Sunday 26 August 2012

Heritage Toronto Walk - The Royal Alexandra Theatre and its Neighbourhood

Gord and I did The Royal Alexandra Theatre and its Neighbourhood walk through Heritage Toronto this morning.

The Royal Alexandra Theatre, anchor of the Theatre District, celebrates its 105th birthday today. Hear the story of the theatre and explore the multi-layered history of the surrounding neighbourhood.

The walk was two hours and started at Simcoe Park on Front St W.  Our leader was Janet Langdon.

Here is the "Campsite Founding" sculpture which commemorates our first Lieutenant Governor, John Graves Simcoe, and his wife, Elizabeth, who lived in a canvas tent during their stay in Toronto.

This is Metro Hall, which was built in 1992, and currently houses some City of Toronto offices.

Here is 24 Mercer Street, which dates back to 1859.

Alas, there is a proposal to build a 21-story residential unit building (ie condos) there.

Fifteen Mercer Street was the site of the Verral Cab Company from 1879 to 1894 (horse-drawn, not cars).  In 1894, British glass manufacturer, Pilkington Brothers Ltd., purchased it and added buildings to the west.  They left in 1939.

There is a proposal to building a 45-storey residential building there.

The portion of Peter Street south of King Street W was renamed Blue Jays Way to commemorate the Blue Jays winning the World Series in 1992 and 1993.

This building (at 99 Blue Jays Way) was the site of A. Stein Elastic Products from 1929 to 1962.  Since 1993, it has been the home of Wayne Gretzky's RestaurantSecond City moved to the back of this building a few years ago.

This was 56 Blue Jays Way.  It contained an 1834 building which was part of the estate of George Crookshank, Receiver General of Upper Canada.  It served as a home for orphaned and poor children from Britain from 1908 to 1922.  It eventually became the home of Tony 'n Tina's Wedding (which I saw a couple times there), Second City, Jeff Healey's Roadhouse and Diesel (I've seen lots of bands at the last two places).

Before it was Shoppers Drug Mart, this building at King W/Peter Street was the National Drug and Chemical of Canada Limited, built in 1941 (ironic that a drug store is there now).  Second City used to offer improv courses in the basement (I did all five intro levels there in the late 1990s).

The Canadian Westinghouse Company building at 355 King W was built 1927, with the top three storeys added in 1935.

Restaurant row on the south side of King W started as townhouses, with most buildings dating from 1856 to 1880.

The York General Hospital (1819 to 1854) was on the NW corner of King W/ John Street many many years before the TIFF Centre opened in 2010.

The Eclipse Whitewear Company Building on the NE corner of King W/John Street was built in 1903 as a underwear factory.  It was the first home of the Toronto Sun (191 to 1975).  There's a Tim Hortons on the main floor now.

The Princess of Wales Theatre on King W was opened in May 1993 (named in honour of Princess Diana) by Ed and David Mirvish.  It was the first privately owned and financed theatre built in Canada since the Royal Alexandra Theatre in 1907 and the first in North America in over 30 years.  I've seen many plays there.  War Horse is currently there.

These warehouse buildings were built in the early 20th century.  Ed Mirvish bought them around the time he bought the Royal Alexandra Theatre and turned them into restaurants (Chinese, seafood, etc.) because he realized that theatre-goers needed a place to eat before a show.  They are no longer restaurants.

Here is the Royal Alexandra Theatre on King W.  It opened in 1907, 105 years ago today.  Ed Mirvish bought it in 1963 for $215,000 and restored and reopened it.  I've seen many plays there.

Roy Thomson Hall at King W/Simcoe is a concert hall that opened in 1982.

Surrounding Roy Thompson Hall is Canada's Walk of Fame.  Here are some inductees. 

Long before the Elephant & Castle was at King W/Simcoe, Canadian General Electric Co. and some publishers were in the building.

The walk ended on the "four nations corner" (King W/Simcoe).  In its day, there was a tavern, church, parliament buildings and a college on each corner ... thus damnation, salvation, legislation and education.  Only St. Andrews Church remains.

It was an interesting walk ... I find it fascinating learning more about the history of Toronto.


Margaret B said...

As usual a great round-up post from your tour. The photos are great.

I always am sad to hear that historical buildings are being destroyed or redeveloped into condos/business towers. Toronto is losing its soul with these monstrosities. At some point it will lose it's historical charm that attracts visitors. Wonder how many people who love the show Murdoch Mysteries from around the world come to the city and wonder if there are any historic buildings from that time period left.

VioletSky said...

I wanted to go on this walk, but had other commitments, so thank you for this post!

and just head out to the Distillery District for Murdoch sights.