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Toronto’s old Pickford Theatre—Part 11

Pickford, Spadina and Queen 1916, dmol. 1972

                            The Pickford Theatre in 1916

The intersection of Spadina Avenue and Queen Street West is today one of the busiest intersections in downtown Toronto. I sometimes refer to it as “hamburger corner,” as  there are four fast-food hamburger outlets located at this intersection. However, until I commenced researching Toronto’s old movie houses, I had never realized that it was also the site of one of the city’s earliest theatres—the Auditorium Theatre.

It was located at 382 Queen Street West, on the northwest corner of Spadina Avenue and Queen Street West. It opened in 1908, on the ground-floor level of the Moler College Barber Building, which was three storeys in height and topped by a Mansard roof. The 1916 photo depicts the theatre and shows two of the three storeys above it.

When the theatre opened in the first decade of the 20th century, the movie theatre business was in its infancy and was considered a risky business enterprise. Thus, renting space within an existing building was  the least expensive way to present “film plays.” However, within a few years this attitude changed due to the increasing popularity of the movies. Buildings were then constructed for the express purpose of showing films. The situation now was reversed, as theatre owners rented excess space for other business enterprises. The funds assisted in reducing the expenses of operating a theatre.

When the Auditorium opened, it imitated the format established by the Theatorium Theatre at Yonge and Queen, which featured films and a series of vaudeville acts. The Theatorium  was a nickelodeon, as it charged five cents for tickets. The Auditorium Theatre followed this pattern too. It boasted that it showed films that required three reels to complete, considered quite a technological feat in 1908.

The interior space of the theatre was long and narrow, extending back from Queen Street. There was a stage at the north end of the auditorium, but its ceiling was not of sufficient height to accommodate a large screen. This restriction also prevented the building of a balcony. Thus, it was a small theatre, containing less than 400 leatherette seats, all with plush-backs. It possessed three narrow sections of seats, separated by two aisles. From its opening day, it was well attended as there were no other theatres in close proximity to it.

In 1913 the theatre was renovated, its north wall extended further back to increase the seating capacity by almost 50 seats. Following the alterations, the theatre was renamed the Avenue, the name likely chosen because it was on Spadina Avenue.

In 1915, it again changed its name and became the Mary Pickford Theatre. This allowed the theatre to take advantage of the fame associated with the first true international film star of the silver screen. She had been born in Toronto and her name added to the popularity of the theatre. The theatre’s name was later shortened and it was simply referred to as the Pickford. This name was to remain until 1945, when it was renamed the Variety.

The old theatre finally closed in 1947. The Moler Barber Building, where the Pickford had been located, during the 1950s was occupied by Bargain Benny’s. It operated on business practices similar to Honest Ed’s. The bargain emporium went bankrupt in 1961. After the building was demolished in 1972, a small cafe was erected on the site. Today, a hamburger outlet occupies the cafe.

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    The entrance to the Standard  Theatre, later renamed the Pickford.

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View gazes north on Spadina toward Queen Street West. The Pickford was on the ground floor of the Moler Barber building, which has a turret on its southeast corner.

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The Moler Barber Building at Spadina and Queen in 1958, where the Pickford Theatre was located.

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The small cafe that was erected on the site after the Moler Barber Building was demolished.

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The northwest corner of Queen and Spadina after the cafe became a McDonald’s outlet (photo 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

   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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The Systems Building at 40-46 Spadina Avenue—Toronto

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The Systems Building is located at 40-46 Spadina Avenue, on the west side of Spadina, between Wellington St. West and Adelaide Street. In the 1920s, there were three houses located on the site, with the postal addresses 52-56 Spadina Avenue. These postal number were later changed. In 1928, only one of the houses was occupied, and the following years, all the houses were demolished. The 1929 Toronto Directories indicate that the Systems Building had been constructed on the property. The full name of the company was “Business Systems, Printers Specialties Limited.” 

The five-story, red-brick structure is typical of the brick and beam warehouses on Spadina Avenue between Front and Richmond Streets. It was constructed as a warehouse loft, the various floors containing open space that could be divided into separate areas to accommodate the requirements of the companies that rented space within it. On the east facade facing Spadina, there were large doorways on both the north and south ends of the building. They allowed easy access for different renters. The east facade has very few architectural details, any ornamentations that exist created by the brickwork. The other three sides have even less detail than the front of the structure.

Despite the plain architectural style of the Systems Building, the two entranceways are rather grand, with their stone and brick arrangements that surround them. They are perhaps the most impressive architectural features of the building.

Similar to earlier decades, today, the building offers prestigious rental properties to a variety of tenants, there being a high demand for rental space in the city’s heritage buildings.

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The east facade of the Systems Building, overlooking Spadina Avenue.

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The sign above the north entrance of the building (left photo) and the north doorway (right photo), with its impressive trim of stone and brick surrounding it.

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The southern portion of the east facade, with the steps to the south entrance of the building.

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The south entrance of the Systems Building on Spadina, with the stone trim surrounding it.

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The east facade, facing Spadina, the two entrances of the building evident in the photo.

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

To view links to Toronto’s Heritage Buildings

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/01/02/canadas-cultural-scenetorontos-architectural-heritage/ 

To view previous posts about other movie houses of Toronto—old and new

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/torontos-old-movie-theatrestayloronhistory-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 also relates anecdotes and stories from those who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

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

                 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 .

 

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Toronto’s old Cineplex Eaton Centre Cinema

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                        City of Toronto Archives, Series 881 Fl. 251

In the 1970s, the downtown section of Yonge Street had deteriorated, especially between College and Dundas Streets. When the Eaton Centre opened in 1979, the area south of Dundas was revived. The new mall was instantly popular with Torontonians and attracted thousands of tourists as well. On the northwest corner of the Eaton Centre was a ten-storey parking garage. In the basement of the garage was a 25,000 square-foot space that attracted the attention of Nathan A.  Taylor (Nat) and Garth Drabinsky. They formed the Cineplex Odeon Corporation in 1979, as they realized the possibilities of the space in the Eaton Centre as a site for a movie-theatre complex. It was in the heart of the city at Yonge and Dundas and easily accessible by public transportation. As well, the area had much foot traffic.

To create the theatre complex, the huge space below the parking garage was converted into a series of small theatres, all under the same roof. They coined the word “Cineplex” for the theatre—a contraction of “cinema complex.” Mandel Sprachman was hired as the architect. He had designed theatres for several decades, having been the architect for many theatres across Canada and also had restored the Elgin/Winter Garden Theatres. He also had considerable experience in converting large theatre auditoriums into smaller venues, as he had redesigned the Hollywood, Imperial, and Loew’s Uptown Theatres into multi-screen complexes.

Multi-screen complexes allowed theatre owners to screen several movies in the same building, catering to the different tastes of viewers. Thus, increased revenues were generated without increasing costs for rent, taxes, and heating. Nathan Taylor also had experience with operating multi-screen complexes, as he had opened one in Ottawa and had previously divided the Uptown Theatres into the Uptown Five.

The Cineplex Odeon Eaton Centre was a natural extension of the multi-screen concept. When it opened on Tuesday, April 17, 1979, it contained 18 auditoriums, each containing 50 to 100 seats—about 1500 seats in total—the largest movie-theatre complex in the world at that time. The auditoriums were grouped into four sections, located on two different floors. A rear projection system was employed to screen the films, which caused the edges of the pictures to be slightly blurred. Few patrons seemed to notice, as the auditoriums were attractive and the seats comfortable. The aisles were on both sides of the auditoriums, which meant that no seats were jammed against the walls.

The main lobby was capable of holding 200 people. Designed to resemble a “Common Room,” Canadian art was displayed on the walls. Patrons were able to gather before attending a movie or linger after a film. A cafe and bistro were included, offering a wide variety of foods. Computerized ticket-vending machines were installed and it was possible to purchase tickets in advance, even a day or two ahead. By employing these machines, and by staggering the times the movies started, crowding was reduced. No tickets were sold after a film began, preventing interruptions during viewings. A year or two later, the tickets were colour-coded, with eye-catching directional signs on the theatre walls to guide people to the appropriate auditorium. In 1981, three more auditoriums were added to the complex, bringing the total to 21, and the total number of seats to over 2000.

In the early years, Cineplex Odeon Eaton Centre offered specialty films and foreign films, many of them with sub-titles. It was not profitable to screen these in larger theatres, as the appeal of a single movie might be quite small. However, in smaller auditoriums, even if only 30 to 35 patrons saw a film in an evening, it remained profitable. To further reduce costs, the theatre dealt directly with foreign producers or distributors to get Canadian rights. Films that were popular were shown in more than one auditorium.   

Cineplex Odeon Eaton Centre opened at a time when movie theatres were struggling, since home video players were becoming popular. Another difficulty was that two major movie chains monopolized film distribution rights in Canada. Cineplex Odeon Corporation threatened to sue under the anti-combine laws, and succeeded is loosening their strangle hold. Thus, in the 1980s, Cineplex Odeon Corp. was able to offer major Hollywood releases, similar to the theatres in malls of today. Having gained success, Cineplex Odeon expanded its theatre chain across Canada and into the United States.

In its glory days, the complex in the Eaton Centre allowed patrons a wide range of movies, all in one building. Teenagers took great delight in trying to slip into another auditorium after they had seen the movie they had first paid to view. Movie buffs viewed films not available in larger theatres, as well as the current Hollywood hits. At the confection stand, popcorn and other treats were available.  According to a documentary film about Drabinsky, which was screened several years ago at TIFF, this was the first time that buttered popcorn had been available in theatres—a “Toronto-first.”

During the 1990s, viewing films on small screens became less popular as television sets increased in size and the quality of home videos improved. With the decrease in revenues, Cineplex Odeon Eaton Centre slowly deteriorated. The seats and carpets became tattered and the auditoriums appeared shabby. To attract customers, films were offered at bargain prices and special deals were advertised. However, these attempts failed and the theatres began to attract the street crowd, such as those who attended the Rio Theatre on Yonge Street. They were seeking a warm place in winter, and in summer, a place that was air-conditioned. In their eyes, the multiplex theatre was a twenty-one room hotel, each room having many seats in which to sleep and a huge TV screen to watch movies. The price of entrance and the location made it ideal for their purposes. 

Attendance continued to dwindle. Cineplex Odeon Eaton Centre closed on March 12, 2001 and was demolished shortly after.

 

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Lobby of the Cineplex Eaton Centre, City of Toronto Archives, Series 881 fl.251

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A ticket for the Cineplex Eaton Centre on opening day, Tuesday April 17, 1979. City of Toronto Archives.

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The Cineplex at Yonge and Dundas in 2014 (originally the AMC), built on the same concept as the Cineplex Eaton Centre. Suburban movie complexes have followed the same concept of design for the past few decades.

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

To view previous blogs about other movie houses of Toronto—old and new

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

To view links to other posts placed on this blog about the history of Toronto and its buildings:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/links-to-historic-architecture-of-torontotayloronhistory-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 also relates anecdotes and stories from those 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 .

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), thePhotodome, 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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Toronto’s old Willow movie theatre at 5269 Yonge St.

Series 1278, File 8, AO 2312

    The Willow Theatre, c. 1948. City of Toronto Archives (Series 1278, File 8).

The Willow was located at 5269 Yonge Street, in Willowdale. It was on the east side of Yonge Street, at the corner of Norton Avenue, between Shepherd and Finch Avenues. Built in the late-1940s, it was constructed to serve the needs of the new suburban residential area that was developing after the Second World War, on the north part of Yonge Street. The proposal for the theatre was submitted to the city in the autumn of 1945, by the architect, Herbert George Duerr, but the theatre did not open until June 18, 1948. Duerr designed many theatres throughout Ontario, including the Hollywood and the Scarboro Theatres in Toronto. He was also well known for designing the Village Apartments at 404 Spadina Avenue, in the Forest Hill Village.

The Willow Theatre’s post-war architecture was modern, similar to other theatres constructed in this decade in the suburbs and downtown Toronto. The architectural lines were plain, with an unadorned cornice, its facade mostly cement. However, it possessed an enormous glass-brick window on the ground floor, to the left of the row of glass doors. The decorative art on the facade, to the right of the marquee, was similar to the art on the walls of the auditorium. The theatre contained almost a thousand seats, but there were only two aisles, situated against the side walls, the rows containing 34-35 seats across. If someone were sitting in the middle of the theatre, it would have been difficult to enter or depart the theatre when it was crowded. However, as if to compensate, there were 40 inches between the rows, which allowed extra leg room. The theatre boasted that is possessed “continental seating.” It was a landmark in the community because of its yellow marquee and the prominent yellow signage above it, which created an island of colour on north Yonge Street.

I was never in the Willow theatre, but as a young boy, the father of a friend of mine was constructing a house in the area where it was located. On long summer evenings, I accompanied the friend when his father drove in his truck to Willowdale to work at the home. The friend and I played in the fields near the theatre. In the 1940s, empty building lots were common in the area. It was during these visits that I caught a glimpse of the Willow Theatre. I can still picture it and remember thinking that wished I could have attended a matinee there.

As a boy, I was enthralled by Saturday afternoon matinees.  At that age, I thought that stink-bombs in theatres were hilarious. However, I knew that adults took quite a different view. In March 1957, a “stink-bomb” problem developed during the Friday evening shows at the Willow. It continued for three weeks, until the police arrested a 17-year-old boy. Such problems were common in theatres in this era.

In December 1958, the film “Peyton Place” was screened at the Willow. In the 1950s, it was considered a shocking film. There was considerable outcry from the citizens of “Toronto the Good” against the movie when it played at theatres across the city. When it was screened at the Willow, the situation was viewed as even more outrageous as the second feature was, “And God Created Woman.” However, the manager said that there were no problems during the screenings, although he did receive a card written by the “Legion of Decency.” On the card was scribbled, “This is not family entertainment.” In fairness, I doubt that many families attended the screenings, as after all, the films were not exactly of the Walt Disney variety. I remember seeing the film Peyton Place when I was a teenager. I thought it was pretty tame, although some of the scenes with Lana Turner were really “hot.”

The Willow continued screening films longer than most neighbourhood theatres of the city, but with diminished attendance and the increase in land prices, the property was sold in 1987. The theatre was demolished, a condo and offices now located on the site.

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Photo, Ontario Archives AO 2316. The auditorium of the Willow with its wide rows of seats, 34 or 35 seats across. The only aisles were located against the side walls. The walls were decorated with modern art, similar to the art on the facade.

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The lobby of the Willow, the candy bar with a popcorn machine on the left-hand side. Photo from Ontario Archives AO 2313.

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

To view previous blogs about other movie houses of Toronto—old and new

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

To view links to other posts placed on this blog about the history of Toronto and its buildings:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/links-to-historic-architecture-of-torontotayloronhistory-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 also relates anecdotes and stories from those 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 .

         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), thePhotodome, 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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Toronto’s hip Queen St. West—naughty and nice—Part One

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The quote below was written by Christopher Hutsul in the Toronto Star on August 29, 2004.

Queen St., in effect is becoming one vast accidental urban success story. In richness and scale, there may be no better street in the world than our very own Queen Street.“I can’t think of another street that the vitality, the variety, and has the length and has the depth that Queen has from one end to the other,” says Dr. Mitchell Kosny of Ryerson’s School of Regional and Urban Planning. “It’s starting to fill in.”

It might seem bold to pit Queen Street against the world’s top strips but, in its way, it stacks up against the best of the best. Broadway in New York City starts out hot, then cools as it wends its way to Albany. Champs-Elysees in Paris is one of the world’s most famous streets, but it’s also a major thoroughfare. Highbrow visitors can enjoy the expensive restaurants and boutiques, but the average Parisian would head somewhere more accessible.

Admittedly, our humble Queen Street might have a tough time out-classing La Ramblas in Barcelona, which, with its stunning architecture and endless culinary offerings, is one of the greatest streets in the world. However, could it match Queen’s understated, New World charm?

Certainly Queen Street reigns over Yonge Street, which is often considered our flagship route. “I don’t see Yonge St. as having all that much continuity at all,’ says Kosny. “It doesn’t have anywhere the life and vitality that Queen St. has.” And while downtown has been busy evolving into a mini Times Square (as if that were something worth emulating), Queen St. has quietly grown out of its awkward years.

                                                                          * * *

On Thursday, October 20, 2013, the weather was sunny with cloudless skies, the temperature in the mid 20s, a perfect Toronto autumn day. Walking along Queen Street West, I encountered delightfully naughty window displays, colourful street art, and a few puzzling sights. The following photos are a snapshot of the street between University and Spadina avenues, on the morning of October 3, 2013. In these photos, the street was relatively quiet as it was not yet 10 am.

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Historic Campbell House is on the northwest corner of University Avenue and Queen Street. Built in 1822, it was the home of Chief Justice William Campbell. It was relocated from Adelaide Street East and Frederick Street in 1952. When this photo was taken, the morning sun was creeping across the east side of the house. Queen West is well known for being “hip,” but it is also rich with history. It contains some of the best 19th-century buildings in North America. Campbell House is open for public tours and is well worth a visit.

For a link to information on the history of Campbell House.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/04/16/enjoying-torontos-architectural-gems-campbell-house/

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This colourful sight is on the east wall of a row of 1860s shops, a short distance west of Simcoe Street. Though it resembles a wall mural, it is an ad for a condominium.

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The “Condom Shack,” a naughty shop that is the delight of tourists, is located in one of the 1860s shops. Elderly woman seem to take great delight in photographing the store, but usually remain on the far side of the street as they are too embarrassed to approach any closer. This is a pity, as they are unable to see the risqué sign in the east window (shown below).  

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                  The sign in the east window of the “Condom Shack.”

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The Rex Hotel, one of the city’s most popular jazz venues since the 1950s, at Queen and St. Patrick’s Street. It opened in 1890 as the William’s Hotel.  

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The “Cannabis Culture Shop.” Marijuana has recently been in the news, but on Queen West it has been an integral part of the scene for several decades.

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The “Lavish and Squalid” Shop on the south side of Queen, with its ornate classical store front (left photo), and the popular Queen Mother Cafe at 206-210 Queen on the north side of the street (right photo). The 1890s building where the Queen Mother Cafe is located was designed in the  Second Empire style. When constructed in the 19th century it contained three shops—the grocery store of Charles Woolnough, the locksmith store of Benjamin Ibbotson, and the confectionary shop of Patterson and Wilson. The Queen Mother Cafe now occupies all three shops.

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The sign in the window of “Mucho Burrito” advertises that its “Ghost Pepper Burrito” is  available in “hotter than hell and whimpy.”

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Some of the heat from the “Mucho Burrito” can also be found in the spicy food at 273 Queen, the “Babur Restaurant,” specializing in Indian cuisine.

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The Queen Street Market is on the site of the old St. Patrick’s Market of 1836, the second farmers’ market established by the city after the St. Lawrence Market in 1803. The present-day building dates from 1912. 

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This is the doorway on the old Methodist Publishing House, built in 1913, on the southeast corner of Queen and John streets. It is the most impressive doorway on Queen St. West. The decorative detailing is achieved with terracotta tiles. Today the building houses Bell Media.

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View looking south on John Street, from the middle of the intersection at Queen and John streets.

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The ultra-chic Beverley Hotel, which opened on Queen West in 2013 (left-hand photo). The right-hand photo is of an assortment of signs on the 19th-century buildings nearby.

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19th-century shops on the northwest corner of Beverley and Queen streets.

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The “Active Surplus Shop” on the south side of Queen, west of Beverley St. It is a great place to purchase household items such as batteries, at bargain prices.

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This wonderfully ornate building, located where the sidewalk widens to the west of it, was built in 1881 and was Mara’s Grocery and Liquor Store. Its facade was employed in the TV show “Street Legal,”as the offices of the fictional law firm. The show starred Cynthia Dale, . 

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The “Black Bull Tavern” at Queen and Soho streets was established in 1822. It’s patio was voted by the readers of a downtown newspaper at the most popular patio in the city.

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The “Jealousy Beauty and Life Shop” and the BMQ Restaurant, both located in the 1888 Noble Block. The BQM specializes in gourmet burgers and has a sidewalk patio that is ideal for observing the Queen-Street scene.

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              The former Bank of Hamilton, built in 1902, now the CIBC.

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The zodiac signs painted on the sidewalk in front of the entrance to the bank (left photo) and a view of the bank from the southwest corner of Queen and Spadina.

For a link to Part Two of this post, which contains a snapshot of Queen West between Spadina and Bathurst Street, on the morning of October 3, 2013:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/20/toronto-gemsqueen-st-westpart-twonaughty-and-nice/-com/

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

To view other posts about the history of Toronto and its buildings:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/links-to-historic-architecture-of-torontotayloronhistory

To view previous blogs about movie houses of Toronto—old and new

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

Book published in 2014 about Toronto’s old movie theatres, which explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It also relates anecdotes and stories from those who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

“Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen”

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To place and order for this book, either in electronic or hard copy format, follow the link below.

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

        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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Toronto’s architectural gems—the Brooke Building at Jarvis and Front

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When I first began researching Toronto’s 19th-century buildings, I began in the old town of York. Very few of the structures from this period of the city’s history remain in existence today. The two major exceptions are the Grange, now a part of the AGO, and Campbell House, which was relocated to University and Queen Street West from Frederick and Adelaide streets. A lesser known building from the town of York is the student residence of Upper Canada College, at the corner of Duncan and Adelaide Streets. It dates from 1833, the year prior to York being incorporated as a city, when its name was changed to Toronto. To view a post about the student residence of 1833, follow the link: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/09/13/torontos-architectural-gemsthe-1833-structure-at-duncan-and-adelaide/

The building in the above picture was also constructed in 1833. It is the Daniel Brooke Building, on the northeast corner of King Street East and Jarvis streets, diagonally across from the south building of the St Lawrence Market. It contains a row of three shops, which were in a poor state of repair until they were restored. Today, the Brooke Building appears as if they had recently been constructed.  

The small complex of shops was erected in 1833 for Daniel Brooke, a prosperous businessman. Because he was a property owner of substantial means, he was likely very concerned when the rebels marched down Yonge Street in 1837 in a rebellion against the excessive powers of the royal governor and the influential families of the town. Armed rebels, troops and military skirmishes were rarely good for business. In 1848 and 1849, the Brooke Building was improved and rebuilt. When a great fire swept along King Street, many of the shops and buildings were destroyed, including the church of St. James at King and Church streets. Fortunately the Brooke Building did not sustain much damage.  

The Brooke Building has housed a variety of commercial enterprises. One of the best known of these was in the 1840s, when the wholesale grocery business of James Austin and Patrick Foy occupied part of the premises. In the 1850s, the Brooke Building housed the offices of The Patriot, an influential conservative newspaper.

In the years ahead, the funds that James Austin earned in his business located in the Brooke Building financed various enterprises. He eventually became the president of Consumers’ Gas and was one of the founders of the Dominion Bank, which survives today as the Toronto Dominion Bank (the TD). The magnificent mansion he built atop the Davenport Road hill, adjacent to Casa Loma, remains today. It became a museum in 1984.

The architecture of the Brooke building on King Street East contains simple lines, with a symmetrical facade in the Georgian style. Large chimneys attest to it being built in an era when fireplaces were the sole method of heating. Large rectangular windows allowed plenteous light to enter the interior rooms in an age without electric lighting. Gable windows inset into the roof provided extra storage space, living quarters, or room for offices, where there would otherwise have been be only an attic. The Toronto Historical Board placed a plaque on the building in 1994. It provided much of the information for this post. 

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       The south facade of the Brooke Building on King Street East

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The gable windows in  the roof of the structure and a view of the cornice

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The south facade of the building and the large chimneys above the east facade (right-hand side).

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The 19th-century style shop on the southwest corner of the building. 

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The Brooke Building in September of 2013. The structure is a visual reminder of the early days of Toronto.

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

To view other posts about the history of Toronto and its buildings:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/links-to-historic-architecture-of-torontotayloronhistory-com/

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2013 in Toronto

 

Toronto’s architectural gems—the entire Kensington Market

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Casa Acoreana Cafe and Food Shop on the corner of Baldwin and Augusta, on a summer day in 2012

This post was inspired by the article on the front page in the GTA Section of today’s (March 6, 2013) Toronto Star. A member of the Star Staff, who was was not identified, wrote about the rent increases in the Kensington Market that will force some of the shops to close. The cost of renting space will be affordable only by the large chain stores, most of them American owned. If the present trend continues. Toronto will lose one of the most unique neighbourhoods in the city. A few years ago, it was voted as being the best neighbourhood in North America. Though some may debate the merits of this award, most people agree that is one of the most unusual and diverse areas in our city. Its loss will be tragic.

The article in the Star centred around an interview with Ossie Pavao, who operates the shop known as Casa Acoreana Cafe and Food Shop at the northeast corner of Baldwin and Augusta Streets.  I buy my spices and herbs at this shop. Because I can purchase small amounts, I am able to replace the spices frequently, before they lose their flavour.  There are other aspects of Casa Acorena that I enjoy. When I gaze up at the large jars of candy on the upper shelves, I recall my days as a child gazing at the penny-candy in the window of my local variety store. The friendly, knowledgeable service I receive at Casa Acoreana is also an attraction.

However, the total rent for for building in which Pavao operates his business, along with several other merchants, is soon to be $10,000 per month. This will force the present renters from the premises. I will truly feel the loss. I shop at the Kensington Market three or four times a week. I know many of the merchants, and though they do not know my name, they recognize me. I usually shop early in the morning on weekdays, so they are not as busy as later in the day. They have time to chat and joke about life’s daily activities and problems. From the conversations that I overhear around me in the Market, I have become truly aware that it is a village surrounded by the larger Toronto scene.

I add my lament for the demise of the unique shops of Kensington. However,  I will centre this post upon the architecture of the area. When I first started to study the buildings that line its streets, I was fascinated by how the architecture has evolved.

During the 19th century, the area that is today known as Kensington Market was home to working class immigrants, mostly from the British Isles. However, during the second decade of the twentieth century, Anglos were moving out of the district, seeking larger and newer residences further to the west, on streets such as Palmerston and Euclid. Kensington was close to the garment shops on Spadina, where many of the Jewish immigrants had found employment. The small homes in the Kensington area, built on narrow streets, were inexpensive to purchase. Extensions could easily be added to the rear of the houses. Single-family homes were often subdivided to provide space for several families, thus providing more assistance with the mortgage.

For many immigrants, the first method of starting a business was to sell goods from a knapsack on their back, and walk the streets to reach the customers. As soon as possible, a push-cart was acquired, allowing larger amounts of merchandise to be carried. Many chose the “rag trade,” as being low in prestige, there was not much competition. Some gathered bottles, cleaned them, and resold them to factories. Others collected old sewing machines, repaired them, and resold them. They collected anything of value that was available, and disposed of it for whatever price they could obtain. Others sold fruit and vegetable from their carts. All these enterprises required almost no capital to commence, and allowed the vendors to be free to worship on the Sabbath.

When funds were available, stalls were built across the front of some of the small Kensington homes. Others opened stores in the front rooms of the houses. While the men pushed their carts through the streets, in weather that was often inclement, the women sold goods from these make-shift shops to earn extra income for the family.

Eventually modest extensions were constructed on the front of the homes, replacing the stalls, and temporary shops. The Kensington Market was born. Merchants and their families lived above the stores or behind them. The district was slowly transformed from a quiet residential community into a vibrant shopping area with a European “shtetle” atmosphere. Despite its similarity to Jewish areas in other cities, such as the Lower East Side in New York, or London’s Whitechapel, Kensington was a unique creation, “one of a kind.”

Today, many Victorian homes remain behind the commercial storefronts. Gazing upward, many of the peaked roofs and ornate trim of the old houses remain, though many have been severely altered. Augusta Avenue, Baldwin Street, St. Andrew’s Avenue, and Kensington Avenue all contain examples of storefronts that extend from the houses to the edge of the sidewalks, where at one time the lawns were located.

Today, the Jewish market has mostly disappeared, and the small shops of yesteryear have become ethnic stores—West Indian, Latino, Caribbean, East Indian, and Portuguese.

The above information is from the book entitled “The Villages Within”—a study of the Kensington Market, Queen Street West, and the Kings West. 

For a link to this book: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/the-villages-within/

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During the 19th century, homes in the Market area were mostly Victorian Bay-and-Gable houses, such as these that remain on Kensington Avenue.

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Many of the old Victorian homes on Kensington Avenue have now been converted shops. Their facades are lavished with bright colours that add charm to the street, creating an avenue that is fascinating to stroll. It was houses such as these that the Jewish merchants placed stalls in front of, on the lawns, and then, began selling goods. 

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The custom of street-stalls has not disappeared from the modern Kensington scene. This display surrounds a Victorian house on two sides. Across the street can be seen more outdoor stalls surrounding a 19th-century dwelling.

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Eventually, some of the stalls were replaced with additions built across the front of the houses. In this view, looking north on Kensington Avenue toward Baldwin Street, the old houses are visible. Many have extensions built across them that sell various goods.

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Examining the tops of the buildings, the original 19th-century structures remain visible. In some instances, the homes have been butchered, with peaked pediments removed and boxy structures constructed over them.

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This section of Kensington Avenue has a few original buildings, with additions added to them, while others are more modern structures that were built to replace those that were destroyed by fire.

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The Moonbean Cafe on St. Andrew’s Street has an addition that has been built onto a house constructed in the 1870s. It is one of the oldest structures in the Market. 

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These shops on Baldwin Street are contained in small additions that were added to the front of small labourers homes from the 19th century. The small home can easily be seen behind the store that contains the “Coral Sea Fish Market.”

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In all seasons of the year, Kensington is a magical place. I hope that Casa Acoreana never disappears from the scene.

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

To view other posts about the history of Toronto and its buildings:

St. Stanislaus Koska RC Church on Denison Avenue

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/03/05/torontos-architectural-gemsst-stanislaus-koska-rc-church-at-12-denison-avenue/

The Bishop’s (St, Michael’s) Palace on Church Street, Toronto

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/torontos-architectural-gemsbishops-palace-on-church-street/

The Ed Mirvish (Pantages, Imperial, Canon) Theatre, a true architectural gem on Toronto’s Yonge Street

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/02/27/torontos-architectural-gemsthe-ed-mirvish-theatre-pantages-imperial-canon/

The Waverly Hotel on Spadina near College Street.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/02/16/toronto-architectural-gemsthe-waverly-hotel-484-spadina/

The Art Deco Bank of Commerce building on King Street West.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/02/18/torontos-architectural-gemsthe-bank-of-commerce-cibc-on-king-street/

The Postal Delivery Building, now the Air Canada Centre (ACC)

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/02/12/torontos-architectural-gemsthe-postal-delivery-building-now-the-acc/

The Bellevue Fire Station on College Street

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/02/14/torontos-architectural-gems-bellevue-fire-station/

The Bank of Nova Scotia at King and Bay Streets

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/02/10/torontos-architectural-gems-the-bank-of-nova-scotia-at-king-and-bay/

Toronto’s old Sunnyside Beach

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

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/02/01/a-pictorial-journey-to-sunnyside-beach-of-old-part-one/

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

Toronto’s architectural gems—the Runnymede Library

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/02/05/torontos-architectural-gems-runnymede-library/

Spadina Avenue – sinful, spicy and diverse

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/09/28/sinfully-saucy-and-diversetorontos-spadina-avenue/

The Reading Building, a warehouse loft on Spadina Avenue

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/01/20/torontos-architectural-gemsthe-reading-building-on-spadina/

The Darling Building on Spadina Avenue

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/01/19/torontos-architectural-gemsthe-darling-building-on-spadina/

The amazing Fashion Building on Spadina Avenue

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/01/12/torontos-architectural-gemsthe-amazing-fashion-building-on-spadina/

Toronto’s architectural gems – the Tower Building at Spadina and Adelaide Street

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/01/09/torontos-architectural-gemstower-building-at-spadina-and-adelaide/

The Balfour Building at 119 Spadina Avenue

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/07/20/enjoying-torontos-architectural-gemsthe-balfour-building-at-spadina-and-adelaide

The Robertson Building at 215 Spadina that houses the Dark Horse Espresso Bar

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/01/24/torontos-architectural-gemsrobertson-building-dark-horse-espresso-bar/

An architectural gem – Grossman’s Tavern at Spadina and Cecil Streets

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/11/08/architectural-gem-grossmans-tavern-at-377-9-spadina/Historic

History of the house that contains the Paul Magder Fur Shop at 202 Spadina

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/08/07/exploring-torontos-architectural-gemsthe-paul-magder-fur-shop-at-202-spadina-avenue/

An important historic building that disappeared from the northeast corner of Spadina and College

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/09/26/a-historic-building-that-disappeared-from-the-northeast-corner-spadina-and-college/

Historic bank building on northeast corner of Spadina and Queen West

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/12/02/torontos-architectural-gemsbank-at-spadina-and-queen-west/

History of the Backpackers’ Hotel at King and Spadina

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/03/31/history-of-the-backpackers-hotel-at-king-and-spadina/

Hamburger corner – Spadina and Queen Streets

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/10/10/torontos-hamburger-cornerwhere-is-it-and-why/

Lord Lansdowne Public School on Spadina Crescent

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/01/22/torontos-architectural-gems-lord-lansdowne-school-on-spadina-cres/

The Victory Burlesque Theatre at Dundas and Spadina

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/09/08/the-sinful-victory-burlesque-theatre-at-dundas-and-spadina/

The Dragon City Mall on the southwest corner of Dundas and Spadina

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/08/25/torontos-heritage-the-southwest-corner-of-queen-and-spadina/

Buildings on the west side of Spadina a short distance north of Queen Street.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/08/30/torontos-architectural-historyspadina-north-of-queen-kings-court/

History of the site of the Mcdonalds on northwest corner of Queen and Spadina

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/08/27/mcdonalds-at-queen-and-spadina-on-an-historic-site/

A former mansion at 235 Spadina that is now almost hidden from view.

ttps://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/07/04/torontos-architectural-gems-is-this-one-a-joke/

Military hero of the War of 1812 lived near corner of Spadina and Queen West.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/12/01/military-hero-of-war-of-1812-lived-near-mcdonalds-at-queen-and-spadina/

To view other posts about Toronto’s past and its historic buildings:

The Art Deco bus terminal at Bay and Dundas Streets.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/01/17/torontos-architectural-gems-art-deco-bus-terminal-on-bay-street/

Photos of the surroundings of the CN Tower and and the St. Lawrence Market in 1977

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/10/18/photos-of-the-surroundings-of-the-st-lawrence-market-and-cn-tower-in-1977/

The old Dominion Bank Building at King and Yonge Street

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/06/08/the-old-dominion-bank-buildingnow-a-condo-hotel-at-one-king-st-west/

The Canada Life Building on University and Queen Street West.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/06/13/exploring-torontos-architectural-gemsthe-canada-life-building/

Campbell House at the corner of Queen Street West and University Avenue

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2011/08/18/a-glimpse-at-the-interior-of-campbell-house-at-university-avenue-and-queen-street/

A study of Osgoode Hall

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/04/12/enjoying-torontos-architectural-gems-osgoode-hall/

Toronto’s first City Hall, now a part of the St. Lawrence Market

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/04/21/torontos-first-city-hall-now-a-part-of-the-st-lawrence-market/

Toronto’s Draper Street, a time-tunnel into the 19th century

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/05/23/torontos-draper-street-is-akin-to-a-time-tunnel-into-the-past/

The Black Bull Tavern at Queen and Soho Streets, established in 1822

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/enjoying-torontos-historic-architectural-gems-queen-streets-black-bull-tavern/

History of the 1867 fence around Osgoode Hall on Queen Street West at York Street

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/04/14/enjoying-torontos-architectural-gems-the-cast-iron-fence-around-osgoode-hall/

Gathering around the radio as a child in the 1940s

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/listening-to-the-radio-as-a-child-in-the-1940s-the-lone-ranger-the-shadow-etc/

The opening of the University Theatre on Bloor Street, west of Bay St.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/the-opening-of-torontos-university-theatre-on-bloor-street/

122 persons perish in the Noronic Disaster on Toronto’s waterfront in 1949

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/01/25/122-perish-in-torontos-noronic-disaster-horticultural-building-at-cne-used-as-morgue/

Historic Victoria Memorial Square where Toronto’s first cemetery was located, now hidden amid the Entertainment District

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/01/09/victoria-square-in-torontos-entertainment-district-is-a-gem/

Visiting one of Toronto’s best preserved 19th-century streets-Willcocks Avenue

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/09/20/visiting-torontos-best-preserved-nineteenth-century-street-willcocks-street/

The 1930s Water Maintenance Building on Brant Street, north of St. Andrew’s Park

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/12/06/torontos-architectural-gemsthe-water-maintenance-building-on-richmond-street-west/

Toronto’s architectural gems-photos of the Old City from a book published by the city in 1912

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/12/06/torontos-architectural-gemsthe-old-city-hall-photographed-in-1912/

Toronto’s architectural gems in 1912

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/12/04/torontos-architectural-gems-in-1912/

Toronto’s architectural gems – the bank on the northeast corner of Queen West and Spadina

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/12/02/torontos-architectural-gemsbank-at-spadina-and-queen-west/

Photos of the surroundings of the CN Tower and and the St. Lawrence Market in 1977

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/10/18/photos-of-the-surroundings-of-the-st-lawrence-market-and-cn-tower-in-1977/

The St. Lawrence Hall on King Street

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/04/28/enjoying-torontos-architectural-gems-the-st-lawrence-hall/

Toronto’s streetcars through the past decades

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/03/26/memories-of-torontos-streetcars-of-yesteryear/

History of Trinity Bellwoods Park

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/04/09/the-history-and-beauty-of-trinity-bellwood-park/

A history of Toronto’s famous ferry boats to the Toronto Islands

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/remember-the-toronto-island-ferries-the-bluebell-primroseand-trillium/

Toronto’s Old City Hall at Bay and Queen Streets

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/04/22/enjoying-torontos-architectural-gems-old-city-hall/

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2013 in Toronto

 

Toronto’s memory lane– the Pin Ball Arcades of yesteryears

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Recently (Jan. 2013), I witnessed a teenager playing a pinball machine located inside a small variety store in Mexico. I stopped to watch the young man play, as it brought back memories of the pinball machines that I occasionally played as a teenager in Toronto in the 1950s. I was never very adept at operating these machines, but the seeing one again brought back a few pleasant memories.

Though pinball machines were invented before the turn of the 20th century, they did not become widely played until the early 1930s, when a coin-operated machine was patented. The game of pinball gained further popularity after the Second World War. The “Golden Age of the Pinball” is considered to be between the years 1948 and 1958. The increased popularity was mainly due to the inclusion of “flippers” in the machines, which allowed a player to redirect the ball  as it descended on the playing board. Flippers redirected a ball upward or sideways, increasing the skill level of the game. Because some players tried to cheat by shaking the machine to alter the course of the ball, a “tilt” mechanism was added to the machines. If a player shook the machine too much, the game stopped, a “tilt” sign flashed on the headboard, accompanied by a loud ringing noise. I remember that when this happened, everyone watching laughed and shouted “tilt-tilt” at the offending player. I also remember that when I was a child, the frames and legs of the machines were constructed of wood, but by the time I was a teenager, they had been replaced with steel and chrome.

Though many arcades still attracted players during the 1980s and 1990, the popularity of the machines slowly declined. One of the last pinball places in Toronto was the short-lived “Pinball Cafe” in the city’s Parkdale area, which closed in 2012. I am not aware if any remain in Toronto today, since teenagers now are glued to their their computers, Ipods and Ipads, never experiencing the flashing lights and noisy clicking of the glorious pinball machines of yesteryear. In previous decades, pinball arcades were gathering places where people met others and competed in a friendly game. The social interaction they provided is sadly missed, although some parent are likely grateful. I remember that my parents considered Pinball Arcades as places where dubious characters gathered.

When I was  a teenager, there were no pinball machines in our neighbourhood in Toronto, but I remember the various Pinball Arcades in the downtown, particularly on Yonge Street. I recall that one of them was on the west side of Yonge, a short distance north of Dundas Street. Its frontage on the street was all glass, and in summer it was completely open to the street to entice people to enter. The interior was brightly lit, noisy, with lights constantly flashing as players wracked up scores that were displayed prominently on the headboards of the machines. The proprietor offered prizes for the highest scores attained on certain games.

A pinball game began when a player inserted a coin into the coin slot. The first shiny silver was released from the top of the board. It rolled down among the pins that directed its path. The ball bounced off the pins, and was redirected by the player using the flippers. When a ball eventually dropped into a hole, depending on which hole it entered, the score was tallied. The ball that had entered a hole was now out of play, and another ball was released. When all the balls (usually three or four) had dropped into holes, the game ended and the final score lit up on the headboard of the machine. It was fascinating game to play, matching your luck and skill against the machine. I thought it was also a great game to watch. During a game, the clicking of the metal balls, the bright flashing lights, and the noisy tallying of the scores were as much a part of the experience as the milkshakes and soda pop that the owner sold to the players.

During the 1950s, no summer resort in Ontario was complete without a pinball arcade. The ones that I remember the most were at the “Lighthouse” at Jackson’s Point, and another at Wasaga Beach on Lake Huron. I believe there was also a Pinball Arcade at the CNE in the 1950s and 1960s.  

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The headboard of the Pinball Machine that I saw recently in Mexico. It appears to be new, so they are obviously still being manufactured. However, this machine has no “flippers” to redirect the ball, so is based on earlier models. The game is an electronic version of a soccer game and features the game “Futbol de Oro,” (Golden Football). The dark rectangle displaying “8.8.8.8” is where the accumulated score is displayed, hence he Spanish word “acumulado”.  I saw a Video Arcade here in Mexico as well, but it possessed no pinball machines, only video games.

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The playing board of the game I recently saw, with the holes the balls drop into, and the pins that reflect the balls. The flags of various nation are depicted on the board.

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A close-up view of the playing board, with one of the holes (bottom left) and four pins (top centre).

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Other pinball machines that I saw in Mexico. They also have no flippers to redirect the ball.

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

To view other trips down memory lane in Toronto of old.

Celebrating Victoria Day in Canada in yesteryear

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2011/05/22/victoria-day-in-canada/

Old Movie Houses of Toronto 

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2011/06/27/old-movie-houses-of-toronto/

Memories of the CNE today and in yesteryears

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2011/08/22/memories-of-the-cnetoday-and-yesterday/

Listening the the Eaton’s Christmas radio broadcasts of Santa Claus in the 1940s and trimming the Xmas tree

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2011/11/15/memories-of-trimming-the-tree-and-the-eatons-christmas-radio-broadcasts-in-1944/

Visiting Toyland on the fifth floor of the old Eaton’s store in the 1940s

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2011/11/29/memories-of-eatons-toyland-in-the-1940s/

Remembering the La Chaumiere Restaurant on Church Street in Toronto

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2011/12/03/anyone-remember-dining-at-torontos-la-chaumiere-restaurant-on-church-street/

Recalling the amber-coloured crinkly bottles of Orange Crush soda pop

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2011/12/03/remember-the-amber-crinkly-bottles-of-orange-crush/

Looking back at the restaurant prices in Toronto during the 1950s

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2011/12/03/anyone-remember-the-restaurant-prices-and-menus-of-the-1950s-in-toronto/

The opening of Toronto’s Yonge Street subway in March 1955.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2011/12/03/memorabilia-and-photos-of-the-opening-of-torontos-yonge-street-subway-in-1955/

The classroom Valentine Day boxes in schools in the 1940s and 1950s

/https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/02/14/remember-the-valentine-day-boxes-in-school-classrooms-and-the-heart-shaped-candies/

The old Lux Burlesque Theatre on College Street in the 1960s

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/01/14/the-bellevue-theatre-lux-burlesque-theatre-on-college-street/

Amazing streetcar trips in Toronto of old

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/01/05/amazing-streetcar-trips-on-torontos-red-rockets-during-yesteryears/

Celebrating New Year’s Eve in Toronto today as compared to yesteryears

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/12/29/new-years-eve-in-toronto-2012-compared-to-yesteryears/

Memories of Toronto’s Sunnyside on a sweltering hot summer day

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2011/07/21/memories-of-torontos-sunnyside-on-a-sweltering-summer-day/

New Year’s Eve in Toronto in 1945 –the first year after the end of the Second World War

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/12/28/new-years-eve-in-toronto-1945/

I22 people perish in a disaster on Toronto’s waterfront in 1949: CNE Horticultural Building employed as a morgue

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/01/25/122-perish-in-torontos-noronic-disaster-horticultural-building-at-cne-used-as-morgue/

The old Toronto Island ferries of my childhood – The trillium, Bluebell, and Primrose

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/remember-the-toronto-island-ferries-the-bluebell-primroseand-trillium/

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2013 in Toronto

 

Global Cheese Shop reopens in Kensington Market

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                The Global Cheese Shop, Saturday 12 October 2012

The Global Cheese Shop on Kensington Avenue in the Kensington Market has finally reopened after being closed for a lengthy period for renovations. The grand opening of this shop, which was a long history in the market, has been worth the wait. I have purchased cheeses from this family business for the past twelve years, and wish them every success with their new store.

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                 The interior, early on the morning of the grand opening.

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             One of the windows of the shop on Kensington Avenue

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The great variety of cheeses and other products are once more available at the Global Cheese Shop

To view other posts about the Kensington Market:

A new meat market opens on Baldwin Street in the Kensington Market

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/08/15/new-meat-market-opens-in-kensingtonsanagans-meat-locker/

Automobile-free Sundays in the Kensington Market

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/06/08/automobile-free-sundays-in-the-kensington-market/

The Moon Bean Coffee Company on St. Andrew’s Street

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2011/05/21/moon-bean-coffee-company-cafe-kensington-market/

Enjoying the Kensington Market at Christmas Christmas

market/https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2011/12/01/enjoying-the-kensington-market-at-

Early morning in the Kensington Market

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2011/06/07/early-morning-kensington-

Kensington Market in the winter

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2011/12/01/kensington-market-blanketed-in-winters-white/

Kensington Market – an ever-changing scene

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2011/12/21/the-ever-changing-kensington-market-in-downtown-toronto/

A lament for the demise of the European Meat Market on Baldwin Street

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/03/08/a-lament-for-the-demise-of-european-meat-store-in-kensington-market/

The row houses on Wales Avenue on Bellevue Square

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2011/03/26/discovering-the-kensington-market/

Discovering the Kensington Market

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/kensington-market-part-2-doug-taylor-the-peterkin-home/

Link to the Home Page for this blog:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

 
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Posted by on October 13, 2012 in Toronto

 

Entertainment District’s trendy new eatery – “Gusto”- on Portland Street

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I usually offer posts on this blog about the historic architecture of Toronto. On a few occasions, I have departed from my usual format to include eateries located among the historic buildings of the Entertainment District. Although I am not qualified to be a food critic, I know good food when I experience it, and have no difficulty recognizing superior service. In the case of “Gusto,” on Portland Street, it is great to see a restaurant employing a building from an earlier era, renovating it, and creating a trendy place where its customers can enjoy an eclectic mixture of the past and present. Gusto opened several months ago, but I tried it for the first time this week. It has already become one of the most popular restaurants in the area.

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I remember when this site on Portland Street, a short distance north of Queen Street was an automotive repair shop. The door where the autos entered has been retained. It opens in warm weather to allow the indoor and outdoor spaces to integrate. It can be seen in the picture above, behind the two white umbrellas. On roof of the shop there is an outdoor dining area where diners are able to enjoy warm summer evenings. The restaurant offers Italian fare, with many pasta dishes and a variety of pizzas from a wood-fired oven.

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This picture shows patio on the front of the restaurant and the garage door of the old automotive shop.

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                                                The roof patio at Gusto

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Gasoline and oil cans above the bar and signs from the automotive shop decorate the interior

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Please forgive me for photographing the food, but the calamari was light, crisp and cooked to perfection.

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The salmon salad was excellent, and the meatball pizza was equally as good, although I found the meatballs a bit too heavy.

One of the best features of the restaurant is offering the wine at the price of $1 per ounce. It is a reasonable price, and allows each diner to order the exact amount they desire. However, I was not impressed with the restaurant reservation service. No phone reservations are allowed, and if you go online to gusto101.ca you will discover that they only offer a limited number of tables, and the remainder are on a first-come-first-served basis. This means that if you do not receive a reservation, you can waste your time going to the restaurant only to find that a table is not available. I realize that this annoying habit from New York is designed to create a “buzz,” where patrons are turned away to create an aura of desirability. It may be okay for clubs, but for restaurants I find the system simply discourteous to the customers.

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However, our displeasure at the reservation system disappeared when we sat down at the table under an umbrella in the patio, and luxuriated in the pleasure of the atmosphere and the the gorgeous summer weather. The service we received from our waiter, whose name was Nikesh, was friendly and professional. He was efficient and although he never hovered, was always quick to supply our needs.  In the future, he is certain to become a Bollywood star and be lost to the hospitality industry. 

For a post about a gourmet street food in the Entertainment District.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/08/28/wood-burning-pizza-oven-is-an-up-scale-food-hit-at-king-and-spadina/

The Home Page for this blog : https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

 
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Posted by on August 29, 2012 in Toronto