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Tag Archives: Centre Island Toronto

Ward’s Island Toronto in 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kale project

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

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

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

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              One of the ancient trees that borders the soccer field.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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         The beach appears more expansive than I remember it.

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

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This enchanting cottage appears at peace among its verdant environment. 

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

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

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

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

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

              Books by the Author

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

                  image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[2]

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

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

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

 

 Toronto: Then and Now®

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Gibraltar Point Lighthouse — Hanlan’s Point

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                  Gibraltar Point lighthouse at Hanlan’s Point, Toronto Islands

Recently I dined at a restaurant located atop one of the city’s towering skyscrapers that overlooks Toronto Harbour. The ever-changing panorama was mesmerizing. The dazzling pinpoints of light from the downtown buildings illuminated the darkness, their brilliance augmented by the many streams of red and white from the myriad of cars snaking along the Gardiner Expressway, Front Street, and the Lakeshore Road.

I tried to imagine the same harbour scene during the last decade of the 18th century, when it would have been enveloped in almost total darkness. The few flickering candles in the windows of the small cabins clustered around the eastern side of the harbour would not have been visible from my modern-day perch. Thankfully, we have a first-hand account of how the islands and the harbour area appeared in those long-ago decades.

In May 1793, Mrs. Elizabeth Simcoe, wife of Lieutenant Governor Simcoe, arrived in Toronto. After the tents, which were to be her home for the forthcoming months, were set-up beside the lake, she commenced exploring, recording and sketching the environs of the settlement. Elizabeth wrote: “We rode on the peninsula opposite Toronto, so I called the spit of land, for it is united to the mainland by a very narrow neck of ground.”

The peninsula is today known as the Toronto Islands, as in later years it was separated from the mainland by a fierce storm that washed away the sandbar at the eastern end of the harbour. How did the peninsula appear in the 1790s?

Elizabeth described it as having “. . . natural meadows and ponds, its poplar trees covered with wild vines, the ground where everlasting peas of purple colour were creeping in abundance, and where wild lilies-of-the-valley grew.” She discovered the sands bordering the open lake, and referred to these as, “my favourite sands.” She visited them time and time again “. . . praising the sweep of the wild fresh air, riding on the hard white surface, watching the antics of unnumbered wild fowl, and listening to the cry of the loons.” The peninsula [today’s Toronto Islands] was reached by boat, a mile across the bay when parties would land on Hanlan’s Point [its modern name]. Elizabeth added, “The Governor thinks the manner in which the sand banks are formed that they are capable of being fortified, he therefore calls it ‘Gibraltar Point’.”

Governor Simcoe thought that the land at the mouth of the harbour was as strategically important to Toronto as the rock that stands guard at Gibraltar, at the entrance to the Mediterranean. Thus, a carriage route was cut along the peninsula to connect the mainland to Gibraltar Point. It later evolved into Lake Shore Avenue, the main east-west axis along today’s Centre Island.

The small colonial town continue to develop. “The bay front and harbour, where it all began, and which for any years the main depot of transportation, was growing in wharves and landing stages. The first to be built was the landing of military stores at the garrison, [and soon] were added added Peter, John and Church Streets.” (Katherine Hale, “Toronto, Romance of a Great City,” Cassell and Company Limited, 1956),

It quickly became evident that it was important to assist ships to enter the harbour safely, to unload their goods at the newly-built wharves. “In 1799, Peter Hunter arrived as the new Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada. . . he instructed that a lighthouse be constructed on Gibraltar Point, built of limestone quarried in Queenston.” (Frederick H. Armstrong, “Toronto, The Place of Meeting,” Ontario Historical Society Windsor Publication, published 1983.)

In 1803 an act was passed by the Provincial Legislature for the establishment of lighthouses. One of them was on Gibraltar Point. According to the act “. . . a fund for the erection and maintenance of such lighthouses was to be formed by levying three-pence per ton on every vessel, boat, raft, or other craft of the burthen of ten tons and upward shall be liable to pay any lighthouse duty . . .”

“. . . a lighthouse was begun at the point of York . . . the Mohawk was employed in bringing over stone for the purpose from Queenston; and that Mr. John Thompson, still living in 1873, was engaged in the actual erection of the building . . . (“Toronto of Old,” Henry Scadding).

In the decade when the lighthouse was being built, “The peninsula in front of York was plentifully stocked with goats, the offspring of a small colony established by order of Peter Hunter at Gibraltar Point for the sake, for one thing, of the supposed salutary nature of the whey of goat’s milk. These animals were dispersed during the War of 1812-1815.” (“Toronto of Old,” Henry Scadding).

The lighthouse was completed in 1808, the walls six-feet thick at its base. It was “a hexagon tapered tower, 52 feet high, on a six-sided oaken crib, with a wooden lantern cage 18 feet high above the stonework. In 1832, a perpendicular addition of stone atop the tapered tower increased the height of the lighthouse by 12 feet, making it 82 feet to the vane. The lantern cage was later replaced by an iron one, when a change was made from a fixed light, burning 200 gallons of whale oil a year, to a revolving occulting light of greater power, operated by a clockwork mechanism.” (Source: “Historic Toronto, Toronto Civic Historical Committee, February 1953.”).

The first lighthouse keeper, J. P. Rademuller, a German who had immigrated to Upper Canada. He kept watch at Gibraltar Point for enemy ships and friendly vessels returning to a safe harbour at York. He was in residence at the lighthouse during the Battle of York in 1813, when American ships invaded the town of York.

The lighthouse was in a secluded location, and its glowing beacon was easy to spot. As a result, it became a focal point for smugglers that wished to avoid taxes on imported goods, particularly alcohol. Some sources state that it was common knowledge that Rademuller kept a supply of home-brewed ale in his home beside the lighthouse. John Paul Rademuller disappeared under mysterious circumstances on January 2, 1815. It was alleged that he had been murdered by two soldiers who had been enjoying his home-brewed beer. They were arrested but eventually set free as there was insufficient evidence—Rademuller’s body was never found.

One version of the story states that Rademuller was killed after the soldiers bought the beer, but complained that its alcoholic content was low as it had become frozen during the cold winter weather. They felt that the lighthouse keeper was trying to rip them off. Whether or not this was true, most sources agree that Rademuller was killed that night and dismembered by his killers, who buried his body parts in various graves near the lighthouse. His ghost is said to still haunt the site.

The story of the murder was recorded by John Ross Robertson in his book, “Landmarks of Toronto”, written in 1908, and it has become a source for ghost stories ever since. But Robertson raises scepticism that the event ever occurred. He admitted that he had learned the details from the current lighthouse keeper in the 1870s, George Durnan, who had apparently gone looking for a body and had dug up a coffin containing a jawbone. Despite this, the historic plaque on the lighthouse mentions the ghost story and the jawbone, although many historians thought that this was not appropriate as it was not a proven fact. (For a link to discover more information about the murder,   https://torontoist.com/2017/08/spooky-story-behind-gibraltar-point-lighthouse, and spacing.ca/toronto/2015/04/30/true-story-torontos-island-ghost/ )

Image cropped and thumbnail updated April 2011

The painting on the left entitled, “View of York,” c. 1815,” is by Robert Irvine, and is today in the collection of the AGO. The painting depicts the lighthouse on Gibraltar Point in 1815. Irving was captured in September of 1813, during the War of 1812, and released from an American prison in September 1814. After the war, he was employed by the military and lived in York until 1817. In April 1830, records reveal that he was residing in Scotland. (Source: “Government of Fire,” Frank A. Dieterman and Ronald F. Williamson, Archaeological Services, 2001).

When completed, the lighthouse was the tallest structure in the city and remained so for nearly 50 years. Its power source was switched to coal-oil in 1863 and, then, to electric in 1916. The lighthouse still stands, but it no longer guides ships as it did for over a hundred years. It is still on Gibraltar Point, although because of the silt that has built-up over the years, the tower is now about 100 meters from the water’s edge. It was decommissioned in 1958, and is Toronto’s oldest building situated on its original foundation.

 

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Sketch of the lighthouse and the lighthouse keeper’s cottage in 1894. Toronto Public Library, r-450.

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Undated sketch of the lighthouse from the book “Historic Toronto,” by the Toronto Historical Society, published in 1953. Today, the structure is no longer at the edge of the water. Because of the silt that has been deposited on the shoreline, it is 100 metres from the water.

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Watercolour depicting ships off Gibraltar Point in 1894. Toronto Public Library 987-10-2 

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        Gibraltar Point Lighthouse in 1915. Ontario Archives F-4336.

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View gazing west at the lighthouse on Gibraltar Point in 1919, with private summer cottages lining the shoreline. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, item 10156.

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               Lighthouse in 1940, Toronto Public Library, 10013724.

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View from the base, where the stones are six-feet thick. Photo taken in 2010.

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Door that opens to the steps to ascend to the top of the lighthouse. The door faces east.

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                                      Historic plaque on the lighthouse

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Top of the structure where the lamp was located. The stones for the top of the towering lighthouse were quarried in Kingston.

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  Limestone base of the tower, the stones brought across the lake from Queenston.

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

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

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

              Books by the Blog’s Author

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[1]

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

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

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

 

 

 Toronto: Then and Now®

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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RESCUE Toronto’s antique carousel at Centreville

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Carousel at Centreville at Centre Island—photo by Fatima Syed, Toronto Star, August 5, 2017.

Centre Island’s antique carousel is being sold for $3 million ($2.25 U.S.) to a suburb of Carmel, Indiana, where it will become the focal point of a rapidly expanding business district. The sale has generated much publicity in Toronto’s press and on social media, accompanied by an outpouring of memories from those who consider the amusement ride a cherished part of their childhood. Many have expressed the sentiment that when they were young, a Toronto summer was not complete unless there was at least one trip to the Toronto Islands, a ride on the carousel the highlight of the day.

However, I have not read of any attempts to raise funds to rescue the carousel from its fate. I do not know if it is even possible at this late date, as it is scheduled to be dismantled and shipped to the U.S. after Centreville closes for the 2017 season. This will be a loss for all of Canada, as following its departure only eight antique carousels will exist in the country. Part of our heritage is slipping away. Future generations might never forgive us for our lack of foresight.

The carousel at Centreville on Centre Island was purchased by Beasley Amusements in 1964, from Bushkill Park in Pennsylvania. The price was about $20,000. It arrived in Toronto in 1965 and was installed in the children’s village of Centreville. The grand opening was in 1967, the Centennial of Canadian Confederation. The carousel was the jewel in the crown of the entertainment rides at Centreville. For many years, its carved animals were maintained by Al Cochrane, a gifted carver.

Built in 1907 by G. A. Dentzel Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the children’s ride possesses 52 hand-carved animals, each one a unique creation. There are majestic horses that gallop faster and faster as they strain to escape the revolving wooden platform that contains them. There are wild beasts as well as animals found on a farm.

My first experience with a carousel occurred when I was four years old. The sight of it was intimidating as the animals looked real. There was a ferocious lion with jaws containing razor-sharp teeth and a bottomless blood-red throat. It stared at me as if it were deciding if it should pounce and devour me in a single gulp.

After my father paid the fare, I worked up the courage and nervously climbed aboard a horse that I was certain was 20 feet tall. I earnestly prayed that the carousel’s carnival-like music would obscure the thumping of my heart. Once I was settled in on the horse’s back, I felt safer, but held onto the pole atop the horse so tightly that if it had been a penny, the Queen’s nose would have bled. I continued to avoid looking at the lion as it reminded me of the one from my nightmares. It lived at the bottom of the cellar stairs in our house. Somehow, it had found me on the carousel.

As well as the horses and the lion, there were imaginary creatures such as a unicorn. I admired the long-necked ostriches and the barnyard animals such as roosters and pigs, but having conquered my fears to climb on the horse’s back, I considered them tame. As for the benches that seated two adults, they were for “old pussies,” as Agatha Christie referred to elderly women. Older men usually watched from the sidelines, exhibiting strange smiles and faraway looks. I was too young to realize that they were likely recalling their boyhood days when they too had struggled to conquer a carousel’s lions and horses.   

                                                      * * *

I now must confess that I have never been on the carousel on Centre Island. There were no amusement rides on Centre Island when I was a boy in the 1940s. There was a village, but it was demolished in the 1960s. There had been an amusement park on Hanlan’s Point, but it closed in the 1930s.

My first experience on a carousel was at Sunnyside Amusement Park, which was demolished to build the Gardiner Expressway. Actually, when I was a boy, I had never heard of a “carousel.” The word is from the French (carrousel) or the Italian (Carosell) and was employed by Americans to refer to carved animals that rotate on a wooden platform. In Canada, we referred to it as a “merry-go-round.” Similarly, on Halloween we never went “trick or treating.” We ventured into the darkened streets on the last night in October to go “shelling out.” We would chorus gleefully at each door, “Shell out! Shell out” We’ll break your windows inside out.” Our Canadian vocabulary remained untainted until the mid-1950s with the advent of television and the flood of American programming.  

The merry-go-round at Sunnyside was the highlight of my family’s summer trips to “The Poor Man’s Riviera,” as Sunnyside was known. As soon as we arrived, my brother and I and commenced building sandcastles on the beach along the shoreline of Lake Ontario. We imagined mediaeval knights riding their horses over the twig drawbridges that crossed the moats we filled with water from our pails. My mother had acquired the pails when she purchased quart-size containers of peanut butter, which were packaged in children’s sand pails. We had consumed enough peanut butter during the winter months to dry out our mouths so that they felt like part of the Sahara Dessert. As a reward, we now had two free pails, complete with handles and accompanied by toy sand shovels. When it was lunchtime, we hungrily wolfed down salmon sandwiches, not stopping our great construction projects to properly pay attention to our meal. Thus, though our sandwiches were garnished with yellow mustard, they were liberally sprinkled with sand.

However, our excitement increased as the afternoon shadows lengthened, as we knew that a ride on the merry-go-round was imminent. My brother was two years older than me, so when we arrived at the site of the merry-go-round, he chose the most dangerous looking carved horse he could find. I settled for a steed that might have crossed our twig drawbridges over the moats of our sandcastles at a more sedate pace. The merry-go-round ride was glorious, though far too short. When it ended, as we walked away, we both gazed back a few times, lamenting that the climax of our summer day-trip was spent. However, we were consoled by the tall bags of salty popcorn that my dad bought, pleased that the horses from the merry-go-round did not expect a share of our treat.

Everyone has treasured memories from their childhood, and for many, a merry-go-round or carousel ride is among them. It is a pity that future generations of toddlers will never ride an antique carousel in Toronto, the same one that their parents might have ridden. Beasley Amusements at Centreville intends to replace the 1907 carousel with a modern version, but the youngsters will never have the chance to share a tangible part of the childhood of their parents. It is only when we are older that we realize that allowing the destruction of landmarks and traditions of the past cheats us of the contentment derived from watching our children and grandchildren enjoying an activity or site that we too enjoyed. Sharing generational memories creates links that draw families together. This is what family and community are all about.

Our heritage should not be sold to recoup the losses of a financial disaster caused by the spring floods of 2017. The carousel at Centre Island should remain in Canada.  

Let’s start a new Toronto Tradition

Rescue the carousel from being sold and install it in the Eaton Centre. At the yuletide season, parents could take their toddlers to the Centre to see Santa Claus, ride on an antique carousel, and view the Christmas windows of the Bay.

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                              The carousel at Centre Island in July 1987.     

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The lead horse on the Dentzel carousel in Woodside Amusement Park in Philadelphia. Photo from Wikipedia.

Note: This post was inspired by an article and photo by Fatima Syed published in the Toronto Star on July 19, 2017.

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

To explore more memories of Toronto’s past:

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

Books by the author:

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

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

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

https://www.arcadiapublishing.com/Products/9781626194502

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

                                 image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[1]    

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

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

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

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Stories from old Toronto postcards

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Old Toronto postcards sometimes reveal lovers’ quarrels and family squabbles, as well as mundane messages. It was necessary to be discreet, since the cards were seen by postal employees, including the local mailman. When viewing the material written on postcards of yesteryear, they appear similar to those sent in emails, or posted on Facebook and Twitter. Some of the messages are like the texts of today, though texts use more abbreviations.

I have been collecting old postcards of Toronto for many years; the postcard shown above is from my collection. It contains a view of Queen Street West, looking east from James Street, toward Yonge Street, about the year 1910. It was produced by Valentine and Sons’ Publishing Company, the most prolific marketer of postcards in the city during the first two decades of the 20th century. In the photo, on the left-hand side, to the east of the Adam’s Furniture Store, is the old Eaton’s Queen Street store, which was demolished to create the south section of the Eaton Centre of today. On the right-hand side of the photograph is the former Simpson’s Department store, which is now the Bay, at Queen and Yonge. The streetcar is a wooden car operated by the Toronto Street Railway Company, which provided city public transit until the TTC was created in 1921.

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The Rosehill Reservoir Park is located southeast of the intersection of Yonge Street and St. Clair Avenue East (part of David Balfour Park). This card was mailed on July 27, 1906, to Mr. Norman Pascoe, who address was simply, “Lake Front at Kew Beach.” On the card the sender wrote: “ Dear Norman. We will meet you at Kippen Avenue at seven p.m. Wednesday next, if convenient. If not, please let us know. Yours truly, “Moonlight” 27/7/06.” Note: A hint of mystery is attached to this message, since the names of the senders are disguised. Why were they meeting?

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This postcard was mailed on June 1, 1939 to Miss Darling of Stockwell London, England. View looks north on Bay Street from King Street. A woman named Marjorie sent it from West Toronto. She writes: “Having a wonderful time. Have met Ivy, Doris, Fred, Uncle Eddie, and Aunt Annie and other friends in Toronto. We are on the boat on Lake Ontario and going to Niagara. Weather very hot.” The card was signed, “Love from Marjorie.” Note: Shorten this message slightly and it could be a text.

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On the reverse side of Marjory’s postcard, sent in 1939, are postage stamps depicting Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret. The cost of postage was 2 cents.

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This view of Toronto harbour is on a postcard mailed on August 2, 1908. Written on the card is: “Had a fine ride on the Lake this morning. It is beautiful. Hope all are well and getting a long all right.” The card was signed, “Lillie.” In the picture, on the right-hand side of the skyline is the spire of St. James Cathedral on King Street East. On the reverse side of the card is a one-cent postage stamp commemorating the 300th anniversary of the founding of Quebec—1608-1908.

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This card was mailed from Toronto on June 14, 1909, by a young woman named Sarah, who sent it to Mrs. C. Everingham at Parry Harbour Ontario. She wrote: “Dear Mother, am well, hope you are the same. Mother could you send me $1.00 right away so I could get it Saturday. Well I am so home sick to see yous all again. I can hardly write Mother. Send me the price to go if you want me but send me the dollar for I need it badly.” The card was signed, “From Sarah xxx.” Note: The wording of the message is rather confusing but Sarah’s needs are quite clear.

The view on the card depicts Centre Island, likely from the shoreline of Long Pond looking west as there is a wooden bridge in the background. This bridge was later replaced by one constructed of stone.

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Sarah of Toronto sent this card on July 31, 1911. She wrote: “Dear cousin, We had a nice trip home, had dinner and tea at Mrs. Shepphard’s and then came down on the 7 o’clock boat. Found all well at home. Sister wants you to arrive, she wants to see you. Hope that Mr. Wossack is still getting on fine. Remember us to all with best. Kindness and Friendship.” The card was signed, “Yours, Sarah.” The view on the card looks westward across the picnic grounds at Hanlan’s point toward the lake.

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This exceptionally fine view of Toronto Street looks north from near King Street East toward Adelaide Street East. The Toronto Seventh Post Office, with its columned portico is visible on the left-hand side (west side) of the street. It is one of the few buildings on the street that still exists today. The card was mailed by Nellie from Toronto on February 25, 1908 to Mrs. Fred Battle in Bowmanville, Ont.  It reads: “Dear Mildred, would you cut me a pattern of a skirt for me. Will pay you for it, 22 waist, medium 38 length, a plain full skirt print for the house. I like them pretty full and if you would pin the seams together as I don’t know any other patterns putting them together unless they are put together. I can make them then.” The card was signed, “Nellie.” Note: I hope that Mrs. Battle understood the card’s instructions better than I did.

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This postcard shows the Amusement Park at the famous Sunnyside Beach, often referred to as “The poor man’s Riviera.” It was where each spring Toronto’s Easter Parade was held on the boardwalk, visible on the left-hand side of the photo. The view faces west, the waters of the lake to the south (left) of the boardwalk (not visible in the photo). The large structure in the photo with the red domed roof is the merry-go-round (carousel). When Sunnyside amusement park was demolished in the 1950s, the ride was shipped to Disneyland in California. In the foreground is Lakeshore Boulevard. The postcard was mailed on August 27, 1927, sent to “Master Elmer Morley, Sub. P.O. Ford City, Ontario.” The card reads: “ We arrived in Toronto all right and found Millers all well. We expect to go to exhibition on Monday.” The card is unsigned.

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This card is likely from around the year 1920. There is no date or message on it as it was never sent to anyone. The view faces east toward the pedestrian bridge over Long Pond. The women seated on the bench in the foreground are formally attired, the usual custom until the late 1940s, when men wore shirts and ties when attending picnics, the CNE or an evening stroll.

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This postcard depicts the ruins of a grist mill on the west bank of the Humber River. The card was mailed on July 12, 1907, prior to building the Old Mill Tea Garden and Restaurant, which was constructed beside the ruins in 1914. The card was sent to Miss Arrabel Ellis of Fenelon Falls. Ontario. It reads: “Dear Belle, I hear you are having quite a holiday this summer. You certainly had a nerve coming to Toronto and not the Junction. They wouldn’t give me your message.” It was signed, “Gerald.” Note: There seems to be some frustration and disappointment expressed on the part of Gerald. Lovers’ quarrel?

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This card with the delightful scene of Toronto harbour was mailed from the city on October 3, 1906. It was sent to Daisy Alberta Shepp at 929 E. King Street, York, Pennsylvania. U.S. A. There was no message on the card and it was unsigned.

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The view on this card faces south on Sherbourne Street. Sherbourne and Church Streets were among the first in the city to have electrically-powered streetcars. The card was mailed on June 7, 1905 to Miss A. B. Ellis, MacDonald Hall, Guelph, Ont. It reads: “Am sorry you will not be at my tea. We will miss you. Do not get lonesome.” It was signed, “May.”

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The first buildings on the site shown above was in 1838, when Captain Dick, a wealthy steamboat captain, constructed four brick townhouses. In 1856, Mr. Sword bought the houses and converted them into a hotel. In 1859, Captain Dick reappeared on the scene, bought the hotel, and renamed it the Queen’s. It became the city’s most elite hostelry and dining establishment. The future King George V, when he was the Prince of Wales, stayed at the Queen’s, as did several American presidents. The closing of the Queen’s in 1927 was the end of an era and the beginning of a new. The Royal York Hotel was built on the site by Canadian Pacific Hotels, a division of the Canadian Pacific Railways. 

The postcard was mailed on May 25, 1907 to Johann Laemmersamn of 2 Front Street, Watertown N. Y. It reads: “I am pleased with the pretty cards you sent.” It was signed, “Mr. Young.”

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This lithograph of Union Station on Front Street was mailed from Niagara Falls N. Y. on July 15, 1922. The station did not open until 1927, so the card was likely based on the architect’s sketches. The card was sent by Lottie to Miss Irma Chaplin of Jefferson, Ohio. It reads: “Toronto, Canada, July 14, 1922—Here today and there tomorrow. And it’s all wonderful. You ought to see it for yourself.” The card was signed, “Lottie” 

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This card was mailed from Hamilton, Ontario, on October 3, 1908. It was sent to Miss M. Eubank of Willoro Grove, Ontario. It reads: “Received letter but it was a long time in coming. Send me a card when you are coming down so I can go down to see you. Bring me some apples and beech nuts. I wish I was there to gather some. Miss H. will be down Friday, down to see her Sunday afternoon and Miss G. for tea. To church twice. Am going to write to Aunt Mary tonight.”

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This card depicts the Prince George Hotel on the northwest corner of King Street West and York Street. The card was mailed on February 4, 1913 to Mr. Floyd Gage, at 63 Penn Avenue, Binghamton N. Y. It reads: “Friend Floyd: I have been here a long time working with the Bowles Ltd., a large lunch concern and I am now receiving good pay. Am well and hope you are the same.” It is signed, “Your old friend, Samuel B. Wishart, 98 Mutual Street.” Perhaps the “Bowles Ltd.” that Samuel refers to was Bowles Lunch (restaurant) on the southeast corner of Bay and Queen Street West, across from today’s Old City Hall. 

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This card depicts the boardwalk along the south shore of Centre Island that leads to Ward’s Island. The card was never mailed, but written in pencil on the back is: “November 30, 1908—to William from Grandpa.” Little William likely was handed the card as there are child’s scribbles in pencil all over the back of the card.  

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This card was mailed from Portsmouth, England on November 13, 1915. It was sent to Miss Coles of 14 Craubury Avenue, Southhampton. It reads: “Saturday—M. D. A. We are leaving Portsmouth by the 8:55 train Sun. and look forward to seeing you all.” It is signed, “With love, Nellie.” It is assumed that Nellie or someone she knew had visited Toronto and purchased the card. The street in the upper right-hand corner is identified as “Pembroke Street. In the bottom right-hand corner is Wilton Street. The other streets are not named.

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This intriguing postcard was mailed on September 9, 1918 by Royal Air Force Cadet #171953 #4 Div. Toronto. It was sent to Mrs. Georgette R. Prince, Suite 25, Arlington Block, Edmonton, Alberta. The message on the card was written in French. I wish I were able to translate it as war-time messages are particularly important in preserving the memories of difficult times in Canada’s history.

The churches depicted on the card are: clockwise from the left-hand corner, St. James Cathedral on King Street east, Holy Blossom Synagogue on Bathurst Street, Metropolitan United on Queen Street East, St. Michael’s on Bond Street, Jarvis Street Baptist, Knox Presbyterian on Spadina, and the Bond Street Congregational Church at Bond and Dundas Street East (now demolished).  

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The card was mailed from Orillia, Ontario on November 10, 1955. It was sent to Miss Margaret Henry, 30 Annendale, Apt. 3, Kingston, Ontario. The picture is of Sick Children’s Hospital on University Avenue. The card reads: “ Dear Margaret, I have just returned home from Toronto. The David Scott’s address is 9809 19th Avenue North East, Seattle, Washington U. S. A. If Stanley would care to call on them? And do you still want Grey Squirrel for your coat?” The card is signed, “From E. Buchauau.” Note: A grey squirrel coat?

The cards that follow were never mailed so they have no messages or postage stamps on them to determine when they were purchased.

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Toronto’s Old City Hall, after the gargoyles had been removed from the tower as they were in danger of falling into the street below.

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          Children’s Playground on the west side of the Sunnyside Bathing Pavilion

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Yonge Street in 1915, gazing north toward the College and Carlton Street intersection. The building on the left-hand side, with the rounded flat-topped towers, is the Odd Fellows Hall, built between 1891 and 1892. The streetcar in the distance that is making a right-hand turn from College Street, to proceed south on Yonge, is negotiating a jog in the roadway. This jog was eliminated when Eaton’s College Street was built in 1929, and Yonge Street was straightened. The clock tower of the old St. Charles Tavern is visible in the distance, on the west side of Yonge. The streetcar is a wooden car operated by the Toronto Railway Company. The TTC took over the system in 1921. The buildings on the west side of Yonge street, south of College, were demolished to erect the Eaton’s College Street Store. 

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When the Royal York opened on June 11, 1929, it was the tallest building in the city. The hotel’s architects were Ross and Macdonald, with the firm of Sproat and Rolph. They chose the “Chateau Style, reflecting the latest Art Deco trends of the 1920s. The Royal York possesses a copper roof and touches of the Romanesque in the many arched windows in its podium. The 28-storey building originally had 1048 rooms.

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The Royal Ontario Museum when its main entrance was on Queen’s Park. The Park Plaza Hotel is in the background, to the north of the museum.

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Construction on the Eaton’s College Street store commenced in 1928 and it opened on October 30, 1930. The magnificent structure, the jewel in the crown of the retail empire of the T. Eaton Company, was designed in the Stripped Classical design that reflected Italian Art Deco styles of the period. The building’s architects were the firm of Ross and Macdonald, in association with Sproatt and Rolph. The store was intended to appeal to affluent customers. Unfortunately, by the time the Eaton’s College store opened, the Great Depression had descended across the nation.

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Church street, where electric streetcar first appeared in 1891.  The view is looking south.

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This view of the Humber Valley was taken after 1914, as in this year a stone bridge was built over the river to replace the former wooden structure destroyed by an ice storm. The Old Mill Tea Garden (the Old Mill Restaurant of today) opened in 1914, prior to the stone bridge being constructed. It is in the photo, but is barely visible as it was a small structure compared to the vast complex of today’s Old Mill Restaurant. 

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In this view, the Royal York Hotel and the Bank of Commerce dominate the skyline. On the far left-hand side is the Terminal Building, now the Queen’s Quay Terminal. The cannon in the foreground remains at Centre Island but is now located near the ferry terminal.

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This photo of the Ford Hotel may create memories for a few people. This hostelry was once among the finest in the city. Some may also remember the Murray Restaurants that were in several locations throughout the city. The Ford Hotel was located at Bay and Dundas Streets, across from the bus terminal. Unfortunately it eventually became rather shabby. It was finally closed and demolished.

A link to a previous post that explores the history of postcards in Canada: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2015/10/20/torontos-golden-age-of-postcards/

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

A link to view previous posts about the movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern.

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

A link to view posts that explore Toronto’s Heritage Buildings:

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

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 by the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

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   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 Shop, and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

Another book, published by Dundurn Press, containing 80 of Toronto’s old movie theatres will be released in the spring of 2016. It is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It contains over 130 archival photographs.

A second publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. This book will also be released in the spring of 2016. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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