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Art Gallery of Ontario—Fantastic

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The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) is for me a home away from home. I purchased a membership to enable me to frequently visit paintings that I consider old friends. Each time I see them, I discover another facet of their life as they reveal details that I have not seen before, even though I have spent time with them on many occasions. With every visit, my life is enriched, as these friends allow me to access their stories and explore the skills of those who created them. It is a quietly fantastic experience.

The beginnings of the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) commenced in the auspicious year 1900, when a new century was born. In that year, Toronto painter George Reid, president of the Ontario Society of Artists, joined forces with a prominent banker, Edmund Reid, to raise funds for a permanent gallery for art exhibitions. The gallery was to be named the Art Museum of Toronto. In 1903, the Ontario Legislature passed an act to officially recognize this new institution, even though it did not possess a permanent site for its exhibitions. In the meantime, the society displayed works of art in various locations, the old Toronto Reference Library at College and St. George Streets being one of them.

In 1909, the Grange, the Georgian mansion of Goldwin and Harriet Smith, was bequeathed to the society for the explicit purpose of creating an art gallery for Toronto. The home was located south of Dundas Street, between McCaul and Beverley Streets. The society took possession of the property, established their offices in the building, and renovated it for exhibitions. The first showing was held in the Grange on June 5, 1913, consisting mainly of the art collection of their benefactor, Goldwin Smith. However, the prospects of the gallery’s growth were limited unless more space became available. In response to this need, the Ontario Government began purchasing and expropriating land on Dundas Street, to the north of the Grange.

In 1916, construction commenced on the new gallery. Designed in the Beaux-Arts style, its architects were Darling and Pearson. The square-shaped  structure opened on April 4, 1918, built to the north of the Grange, its south wall attached to it. Patrons temporarily accessed the new building through the Grange until the following year, when the door facing Dundas Street was opened. In 1919, the gallery’s name was changed to the Art Gallery of Toronto. By 1922, on the land on Dundas Street, purchased by the Ontario Government, the few remaining houses had been demolished, and space was now available for further expansion. 

Another wing was added to the Art Gallery of Toronto in 1926. Two new galleries were built in 1935, their architect Darling, Pearson and Cleveland. In 1966, the name of the gallery was changed to the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) to reflect its enhanced role in the artistic life of the province. During the 1970s, construction commenced to create space for the collection of the Henry Moore sculptures and to create a new Canadian wing. Because of the many wings added to the gallery, in 1989, the architects Barton, Myers and Associates were commissioned to redesign the interior to create a more cohesive interior appearance. Then, in 1993, the Tanenbaum Sculpture Atrium was built on the south side of the gallery, facing Grange Park.

In 2002 the largest expansion in the gallery’s history began. Toronto-born Frank Gehry redesigned and transformed the gallery. Its exhibit space was increased by 50%, to a total of 583,000 square feet. An enormous structure of glass and natural wood was built extending the full length of the building on the side facing Dundas Street. Named the Galleria Italia, it has been referred to as a “crystal ship” with a great sail at its eastern end. On the south side of the gallery, facing Grange Park, a four-story wing was added, covered with blue titanium. It contained a sculpted staircase on its exterior that appeared as if it were suspended in space. The building’s interior was redesigned to improve the hallways, staircases and ramps, employing generous amount of natural wood. The total cost was $500 million, of which Ken Thomson donated $50 million, along with 2000 works of art. In November 2008 the transformed gallery was officially opened.   

The first group exhibition of the Group of Seven was held in the gallery in 1920. Over the many decades, the AGO has presented many other special exhibitions — King Tutankhamen (1979), Barnes Collection (1994), Courtauld Collection (1998), Treasures of the Hermitage (2001), Turner-Whistler-Monet (2004), Catherine the Great (2005), and Picasso (2012). The Art Gallery of Ontario’s collection contains 2000 years of art history and over 80,000 works of art from Canada, North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Oceania and Asia. The AGO also has the largest collection of Henry Moore sculptures in the world.

Fonds 1244, Item 304

The Grange in 1907, when it was the home of Goldwin and Harriet Smith. Toronto Archives, Fl 1244, it 0304(1)

Fonds 1244, Item 315

Plank boardwalk allowing visitors to reach the Grange from Dundas Street in 1913. Houses in the distance are on the north side of Dundas Street. In this year, houses remained on the south side of Dundas Street. They are on the right-hand side of the photo. Toronto Archives, F1244, it.0315(1).

Series 372, Subseries 53, Item 70

The Grange in February 1913, when the Art Museum of Toronto owned the property. This was year of its first exhibition in the building. Toronto Archives, Series 372, SS53 it70

Fonds 200, Series 372, Subseries 41 - Miscellaneous photographs

View of the square-shaped building constructed in 1918, designed by Darling and Pearson. The north facade (left-hand side), facing Dundas Street is in the Beaux-Arts style. Houses on McCaul Street can be seen in the distance, to the east of the gallery. The west facade of the Grange and its large chimney are visible on the south side of the new gallery. Photo from Toronto Archives, S0372, SS0041, it0314(1). Photo is dated 1922.

Fonds 200, Series 372, Subseries 41 - Miscellaneous photographs

Sculpture Court (Walker Court) on August 3, 1929. The fountain in the centre of the court is today outside the gallery on its west side. Toronto Archives, S0372, SS0372, It.0199

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A 1950s postcard depicting the Beaux-Arts style entrance on the north facade of the Art Gallery of Ontario. Collection of the Toronto Archives, Series 330, SS567, Sheet I.

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A 1950s postcard showing the north facade of the gallery. Collection of the Toronto Archives, Series 330, SS576, Sheet I.

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Art Gallery of Ontario in August 2015, the enormous glass and natural wood of the Galleria Italia overlooking Dundas Street.

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The Walker Court in 2015, the Frank Gehry transformational alterations evident.

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View of the interior of the Galleria Italia, the 19th-century houses on the north side of Dundas Street visible through the enormous glass panels. 

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View of the north facade of the Grange through the glass windows of the Tanenbaum Sculpture Gallery in August 2015.

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Marble bust of Pope Gregory XV carved in 1621 by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, on display in the European Galleries.

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             Gallery containing paintings of Lauren Harris

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Painting by Clarence Gagnon in the Canadian collection at the AGO.

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                                   The Barns by A. Y. Jackson

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                          Winter scene in Toronto by Lauren Harris

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                      British Columbia totems by Emily Carr

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            Painting in the special Emily Carr Exhibition of 2015. 

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

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

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

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

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

   To place an order for this book:

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

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

Theatres Included in the Book:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Grange and the modern south facade of the Art Gallery of Ontario behind it. (Photo, 2013).

The land where the Grange is located was at one time part of an hundred-acre park lot granted by Governor Simcoe to Solicitor General Robert I. D. Gray in the 1790s. In 1808, Mr. D’Arcy Boulton Jr., the eldest son of Attorney General D’Arcy Boulton, purchased 13 acres of Gray’s park lot for 13 pounds and named it the Grange Estate, after his ancestral home in England. In 1818, he erected a residence on the property, which he designed himself, at a time when brick buildings first began to appear in the town of York. The original gates to the estate were located at today’s Queen Street West and John Street. Queen Street was the southern boundary of his property, and Boulton had a gatekeeper’s cottage constructed at John and Queen Street. Later, Boulton ordered that the gates of the Grange be relocated further north, closer to his residence. The Boultons raised eight children within the home.

Inside the gates of the Grange, historical accounts state that two of Mr. Boulton’s horses encountered a wild bear and fended off an attack by the animal. The carriageway that led from the Grange to Queen Street, became the northern section of John Street, named in honour of Governor John Graves Simcoe. A street to the east of John Street also honoured the governor and was named Graves Street. However, it was eventually changed to Simcoe Street and retains this name today. 

When the Grange was built, to the north of it was the St. Leger race track on Dundas Street, the track extending as far north as the College Street of today. The south facade of the Grange was Neoclassical in design. It was symmetrical, with nine large windows facing the spacious grounds that gently sloped southward to Queen Street and Lake Ontario beyond. The Grange was one of the “truly important houses built in York in the first quarter of the nineteenth century. . . . not a shelter for immediate physical needs but a house like the one[s] at home [in Britain].” (The Ancestral Roof, Marion MacRae and Anthony Adamson, Clarke Irwin and Company, 1963).

The Grange possessed a large heavy door, designed to impress those who approached it. A fan-shaped transom window was above the door. Upon entering the home, guests were ushered into a spacious entry hall, and in front of them was a grand circular staircase that led to the second floor, where there was a music room for entertainment. Halfway up the staircase was a leaded glass window that contained the family crest and motto. The dining room and parlour were panelled with black walnut from the local forest, quality wood panelling employed generously throughout the remainder of the interior rooms as well. In front of the house was an oval carriage drive, which remains in existence today.

Upon the death of D’Arcy Boulton, the Grange was inherited by his son, William Henry Boulton, who was mayor of Toronto between the years 1845 and 1847, and again in 1858. When he died in 1874, his widow, Harriett, married Dr. Goldwin Smith the following year. Prior to immigrating to Canada, Goldwin had been a professor at Oxford. He enlarged the house by adding a west wing where grapes had previously been grown, and this addition became his library. It was also employed for formal afternoon tea parties. He also replaced the wooden porch with one of stone. The support pillars of the porch were an ornamented version of Doric columns.

During the years ahead, as the city expanded, Toronto’s art community grew, along with a desire for a permanent venue for exhibiting paintings. Mr. and Mrs. Goldwin Smith decided to bequeath the Grange to the City of Toronto to fulfill this need. However, they demanded that the facade of the house and the park surrounding it be preserved. Harriette died in 1909, and Goldwin Smith died in 1910. The house then became the property of the Art Museum of Toronto. From 1911 to 1918, it was used for art exhibitions and various administrative functions of the museum. However, if the museum were to expand, it was necessary to obtain land on Dundas Street. The Government of Ontario purchased the land for the gallery. The first section of the new galleries opened to the public on April 4, 1918. From its beginning in the Grange, the Art Museum of Toronto expanded and evolved into the Art Gallery of Toronto, now renamed the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). Today, the Grange contains the members’ lounge and administrative offices of the AGO.

Sources

Toronto of Old, Henry Scadding, Toronto Oxford University Press, 1966 (original edition, 1873).

Toronto, Romance of a City, Cassell and Company, Toronto, 1956. 

Toronto, No Mean City, Eric Arthur, University of Toronto Press, 1964.

The Estates of Old Toronto, Liz Lundell, The Boston Mills Press, 1997

Toronto, the Place of Meeting, Frederick H. Armstrong, Ontario Historical Society, 1983.

Fonds 1244, Item 304

The Grange in 1907, with a gazebo-like porch, which no longer exits, on its east side. Photo, City of Toronto Archives, Series 1244, It. 0304 (1)

Series 372, Subseries 53, Item 70

The Grange and the park surrounding it in 1922. Photo, City of Toronto Archives, Series 372, Subseries 53, It. 70.

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                           The stone porch on the Grange in 2013.

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                        The Grange on a summer evening in 2013.

                 Fonds 1244, Item 691

                Dr. Goldwin Smith in 1909, the year before he died.

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Dr. Smith’s library, located in an an extension built of the west side of the house.

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The free-standing circular staircase in the Grange that led to the second floor.

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The stained-glass window midway up the staircase, and a statue in an alcove on the staircase.

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Medallion on ceiling of the Grange. The chandelier originally contained gas fixtures.

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                Classical designs on the crown mouldings in the Grange. 

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Interior view of the impressive front door of the Grange, with its fan-shaped transom window.

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                         Two of the fireplaces in the Grange

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

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

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

To view previous blogs about old 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. T he 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 .

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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