King and Simcoe where films are featured during TIFF.

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                Entrance to the Roy Thomson Hall on Simcoe Street.

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King Street between Simcoe and University Avenue where many food trucks were located.

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Food trucks on King Street, west of University, the truck in the foreground operated by Arepa, featuring Venezuelan food. Arepa’s restaurant is at 490 Queen Street West.

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A TIFF volunteer continuously assisted people to have their photos taken in front of the TIFF sign, located at the west-end of the section of King Street that formed the Festival Village. 

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Outdoor cafes on King Street, west of John Street. The cafes that are part of the King Street Project were extended further into the street.

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Cafes on the south side of King Street, opposite the Bell Lightbox, located on the north side.

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                               Cafes opposite the Bell Lightbox.

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A display created by La Fenici Italian Restaurant where people were able to take photos or selfies to create memories of TIFF 2018. Located at 319 King Street, La Fenice is my favourite restaurant on the King Street strip. It is credited with serving the most authentic Italian food in Toronto. I first discovered it many years ago during Summerlicious and still enjoy dining there.

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The south and west facades of the Bell Lightbox, the view from the corner of Widmer and King Streets.

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    View of the cafes opposite the south facade of the Bell Lightbox.

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      The Princess of Wales Theatre decorated in blue for 2018 TIFF.

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Crowds awaiting the appearance of movie stars outside the Princess of Wales Theatre.           

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              A colourful display created by Lyft for the 2018 TIFF.

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Historic St. Andrews Church at King and Simcoe Streets. In the foreground is a Toronto information tent.

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In the background of this photo is the Union Building, constructed in 1908 as the head office of the Canadian General Electric Company, a manufacturer of various electrical products and appliances.

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On John Street, a short distance south of King, “No Frills” Grocery chain held a movie trivia quiz that attracted many people.

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       A chess game being played near the Royal Alexandra Theatre

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A table tennis (ping pong) game on John Street, the Bell Lightbox in the background.

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Second Cup serves complimentary samples of coffee at the corner of John and King Streets.

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TIFF 2018 was great, and the outdoor activities on King Street were better than ever.

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

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

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

              Books by the Author

               DSCN2207_thumb9_thumb2_thumb4_thumb_  

“ Lost Toronto”—employing detailed archival photographs, this recaptures the city’s lost theatres, sporting venues, bars, restaurants and shops. 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

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. (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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The Story of Gibson House—North York, Toronto

1. DSCN2430

         Gibson House in North York, Toronto, at 5172 Yonge Street.

Gibson House, the home of David and Eliza Gibson, recreates life in a 19th century farm house, an era from our past that contrasts with our busy modern world. The early decades that this house represents may appear quiet and less-hurried when compared to today, but visitors soon learn that this is a mere illusion. It was an age that lacked modern technology, meaning that life was harsh and labour intensive. Despite this, many tasks performed by the Gibson family remain familiar to us today, while others are thankfully remote.

The story of the original inhabitant of the house is fascinating, as they witnessed and participated in some of the most turbulent events in the history of our province. David Gibson was born in 1804 in the parish of Glamis, Forfarshire (Angus), Scotland. His father, a tenant farmer, apprenticed him at 15 years of age to a land surveyor in Forfarshire. When David’s apprenticeship ended in 1824, he immigrated to North America. His uncle, Alexander Milne, who lived in Markham Township, Upper Canada (Ontario), encouraged him in this venture by informing him that it was relatively easy to qualify as a surveyor in the province as surveyors were in great demand.

David sailed for North America in the spring of 1825 and arrived in Montreal. Although he found employment there, a permanent position in his area of expertise eluded him. Finally, even though a well-paid position as a grocery merchant was offered to him, he departed Montreal and journeyed to his uncle’s farm in Upper Canada. Upon his arrival in the province, he was still unable to immediately secure the employment that he desired.

However, upon passing the provincial examination for surveyors in December 1825, he was appointed deputy-surveyor of roads and in September 1828, surveyor of highways for the southern part of the Home District. In a mere three years, he was well established and was busy mapping the roads and avenues of early-day York (Toronto).

In 1828, Gibson married his cousin, Eliza Milne, and the following year they bought a farm lot on north Yonge Street, nine miles north of the town of York. Located in an area that is today named Willowdale, they built a wood-frame house. Under David’s guidance, the property became an active and progressive farm.

However, despite his busy life as a farmer and surveyor, David Gibson set aside time to become involved in public affairs. In 1831 he was elected president of the York Temperance Society. It was during these years that he saw first-hand the inequalities of the political system in Upper Canada and became an avid Reformer. His views led him to a political association with William Lyon Mackenzie.

In 1834 and 1836 Gibson was elected to the assembly for the First Riding of York, where he became known as a reasonable but forceful supporter of reform. It is thought that because of his commitment to the reform movement, the newly-incorporated City of Toronto City Council gave him contacts surveying streets and sidewalks. However, despite his many activities, he continued to farm and prosper. He won several prizes from the Home District Agricultural Society, and successfully sold livestock at ever-increasing prices.

In December of 1837, Mackenzie began advocating for open rebellion against the government. Gibson learned of the plans only two days before events were to begin and was not fully aware of Mackenzie’s intentions. When he finally met with Mackenzie, the rebel leader demanded that Gibson choose sides. Gibson was hesitant. However, he eventually agreed, even though he believed that rebellion was wrong. He reasoned that such an extreme measure might force the government to institute reforms that were badly needed.

On a cold December morning, though he harboured doubts about the course of action, Gibson was present at Montgomery’s Tavern where Mackenzie and the rebels had gathered. Unfortunately, the tavern was raided by government forces lead by James Fitzgibbon and Allan McNab. During the skirmish, Gibson protected the loyalist prisoners held inside Montgomery Tavern from mistreatment, and eventually led them to safety. At this point, Gibson left the rebels and did not join in the march down Yonge Street.

The loyalist prisoners were grateful for their freedom and spoke on Gibson’s behalf. Despite this, Lieutenant Governor Sir Francis Bond Head ordered the militia to torch the house on Gibson’s farm. While it was in flames, after ensuring that her children were safe, Eliza Gibson ran into the burning building to retrieve the clock-face and mechanical workings from their treasured wooden long-case (grandfather) clock. In her skirt, she carried out of the house the valuable parts of the clock.

As there was a warrant for his arrest, Gibson hid near Oshawa for a month, and then, escaped across Lake Ontario to Lockport, New York. While in the United States, he avoided any contact with Mackenzie, who had referred to him in an article as a coward, because Gibson had left the rebels after the fighting at Montgomery’s Tavern. Gibson finally secured employment in Lockport as an engineer on the Erie Canal and sent for his family to join him. He prospered and soon was able to purchase a farm.

Although he was pardoned in 1843 by the government of Canada West (Upper Canada) on the charge of treason, he remained in the United States and in 1846 applied for citizenship. In 1848, however, he lost his employment contract on the Erie Canal. As a result, after 11 years in exile, he decided to return to his farm in Canada West (today named Ontario).

While Gibson was in the United States, his Yonge Street property had been tended to by relatives. Repossessing the farm, he was determined to re-build and also resume his profession as surveyor. He hired a farmhand to assist him when he was away surveying. Interestingly, the clock works that Eliza had rescued from the flames in 1837, had been placed in a new case after Eliza, David, and their children re-united in Lockport, New York.  When the Gibson family returned to the farm in 1848, the long-case clock was brought with them.

In 1851, the Gibson family built an impressive Georgian Revival farmhouse at 5172 Yonge Street. A narrow dirt lane led from the farmhouse to Yonge Street. A few years after the house was built, an addition was erected to provide accommodation for the labourer who worked on the farm. It was a separate second-level structure attached to the west side of the house, with a separate staircase and entrance that connected it to the kitchen. The worker used the separate entrance to enter or depart the house, and only visited the parlour and living space if he were invited by the family.

In 1855, Gibson opened a post office just north of his farm. In that decade, there were about 150 people living in the community, which was known as Kummer’s (or Cummer’s) settlement. David Gibson suggested that the name be changed to Willowdale, because of the numerous willow trees in the area.

The house was home to David and Eliza and their four sons and three daughters. After David and Eliza passed away, their son Peter Silas Gibson and his family lived it until 1916. Then, the house was occupied by a series of different owners and tenants. To rescue it from demolition, the Township of North York purchased the property in 1965.

Gibson House was restored and opened as a heritage museum on June 6, 1971. Today, it operates as a functioning household by interpreting 19th-century domestic skills involving cooking, sewing, gardening and farming. Visitors are able to tour this historic Georgian-style farmhouse and museum is at 5172 Yonge Street. The clock rescued by Eliza can still be seen in a prominent position in the house.

Sources:

I am indebted to the tour guide who showed me the rooms within Gibson House and the informative signs posted in the hallways to help visitors understand 19th-century life

Internet sources:

www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/toronto-feature-gibson-house/

www.torific.ca/gibson-house-reminder-of-early-settlements-and-rural-history-in-north

www.biographi.ca/en/bio/gibson_david_9E.html

58. gate and lane to G H in 1913.   nyhs00633[1]

Entrance in 1913 from Yonge Street to Gibson House, which in that year contained the offices of Peter S. Gibson. The view gazes west, with the house partially obscured by the trees. Toronto Public Library, Call number NYHS00633.

61, south on Yonge from north of Park Ave, 1914.   near  nyhs00010[1]

View looking south on Yonge Street from Park Home Avenue in 1914. The rural qualities of the community are clearly evident. This is the view a person would have seen in 1914 after exiting the laneway from the Gibson House and turning southward toward the city. City of Toronto Archives, Call number NYHS00010.

60.  1957.  pictures-r-6389[2]

View looking west at the land between Yonge Street and the Gibson House. The photo is dated 1957, but I suspect it was taken much earlier as the porch is missing from the front of the house. In the next photo, dated the same year, the porch has been restored. Toronto Public Library, Call number SI-4167. 

55. c. 1967  f0217_s0249_fl0090_it0001[1]

East and north facades of Gibson House. The photo is dated 1957, but as the house appears restored, the date of the photo is suspect. Toronto Archives, f 0217, S 0249, fl 1009, item 0001.

59.  c. 1970  tspa_0107065f[2]

Controller Mel Lastman in front of Gibson House in 1970, when the house was overshadowed by a 17-story apartment building on its north side. Toronto Public Library, tspa 01007065f.

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The front of Gibson House in June 2018. Georgian Revival in style, it has a symmetrical facade, with nine windows, and a Greek portico.

                               4.

The Greek-style portico and the door with its side-light windows and fan-shaped transom window above, which add elegance to the entranceway.

11.

The kitchen of Gibson House with its large open fireplace and work table. This is where meals were prepared for family members, the domestic servant, and the farm worker.

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    The fireplace with various 19th-century utensils required for cooking.

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       A cozy table set for tea beside the fireplace in the dining room.

46.

       Tables set in the dining room for a Mothers’ Day tea in June 2018.

                          48.

The clock that contains the face and workings that Eliza rescued from the fire in 1837. The wooden case for the clock was acquired while the family lived in Lockport, New York. The clock was carried across the border when the Gibsons returned to Canada West (Upper Canada, now Ontario) in 1848. 

                          16.

Staircase leading from the ground-floor level to the second storey of the Gibson House. Photo June 2018. The charming young woman in the photo provided an interesting and insightful tour of the home.

                       23.

View from the top of the staircase, the sewing room on the second-floor level directly ahead.

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The boys’ room where James, William, Peter, and George slept, two in a bed. 

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In the girls’ bedrooms, the front room was where Elizabeth (Libby) slept. She had a writing desk beside the window where perhaps a few love letters were penned. The room behind hers was for her sisters, Margaret and Hellen. Two years after moving into the house, in 1853, Elizabeth married and departed her parents’ home.

25.

The bedroom of David and Eliza, containing the best furnishings in the house. On the far wall is a “dumb stove,” a circular device in a stovepipe that radiates heat from the parlour stove downstairs.

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As the heat rises through the stovepipe and reaches  the “dumb stove,” it spreads out and heats the room more efficiently. Clothes placed near the dumb stove are kept warm for the morning. 

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           The bed of David and Eliza in the master bedroom.

30.

The sewing room was where clothes were made for the family and where all mending and stitching was performed. In 1851, the hired girl who assisted Eliza with these chores, was 20-year-old Catherine Flynn, an Irish immigrant. Domestic work was not highly valued in this century and Catherine was likely paid about half the wages of the farm worker. However, her room and board were included. She slept in the sewing room.  

   35.

The guest bedroom, a well-furnished room that was designed to impress visitors. Due to the difficulty of travelling any distance after sunset, guests who arrived for dinner often stayed the night.

38.

The room of John Bosa, the young Englishman who was the farm worker that performed most of the labour on the farm while David Gibson was away surveying. The room was his bedroom, sitting room, and bathroom as it contained a chamber pot under the bed. He ate in the kitchen and entered his room via the back staircase. He did not enter the parlour or living space of the family unless invited. However, because he had a cozy room within the house, he was likely viewed as a valued member of the household.

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John Bosa likely sat in his room many an evening after a hard-day’s labour on the farm, soaking his tired feet.

                   40.

The office of David Gibson, where he worked on the maps and documents related to his employment as a surveyor. The drafting table is beside the window to take advantage of the available daylight. 

                 49.

A person can only speculate how many times a member of the Gibson family peered out this window at the farmland and orchard on the property.

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

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

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

              Books by the Author

               DSCN2207_thumb9_thumb2_thumb4_thumb_  

“ Lost Toronto”—employing detailed archival photographs, this recaptures the city’s lost theatres, sporting venues, bars, restaurants and shops. 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

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. (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

 

                  image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[1]

“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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Ward’s Island Toronto in 2018

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Sailing to Ward’s Island on the William Inglis Ferry in July 2018. Ahead is the Sam McBride ferry sailing to Centre Island.

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    A view of the Toronto Skyline from Ward’s Island on July 13, 2018.

Ward’s Island is truly one of the city’s greatest places to visit. Few cities offers such a unique attraction—a community without cars and trucks. Its quietness belies the fact that it is only a ten-minute ferry ride from the business district of Canada’s largest city. The narrow streets between the houses are mere sidewalks, clearly demonstrating that they are for pedestrians only. The abundance of greenery, the quaint gardens and an open space that resembles a village green of centuries past, all offer an experience that is unrivalled.

A previous post explored the history of Ward’s Island beginning when it was a peninsula, attached to the shoreline. A storm in 1858 severed it from the mainland and it became an island. For a link to this post: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2018/07/27/wards-islands-yesteryear-toronto/

This post is an attempt to reveal the charms of Ward’s amid the bustling, internet-connected world of the 21st century. Ward’s is a place to turn off all electronic devices and enjoy the scene that becomes more captivating as you proceed. Stroll the verdant laneways, narrow sidewalks and earthen paths to examine a place where history  and the modern scene peacefully merge. It is hoped that the photos that follow will create a desire to visit Ward’s Island before the summer is spent and the dreary days of a Toronto November descend. 

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Approaching the Ward’s Island ferry dock after a ten-minute voyage across Toronto Harbour on the William Inglis ferry. The brilliant greens of mid-summer dominate the scene.

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The Queen City Yacht Club (QCYC) on Hiawatha Island, on the west side of the small cove where the ferry docks are located. Beyond the clubhouse is a sheltered lagoon where many more boats are moored. I watched children diving from the boats into the lagoon on the day I visited, as temperatures were in the mid-30s. Photo taken from the deck of the William Inglis ferry.

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The yacht club looking north toward the city from the sleepy lagoon behind the club house.

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The lagoon occupied by the QCYC extends a considerable distance into the island. Photo was taken from the bridge that crosses from Ward’s Island to Hiawatha Island.

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Children, likely from a summer camp on Ward’s, learn to paddle a canoe. They were headed northbound from the tranquility of the lagoon out into the harbour. The children were not all equally engaged in the paddling.

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The William Inglis ferry, which I had arrived on, returning to the city to pick up another group of passengers.

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A private spot where a resident can sit to enjoy a view of the city. At night, the lights of the skyline would be dazzling.

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The Ward’s Island Association Club House built 1937-1938, located a short distance south of the ferry docks.

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The shaded veranda on the north side of the clubhouse, facing the ferry dock, where patrons can enjoy snacks, sandwiches or ice cream. 

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Patio on the north side of the Ward’s Island Association Club House.

Kale project

On the north side of the clubhouse patio is a patch of ground where Kale is growing. It is part of a contest to harvest the largest amount of Kale from plots of a similar size. When the contest ends, residents of the association will pick the results of their labours.

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View of the clubhouse from south of the lawn-bowling facility. In the foreground is the Ward’s Island Little Clubhouse, the front portion of which was the original clubhouse built in 1918. It also serves as an administration facility.

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A boy relaxes in the shade of a tree beside the soccer field that resembles a village green. The clubhouse, lawn bowling club, Little Clubhouse and many homes face onto this green space. 

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              One of the ancient trees that borders the soccer field.

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I began exploring the quiet, narrow streets between the houses. The pathways are where the wooden sidewalks were built in Tent City. Some of the homes are hidden behind the greenery. The orange tiger lilies on left-hand side of the path were in many other gardens as well. They are perennials and ideal for open natural spaces as their fluted flowers invariably extend above the grasses to create a colourful display.

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A house with a small balcony overlooking a garden that includes tiger lilies.

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      A home that appears to be on the edge of dense forest.

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This attractive cottage-like home on Bayview Avenue is likely one of those built in the 1930s.

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A house with tiger lilies in the garden, surrounded by greenery and towering trees.

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A more modern-looking home, its backyard facing the Eastern Gap where ships enter and exit the waters of the outer lake.

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Continuing along the pathway/streets, I proceed toward the beach on the south side of Ward’s Island.

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Arriving near the water, the beach is ahead, the hot sand my only obstacle.

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The Ward’s Island Beach on a hot July afternoon. People enjoy the sunshine as a sailing ship glides past in the outer lake.

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         The beach appears more expansive than I remember it.

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Returning from the beach by another route, I see several more homes that catch my eye.

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This enchanting cottage appears at peace among its verdant environment. 

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Arriving back near the yacht club beside the ferry dock, I enjoy my final view of the city from Ward’s Island.

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The ferry ride to the mainland is my final memory of my summer day on Ward’s Island.

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

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

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

              Books by the Author

               DSCN2207_thumb9_thumb2_thumb4_thumb_[1]  

“ 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

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. (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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