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Toronto’s Cyclorama (demolished) on Front Street

f0124_fl0003_id0058[1]

In the foreground is the building that once housed Toronto’s Cyclorama, on Front Street West. The photo was taken c. 1975, the year prior to its demolition. The Walker House (Hotel) is to the east (left) of the Cyclorama and the Swiss Bear Restaurant (with the pointed roof) is between the two structures. Both of these have also been demolished. In the distance (far left) is today’s Union Station. Toronto Archives, F0124, fl. 0003, id. 0057. 

When I was a teenager in the 1950s, Front Street as depicted in the above photo was very familiar to me. I drove or walked past this section of the street many times, but knew very little about the history of the rather strange looking parking garage that was circular in shape. My father had told me that it had once contained some sort of enormous painting, which encircled its interior. However, he knew nothing more about the structure. It was built long before he arrived in the city in 1921, and he had never been inside it.

I did not pursue the matter any further, as being a teenager I was busy with other things. In my mind, it remained simply an odd-shaped parking garage that was quite ugly, and thus I did not take much notice when I heard that it was being demolished. However, when researching the cyclorama for this post, I discovered that it was once an important part of Toronto’s entertainment scene.

Cycloramas were popular in the final decades of the nineteenth century as they presented dramatic scenes in blazing colours. Photography was in its infancy and there were no coloured photographs other than those that were hand-tinted. The only way of depicting colourful scenery or important events was by creating paintings with oils or watercolours. As a result, in the 1880s, in Europe and North America, large buildings were constructed to display huge 360 degree canvases. They wrapped around the interior of the structures and viewers stood on stages in the centre of the paintings or on walkways. Erected for public entertainment, these buildings were named cycloramas because they were cylindrical in shape.

Toronto’s Cyclorama was typically round in appearance, similar to others world-wide. However, it actually possessed 16 flat sides, the resulting hexadecagon looking like an enormous circle. It was a combination of an art gallery and an amusement arcade. Around the interior of the brick building, which was the equivalent of three storeys in height, in which multiple canvases were connected to create a 400-foot continuous scene. The painting was 50 feet high, the dome above it coloured to resemble the sky. Created by an Austrian artist, August Lohr, the perspective was increased to simulate a 3D effect. Erected by the Toronto Art Exhibition Company Ltd., the building’s architects were Kennedy and Holland. It was located on the south side of Front Street West, between York and Simcoe Streets. The old Union Station (now demolished), was immediately to the south of it.

When Toronto’s cyclorama opened on September 13, 1887, it was a colourful and amazing sight for 19th-century visitors. The first presentation was a panoramic view of the Battle of Sedan, one of the bloodiest battles of the Franco Prussian War of the 1870s. In front of the the scene were real and manufactured artefacts (weapons, uniforms , a real horse that was stuffed, a cannon, etc.). To add realism, at peak viewing times costumed actors portrayed soldiers, sound effects were added, and sometimes smoke to simulate the after effects of cannon fire. Visitors paid 25 cents to enter the building, and viewed the art work from a walkway that allowed them to move around the entire circle. The concept was a great success.

In 1889, the Battle of Gettysburg was shown at the cyclorama. Then, the Battle of Waterloo was the subject, and next, Jerusalem on the Day of the Crucifixion. Historic and religious themes were the favourites of cycloramas in Europe as well as in North America. 

However, as the 20th century approached, technology continued to advance and magic lantern shows (slides) began to reproduce authentic scenes of nature, cities, and even important events. These were followed by silent movies that were often filmed on real locations. Attendance at cycloramas throughout the world slowly declined.

Toronto’s cyclorama was seized by the City of Toronto about the year 1898, for non-payment of $2095 in taxes. It remained empty for many years, and was in danger of being demolished. Finally, in 1927, it was purchased by the Petrie Machinery Company for a showroom and factory. A few years later, it was remodelled to create a parking garage for the nearby Royal York Hotel, which opened in June, 1929. The conversion of the cyclorama into a garage presented many engineering problems. In the 1940s, the cyclorama became a showroom for Elgin Motors, and finally, a parking garage for Avis Car Rentals. 

In 1976, the cyclorama was purchased, and along with the Walker House Hotel, was demolished to erect Citigroup Place. Today, when I drive southbound on York Street to reach the Gardiner Expressway, at Front Street I often think of the old Walker House and Toronto’s Cyclorama.

Map of 121 Front St W, Toronto, ON M5J

                         Site of Toronto’s Cyclorama.

skritchblogspot.com  Petriecyclorama-emporium1906[1]

Postcard from 1906, depicting the cyclorama when it was the Petrie Machinery Emporium. The view is from Front Street, the old Union Station erected in 1873, to the west of it. All these buildings have been demolished. Image from skritch.blogspot.com

Fonds 1244, Item 1099

The cyclorama in 1922, when it was the Petrie Machinery Company showroom and factory. Toronto Archives, F1244, Item 1099.

Dec. 6, 1926  f1548_s0393_it20964[1]

The dome of the cyclorama on December 6, 1923. Toronto Archives, F1548, S0393, Item 20964.

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This photo was taken on June 3, 1926. It gazes toward the northwest, the three towers of the Union Station, erected in 1873, on the left-hand side. The taller tower to the north of the three towers is the section of the station on Front Street. The south and east sides of the cyclorama are visible, as well as the Walker House beside it, on the east side. The bridge crossing over the railway tracks is on York Street. Toronto Archives, F1580, Item 0017.

f1231_it0100[1]

This panoramic view gazes at the south (rear) and east sides of the cyclorama, the Walker House to the east of it. York Street is between the Walker House and Union Station, which opened in 1927. Front Street is on the north side of the buildings. The Queen’s Hotel, where the Royal York Hotel is today, is across from Union Station. The clock tower of the Old City Hall is in the upper left-hand corner. Photo was taken c.1927, and is from the collection of the Toronto Archives, F1231, Item 0100 (1).

201216-cyclorama-splitfrom BlogTo  [1]

Split image depicting the cyclorama in the 1940s (left) and a sketch of the cyclorama in the late-19th century. Image from www.BlogTo.com  

pinterest.com  57d71de398cd8e5a3b93f277b5d4866e[1]

Undated photo of the interior of the cyclorama, when floors had been built inside it to convert it into a parking garage. Image from pinterest.com.

1953, pictures-r-3686[1]

View of the north (front) side of the cyclorama on Front Street in 1953, the Walker House to the east of it. Toronto Public Library r-3686.

Walker House - view from York St below University Ave – January 7, 1975

The south side of the cyclorama and the Walker House (foreground) on January 7, 1975. View gazes west on Station Street from York Street. Toronto Archives, F1526, Fl 0051, Item 0001 

DSCN0384

The site where the cyclorama and the Walker House were located, on Front Street to the west of York Street. Photo taken in March 2016.

A link to discover more about the old Walker House Hotel to the east of the cyclorama:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2016/04/12/walker-house-hotel-demolished-front-and-york-streets/ 

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/

The publication entitled, “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” was written by the author of this blog. It 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[1]

   To place an order for this book:

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

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Shop, and 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, published by Dundurn Press, containing 80 of Toronto’s former movie theatres will be released in June, 2016. It is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It contains over 125 archival photographs and relates interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating histories.

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

Another publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. This book will be released in June 2016. For further information follow the link to Amazon.com  here  or contact the publisher directly by the link shown below:

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Walker House Hotel (demolished) – Front and York Streets

York and Front--1954.  pictures-r-4959[1]

The Walker House (hotel) on the southwest corner of Front and York Streets in 1954, Toronto Public Library r- 4958

Although I was never inside the old Walker House on Front Street, I remember it quite well. in the 1950s, when I first received a driving license, I passed by it many times while driving south on University Avenue, en route to the newly constructed Gardiner Expressway. In that decade, the Walker House was highly popular as it contained several well-known restaurants – Rathskeller, the Franz Josef Room, and on the west side of the hotel, the Swiss Bear. The latter was in a building that resembled a Swiss chalet. On weekdays, these restaurants were frequented by businessmen, as the hotel was not far from the financial district.

I had only one personal contact with the hotel, and it was merely with an artefact from it. After the hotel was demolished, its wooden bar was sold, removed, and installed in Crispins Restaurant at Church and Gerrard Street East, in a bar at the rear of the eatery. I remember being shown the bar. It was about 30 feet long, built of dark-stained wood. It possessed a rich mahogany-like sheen, but it was likely crafted from native wood such as oak or cherry. It would have been impressive in its original location.

The Walker House was completed in 1873, the same year that the Grand Trunk Railway opened its station on the Esplanade, between York and Simcoe Streets. The Esplanade was constructed on landfill, created by dumping soil and rubble into the harbour south of Front Street. The Walker House was a short distance to the northeast of the station, constructed to accommodate travellers that arrived in the city by train. In 1873, the hotel advertised that guests would be met at the station and their luggage transported directly to the hotel’s lobby. In 1879, the hostelry hosted guests that arrived to attend Toronto’s first permanent Industrial Exhibition, a precursor of today’s Canadian National Exhibition (CNE). 

The Walker House was also constructed on landfill, the slope of York Street on its east side, indicating the lake’s original shoreline. However, even when the hotel was erected, the lake had already been pushed further south. On the hotel’s west side there was an alley, and next to it was the Cyclorama. The hotel was well known for having comfortable rooms during the summer months, as it received the cool breezes from the harbour.

The four-story Walker House was rectangular in shape, its northeast corner angled so that its entrance faced both Front and York Streets. In 1892, the doorway was relocated to the north side, at 121 Front Street East. The rooms contained numerous large rectangular windows that provided excellent interior lighting and a view of the harbour. The top of the windows were Roman arches, typical of many 19th-century buildings. The windows and their surrounds provided texture on the otherwise unornamented brick facades, the cornice at the roofline also unadorned. The simple rectangular shape of the building allowed corridors on the floors to be straight, with exit stairways at each end. This lessened the possibility of guests being trapped, if a fire occurred.   

When the hotel opened in 1873, the proprietor was David Walker, who had worked for many years at the Americana Hotel at Yonge and Front Streets. Originally, the Walker House contained 125 rooms, which rented for $2 a day. The hotel was enlarged several times, and eventually a fifth storey added. The establishment was immensely popular, since not only was it near the train station, it was close to the luxury shops on King Street, and the provincial legislative buildings at Front and Simcoe Streets.

The hotel was renown in the latter part of the 19th century for its fine dining room, which seated 170 people. Its New Year’s Eve banquets and Christmas-day dinners were always booked well in advance. The Walker House competed for patrons with the prestigious Queen’s Hotel, further east on the north side of Front Street, where the Royal York is today located, and the Rossin House at King and York. The Walker House was one of the first hostelries to install an elevator and electric call buttons to allow guests to connect with the front office. 

However, during the 1970s, the land near the financial district was among the most coveted real estate in Toronto. Sites were continually being sought by developers to erect low-rise and mid-rise structures. The Walker House became was a casualty of this building boom. It was sold and demolished in 1976, another Toronto landmark from my youth disappearing.

A 19-storey office tower was erected on the site – Citigroup Place – completed in 1983. 

A link to discover more about the cyclorama, to the west of the Walker House:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2016/04/18/torontos-cyclorama-demolished-on-front-street/

Map of 121 Front St W, Toronto, ON M5J

Location of the Walker House at Front and York Streets. The site is today a considerable distance from the lake.

               Jan 2, 1888, TRL.  cihm_32339_0004[1]

Menu of the Walker House on January 2, 1888. In the sketch, the hotel has only four storeys. From the collection of the Toronto Public Library.

TRL, sketch 1890, south down York Street  pictures-r-2417[1]

Watercolour of 1890, which depicts the Walker House on the right-hand side. The building on the left is the proposed CPR Railway Station, which was never built. The Union Station of today was eventually erected on the site. In the watercolour, the shoreline of the lake is not far from the hotel. The trains on the tracks south of the Esplanade are visible in the far background. Collection of the Toronto Public Library, r-2417. 

                1910, 20101116-GoadUnion[1]

Map of 1910 showing the Walker House on the southwest corner of Front and York Streets. The Union Station in the lower left-hand side of the map is not the train station of today, but the one that opened in 1873. The year the map was published, a grand entrance had been added to it on its north side, on Front Street. The round structure on the west side of the Walker House is the Cyclorama.  There is no University Avenue on the map, as it was not extended south of Queen Street until the 1930s. Map from the Goad’s Atlas of 1910, Toronto Reference Library.

Postcard 1910, TPR. pcr-2214[1]

Postcard depicting the Walker House in 1910, after the fifth storey was added. Toronto Public Library, r-2214. 

1924- pictures-r-4357[1]

View gazing west on Front Street from Bay Street in 1924. The new Union Station of today was not yet open to the public. It officially opened in 1927. The Queen’s Hotel is the white building in the upper right-hand corner of the photo. The Walker House is to the west of Union Station, at York at Front Streets. Toronto Public Library, r- 4357.

201111-west-bay-royal-york-1928-f1244_it10085[1]

Gazing west on Front Street from near Yonge Street in 1928. Union Station is now open, but only partially functioning. The Royal York has replaced the Queen’s Hotel, but is not yet open for guests. The Walker House is visible in the distance on the west side of the new Union Station. The tower behind the Walker House is part of the old train station of 1873, the section with the tower on Front Street erected in 1910. Toronto Archives, F1244, Item 10085.

1945,  f1257_s1057_it0542[1]

The Walker House in 1945. The view gazes directly at the northeast corner of the rectangular-shaped building. York Street is on the east side of the hotel. The building to the south of the hotel, on its south side, is on Station Street. It remains today and is included in the Skywalk that connects the new Union Station (1927) with the CN Tower. Toronto Archives, F1247, S 1057, Item 054.

f0124_fl0003_id0056[1]

Undated photo of the Walker House. Next to the hotel (west side) is the round facade of the Cyclorama, which was also demolished in 1976. Between the hotel and the Cyclorama is the pointed roof of the Swiss Bear Restaurant. View gazes west on Front Street from York Street. The slope on York Street is where the original shoreline was located, prior to landfill being dumped into the harbour. Toronto Archives, F0124, Fl 0003, Id. 0056.

                    DSCN0383

The 19-storey Citigroup Place at Front and York Streets in 2016, where the Walker House once stood.

DSCN0384

The Citigroup Place tower, and visible to the south of it, the building from the old Union Station, now part of the Skywalk. 

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/

The publication entitled, “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” was written by the author of this blog. It 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:

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)

                                 image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb    

Another book, published by Dundurn Press, containing 80 of Toronto’s former movie theatres will be released in June, 2016. It is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It contains over 125 archival photographs and relates interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating history.

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

Another publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. This book will be released on June 1, 2016. For further information follow the link to Amazon.com  here  or to contact the publisher directly:

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

 

 

Tags: , ,

Toronto’s historic old Customs Houses

                    1870-1876  pictures-r-2272[1]

Toronto’s Customs House (1870-1876) at Front Street East and Scott Street. Three Customs Houses preceded this one in the town of York (Toronto). Watercolour from the collection of the Toronto Public Library r-2272.

York’s well-protected harbour, a safe distance from the guns of the American border, was the main reason it was chosen as the provincial capital in the 1790s. Thus, the harbour was militarily important, but it was also the economic lifeline of the town. This was true for the government as well, since the taxes collected on the goods shipped into York were its main source of revenue. A Customs House was one of the first structures built in the town, as it was where goods were stored, inspected, and the duties assessed. The importance of the port continued until roads were built that facilitated convenient travel by land.

In anticipation of York’s need for a larger Customs House in the future, in 1818, George Phillpott of the Royal Engineers drew a map of the town that reserved land for this purpose on the southwest corner of Yonge and Front Streets. He considered the site ideal, as it was close to the shipping wharfs along the shoreline. However, since the town of York still centred around the eastern end of the harbour, Phillpott’s site remained too far to the west to be practical.

During the next two decades, the town of York increased in size and extended further west. In 1834, York was incorporated as a city and renamed Toronto. In 1840, because the land on Front Street west of Yonge was steadily being developed, the city subdivided it into lots. The property that George Phillpott had set aside became lot #38 and was officially designated as the site for the new Custom’s House. However, it was not until 1845 that it was built. Its architect was Kivas Tully, who eventually became the architect for the provincial government.

In the 1850s, the era of railway building commenced in Toronto and the railway companies began dumping landfill into the lake, south of the Esplanade. The Customs House lost its position beside the water, as the newly created land to the south of it was swallowed up by railway tracks. In 1873, due to the city’s growth, the Customs House of 1845 was demolished and a new one constructed, on the same site.

The four-storey structure was designed by R. C. Windeyer in the Second Empire style, with a Mansard roof. This style was in its heyday during the 1870s, especially for public buildings, theatres, and banks.  R. C. Windeyer also designed St. Stephen-In-The-Fields Anglican Church at College and Bellevue, which still stands today. The Customs House possessed a classical facade with pillars, pilasters, and ornate cement and stone work. Above the impressive entrance there was a balcony, with an excellent view gazing north up Yonge Street. To the south of the Customs House, the Customs Examining Warehouse was built to store imported goods while they were being inspected and the duties on them assessed. 

The Customs House on Front Street was one of the most impressive public buildings ever erected in Toronto. It is a pity that is was demolished in 1919. Some of the architectural detailing from its facade was attached to the second storey of the Colonial Theatre at Yonge and Bay Streets. However, it too is now long gone, and the Simpson’s Tower is on the site.

Sources: www1.toronto.ca—forum.skyscraperpage.com

                   Canada, May 5, 1875  a046269-v8[1]

North facade on Front Street of the Customs House on May 5, 1875, when it was under construction. Canada Archives, a 046269-v8

                    1875- Canada a046566-v8[1]

The north and west facades of the Customs House in 1875, while it remained under construction. Canada Archives, a 046566-v 8. 

1876-1919  pictures-r-3949[1]

The Customs House in 1876, in the background, to the south of it, is the Custom’s Examining Warehouse, Toronto Public Library, r-3949.

1884, TRL.  pictures-r-4369[1]

The Customs House in 1884, view showing the north facade on Front Street (on the right) and the east facade on Yonge Street (on the left). A portion of the Customs Examining Warehouse is visible in the background. Toronto Public Library, r- 4369.

1890  pictures-r-4363[1]

View looks south on Yonge Street toward the harbour, from Front Street in 1890. To the west (right-hand side) of the Customs House is one of the buildings that was destroyed by fire in 1904. Toronto Public Library. r-4363.

Fonds 1244, Item 1173D

The Customs House in 1908, after the great fire of 1904 destroyed the buildings to the west of it. Toronto Archives, F1244, Item 1173.

Canada, 1916  a046570-v8[1]

Looking south on Yonge Street from Front Street in 1916, the ships at the Yonge Street Pier vaguely visible at the foot of Yonge. Canada Archives, 046570-v8.

Ont. Archives, 1918  I0021844[1]

Looking west along Front Street from Yonge Street in 1918. Ontario Archives, 10021844.

Fonds 1244, Item 1173G

Decorative stonework on the Customs Building, Toronto Archives, F1244, Item 1173.

                            Colonial_Theatre,_south_side_of_Queen_Street,_east_from_Bay_Street,_constructed_from_fragments_of_old_Customs_House[1]

When another storey was added in 1919 to the Colonial Theatre (later renamed the Bay), decorative stonework and columns from the old Custom’s House were attached to its facade. The theatre was located on the south side of Queen Street, a short distance east of Bay Street. The Simpson’s Tower is located on the site today. Photo was taken in 1922, City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 85. 

The New Customs House

In 1904, the fire that swept along Front Street destroyed many buildings, but the Customs House (built in 1873) escaped destruction. However, the properties to the west of it were damaged beyond repair, creating available space if the city wished to build a larger Customs House. However, it was not until 1911 that the Toronto Civic Improvement Committee proposed such a plan. By this time, the increasing volume of goods arriving through the port of Toronto justified a larger facility to collect the duties owed to the federal government. It would be the third Customs House on the site at Front and Yonge.

In 1913 it was finally announced that the new Customs House would be erected, its total cost being $2 million. However, it was not until 1919 that the old Customs House of 1873 was finally demolished. Again, there was a long delay, and it was not until 1929 that tenders were requested for the construction of the new building. In style, it was intended to complement the magnificent design of Union Station.

The Great Depression caused the plans to be modified; it was decided that only the west and central portions would be erected. Construction began in late-1929 and it was completed in 1931. Despite the harsh economic times of the 1930s, work on the eastern section begun in 1934 and it was completed in 1935. Designed in the Beaux-Arts style, it was the first architectural plan created by T. W. Fuller, although the building was completed by J. H. Craig. It created a classical streetscape on the south side of Front Street, extending from Yonge to Bay Streets. Named the Dominion Building, it was built of reinforced concrete, with stone cladding and impressive Ionic columns on the north facade of the centre section. There were three arches over the main entrance, which were decorated with lions’ heads. It was Toronto’s greatest Custom House and one of the most important Beaux-Arts buildings ever erected in the city.

In 1973, the Dominion Building was listed as a Heritage property under the Ontario Heritage Act, and in 1993, a “Classified Federal Heritage Building.” In 2006, it was declared part of the Union Station Heritage Preservation District. However, in 2015, Dominion Building was declared “surplus to the federal inventory.”

 

Canada- 1935  a068224-v8[1]

The Dominion Building in 1935, shortly after it was completed. View gazes west along Front Street from Yonge. Canada Archives, a068224-v8.

1955-  pictures-r-3688[1]

View of the Dominion Building in 1955, gazing east on Front Street from Bay Street. Toronto Public Library, r-3688.

DSCN8021 

Same view as previous picture, but in 2015, after many condo towers had been erected to the east of the Dominion Building.

DSCN8204

View gazing west on Front Street from Yonge Street in 2015, the Dominion Building on the left-hand side of the photo.

DSCN8207

View in 2015 of the north facade of the Dominion Building, with its Ionic columns in the centre section.

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

A link about the purpose of this blog and detailing its content on Toronto and its history

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

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

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

To place an order for this book: tps://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)

                                     image    

Another book, published by Dundurn Press, containing 80 of Toronto’s former movie theatres will be released in June, 2016. It is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It contains over 125 archival photographs and relates interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating history.

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

Another publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. This book will be released on June 1, 2016. For further information follow the link to Amazon.com  here  or to contact the publisher directly:

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

 

 

 

 

Tags: , , , ,

Toronto’s lost mansion—Holland House

Holland House is one of Toronto’s lost mansions of the past. Built in 1831, it survived into the 20th century, but was demolished about the year 1905. The photograph below (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1568, Item 3257) was taken from the roof of the Queen’s Hotel on Front Street, after the disastrous fire of 1904. Holland House is the castle-like structure in the centre of the photo, surrounded by the surviving walls of the buildings gutted by the fire. It was this photo that captured my interest in the lost mansion of Holland House. Because the entire site is today occupied by the Royal York Hotel, for the first time I was able to envision exactly where the mansion once stood. The far (north) side of the mansion was on today’s Wellington Street West.

View from hotel, 1904-- f1568_it0357[1]

Holland House hearkens back to the early days of Toronto’s history, when the town centred on the area around King Street East and Jarvis Street. The mansion was built by Henry John Boulton, born in 1790 in Little Holland House in Kensington, London. His family had close connections with the immensely wealthy Fox family, which resided in the larger and more palatial estate home of Holland House, constructed in the 1600s by the first Earl of Holland. By contrast, “Little” Holland House was a more modest structure, situated on the same estate. Henry John Boulton’s boyhood home was the inspiration for the name of the home that he was to build in later years in the town of York (Toronto).

About the year 1800, the family of Henry John Boulton immigrated to North America, settling in Renssekaer County, in the Hudson River Valley in New York State. Henry John was about 12 or 13 years of age at the time. In 1802, seeking better prospects for advancement, the family relocated o Upper Canada (Ontario), settling in Augusta Township in the eastern part of Upper Canada, near Ogdensburg. It is thought that he attended the school of John Strachan in Cornwall. His father petitioned the government for a land grant and received 200 acres, as well as an additional 200 acres for each of his three children. However, in 1804 Henry John Boulton’s father, a lawyer, was called to the bar and shortly after became part of the government of Sir Peregrine Maitland. The family now moved to the town of York.

Henry John Boulton was the second-oldest son in a family that eventually included eight children. At 17 years of age, he commenced studying law at York (Toronto). His education continued until 1811, when he journeyed to England for further studies. He returned to Upper Canada in 1816 and commenced practising law. He was readily accepted into prominent social circles and became a member of the influential group that became known as the Family Compact. In 1818 he was appointed the solicitor general and in 1829 became attorney general for the province.

Being financially secure, he purchased a large lot on the west side of Bay Street to construct a family home. The lot extended from Wellington Street to Front Street, an area that in the those years was considered suburban, as York was clustered around the east end of the harbour. Holland House was erected in 1831, in a style similar to the Grange, which his older brother had built in 1818. Both houses were Georgian in design, with plain symmetrical facades. Holland House faced Front Street, but was set back a distance from the roadway, possessing a circular carriageway with well-maintained gardens on either side. In that decade, the shoreline of the lake was on the south side of Front Street. During the years ahead, landfill pushed the water’s edge further south.

In 1832, Boulton contracted John G. Howard, who built Colborne Lodge in High Park, to implement extensive renovations to the mansion’s south facade, which faced the lake. Henry John Boulton was an admirer of the Regency style, becoming familiar with it during his student days in London. After his return to Canada, he kept in touch with the latest fashion trends in Britain, even his attire reflecting the style. Colborne Lodge in High Park and Dundurn Castle in Hamilton are two examples of the Regency style of architecture.

The term Regency refers to the styles that were popular during the early half of the 19th century. It began during the years 1811 to 1820, when Britain was under the “regency” of George, Prince of Wales, who later became King George IV. Regency architecture, extravagant and whimsical, was much favoured by the king-in-waiting. Regency’s height of popularity was between the years 1820-1860.

Regency architecture originated with Britain’s ex-colonial officials and military officers. When these men returned to England from warmer climates, they attempted to replicate the homes they had possessed during their privileged lifestyles abroad. Thus, motifs from the Far East and Middle East were favoured, the Royal Pavilion in Brighton an excellent example as it resembled an Indian palace. Symmetry was important, and those who built in this style sought locations with a commanding view of their surroundings. The location chosen for Holland House was typical, as it possessed an unobstructed and expansive view of Toronto Harbour.

1904  TRL. pictures-r-2100[1] 

Holland House in 1904, photo from the collection of the Toronto Public Library r-2100

John G. Howard renovated Holland House to resemble a small castle, adding a tower to the south facade that overlooked the garden. It appeared as if the tower were cylindrical, but its north side was embedded in the roof. The tower was topped with battlements, the second-floor level containing Gothic windows, and a rounded balcony with more battlements. The house was of brick, covered with stucco on which lines were etched to imitate stone blocks. Four pepper-pot chimneys, as Boulton referred to them, accommodated the large fireplaces within. The north side of Holland House was also altered. Because a new entrance was built on the east side, its facade was no longer symmetrical. During the renovations, a pedestrian gate and a carriage entrance were constructed on the west side of the mansion.  

Boulton lived in the house for only two years, as he was removed from office by the colonial secretary for criticizing the British government. To clear his name and petition against the arbitrary decision, he journeyed to England. He was successful in his quest but it was little comfort, as his successor had already departed for Canada. Instead, Boulton was appointed chief justice for Newfoundland. He arrived in Newfoundland in 1833, but in 1838, he returned to Holland House in Upper Canada. Shortly afterward, he was elected to the legislature representing Norfolk, but remained in residence in his house.

It was around the year 1838 that Boulton sold a portion of his holdings on Front Street to Captain Thomas Dick, who erected four townhouses on the property. In the years ahead, Boulton sold more of his land to allow the townhouses to be converted into the Sword’s Hotel, which later became the Queen’s. Further land sales allowed the hotel to expand, and part of the garden of Holland House became the garden of the Queen’s.

1880  pictures-r-6689[1]

People relaxing in the garden of the Queen’s Hotel in 1880. Holland House is visible in the background. In this photo, it almost resembles Windsor Castle in Britain. Toronto Public Library, r-6689.

1912-  pictures-r-2130[1]

A watercolour of the north facade of Holland House c. 1890. Toronto Public Library, r-2122

1890,  pictures-r-2122[1]

The north facade of Holland House in 1890, Toronto Public Library r-2122

As Holland House became increasingly isolated from Front Street, its north side on Wellington Street became its main entrance. Land surrounding the house was sold and warehouses erected on the properties. The land sales and investments allowed Boulton to live comfortably in his retirement. He died in 1870 and the house was sold to Alexander Manning, a Toronto alderman. In 1872, the Earl and Countess of Dufferin resided in the home for a few weeks and entertained lavishly. The house was later occupied by the Ontario Reform Club.

Holland House was not damaged during the Great Fire of 1904, but during the reconstruction of the area it was demolished. Warehouses were built on the site. 

1885.  pictures-r-6761[1]

The north facade of Holland House on Wellington Street in 1885. The large pepper-pot chimneys are visible on its east side. The chimneys resemble defensive structure built on Spanish fortifications in the 16th and 17th centuries. Toronto Public Library, r-6761 

1912- pictures-r-2123[1]

Sketch of the north facade of Holland House, dated 1912, depicting the entrance of the left (east side) and a carriageway on the right (west side). Toronto Public Library, r-2123.

1912- pictures-r-2129[1]

                Watercolour dated 1912, Toronto Public Library, r-2129

Map of 61 Wellington St W, Toronto, ON M5J

The address where Holland House was located is today 61 Wellington Street West.

I am grateful to the following sources for information for this post:

“Toronto of Old,” Henry Scadding, Toronto Oxford University Press, Toronto, published 1873

“The Ancestral Roof, Domestic Architecture of Upper Canada,” Marion MacRae and Anthony Adamson, Clark Irwin and Company, Toronto, 1963

“Toronto, Romance of a Great City,”Katherine Hale, Cassell and Company Toronto, 1956

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

Lost Toronto,” William Dendy, Oxford University Press, Toronto, 1978

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/

The publication entitled, “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” was written by the author of this blog. It 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[1]

   To place an order for this book:

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

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book 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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“Queen’s Hotel” featured on Murdoch Mystery series

The Murdock Mystery series features the Queen’s Hotel in many of its episodes. The TV show is one of my favourites, and due to my interest in Toronto’s history, I am fascinated by its fleeting images of the city during the early years of the 20th century. The scenes appear to be computer generated from archival photos and postcards. The black and white photos have been coloured and the images animated by adding carriages, wagons and people. I recognize some of the photos, as I have seen copies of them when researching the history of Toronto. The era in which the mystery series is set was a time of rapid technological expansion. Detective Murdoch is constantly pushing the boundaries of scientific knowledge as he attempts to solve the murders that confront him. Perhaps, this partly explains the appeal of the program.

The Queen’s Hotel, which is often mentioned in the various plots, is not an invention of the script writers. For over seventy years, it was Toronto’s finest hostelry. Situated on the north side of Front Street, it was directly across from today’s Union Station. The Royal York Hotel is now located on the site. The first buildings on the property were four brick townhouses, erected about 1838, only a few years after Toronto was incorporated. Captain Thomas Dick, who owned of a lake-steamer passenger and freight business, constructed the townhouses, which he named the Ontario Terraces. They were designed by John G. Howard, who bequeathed the land that is today High Park.

In those years, although the city was a colonial outpost of the British Empire, it was progressing at a prodigious rate, aided by it being the provincial seat of government. The construction of the townhouses were an indication that the town was significantly expanding to the west of Yonge Street.

In 1844, the townhouses were rented to Knox College, a Presbyterian college; it was their founding location in the city. The houses were renovated to create classrooms and administrative offices. The institution occupied the premises until 1856. After Knox College vacated the buildings, Captain Thomas Dick enter into a partnership with Patrick Sword. They renovated the houses to create a single building and opened it under the name Sword’s Hotel.

TRL  Sword's 1855, pictures-r-5135[1]

The four townhouses c. 1856 after they were were renovated into a hotel. Sketch from the collection of the Toronto Public Library r-5135.

Sword managed the business for several years. However, in 1862, Captain Thomas Dick assumed control and renamed it the Queen’s Hotel. Between 1863 and 1869, the buildings were modernized and a three-storey extension added to the north side. The establishment soon became the city’s most elite hostelry and dining establishment, renowned for its furnishings and gourmet cuisine. Its excellent reputation explains why the Murdoch Mystery series often mentions it.

Swords' Hotel, 1855.  pictures-r-5134[1]

Sword’s Hotel after 1863, when the addition on the north side of the premises had been built. Sketch from the collection of the Toronto Public Library r-5134.

The script writers include the Queen’s in episodes of the Murdoch Murder Mystery that feature real historical personages, such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Mark Twain, and H. G. Wells. When these fictional personages visit Toronto, they usually reside at “The Queen’s.” In one mystery story, a fictional son of Queen Victoria stayed at the Queen’s, and after a wild late-night tryst in his hotel room, his underwear blew out the window. It was found the next day, several blocks to the north. It was an embarrassment for the prince, but an amusing incident for viewers of the program.

At one time, the Queen’s was the only hotel in Toronto with steam heating. Because the establishment was not far from the third Provincial Legislative Buildings, located at Front and Simcoe Streets, many legislators viewed the hotel as a home away from home. Sir John A. Macdonald held meeting at the Queen’s that were instrumental in leading to confederation in 1867. The future King George V stayed at the Queen’s, as well as several American presidents. Other well-known guests included Grand Duke Alexei of Russia, General Sherman of the Union Army during the American Civil War, Governor General Earl of Dufferin, and the Confederate President—Jefferson Davis.

About the year 1867, an addition was built on the east side of the hotel. Shortly after, a cupola was added to the roof, above the original townhouses. Captain Dick retired in 1869, and the hotel was then managed by Mark Irish. When Captain Thomas Dick died in 1874, the hotel was sold. Because it was enlarged and its facilities constantly improved, the establishment retained its popularity, even after the larger and more luxurious King Edward Hotel opened in 1903. However, the land where the hotel was situated, directly across from the nation’s largest rail station, continued to increase in value. It was purchased by the Canadian Pacific Railway Company (CPR). The Queen’s closed in 1927, was demolished, and the Royal York Hotel built on the site.

I read in one source that wood panelling from the bar of the Queen’s was retained and incorporated with the Royal York. I have not been able to substantiate this information. I enquired at the Royal York but was not successful.

1867-  F4456-0-0-0-38

The Queen’s Hotel in 1867, after the wing was added, on the east side of the original townhouses. In this photo, the cupola has not yet been built on the roof. The rooms on the second floor of the east wing (right-hand side of the photo) possessed a scenic view of the lake from the narrow balcony. Landfill has now pushed the waters of the lake quite a distance further south. Ontario Archives, F 4436-0-0-0-38.

1888, F4436-0-0-0-70

The Queen’s Hotel in 1888, after the impressive cupola was added. Horse-drawn streetcar first appeared in Toronto in 1861, and the first electric cars commenced service in 1891. Ontario Archives, F 4436-0-0-0-70

Fonds 1244, Item 7092

View looking east on Front Street in 1907, the Queen’s on the left-hand (north) side of the street. The hording on the south side of the street (right-hand side) hides the ruins of the buildings destroyed in the great fire of 1904. Union Station is on this site today. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 70921.

Fonds 1244, Item 617

The bake house of the Queen’s, 1907-1908, Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244. Item 0617.

Fonds 1244, Item 333

The Queen’s in 1908, the facades of the original four townhouses visible in the centre section. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 0333. 

Oct. 15, 1915--f1231_it1108a[1]

The Queen’s on October 15, 1915. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231. Item 1108a.

Fonds 1244, Item 1006

View gazing east on Front Street toward Bay Street in 1927. Union Station, which was officially opened by the Prince of Wales in that year, is on the right-hand side of the photo. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 1006.

Fonds 1244, Item 3171

The entrance to the Queen’s on Front Street in 1927, the year the hotel was demolished. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 3171.

                     TRL, an upstairs aprlour, 1927, pictures-r-6678[1]

            An upstairs parlour at the Queen’s. Toronto Public Library r-6678

                   TRL  dining room, 1927,  pictures-r-6683[1]

View of a table in the dining room of the Queen’s. Toronto Public Library r-6683. 

                        TRL.  elevator  1927.  pictures-r-6681[1]

The lift (elevator) at the Queen’s in 1927. Toronto Public Library,r-6681

Map of 100 Front St W, Toronto, ON M5J 1E3

       Site of the Queen’s Hotel, now occupied by the Fairmont Royal York.

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/

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

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

   To place an order for this book:

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. 

 

 

 

 

Tags: , , ,