Monday, March 19, 2012

Bay and Queen/Then and Now

Looking south on Bay towards Queen in the early 1960's. This entire section of Queen would soon be demolished to make room for the new Sheraton Centre.
Click on images for a better view.
From Old City Hall looking west along Queen Street towards the old Broadway Theatre.
This was Toronto's first burlesque house with "Girlie" shows and movies.
In 1935, the manager was murdered in his office and his son-in law, Murray Little took over the management.
The infamous Casino Theatre (The Festival in the top photo) was located five doors west and operated until 1963.
In 1965 to preserve the architectural integrity of the new City Hall, the City expropriated three and a half acres on the south side of Queen Street and all of the buildings were demolished.
In these photos the work has already started.
Looking across the south east intersection of Queen and Bay. . The film playing at the Bay Theatre is "The Small World of Sammy Lee", released in 1963.
The Bay opened in 1919 as The Colonial and the facade was built with material rescued from the demolished Customs House on Front Street.
This block has been replaced by the Simpson's Tower.
Window detail of the Bay Theatre
The same window from the Customs House demolished in 1919
The Colonial Theatre
Another early view of the Colonial (far left) before the second story addition.
Similar views today, looking west from Old City Hall.
Looking east.
Shea's Hippodrome Theatre was demolished for the building of New City hall on the same site.


  1. It was - I think I can say this without contradiction - a dingy, well-worn city by the mid-'60s. My own memories of Toronto starting in the late '60s are of a place worn at the edges, being replace by a lot of fairly grim stuff - exposed concrete in various "textures," smoked glass, mirrors that smudged and reflected the overcast sky into infinity. It's fun to imagine what a bit (well, a lot) of restoration and care would have done for the area facing New City Hall if it hadn't been swept aside for the dismal, street-killing nullity of the Sheraton Centre, but all the photos I've seen are evidence of a clapped-out stretch of storefronts that would have gotten a lot worse before they got better.

  2. I too have faint memories of that stretch. I started to venture downtown around 1970 or so and as a child my memories are of a somewhat dark and dirty city. But we need only look at the Regent Park city planning fiasco of the early 1950's. What they knocked down to build regent Park was Hundreds of Victorian homes. You only need to look at present day Cabbage Town (that's what was demolished) to see how a neighbourhood can revitalize itself over time. Parkdale is another prime example. Sometimes a neighbourhood has to reach rock bottom before the private sector can afford to invest and restore.