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Tag Archives: Osgoode Hall Toronto

Toronto’s old Registry Office Building

photo 1955, blg. 1917-64  pictures-r-5673[1]

The south facade of the Old Registry Building in 1955, photo from the Toronto Public Library, r- 5673

The beginning of the 20th century delivered a spirit of optimism to Toronto, along with a desire for new civic development. Among the districts being considered for transformation was the district to the northwest of the City Hall (today’s Old City Hall). New buildings had already been erected in the area—an extension to the north side of Osgoode Hall, the Armouries on east side of University Avenue, T. Eaton Company’s expansion, and the Toronto General Hospital’s new buildings on its north side. Adding to the impetus for new development was the deterioration of the houses in the area, many of which required demolition. However, there was no overall plan to accomplish the city’s aims.

In 1911, a design was finally proposed by John M. Lyle, who had already designed the Royal Alexandra Theatre and later would be the architect for Union Station. The plan Lyle put forward in 1911 suggested that a grand avenue be built, named Federal Avenue, which would extend northward from the new Union Station (under construction) to Queen Street. The avenue’s northern terminus would be a short distance to the east of Osgoode Hall. It would create a grand vista for both Osgoode Hall and Union Station. Federal Avenue would be located between Bay Street and University Avenue, a short distance to the east of today’s York Street.

Federal Avenue would lead to a new civic square that would occupy two city blocks, bounded by University Avenue and Queen, Bay, and Agnes Streets. The latter street is today Dundas Street. The square would contain impressive civic buildings and a large public garden. It was envisioned that the civic offices would accommodate the needs of the rapidly expanding city.

                          fedave[1]

Map of John Lyle’s plan of 1911 for downtown Toronto between Front and Agnes Street (Dundas Street), showing the proposed Federal Avenue that would begin at Union Station and extend northward to Queen Street. Osgoode Hall, the proposed public gardens, and University Avenue are shown on the map. On the right-hand side of the map is Bay Street, and University Avenue is on the left-hand side. In this decade, University Avenue ended at Queen Street. It was not extended southward to Front until the 1930s.

The first civic structure planned for the square was the Registry Office, resulting in City Council authorizing an architectural competition. The guidelines stated that any designs submitted were to be restricted to the Beaux-Arts and Classical styles. The practical needs of the Registry Office were also listed. The structure must contain two wings, one for the east end of the city and another for the west. The two wings were to be connected by a grand entrance hall and a stairwell. Each wing must have its own research areas, library, and public space. Despite these pre-determined features, all the designs submitted between the year 1909-1910 were large rectangular structures with exceedingly large porticos (porches) across the south facade. 

After considerable consideration, the designs of Charles S. Cobb were voted as being the most acceptable. Cobb’s architectural plans reflected the Roman Classical style. The eight massive stone columns supporting the portico were Ionic (scrolled capitals), the roof above them plain with unornamented, parallel lines. The walls were of smooth masonry, creating the appearance of an impressive Roman temple. In the interior, the wide entrance hall separating the east and west sections was lit by a skylight on the roof. The walls inside the rooms were faced with Champville marble from France, the floors of Tennessee marble, baseboards of Botticino marble  from Italy, and the windowsills and countertops of marble shipped from near Regina.

Construction on the Registry Office commenced in 1914 and despite the interruptions caused by World War 1, was completed in 1917. However, funds to build the other structures and the garden planned for Lyle’s square never materialized. The Registry Office appeared rather lonesome, with no other buildings to provide it with context. When the Great Depression began in 1929, any hope of redeveloping the land surrounding the Registry Office disappeared.

In 1946, after the World War 11 ended, the city entered into another period of prosperity, which spurred redevelopment. Once more, City Council began considering plans to create a grand square near the Registry Office. The square was to include a new city hall to replace the building that had opened in 1899 (now the Old City Hall). A competition for designs for the new civic building was inaugurated in 1958. Unfortunately, none of the proffered plans included the Registry Office. The design by Viljo Revell was eventually selected for the New City Hall, its modern lines and shapes completely out of sync with the Registry Office’s classical style.

After construction commenced on Toronto’s New City Hall, many other buildings near the Registry Office were demolished, allowing it to be visible from Queen Street for the first time in several decades. However, in 1964, the Registry Office was also demolished to allow the New City Hall to be completed. It opened in 1965 with much fanfare and celebration, a unique structure that attracted world attention. Today, the site of the Registry Office of 1914 is to the west and south the New City Hall, a short distance north of Queen Street.

It could be argued that it was impossible to prevent the demolition of the Registry Office, since it was too costly to maintain and very difficult to recycle for other purposes. I do not accept this view. If the city council had instructed Viljo Revell to include the building in the plans for the new City Hall, Nathan Phillips Square would today still have a new modern City Hall, but also a contrasting structure from the past, on its west side, to balance the square. It would have been possible reposition the New City Hall to face west. Because the old City Hall was to the east of the square, it too should also have been included in the overall plan. It is a pity that this was never considered. The 1960s was an era dedicated to “progress,” which to most civic officials meant demolishing the accomplishments of former generations.

Other city’s have blended the old and the new to achieve astounding results. The Registry Office could have been renovated to house a Toronto Museum (we still do not have one), Toronto Archives, Public Library, or a multi-purpose cultural centre that included a theatre. However, instead, Toronto’s past was deemed irrelevant and relegated to the trash heap. Unfortunately, the type of narrow-minded thinking has doomed many historically important heritage buildings. This type of thinking still remains today among some city councillors.

Sources: William Dendy’s “Lost Toronto”— www.examiner.com

Fonds 1244, Item 1222

View of crowds in front of the Registry Office in 1913. The people are all facing east, as if they are observing something. Photo from the Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 122

Fonds 200, Series 372, Subseries 41 - Miscellaneous photographs

A storeroom in the Registry Office on July 31, 1925. Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 372, SS 41.

From City_Hall_clock_tower[, Fonds 1548, S393, It.19979, Aug. 27, 1925.    1]

View from the Old City Hall clock tower on August 27, 1925. Behind the Registry Office (in the foreground) is the old Armouries on University Avenue (now demolished).

                           pre-1940-- f1548_s0393_it0023[1]

South facade of the Registry Office, facing Albert Street. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1548, S 0393, Item 0023.

TRL, 1958  cityhall-a-r1-13[1]

View of the Registry Office in 1958. The east side of Osgoode Hall is to the left of it, and between the two structures the old Armouries on University Avenue are visible. The empty space in the foreground is where the land has been cleared to build Nathan Phillips Square. Photo from the Toronto Public Library, r-1-13.

Tor. Archives, Fonds 124, f.124, F001, id.0047 resistry[1]

Undated photo of the Registry Office. It appears as if the building is empty, awaiting demolition. Toronto Archives, Fonds 124, Item 0047. 

The Metropolitan Library in New York City. Would anyone consider demolishing a building such as this? The Registry Office compares favourably in size and design with the New York structure.

June 22, 1964.  f1268_it0462[1]

The New City Hall under construction on June 22, 1964, the old Registry Office to the left (west) of it. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1268, Item 0462.

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

   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)

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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.

 

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The cast iron fence around Toronto’s Osgoode Hall

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                Diagram of the fence in the exhibition at Osgoode Hall

                           Sept. 7, 1932 

The fence at Osgoode Hall, on the north side of Queen St. West, east of University Avenue in 1930. There are no tall buildings behind the City Hall Tower. Photo, City of Toronto Archives S0071, It.9428 (1) 

On May 23, 1865, the firm of Cumberland and Storm received the contract for the construction of a cast iron fence around Osgoode Hall. The casting of the fence began in 1866, in the St. Lawrence Foundry. Even in those years, Toronto was a thriving industrial centre where raw materials and skilled workmen were readily at hand. The foundry was on Front Street, its grounds extending as far north as King Street, between Berkley and Parliament Streets. The firm produced cast iron for industrial and architectural purposes, such as the staircases of the Old City Hall and Victoria College. The stone for the footings of the fence were quarried from near Georgetown by the firm of Ramsey and Farquar. The installation of the foundations, the cast iron fence, and the gates were completed in Confederation year –1867.

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People posing for a photograph in the quarry of Ramsey and Farquar in Georgetown in the 1860s.

The gates were designed after a type that at one time were common throughout Britain. Known as “kissing gates,” they consisted of two panels placed into the enclosure in a “V”-shape, with a small opening at the narrow end of the “V”. To pass through the gate a person moved around the panel to travel from one side of the gate to the other. If another person were passing through the gate in the opposite direction, at one point they directly faced each other, providing an excellent opportunity for kissing.

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Anyone who has passed through the 20-inch opening of an Osgoode Hall gate can readily perceive the opportunities for a kiss. However, tradition says that the gates on Queen Street, with their narrow openings, were designed to prevent cows from passing through. This might have been a possibility when the east wing of the hall was constructed in 1829, as the site was to the northwest of the town of York. However, by the year 1866, the city had grown considerably and extended into the area where Osgoode Hall was located. The design was likely an attempt to mimic the styles of Mother Britain.

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          A rural “kissing gate,” which required no latch.

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The design of the Osgoode Hall fence (left), modelled after a “kissing gate” (right)

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This photo shows the members of the Architectural Guild at Long Branch in August of 1888. William Storm, who designed the fence, is the gentleman in the front row, on the left-hand side. Born in Yorkshire, England in 1826, he and his father immigrated to York in 1830. His father became a prominent Toronto builder. William Storm trained in the offices of William Thomas, and later formed a partnership with Frederic Cumberland (Cumberland and Storm). They received the contract for the 1856 renovations to Osgoode Hall.

DSCN6267

A section of the display area in Osgoode Hall, a model of a “kissing gate” on the small round table in the centre of the room.

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

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

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

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

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

   To place an order for this book:

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

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

Theatres Included in the Book:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grant ,Hollywood, Oriole (Cinema, International Cinema), Eglinton, Casino, Radio City, Paramount, Scarboro, Paradise (Eve’s Paradise), State (Bloordale), Colony, Bellevue (Lux, Elektra, Lido), Kingsway, Pylon (Royal, Golden Princess), Metro

Chapter Five – Theatres in the 1940s – The Second World War and the Post-War Years

University, Odeon Fairlawn, Vaughan, Odeon Danforth, Glendale, Odeon Hyland, Nortown, Willow, Downtown, Odeon Carlton, Donlands, Biltmore, Odeon Humber, Town Cinema

Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres

Savoy (Coronet), Westwood

Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes

Cineplex Eaton Centre, Cineplex Odeon Varsity, Scotiabank Cineplex, Dundas Square Cineplex, The Bell Lightbox (TIFF)

 

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Toronto’s historic Osgoode Hall

Osgoode Hall 1856

Osgoode Hall in 1856 (photo City of Toronto Archives). In this photo the centre section has no three-storey portico and it contains a dome. The year after this photo was taken, the centre block of Osgoode Hall was redesigned and the dome was removed.

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             (Above)  West wing of Osgoode Hall in the spring of 2012

Osgoode Hall is an architectural treasure that thousand of Torontonians pass daily. However, most people remain outside the cast-iron fence that surrounds the property and never pass through the gates. According to tradition, the 20-inch openings were designed to prevent cows from wandering onto the property. Inside the fence, a person receives a different perspective of the venerable nineteenth-century structure.

The buildings have a long and varied history. The Law Society of Upper Canada commenced promoting the construction of a building to contain its headquarters as early as 1820, stating that the total cost of the structure should be about 500 British pounds. In 1825, the society petitioned the government for a grant, with members pledging 2000 pounds to aid in its construction. The site for the building, at that time to the northwest of the town, was purchased from Attorney-General John Beverley Robinson for 1000 pounds.

Construction commenced in 1829 under the supervision of Dr. W. W. Baldwin, the Treasurer of the Society. It was to be named Osgoode Hall, in honour of William Osgoode, the province’s first chief justice. There remains doubt concerning which architectural firm designed the building that today is the east wing of Osgoode Hall. However, it is known that John Ritchie (Ritchey or Richey) was the builder and John Ewart the construction superintendent. Some sources state that John Ewart was also the architect.

When the east wing of Osgoode Hall was completed in 1832, it was a plain, square-shaped, red-brick building, two and a half storeys in height. It was located on the north side of Queen Street, at the top of York Street. Despite its relatively plain appearance, it was an ambitious endeavour for the small colonial town of York, which had not yet been incorporated into a city. This did not occur until 1834. The building suffered considerable damage during the six years, as British troops were garrisoned inside it after the 1837 Rebellion.

In 1844, they hired Henry Bower Lane to design another building on the property, to the west of the original structure. Completed in 1846, it was similar in style to the earlier building, and between the two structures a centre block was added to connect the two wings. The east wing was also renovated and an impressive portico added to match the portico on the new west wing. The archival photo at the beginning of this post shows the building after the 1844-1846 work was completed.

In 1857, the firm of Cumberland and Storm was contracted to carry out further renovations to Osgoode Hall. The centre block was completely redesigned and they added to the facade Caen stone, which was a  light cream-coloured limestone. They also altered the interior of the centre block to create the appearance of a great Roman villa, with a centre columned courtyard (peristyle) and a mosaic-style floor.   

Although three different architectural firms contributed to the construction of Osgoode Hall, their combined efforts produced a structure that for the most part is harmonious, as if a created by a single designer. It remains today as one of the finest examples of Victorian Classical architecture in Canada.  

Osgoode Library 1910   1910 

(Above) Osgoode Hall library and fireplace c. 1910 (Photos, City of Toronto Archives)

Behind the windows on the second floor, on the centre section of Osgoode Hall is the great library, employed for legal study and research. In 1860, a reception for the Prince of Wales (King Edward VII) was held in the room. Throughout the evening, the rows of small gas jets sparkled brilliantly as formally-attired guests greeted the prince.  Light reflected from the intricately carved wood, casting a warm glow around the spacious room. In 1863, they held the funeral rites for Chief Justice Sir John Robinson in the library. Even today, adorning the walls are oil portraits of many of the former chief justices of the province.

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                               The library of Osgoode Hall today

Sept. 7, 1932    DSCN6403

The “cow fence” around Osgoode Hall in 1930 (left) and in 2012 (right)

York St. 1927

Gazing south on York Street in the 1920s, from a window in Osgoode Hall

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Today’s view gazing south on York Street, from the gates of Osgoode Hall in 2012.

1929

The west wing of Osgoode Hall and the nearly completed Canada Life Building, in 1930.

Nov. 11, 1913

View of University Avenue and Queen Street in 1930, with Osgoode Hall and the tower of the Old City Hall in the background

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

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

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

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

                      cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[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 Store and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791

Theatres Included in the Book:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grant ,Hollywood, Oriole (Cinema, International Cinema), Eglinton, Casino, Radio City, Paramount, Scarboro, Paradise (Eve’s Paradise), State (Bloordale), Colony, Bellevue (Lux, Elektra, Lido), Kingsway, Pylon (Royal, Golden Princess), Metro

Chapter Five – Theatres in the 1940s – The Second World War and the Post-War Years

University, Odeon Fairlawn, Vaughan, Odeon Danforth, Glendale, Odeon Hyland, Nortown, Willow, Downtown, Odeon Carlton, Donlands, Biltmore, Odeon Humber, Town Cinema

Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres

Savoy (Coronet), Westwood

Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes

Cineplex Eaton Centre, Cineplex Odeon Varsity, Scotiabank Cineplex, Dundas Square Cineplex, The Bell Lightbox (TIFF)

 

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