Wednesday, May 25, 2016

off the grid: ghost city 1610 bloor street west

This installment of my "Ghost City" column for The Grid was originally published on December 18, 2012.

I'll be honest, I've misplaced the records as to where this image came from. Will update once information is available.
By the mid-1930s, Bloor Street and Danforth Avenue were Meccas for local moviegoers. Along their length within the limits of the City of Toronto, at least 35 cinemas offered Depression-era patrons entertainment. Among them was an Art Deco-styled theatre that provided a steady stream of magic shadows for over 30 years.

Then addressed as 1606 Bloor St. W., the Bloordale opened circa September 1935 as part of the Associated circuit. The cinema was designed by theatre experts Kaplan and Sprachman, whose other Art Deco cinemas included the Eglinton. Promotions during the theatre’s early years included a weekly Sunday-afternoon talent show broadcast on CKCL radio (later CKEY) in 1938. Music Stars of Tomorrow promised a screen test with the short lived Grand National movie company for the best performer, though we suspect that the firm’s dissolution soon after prevented anyone from achieving Hollywood glory. After a spell as part of the Odeon chain, the Bloordale was renamed the State around 1948 and joined the 20th Century Theatres circuit.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

off the grid: ghost city 15 duncan street

This installment of my "Ghost City" column for The Grid was originally published on October 2, 2012.


Google street view of 15 Duncan, May 2015.
A new sign recently appeared above the front door of 15 Duncan Street. After over 30 years bearing the nameplate Pope & Company, the entranceway now welcomes clients to Northern Lights Direct. While a direct response advertising agency fits with the building’s recent history as a dignified-looking office building, the experimental artists and punks who hung out there during the 1970s would have satirized its work in a second.

Built in 1903, 15 Duncan was among several buildings in the neighbourhood designed by the architect William Rufus Gregg‘s firm. Its siblings include the Telfer Paper Box building across the street and the Eclipse White Wear Building at King and John. For over half a century, the premises were occupied by Canada Printing Ink, who produced ink and other supplies for the printing industry.

Ink continued to play a major role when animation producer Al Guest moved in around 1967. Among the projects occupying Guest at that time was the low-budget, perennially rerun space saga Rocket Robin Hood. A Star profile of the show in 1967 claimed that Guest ran the “third largest animated cartoon factory in North America.” Guest discussed the limitations he placed on producing the kitschy cult classic: no blood and no hormone stirring. “At first glance Maid Marion may look rather fetching,” Guest noted, “but notice there’s never any cleavage. Even lines in men’s crotches are out.”

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

vintage ads: hooked on xerox

Hooked on Xerox (1)

Spring cleaning, especially when you're still sorting out the dregs of a move, often provides a few surprises. In this case, a folder of ads photocopied from early 1970s Canadian editions of Time, which were intended either for a post on this blog (when I was regularly doing such things) or my long-running vintage ad column for Torontoist.

Tucked in that folder was a Xerox campaign which occupied eight pages of prime real estate in the May 8, 1972 issue. It weaved the fictional tale of Snaggem Consolidated International (formerly Snaggem Fish Hook), and how the current line of Xerox equipment aided many aspects of the business.

Feel free to make up further backstories for the employees shown below.

Monday, May 09, 2016

off the grid: ghost city 110 lombard street

This installment of my "Ghost City" column for The Grid was originally published on February 5, 2013.

110 Lombard Street, circa 1970. Photo by Ellis Wiley. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 124, File 2, Item 2. 
Though no engines have raced out its doors in over 40 years, the origins of 110 Lombard St. are imprinted in a roundel above its main entrance: CENTRAL FIRE HALL 1886. During its long existence, the building has balanced coping with tragedy with making the city laugh.

The building was designed by David Roberts Jr. [PDF], whose architectural career was tied to the Gooderham family. Beyond working on many structures in the Distillery District, Roberts designed landmarks like the Flatiron Building and the George Gooderham House at Bloor and St. George streets. The firehall, once touted by the Globe as “the finest building of its kind in the Dominion,” was equipped with sleeping space, a gym, and a state-of-the-art telegraph fire-alarm system. Though the hall was scheduled to open in July 1887, service was delayed by the poor condition of Lombard Street.