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Tag Archives: Yonge Street Toronto

Toronto’s Colonial Tavern – demolished

            1973 Yonge St. Mall, Tor. Archives, Series 377, It. 782  colonial_feature1[1]

The Colonial Tavern during the summer of 1973, when Yonge Street was closed to vehicle traffic to create a pedestrian mall. In the photo, the  facade of the Colonial appears curved, but the other pictures reveal that it was actually straight (see photos at end of post). Photo from the Toronto Archives, Series 377, Item 782

The Colonial Tavern at 201-203 Yonge Street opened in 1947, between two historic bank buildings, opposite today’s Eaton Centre, In its heyday during the 1950s and 1960s, the tavern was one of the most popular music venues in Toronto. In the 1940s and 1950s, Yonge Street was not only the “main drag,” but was the centre of the city’s nightlife and entertainment. The section of Yonge between College and Queen was where Hollywood-style bright lights, flashing neon signs, and boisterous crowds created an exuberance that was unequalled in Canada. The names of the popular night spots on Yonge from those decades still reverberate after all these years—Friar’s Tavern, Le Coq D’ Or, Steele’s Tavern, Zanzibar, Edison Hotel, Brown Derby, and the jewel in the crown, the Colonial. The only other popular jazz joints were the Town Tavern (16 Queen Street East), and George’s Spaghetti House at 290 Dundas Street East.

In the 1890s, the site where the Colonial opened was the location of the Athlete Hotel, which in 1918 was renamed the Scholes Hotel. It was purchased by Goodwin (Goody) and Harvey Lichenberg in 1947, renovated, and opened as the Colonial Tavern. It was the second establishment, after the Silver Rail, to receive a liquor license from the LLBO, following the relaxing of Ontario’s liquor laws. The Colonial was a jazz and blues venue, which defied the norms of the times when it booked an all-black dance band group—Cy McLean and the Rhythm Rompers. Cy was a pianist by profession, who formed a band in 1937. During the swing era of the 1940s, it was Canada’s only all-black orchestra. When it played at the Colonial, it was its first performance in a mainstream venue.

During the 1950s, the Colonial was Toronto’s main music venue. However, on July 24, 1960, a disastrous fire gutted it. Two years were required to rebuild, and when it reopened in 1961, the building that had been Scholes Hotel, was replaced with a structure that was only two storeys in height. It was now more intimate, the tables and chairs grouped closely around the stage. The ceiling was low, but there was sufficient height to accommodate a balcony. The singers that performed at the Colonial were among the greatest names of jazz and the blues—Miles Davis, Carmen McRae, Thelonius Monk, Art Blakey, Dave Brubeck, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzie Gillespie, Benny Goodman, Sarah Vaughan.

In 1971, the first Yonge Street Mall was created. Because the street was closed to vehicle traffic, sidewalk cafes dotted the strip, the Colonial’s cafe being one of the most popular. The Litchenbergs hired twenty extra employees to handle the crowds. The mall experience was recreated again in 1972, 1973, and for eight weeks in 1974. It was during the 1970s that I visited the Colonial. I was too enthralled with the performance on stage to remember many details about its interior. However, I do recall that it was a cozy venue, where no seat was very far from the performers.  

By the mid-1970s, jazz was declining and the Colonial became more or less a discotheque. In the late-1970s, the basement of the Colonial was rented to various punk bands such as Teenage Head and Vilestones. The downstairs space was referred to by various names, the most well known being the “Colonial Underground.” Though the legal drinking age for alcohol had been reduced from 21 years old to 18 in 1971, there were always some teenagers who tried to defy the law. The basement of the Colonial was  a magnet for these underage teenagers, the most commonly feared words for them being, “Let me see your ID.”

Though the Colonial featured punk bands during these years, it is today remembered as a jazz and blues venue. Also during the 1970s, Wayland Flowers and his puppets—Madame and Crazy Mary—performed at the Colonial. Flowers was later to play at the Royal York’s Imperial Room. 

The Colonial was sold In the late-1970s and during the years ahead, it slowly deteriorated. It mainly featuring rock bands and exotic waitresses. As well, the famous Yonge Street strip, where the venue was located, also started to become seedy. It was during these years that the clubs, bars, and taverns began to close. The murder of a young shoeshine boy in 1977 finally created the impetus for the City to clean up the street. However, the sanitized version of “the strip” never achieved the buzz and excitement of former decades, as the music clubs had disappeared.

The Colonial lingered on, but it had lost its lustre. Robert Fulford wrote in the Toronto Star in 1987 that the famous jazz venue offered bad food, surly waitresses, and patrons that were loud and drunk. He also stated that the low ceiling made the space feel cramped and that it appeared as if the space was a tunnel with a bulge in the middle. The tables close to the stage, he stated, suffered from music that was too loud, and the tables at the back gave a person the sense of over-hearing the music, rather than hearing it. However, Fulford grudgingly admitted that none of negative features mattered, “because of the quality of the music.” The same year that Fulford visited the Colonial, it permanently shuttered its doors.

The site was purchased by investors that intended to reopen it as a hotel, but the plans never materialized. In 1982, the City bought the property to build a space that would connect Massey Hall with the Elgin Theatre, forming a theatre complex in the heart of Toronto. However, in 1987, due to a lack of funds, City Council voted to demolish the Colonial and create a parkette. Another great idea never saw the light of day.

Edward Keenan wrote an article about the city in the Toronto Star on September 22, 2016: “And the thing about big plans with no money behind them is that they inspire hope and then gather dust on a shelf for decades and then inspire cynicism about the next big plans that come along.” He was referring to the plans to construct a public park over the rail lands, but the same might be said of the idea for a theatre complex in the centre of the city.

scholes hotel c. 1945, Fonds 1257, S1057, Item 537  [1]

The charming Scholes Hotel in 1945, where the Colonial opened in 1947, the two historic bank buildings on either side of it. This is the building that was gutted by fire on July 24, 1960. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 537.

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The rebuilt Colonial Tavern that reopened in 1961, as it appeared in the mid-1970s. Toronto Archives, Fonds 124, File 002, id 0066.

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The Colonial and its patio in the 1970s, when Yonge Street was closed to create a mall. Toronto Archives, Series 377, Item 545. 

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The Colonial in the 1980s, when it possessed a rather dreary facade. Toronto Archives Fonds 0124, File 0003, id 0123. 

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The site in December 1987, after City Council voted to demolish the Colonial. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1024, File 0003, id 0123.

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The site where the Colonial once stood, between the two historic bank buildings on Yonge Street. The construction of the Massey Tower occupies most of the site. Photo was taken on September 19, 2016. 

To discover more about Yonge Street when it was the musical heart of Toronto—a link to Edward Keenan’s article in the Toronto Star on September 29, 2016.

torontostar.newspaperdirect.com/epaper/viewer.aspx?issue…33…

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

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[1]

   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)

 

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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 direct 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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Fond Memories of A and A Records (demolished|)

Fonds 124, Fl.0003, id.0197  A and A Records - Copy

In the 1950s, “A&A Records” and “Sam the Record Man,” two stores on Yonge Street, were an integral part of my teenage years. They were the largest and most important retail distributors of vinyl recordings in Toronto. They eventually franchised, allowing outlets to be opened across Canada under their corporate names. A&A and Sam’s were multi-million-dollar businesses in the days when 33 1/3 rpm (revolutions per minute) records were the most common recording format.

In my pre-teen years in the 1940s, music was recorded on 78 rpm disks, made of a brittle material of shellac resin. First introduced in 1898, they were played on wind-up gramophones. After electricity was introduced, record players replaced gramophones and though the sound quality improved in the decades ahead, 78s remained the standard format for recording music. A single song was on one side of the disk, and another on the reverse side, the total playing time being about 3-4 minutes.

In 1947, smaller size records (45 rpm) became available, which were sold in paper jackets. Though not as large as the 78s, they extended the playing time due to their smaller grooves. However, record sales exploded in 1948 when the industry introduced long-playing records (33 1/3 rpm), manufactured of vinyl plastic. These were sold in cardboard jackets. Many retail outlets opened to accommodate the demand for these long-playing records.

Before the internet was invented, in the dark distant decades of yesteryear, Toronto’s movies houses were the centres of entertainment. Located in almost every every community throughout the city, they were within walking distance of almost every households. In my pre-teen years, I faithfully attended movie matiness every Saturday afternoon and was thrilled by the heroes of the silver screen. When I entered my teen years, my parents finally allowed me to travel downtown to the great movie palaces of the city — Tivoli, Shea’s Hippodrome, Imperial, Odeon Carlton, and Loew’s Downtown (now the Elgin). When I wanted to see more than one feature film, for the same price as attending the larger theatres, I visited the Biltmore, Rio, Coronet (Savoy) or the Downtown. Most of the downtown theatres, whether a movie palace or a run-down dive, were within walking distance of Yonge and Dundas, so when I attended a theatre on Yonge Street, I always visited Sam the Record Man and A&A Records. They were located near the corner of Yonge and Gould Streets, which was only one block north of Dundas Street.

The endless displays of records at both stores were amazing. It was said that at its height, Sam’s had almost a million records in his store. Although this might have been an exaggeration, I can verify that the selection was enormous. There were multiple aisles, on either side of them, long rows of counters, with large boxes on them. This was where the records (in their jackets) were stored. Cardboard dividers, with labels protruding above the record jackets (covers), labelled the type of records in the section. They were grouped according to the vocalist, groups, type of music, band, classical, orchestra, country of origin, style of music etc. Recordings were available from all over the world.

As a teenager, I spent countless hours browsing through the various sections of these two shops. I was always amazed at the expertise of their staffs, as no matter what type of record you enquired about, they knew where to direct you. After you made your selection, you took your choice to the cashier at the front of the store. We always looked for bargains, since discounts of 10% to 20% were common on some items. The stores stayed open until midnight, and also remained open on Sundays, in violation of the Lord’s Day Act. The Boxing Day sales were famous, with hundreds of people lining up outside the stores before they opened.

I remember that I sometimes saw a musical at either the Imperial or Loew’s Downtown, and then, purchased the sound track recording at Sam’s or A&A’s. Sometimes, I had already bought the Broadway version of the musical, before the movie of the show had been filmed. Perhaps one or two of the cardboard record-jackets below of Broadway productions will create a few fond memories. They were all available at A&A’s and Sam’s.

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A&A Records

In Toronto, Alice Kenner and her husband Mac owned a building at 351 Yonge Street. About the year 1945, with the assistance of Alice’s brother, Aaron, the store opened a book shop. They named it A&A Book Store, using the initial consonant of their first names. It was located on the east side of the street, opposite Elm Street. During the early-1950s, because of the increasing popularity of the new LP records, they added a record section. By the 1960s, record sales became the major portion of their business.

Their main competitor in the city was Sam Sniderman’s store on College Street. To compete with Sam, A&A Records offered special discounts on some recordings, door opening specials, and reduced prices on their Boxing Day sales. A&A carried many types of music, including popular, imported, and classical. The company eventually sold franchises that were located in cities across Canada.

In September 1961, Sam Sniderman (Sam the Record Man) relocated his store to 347 Yonge Street, two doors south of A&A Records. The two competitors were now almost side by side. This was convenient for customers, as they were able to browse the city’s two largest record shops in a single visit. In 1971, Alice and Mac sold their business. The company that bought it expanded the number of franchises and by 1990, there were 260 of them across the country. However, the company went bankrupt in 1993.

Sources: news.library.ryerson.ca/musiconyonge 

For a link to a post about “Sam the Record Man”:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2016/04/05/fond-memories-of-sam-the-record-man/

looking east on Elm, Dec. 16,  1952  s0372_ss0058_it2379[1]

Gazing east on Elm Street toward Yonge Street on December 16, 1952. A&A Records in visible on the east side of Yonge. Toronto Archives, S 0372, SS 0058, Item 2379.

Tor. Archives, Fonds 200, Series 1465, File 20, Item 15 1]

A similar view looking east on Elm Street. Barbarian’s Steak House is on the right-hand (south) side of Elm Street, where there are Canadian flags. For a link to the history of Barbarian’s, https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/09/10/torontos-architectural-gems1860s-houses-on-elm-streetbarbarians-steak-house/ Photo of Elm Street from the Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, S 1465, File 20, Item 15.

         TPL. 1967  ra35-2[1]

A&A Records at 351 Yonge Street in 1967, Toronto Public Library, ra 35-2

           F1526, File 3, It.25  rec[1]

A&A Records when Yonge Street was closed to traffic for a pedestrian Mall (likely the first Yonge Street mall, in 1972). Toronto Archives, F1526, File 3, Item 25.

Tor. Archives, S1465, File 618, It. 33  [1]

Undated photo (likely the 1980s) of A&A Records, photo from the Toronto Archives, S1465, File 618, Item 33

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[2]    

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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Downtown Toronto’s five best Xmas displays—2015

Five of my all-time favourite places for viewing Toronto’s Christmas lights are contained in this post. Most of us know locations where we enjoy viewing the seasonal displays. For many, they are within shopping malls or in commercial districts like the Kingsway and Bloor West Village. Others are on busy downtown streets or on quiet residential avenues. On a mild December night in 2015, I photographed the festive lights in Toronto, an activity that I have done for many years.

Xmas light, Yonge St. 1959

Christmas lights on Yonge Street in 1958. Photo taken with a 35mm Kodak Pony camera.

Below are a few images of my favourite locations in downtown Toronto in December 2015.

Site #1—Nathan Phillips Square Square at City Hall

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Site #2—The Eaton Centre 

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Site #3—The windows at the Hudson’s Bay Store

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Site # 4—Dundas Square at Yonge and Dundas Streets

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Site #5—The Christmas Market at the Distillery District

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And . . . a few extra scenes that invoke memories of childhood

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The old Simpson’s Store, now the Hudson’s Bay, on the southwest corner of Yonge and Queen Street in 2015.

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                    Gazing north on Yonge Street from Queen Street in 2015

A link to the history of the Santa Claus Parade (1905-2015)

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2015/12/03/torontos-santa-claus-parade-through-the-decades/

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 the movie houses of the past. The book is a trip down memory lane for those who remember these grand old theatres and a voyage of discovery for those who never experienced them.  

                          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 more 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 70 of the city’s heritage sites with images of how the city once looked and how it appears today. This book will also be released in the spring of 2016.

 

 

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Panasonic Theatre—Part II—archival photos

The Panasonic Theatre is located on the east side of Yonge Street, a short distance south of Bloor Street. It has changed named several times in its long history. In April 2015, in the Ontario Archives, I discovered several photos and a sketch of the theatre that I had not seen before.

Victoria

The theatre commenced its life in 1919 as the Victoria, when two Second-Empire houses on Yonge Street were renovated to create a theatre. The above sketch reveals the plans for remodelling the houses to create a theatre. The drawing shows the windows of the two former houses. The plans included shops on either side of the theatre’s entrance to provide rental income to offset the expenses of operating the theatre.

Victoria   3

The theatre’s name was changed to the Embassy in 1932, as shown on the marquee in the above photo. Other names it has possessed include the Astor, Showcase, and Festival. In 1993 it became the New Yorker and was renovated to accommodate live theatre. It is presently named the Panasonic. The view in the photo gazes north on Yonge Street toward Bloor, from the corner of Isabella and Yonge Street. In the foreground, on the northeast corner of Yonge and Isabella is a shop of the Reilly Lock Company, founded in 1932.

Astor, New Yorker,

This photo shows the New Yorker theatre in 1993, when it featured “Forever Plaid,” a spoof of the male harmony groups of the 1950s. The facade of the theatre shown in the 1919-sketch remains intact in this photo. Even the shop on the north side of the entrance can be seen. To create the Panasonic Theatre, the building was demolished, except for the facade, which today is covered with metal meshing. However, it remains visible beneath it.

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                                The Panasonic Theatre in 2015.

For a link to a more in depth post about the Panasonic Theatre:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/12/13/torontos-old-movie-theatresthe-panasonic-theatre-victoria-astor-new-yorker/

Map of 651 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M4Y 1Z9

                        Location of the Panasonic Theatre.

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

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

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

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

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

   To place an order for this book:

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

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

Theatres Included in the Book:

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

Theatorium (Red Mill) Theatre—Toronto’s First Movie Experience and First Permanent Movie Theatre, Auditorium (Avenue, PIckford), Colonial Theatre (the Bay), the 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 Zanzibar Tavern on Yonge Street

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The Zanzibar Tavern with its flashing neon signs is a famous and infamous part of the downtown scene that enhances the eye-appeal of the Yonge Street strip. With the disappearance of the amazing light-display on the facade of “Sam the Record Man,” and the soaring marquees of the Biltmore, Downtown, and Imperial Theatres, the Zanzibar is one of the few “showcases of neon” that illuminates the night skies on the main drag of the city.

The building at 359 Yonge Street, which houses the Zanzibar, was one of the larger buildings constructed on the street during the nineteenth century. Historically, structures on Yonge had small frontages that extended back from the street, creating long, narrow premises. The larger size of the building at #359, where the Zanzibar is today located, allowed shops within it to be larger than many of the others on the strip. In 1950, the building was home to two enterprises—“Farmer and Hunter Photos” and Nalpac Ltd. Tavern. In 1951, the Zanzibar took over both premises and opened its doors. It soon became a landmark on the strip.

The Zanzibar originally played jazz and blues. Then it became a dance club and featured the “Zanzibar Circus.” Later it added rock and roll and go-go dancers. In the 1970s it became a strip club. The bar has been featured in films such as the “Incredible Hulk” and “Exit Wounds.”

At night, the Zanzibar’s garish display of neon lights dominates the section of Yonge Street north of Dundas Street, adding colour and motion to the scene, especially on a hot summer evening when the sidewalks are crowded with people strolling the avenue.

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           The enticing neon display on the facade of the Zanzibar

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The Zanzibar on a cloudy spring day, when the interior of the bar might bring a little sunshine into a man’s heart.

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               The neon lights flashing in to the night during the heat wave of July 2013.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   To place an order for this book:

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

Theatres Included in the Book:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres

Savoy (Coronet), Westwood

Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes

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

 

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Toronto’s architectural gems—the Heintzman Building on Yonge Street

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The Heintzman Building at 195 Yonge Street is located next to the Elgin/Winter Garden Theatre, but unless a person gazes skyward, the impressive building is rarely noticed. When it was occupied by the famous piano company “Heintman and Company,” it was a busy retail outlet that sold high-quality pianos to the residents of Toronto. The company was incorporated in 1866, operating from a small factory at 23 Duke Street  (today’s Adelaide Street). In 1868 they expanded and occupied the premises at 105 King Street West. In 1873, the relocated to 115-117 King West.

The year 1888 was an important year for the company. They opened a factory in the Junction area of the city, and patented their exclusive trademark—“Heitntzman and Company.”  The same year, one of their grand pianos was employed in a concert in the Royal Albert Hall in the presence of Queen Victoria, who was impressed with the quality of the instrument. In 1879 they exhibited their pianos at the Toronto Industrial Exhibition, which in 1904 was renamed the CNE.

The company continued to expand, and decided that they should have a presence on Toronto’s main thoroughfare. The location they chose was 195 Yonge Street. On the site was the furnishings outlet of J. F. Brown Co. Ltd. In 1911, they purchased this property, for their showrooms. In 1912, the Toronto Directories lists the Heintzman Building as being on the site. The upper floors of the building were rented to various commercial enterprises and offices. In that year, the president of the company was Gerhard Heintzman and the vice president was Herman Heintzman. Their factory was at 63-75 Sherbourne Street, and they possessed a warehouse at 41-43 Queen Street West.  In the 1920s, their most successful decade, they sold about 3000 pianos a year.

The company remained at 195 Yonge Street until  1971. However, on the south wall of the building, overlooking the Elgin/Winter garden Theatre, the words “Heintzman” remained for many more decades, painted on the bricks. 

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                 The eight-storey Heintzman Building at 195 Yonge Street.

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The decorative brickwork and the cornice of the building, with its rows of classical Greek designs—dentils (resembling teeth) and the “egg and dart” pattern .

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                   Detailing on the Yonge Street facade of the building.

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Map from the 1923 Goad’s Atlas in the Toronto Reference Library. It depicts the Loew’s Theatre (Elgin/Winter Garden) surrounding the Heintzman Building, and the two impressive classical-style banks to the north of the Heintzman Building. The site of the Athlete Hotel became the location of the famous Colonial Tavern. It is presently a small park.

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The Heintzman Building on Yonge Street in 2013, the Elgin/Winter Garden to the south of it, and the two banks to the north of it.

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               The Heintzman Building on a hot summer evening in 2013.

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

Links to other posts about the history of Toronto and its buildings:

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

Links to posts about Toronto’s movie houses—past and present.

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 also relates anecdotes and stories from those who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

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

                To place an order for this book:

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

      Theatres Included in the Book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres

Savoy (Coronet), Westwood

Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes

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

 

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Toronto’s architectural gems—241 Yonge St.—south of Dundas

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The small building at 241 Yonge, on the east side of the street, between Dundas and Shuter Streets, is sandwiched between other structures on a particularly busy section of Yonge Street. However, it is worthy of being noticed. Similar to many other shops on Yonge, the building is narrow and extends a considerable distance back from the street. In past decades, this was the result of the high price of land on the city’s main thoroughfare. The land remains expensive today.

When researching 241 Yonge Street, I had difficulty determining when a building first appeared on the site. During the 1850s, the postal addresses on Yonge Street ended at # 207, and the houses north of this were without numbers. In the 1860s, there was a modest shop on the site, occupied by Henry Mathews, a broker by profession. In 1902, the Toronto Directories states that 241 Yonge was occupied by Brenton and Company, upholsters, and that 241 and 1/2, was the shop of  V. E. Van Zant, who sold novelties. It is amazing that such a small shop was sub-divided to create two different retail enterprises.

The premises remained as two shops when John Britnell opened a book shop at 241 Yonge in 1903. At 241 1/2 was McLaren and MacLaren, who were dentists. The fact that their names are spelled differently might have been an error in the directories, or they were in fact from different families. In 1905, Britnell Books took over the entire ground floor at 241 Yonge Street, occupying both 241 and 241 1 /2. The shop was managed by John Britnell and William Britnell. Their homes were side by side at numbers 93 and 95 Summerhill Avenue, respectively. 

In 1911, the old structure on the location was demolished. The Brtinell Book Shop relocated further north on the street, to a site near Yonge and Bloor Streets. Today, the site is is a Starbucks Coffee Shop. 

The building that remains on the site at 241 Yonge Street dates from 1911. The architects were Mitchell and White. It became the location of Art Metropole Ltd., which sold artists’ materials. This is not to be confused with Art Metropole, an artists’ supply and book outlet that was founded in 1972.  

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The four-story building at 241 Yonge Street in July of 2013. The facade has exceedingly large windows and classical designs that add elegance to the structure. The designs were created by employing glazed terracotta tiles. These were very popular in this era for decorations on buildings.

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The window on the top floor has a Roman arch, surrounded by glazed terracotta tiles. The cornice above it contains small lion heads. Below the lion heads is a row of dentils (teeth-like structures). 

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This view of the cornice reveals the lion heads and the row of teeth-like dentils. Above the dentils is a row of the classical Greek design, the “egg and dart” pattern. Below the cornice are terracotta tiles, with a white glazed finish. They have worn well considering that have suffered the harshness of the Canadian climate for over a century

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This enchanting pattern is located on the facade between the second and third floors. The letters A and M are visible (Art Metropole) in the centre of the design.

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                 The terracotta tiles surrounding the windows.

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     241 Yonge Street on the evening of 4 July 2013

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The book store of Albert Britnell at 765 Yonge Street, near Bloor Street. The old book shop is now a Starbucks. 

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

Links to other posts about the history of Toronto and its buildings:

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

Links to posts about Toronto’s movie houses—past and present.

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 also relates anecdotes and stories from those who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

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

                To place an order for this book:

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

      Theatres Included in the Book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres

Savoy (Coronet), Westwood

Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes

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

 

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