Tag Archives: art deco

Scenes From Eglinton Avenue West

Eglinton Avenue is Toronto’s east-west midpoint. It is the only street in the city (although took some doing in the 1950s and 60s to make it so) that traverses all six former municipalities. This attribute has made it perfect for a crosstown transit line. Although it was laid out in 1793 as the Third Concession from Lot (Queen) Street, I would argue that Eglinton’s form, at least from Yonge Street to Latimer Avenue, as we know it today does not begin to take shape until 130 years after it was laid out.

Might’s correct city directory map of Greater Toronto, ca. 1940. The extension across the Don River branches were completed by 1956. In 1967, Richview Sideroad in Etobicoke was absorbed into Eglinton Avenue when the two streets were joined via a bridge across the Humber River. Credit: Map and Data Library, University of Toronto.

This stretch of Eglinton Avenue west of Yonge Street and the surrounding area was historically part of the Village of North Toronto. Even though the village was absorbed into the City of Toronto in 1912, allowing it to reap the benefits of better service delivery, the street was still a sparsely populated dirt road. It wasn’t until the coming decades when Eglinton’s fields morphed into a mixed residential and commercial zone. By 1930, the road was paved and possibly widened.

Eglinton Ave, west from Yonge, October 19, 1922. Fonds 16, Series 71, Item 1637.
Credit: City of Toronto Archives

Eglinton Avenue west from Yonge Street, April 23, 1930. Fonds 1231, Item 1646. Credit: City of Toronto Archives.

At Duplex and Eglinton stands a power station. The yellow-bricked structure was built in 1920 at a time of rapid expansion in Toronto. With the Toronto Hydro-Electric System (now known as just Toronto Hydro) becoming the only distributor of power in Toronto at the tail end of the 1910s, Toronto was experiencing the pressures of an electrified transit network and a growing population.

The Eglinton sub-station was one of many built in this era to cope with this demand, specifically serving the surrounding residential community and “the Metropolitan radial line on north Yonge Street and subsequently to the TTC Yonge route and Eglinton Carhouse in the area.”

Eglinton Sub-station, August 10, 1925. Fonds 16, Series 71, Item 3975. Credit: City of Toronto Archives

Related, a short distance across from the station, there’s a row of mid-rise apartments. The positioning of these 1930s Art-Deco inspired buildings one after the other leads one to conclude that this was by design, although I wonder at their context considering the larger history the Toronto has with this kind of housing stock.

One historical narrative has been that whereas at the time the City of Toronto avoided this housing style, outlying communities like York and Forest Hill including them in their planning. For example, a more prominent row of these decorative lofts exists further west on Eglinton near Bathurst Street in the former Village of Forest Hill. These ones close to Yonge would have existed on land already annexed to the city, though. Curious.

Next, Eglinton Park has a neat past. As Lost Rivers explains, long before its colonial period, Huron peoples occupied its land and the nearby area – notably, the site of Allenby Public School – in the 15th century. In more recent history, the park was a brickyard! Capitalizing on the clay beds created by the now buried Mud Creek, James Pears ran his establishment here beginning in the 1880s.

The Eglinton Hunt Club (foreground) & Pears Brickyard (background), looking southeast,1920. The Pears home (now gone) can be seen at the top of the image at 214 Eglinton Avenue. A water tower stood on Roselawn Avenue near Avenue Road. A communications tower is in its place today. Credit: Toronto Public Libary

The modern geography within the park shows off the layers of time: the ‘dug-in’ escarpment leading up to Oriole Parkway, the hilly topography of Roselawn Avenue. Pears formerly worked out of today’s Ramsden Park in Yorkville before moving up Yonge Street, which has similar rolling features. These are the former lives of our parks.

Later, with North Toronto annexed, the City of Toronto attempted to purchase the yard from Pears before outright expropriating it in 1922 when he refused. The entire exercise came at a time in the 1920s and 30s when the City’s Parks Department was expanding, creating parkland and accompanying infrastructure such as shelters, gazebos, and bandshells. In fact, the Toronto Archives has a wonderful collection of ink & pencil drawings as a part of an Architectural Drawings Scrapbook prepared by the Department of Buildings for the Department of Parks and Recreation.

Eglinton Park (Roselawn Avenue) Shelter, August 12, 1930. Fonds 200, Series 372, Subseries 1, Item 934. Credit: City of Toronto Archives.

Pears’ legacy did live on for a while as the space was unofficially known as Pears Park for a time (and still might be?). Modern amenities have been added to the park since then of course, including a community centre, playground, and a Cretan maze via the Toronto City of Labyrinths Project!

A final sign of the street’s arrival was the eventual population of the street with commercial activity. The north side of Eglinton east of Avenue was one of the first retail blocks, coming to us around 1930.

CANATCO house index map of Toronto and environs, 1932. Credit: University of Toronto Map & Data Library.

Eglinton Ave. north side Avenue Rd. looking east, April 23, 1930. Fonds 200, Series 372, Subseries 58, Item 1223. Credit: City of Toronto Archives.

With the opening of the Eglinton Theatre in 1936 to serve the growing local community, another commercial dimension was added. Neighbourhood theatres were abundant in Toronto by World War II, but The Eglinton was a benchmark in grandeur.

Whereas other ‘nabes‘ were more low-key in aesthetic, the Kaplan and Sprachman-designed Art Deco movie house and its neon-lit tower announced itself on the commercial strip. It’s amazing considering this was also during the Great Depression. It was operational until 2002, remarkably late in the history of comparable theatres. Today it’s the Eglinton Grand.

 

Useful Links

City of Toronto Archives – “Turning on Toronto: Toronto Hydro-Electric System” Web Exhibit

City of Toronto Planning Department – “Eglinton Connects Planning Study July 2013 Draft”

Historic Toronto – “Memories of Toronto’s Eglinton Theatre” by Doug Taylor

Lost Rivers – “The Eglinton Park Hill”

Scenes From A City – “Scenes From Yorkville”

Silent Toronto

Spacing – “Toronto’s Art Deco district? Take a walk along Eglinton Avenue West” by Daniel Rotsztain 

Torontoist – “Historicist: The ‘Manifest Destiny’ of North Toronto” by David Wencer

Scenes From Fort York

The Fort York area has some of the oldest built heritage in the city, but also has some of the newest real estate as well. And as much as its history is some of the deepest in the city, its emergence as a neighbourhood – as in, the Fort York neighbourhood or Garrison – is only a recent development.

I begin at Bathurst and Fort York. Across the way is the KPMB Architects-designed Fort York Library, opened in 2014. It’s been celebrated as some of the best new architecture in the city. It’s also important to the neighbourhood itself given the changes in the area.

Fort York Library

The waGardiner Expresswaylk to the Fort is actually quite a long one, considering that I’m technically walking right in front of it. It also passes under the looming Gardiner Expressway, where there’s construction happening.

The entrance to Fort York National Historic Site is the Visitor Centre, which wasn’t here the last time I was at the museum several years ago. Designed by Patkau Architects and Kearns Mancini Architects, it opened in 2014 to great fanfare and great necessity. The shape of the building is an homage to the bluff that once front the shore of Lake Ontario, which was once located in this spot.

Fort York Visitor Centre 1

Fort York Vistor Centre 4

Fort York Visitor Centre 2
My reason for coming to Fort York is to sample the new Augmented Reality (AR) tour which is in beta testing for the month of October. As an educational and interpretation tool, it’s a significant addition for the museum.

Fort York Western Gate, 1885. Source: Toronto Public Library.

Fort York Western Gate, 1885. Source: Toronto Public Library.

Fort York is the birthplace of Toronto. It was founded in 1797, but its buildings date to the War of 1812.

1818 Phillpotts Plan of York

1818 Phillpotts Plan of York. Source: Old Toronto Maps.

But despite that history, it’s lost a bit of its context given the changes in Toronto over the years. Its historic significance is tied to its geography. The original shoreline, which gave the Fort a strategic location to defend the town of York, is buried under infill. Today, Fort York is landlocked by condos, a highway, and railways.

Fort York
The AR tour recreates Fort York’s historical environment and instills some of the sense of place that’s been lost. It’s powered by GPS and features audio and visual exhibits which are prompted when you enter particular locations.

Fort York Officers Mess 1

Fort York Officers Mess 2
My favourite vignettes were the Battle of York, in which British soldiers blew up the grand magazine killing a lot of invading American troops (including the best named figure in Toronto history: Zebulon Pike). The crater in the grass today is said to be from the explosion.

Fort York Augmented Reality
Also, the Gardiner Expressway, which had great audio from the debates of the day. The original proposal for the Gardiner included a plan to route the highway over the Fort. Running it around the site would’ve added eight additional minutes to commuter times (hmm, where have I heard this debate before?).

FortYork1934

Fort York, 1934. Source: Toronto Public Library.

The AR tour is overall a great experience. I was awed by the ability to look around and see the Fort and its surroundings as it once stood. For a museum goer that doesn’t necessary seek a social experience, it’s an excellent way to take in the site. I look forward to seeing it in the museum’s regular programming.

Fort York Soldiers Barracks
After finishing with Fort, I return back to the Visitor Centre to take in Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy. The exhibition is a great mix of didactic and interactive elements, and its messaging is on point.

The Magna Carta is a significant document in human history, and there’s great continuity in Canada’s and Toronto’s past, particularly in the creation of the Canadian Charter of Rights & Freedoms and the fight for Responsible Government. It’s on display until November 7, 2015. (This is also the first exhibition I’ve been to that explicitly bans selfie sticks.)

Magna Carta Fort York 3

Magna Cart Fort York 2
From there, I make my way out of the fort and explore the neighbourhood. Passing by Garrison Common, which gets forgotten but is a significant part of the site, I come to Fort York Armouries, built here in 1933.

Fort York Armoury

Further down the way is the 1861 Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse. Like Fort York, it’s a bit removed from its historical situation. It was moved here in 1929 after infill no longer had it on the water. Queen’s Wharf was the location of the recently excavated schooner.

Queen's Wharf Lighthouse

Condo pit

Moving around the weird Fleet Street/Lake Shore Boulevard setup is a pedestrian’s nightmare. There’s car traffic and streetcar tracks to contend with. It’s no wonder the nearby intersection is named one of worst in the city.

Fleet Street Lakeshore
Coming to Grand Magazine Street and Iannuzi Street, there’s markers in the ground honouring their naming. Grand Magazine references the Fort, but Iannuzi refers to the nearby OMNI building  and the station’s founder Daniel Iannuzi. I remember when it was just named CFMT.

Grand Magazine Street plaque

Iannuzi Street plaque

The Tip Top Lofts is a highlight on the street and one of my favourite buildings in the city. It was originally built here in 1929 as a garment factory. After sitting derelict, it reopened as residences in 2006 with an addition that, in my opinion, works very well with the rest of its Art Deco exterior.

Tip Top Lofts

The Bathurst/Lakeshore/Fleet Street intersection is an interesting one for the landmarks that stand here and once stood here.

Aerial view of Bathurst Street and Lakeshore Road. - [after 1929]

Aerial view of Bathurst Street and Lake Shore Boulevard, 1930s?. Source: City of Toronto Archives.

Standing at the northwest corner, there’s Douglas Coupland’s toy soldiers,  known as the 2008 Monument to the War of 1812.

Douglas Coupland Monument to the War of 1812

Across the way is a gas station that was once the site of Maple Leaf Stadium, which stood here from 1908 to 1968. It hosted the Toronto Maple Leafs baseball team. As Adam Bunch tells in his Illustrated History of Baseball in Toronto, it’s one of a couple of lost baseball venues in the city, joining Hanlan’s Point Stadium on the islands and Riverdale’s Sunlight Park. Today, Stadium Road is only remnant of its existence.

Bathurst & Lakeshore
On the southeast corner is the mentioned OMNI building, known historically as the 1927 Crosse and Blackwell Building.

CrosseBlackwell_Bldg-small-940x703 1927

Crosse and Blackwell Building, 1927. Source: Toronto Public Library.

Rounding things out is the landmark Loblaws Groceterias Warehouse, which sadly, has seen better days. A 1927 design by Sparling Martin and Forbes, it completes the Art Deco row happening here on Lake Shore (Carlton Street has another one going too). 90 years later, ERA architects are going to take their shot at revitalizing the worn out building.

Loblaw Warehouse, Bathurst and Fleet Sts. - January 21, 1929

Loblaws Groceterias Warehouse, 1929. Source: Toronto Public Library.

Loblaws Groceteria Warehouse 2

Heading east and up onto Dan Leckie Way, the neighbourhood makeover continues. This is CityPlace, whose towers and the amazing Canoe Landing Park disguise the fact that there were once extensive railway lands here. Underneath the Gardiner there’s a park, akin to Underpass Park in the West Don Lands.

Gardiner Expressway Dan Leckie Way Park 1

Speaking of railways, at its head I cross at the Puente de Luz pedestrian bridge.

Puente de Luz 1

Puente de Luz 2
Draper Street
is a hidden Victorian gem in the city. Anytime I’m in the area I have to traverse it. Its rowhouses are something else. And there’s a couple of cats that can be found roaming it.

Draper Street 3

Draper Street 1
At Wellington & Portland, I like the unexpected juxtaposition between the house-turned-restaurant and the condo beside it. I have to believe there was once a vintage row of homes here, but the present looks pretty nice.

Portland & Wellington

Across the way, Victoria Memorial Square went from yesterday’s military burial ground to today’s quiet park. Although geographically disconnected from it, it’s part of Fort York National Historic Site. For a deeper read into the park and its history, do read Hiking The GTA’s piece on Victoria Memorial Square.

Victoria Square 2

Victoria Square 3

Back on Bathurst, I end my urban hike at King Street. The Otto Higel Piano Co.  stood at its northwest corner for the better part of the 20th century before being demolished in 1981. It’s one of my favourite lost industrial buildings in the city, and can’t help but wonder what its use would be today. There’s a Second Cup in its place, which I don’t mind getting a coffee from.

Item consists of one photograph. This building was later known as the Clocktower Building and was demolished in the 1980s. *** Local Caption *** Item consists of one photograph. This building was later known as the Clocktower Building and was demolished in the 1980s.

Otto Higel Co., 1919. Source: City of Toronto Archives.

The intersection is also a great bookend for the day because of the Wheat Sheaf, which figures into Fort York and Toronto mythology. Soldiers at the fort were said to have dug a tunnel from the garrison to the watering hole. Great story although not true, sadly!

Wheat Sheaf

Fort York sign

Useful Links

Fort York and Garrison Common Maps

Hiking The GTA – Military Burying Grounds

Nathan Ng  – A History of Front & Bathurst – Victorian/Early 20th Century Era

Scenes From Garrison Creek

Scenes From Rush Lane, Queen West, and Niagara

Spacing Magazine – A bird’s-eye tour of the foot of Bathurst Street in the 1950s by Adam Bunch

Scenes From The Exhibition Grounds

My destination: Ricoh Coliseum. The event: the Toronto Marlies of the AHL battle the Iowa Wild. Beyond the great company and live hockey to be had, it’s also bobblehead giveaway day. Bonus. With a three o’clock game time, I plan on arriving by two in order to secure one. Before that though, I intend on exploring.

I arrive on the 511 streetcar, descending not at the Exhibition streetcar loop but at Strachan Avenue. I walk south on the street, my mind set on entering at the big arch.

I cross the street and then cross again. I get my first discovery of the day. To my left there’s a block-like yellow building. Although I don’t know it’s name or purpose specifically (and don’t venture close enough to find a sign), it looks like a displaced building from the R.C.  Harris Water Plant – Art Deco in style, from the 30s, and industrial in nature.

1. Gore Park Pumping Station

My suspicions ring true. Upon later investigation, I find out this is Gore Park Pumping Station. Built in 1924, it’s not exactly the long lost child of the R.C. Harris Filtration Plant that I pinned to be. Rather, it predates it by eight years (seventeen if one counts when the water temple was finally completed).

Moving on, I come to Princes’ Gate. Despite this being Toronto’s  (more impressive take on the) Arc de Triomphe or Washington Square Arch, I have no distinct memories of passing under it, nor do I know much about it. In fact, during a summer Toronto history trivia outing I found out who the names of the princes it’s honoured for.

3. Princes' Gate

I cross the street opposite Coronation Park and get a better look. There’s slush on the ground and snow blowing in the air and somehow I get the sense that there’s a different vibe when the Ex rolls around, but this works for me. The detailing and construction of this grand structure is impressive.

4. Princes' Gate

5. Princes' Gate

On the other side of the angels, there is a blue Ontario Heritage Trust sign. A truck with a man in the cabin loiters beside it. I wonder whether he’s looking at me while a snap a picture of the plaque, which is completely surrounded by snow. I take a moment to read the image on my phone screen. The Beaux-Arts monument was opened in 1927 by Princes Edward and George.

6. Ontario Heritage Trust Princes' Gate

Past this, I come to the 1929 Automotive Building, now the Allstream Centre. As I walk the lamp-line sidewalk,  my architectural eye once again detects more distinct Art Deco styling.

8. Automotive Building

9. Automotive Building    10. Automotive Building

11. Automotive Building Art Deco DetailingI make it to the main entrance and step back to marvel at it. High arches, fancy railings, intricate carvings, detailed windows…it’s a handsome building for sure.

13. Automotive Building EntranceOn the opposing side of the street stands the slighty more modern (1996, to be exact) Direct Energy Centre. I cross the street to get a look, stopping in the middle of the empty way to gaze again at the Princes’ Gate.

12. Direct Energy Centre

14. Princes' Gate BackBy this point I just want to get around the venue to Ricoh Coliseum, but seeing how frigid day it is, passing through it sounds like a better option. Inside the ‘Toronto Sportman’s Show’ is taking place. I pass one of the exhibition halls which is dedicated to fishing. Not my cup of tea. Instead, I continue meandering through to the other side of the building while taking in the sight above me. There are words hanging above, but even as I make it outside again, I have no luck in making them out.

17. Direct Energy Centre         16. Direct Energy Centre

Hockey is near. I make it outside where BMO Field looms in the distance. Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment is pumping in millions to renovate it – adding more seats, changing the field, among other improvements. There are big visions for it: as big as an NHL Winter Classic. After the amazing experience of following the hometown team out to Michigan last year, I’d be all for it. For now, I’ll settle for minor league hockey.

18. BMO Field Renovation
Ricoh Coliseum is another aged building, once known as simply the Coliseum before corporate hands got their hold on it. The Beaux-Arts sports venue dates back to 1922. It has hosted boxing matches, horse shows, and was a training ground during WWII. Today, it’s the home of the Toronto Marlies and hosts concerts, pro-wrestling, and boat shows. I have taken in many a Marlies game at Ricoh, but it’s also special to me in that I saw my first concert there.

19. Ricoh Coliseum

20. Ricoh ColiseumAfter picking up my free bobblehead and before I can even attempt the game, I spent the next few extended moments looking for a Tim Horton’s to satisfy my caffeine urge (it’s an eternal struggle.) Only after some guidance I realize coffee in sold in the concession stands themselves. Hurrah for $2.75 goodness!

The game itself was actually largely lacklustre up until the final period when the hometeam turned on the firepower. Despite a ruined shutout, the good guys came out with a convincing win!

23. Toronto Marlies Win

Then it’s out to the streetcar loop with the masses, getting a look at the building as I do. I’ll have to remind myself to capture the grand exterior facing the transit loop next time. I’ll also have to remind myself to take in other parts of the Exhibition Grounds – Scadding Cabin and Fort Rouille in particular.

24. Ricoh Coliseum         25. Ricoh Coliseum Walk to Streetcar Loop

And, of course, there’s the free bobblehead of Marlies alum and current Leaf Tyler Bozak! These figurines never look the person they are meant to honour, do they?

26. Toronto Marlies Tyler Bozak Bobblehead