THEN AND NOW’ ON QUEEN STREET FROM WEST TO EAST

by Meg Marshall (Queen St. West BIA) & Jennifer Lay (Riverside BIA)

SELF-GUIDED WALK

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DETAILS

Language: English

Area: Downtown

Theme: Arts & Architecture, History and Culture

Accessibility: Family-Friendly

WALK DETAILS:

Ever wondered what Toronto’s Queen Street looked like decades or even a century ago and what happened there? This walk explores the architecture and industry along Toronto’s Queen Street with stories from ‘then’ and ‘now’. The Riverside Business Improvement Area (BIA, on Queen East) and the Queen Street West BIA have teamed up to bring you this walk where you’ll get to know stories of iconic spots like Osgoode Hall and the Royal Canadian Bicycle Club, as well as hidden gems such as the 1930s Teck Theatre.

STOPS IN RIVERSIDE (QUEEN EAST)

 

STOP 1 IN RIVERSIDE: BANKER’S CORNER/ BRICKWORKS CIDERHOUSE - 709 QUEEN STREET EAST (SOUTH EAST CORNER OF QUEEN & BROADVIEW)

THEN - This 1972 photo from the Toronto Archives shows what was then the ‘banker’s corner’ including the Toronto-Dominion and Bank of Montreal. The BMO was opened in 1913 and celebrated 100 years at the location in 2013, before moving just steps east to 774 Queen St East a few years later. The corner in the photo also depicts a phone booth and one of Toronto’s few public washrooms at the time (pictured beside the phone booth) which was below ground. For a long time a funeral parlour was a neighbouring business.

 

NOW - While all the original buildings from the earlier photo still stand, the tenants have changed over the years. The corner building at 709 Queen East has since been home to a variety of well-known eateries such as The Real Jerk and An Sibin Pub. Since 2018, it has been home to the Brickworks Ciderhouse, Toronto’s first cidery, with neighbours including an HR recruitment firm, and hair and beauty salons in the prior funeral home building. The public washroom is gone but Bell phone booths still stand. The Riverside BIA worked with the City of Toronto to embed local metal art in the sidewalk, by Eldon Garnet, as part of the ‘Time. And a Clock.’ series which adorns the bridge, 4 corners of the Queen & Broadview intersection, and metal poles in front of the Jimmie Simpson Recreation Centre - all with phrases referencing time and the river

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Photo credits: City of Toronto Archives

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Photo credits: Google Maps

STOP 2 IN RIVERSIDE: TORONTO’S LAST NEWSSTAND/ DANGEROUS DAN’S/PIZZA NOVA/ALQUIMIA MURAL - 714 QUEEN STREET EAST (NORTH EAST CORNER OF QUEEN E & BROADVIEW)

THEN - This 1972 photo from the Toronto Archives shows the north east corner of Queen and Broadview at 714 Queen Street East, which was home to one of Toronto’s last newsstands. The corner was home to a flower shop and various other small businesses throughout the 50s-70s. It was the long-time home to Dangerous Dan’s Diner over the 1980s to 2017 when the building was bought by Pizza Nova.

NOW- Pizza Nova opened up a franchise in its building in 2018. In 2019, the Riverside BIA partnered with Pizza Nova, the City of Toronto and local black artist Jacquie Comrie to install the vibrant ‘Alquimia Mural’ on the west-facing wall. The mural, Alquimia (spanish for alchemy), is in a semi-abstract style. Paying homage to the Riverside neighbourhood, the mural is an interpretation of the iconic quote atop the Riverside Bridge/Queen Street Viaduct: “This river I step in is not the river I stand in” that speaks to the inevitable nature of all things: alchemy and change. “Everything moves. Everything transforms into something else. The mural is a connection to the past while celebrating the future, progress and growth of the community,” said artist Jacquie Comrie.

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Photo credits: City of Toronto Archives

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Photo credits: Google Maps

STOP 3 IN RIVERSIDE: ROYAL CANADIAN BICYCLE CLUB/CURLING CLUB/ CHILDCARE CENTRE - 131 BROADVIEW AVE

THEN - Just steps north of Queen Street East, this photo of the Royal Canadian Bicycle Club at 131 Broadview Avenue is from September 30,1929. The history of the Royals goes back to 1891 with the founding of the Royal Canadian Bicycle Club, which was dedicated to “the encouragement of bicycling, athletic sports and good-fellowship”. The club occupied the upper floors of Dingman’s Hall - the iconic building at 106 Broadview Ave. In 1907 a new clubhouse was erected across the road at 131 Broadview Ave. In 1929, a rink was built behind the clubhouse, which marked the transformation of the Royals from a cycling club to a curling club. On July 2, 1930, to reflect this change in focus, the club’s name was officially changed from the Royal Canadian Bicycle Club to the Royal Canadian Bicycle and Curling Club. Hockey, skating and curling competed for ice time at the Royals until 1953 when the six ice sheets were devoted exclusively to curling. In September 1954, the executive, with the support of the club’s membership, changed the club’s name officially to the Royal Canadian Curling Club to reflect the club’s 100% commitment to curling. There are many references to the area’s sporting history throughout the neighbourhood including curling, bicycling, baseball and more - check out the nearby mural at 1 Munro Street and the plaque for Sunlight Park at 655 Queen St East.

NOW - in this modern day photo the Royals have been active and their original building still stands today, albeit modernized, and mixed-use with the portion on Broadview, housing a community daycare the Boulton Avenue Childcare Centre.

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Photo credits: City of Toronto Archives

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Photo credits: Pawelec photos

STOP 4 IN RIVERSIDE: TECK THEATRE/ EASTBOUND BREWING - 700 QUEEN STREET E

 

THEN - This Toronto Archives photo from March 21, 1932 shows the Teck Theatre at 700 Queen East. It was one of Toronto’s earliest movie houses opened in ’31 during the Great Depression and at a time when films were transitioning from silent movies to sound – known as “talkies”. Next door was the ‘Broadview House Hotel’ at that time a rooming house and community event hall.

 

NOW - The photo of today shows Eastbound Brewing Co. which is the first brewery to open up within the Riverside BIA. Since 2018, the beloved spot has served up its locally brewed beer and great house made food (now available via takeout, delivery, and curbside options). Right next door is the transformed iconic Broadview Hotel which underwent a complete renovation from top to bottom between 2014-2017. Under the new ownership of Streetcar Developments, the building was transformed from its decades long identity as a strip club and rooming houses to a boutique hotel with three eateries, event spaces and the best rooftop patio views in Toronto. The blue bricks on the sidewalk are the ‘river’ pattern added as part of the Riverside BIAs streetscape improvement projects which aim to connect the area to the nearby Don River.

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Photo credits: City of Toronto Archives

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Photo credits: Eastbound Brewing Co

STOP 5 IN RIVERSIDE: BUILDING THE RAILWAYS, QUEEN ST EAST AND DAVIES AVE (CLOSEST ADDRESS IS 625 QUEEN ST E)

THEN - This Toronto Archives photo from June 5, 1923 depicts Queen Street East, just east of the bridge over the Don River, when workers laid down railways for some of the first street cars. This was two years after the Toronto Transportation Commission (TTC) was created and nearly a decade after the area was annexed by the City. The original buildings of Coleman Lamp Co. (2-storey red brick, at left). Parts and the historic Dingman’s Hall (peaked tower in distance) is visible from here.

NOW - This modern photo taken by the Riverside BIA, shows the same iconic peaked tower in the distance where the original building still stands at 106 Broadview Ave, albeit transformed, restored and relaunched as The Broadview Hotel in 2017. The Queen-Broadview Village BIA was created in 1980  and renamed to Riverside BIA in 2010 to re-link the area back to its roots as the Riverside neighbourhood adjacent to the Don River. Queen Street East has seen significant change over the past decades from a more industrial part of town to the home to over 100 small independent local businesses like those visible within this photo (south side of street): Il Ponte Cucina italiana (named for its spot just east of the iconic bridge into Riverside) and Black Bird Baking Co; and (north side of street) Motorcade Auto and Dark Horse Espresso. Brightly coloured banners of the Riverside BIA line the streets (see example on north side of street) and the newer condo buildings visible at the south and north sides of the street are examples of the development pressures which are transforming the area today to mixed use heritage properties and new builds, while maintaining a strong and tight knit commercial main street, even through the challenge of the pandemic.

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Photo credits: City of Toronto Archives

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Photo credits: Pawelec photo

STOPS IN QUEEN WEST 

 

STOP 6 IN QW: OSGOODE HALL, 130 QUEEN STREET WEST  

Built on six acres of land in 1832 to house the Law Society of Upper Canada, and now home to the Ontario Court of Appeals and the Superior Court of Justice in addition to the Law Society, Osgoode Hall honours William Osgoode, Ontario's first Chief Justice. Although the hall has undergone more than 10 major restorations, the front facade has never been altered and preserves its architectural design. Inside, the heritage courtrooms date to the late 1800s, the spectacular rotunda boasts original floor tiling and the Great Library is thought to be the most beautiful room in Canada.

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Photo credits: City of Toronto Archives

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Photo credits: Yvonne Bambrick

STOP 7 IN QW: CAMPBELL HOUSE, 160 QUEEN STREET WEST 

Built in 1822 for former Chief Justice William Campbell, Campbell House – a tremendous example of Georgian era architecture (one of few left in the city) – is the oldest surviving building from the Town of York. Maintained as a private residence until the turn of the 20thcentury, the building was then used by a number of businesses, including a horseshoe nail manufacturer and an elevator company, before falling into disrepair. It's final retail owner, Coutts-Hallmark Greeting Cards, threatened to demolish the building to make way for additional parking, but offered it to anyone who would remove it from the property. The Advocates’ Society – a professional association of trial lawyers – came to the rescue and Campbell House was moved to its current location on Friday March 31, 1972. Restored to its former glory, it now operates as a museum.

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Photo credits: City of Toronto Archives

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Photo credits: Richie Dos Santos

STOP 8 IN QW: DIXON HOUSE/ MARA’S GROCERY AND LIQUORS/ ARITZIA 280, QUEEN STREET WEST

Built in 1881 for B. Homer Dixon, this unique ground floor shop and residential building is a prominent neighbourhood landmark. Constructed in the Queen Anne Revival Style, the well-preserved structure is a highly decorative example of the late Victorian architecture popular among the hard-working, successful upper middle class during last decades of the 19th century. Mara’s Grocery and Liquors was the store’s first tenant. The beautiful brick boutique is now occupied by Aritizia.

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Photo credits: City of Toronto Archives

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Photo credits: Richie Dos Santos

STOP 9 IN QW: JIM BRAVO MURAL - BLACK BULL TAVERN, 298 QUEEN STREET WEST

Built in 1833, the Black Bull is one of Toronto's oldest watering holes, its foundation firmly rooted in the city's early settlement. At the time, buildings dwindled to its west, giving way to fields and forests, and the tavern was a favourite stop-over for farmers on their way to town. The structure was typical of the day: wood-frame, two-storeys, steep-pitched roof. A third story was added in 1861 with a handsome Mansard roof and, in 1885, an extension was added to the north side of the building. By 1895, the tavern boasted 50 guest rooms. Renovated and clad in brick in 1910, the establishment was renamed Clifton House, but reverted to its historic monicker in 1977. Within the walls of this lovely Second Empire style red-brick building, bartenders are still pulling pints almost 200 years later.

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Photo credits: City of Toronto Archives

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Photo credits: Richie Dos Santos

STOP 10 IN QW: OCCIDENTAL HALL/HOLIDAY TAVERN/CB2, 651 QUEEN STREET WEST

One of the first buildings designed by architect E. J. Lennox (Old City Hall, Casa Loma), Occidental Hall was built in 1876 as a Masonic Lodge. It became the Holiday Tavern in 1948 and – sporting stucco and a bright purple paint job in the 1990s – became the Big Bop, one of Toronto's best-loved live music venues. Purchased by Crate and Barrel and renovated to the tune of $4 million, the building's red and yellow brick exterior has been beautifully restored as the new home of CB2.

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Photo credits: Richard Glaze Photographer

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Photo credits: Richie Dos Santos