Heritage in Ward 8
Ward 8 is home to numerous Heritage sites that reflect the vibrant history of our diverse communities. Below highlights some of Ward 8’s interesting history.
The Capitol Theatre Complex
The Capitol Theatre building at Yonge and Castlefield has been added to the City’s Heritage Register. You may know that the building, built in 1918, is subject to a redevelopment of the land purchased in spring 2015 by Madison Homes, a Toronto-based developer known for its high-rise condominium and commercial developments. The theatre building was purchased from Ronald Buildings Limited, the McClelland family, the descendants of the original owner who built it some 97 years ago.
The Capitol Theatre building is one of only a few remaining original vaudeville/movie houses built in Toronto in the 1920s. This spectacular theatre is an important example of the Odeon cinema-style architecture, featuring romantic grand interiors and sumptuous seats. The building was especially valued during the Great Depression of the 1920s and 1930s, when anyone with the money to buy a ticket could find respite from the hardship of daily life inside the theatre’s palatial interior. Its attractive decorative brick exterior and iconic marquee are a physical manifestation of the famous quote by renowned theatre architect S. Charles Lee, “The show started on the sidewalk.”
For 97 years The Capitol Theatre has been part of the visual culture of Toronto’s Lawrence/Lytton Park neighbourhood. It’s an enduring reminder of our community history and collective memories, and is both an architecturally and socially important historical feature of Toronto’s past. Today, the Capitol Theatre continues to serve the community as a successful event theatre where local residents, businesses, schools and community groups host a wide variety of events from fairy-tale weddings, anniversary and birthday celebrations and charity fundraisers to concerts and major corporate events.
North Toronto’s First School: The Loyal Orange Lodge
Did you know that North Toronto’s first school sits off a private laneway directly behind the block of retail properties fronting onto Yonge Street between Castlefield and St. Clements Avenues? The property fronting on Yonge Street has been sold to a developer. Built in 1850, the one-room brick school house, now known as the Eglinton Orange Hall, was originally Eglinton School, the sole school for the Village of Eglinton. Today, it’s one of North Toronto’s oldest buildings.
The original Eglinton School was a one-room log schoolhouse built in 1842 on a lot severed from the George Ward farm, on the southwest corner of Yonge and St. Clements Avenue. The Ward farm also provided the site for St. Clement’s Anglican Church and St. Clement’s School. A fire destroyed the original wooden school house, and in 1850 a brick building was constructed on the same site. It continued to serve the students as the area school until the construction and opening of a larger Eglinton Public School in 1887, now known as John Fisher Public School on Erskine Avenue.
The building was also the birthplace of several of North Toronto’s great churches. It served as the Anglican church until the congregation completed construction of St. Clement's Church west of the subject property in 1892. It was then home to Eglinton Presbyterian Church until that congregation moved to 14 St. Clements, on the northwest corner of Yonge and St. Clements. (Note: that building at 14 St. Clements Avenue is now “listed” by City Council (1973.) In 1908, the Members of the Orange Lodge purchased the land and building from the Presbyterian Church and moved it to its current site off the laneway. They continue to own it.
Like the Capitol Theatre building, this property has also been listed as a Heritage Property.
The Columbus Centre
I'm proud and very excited about getting unanimous Council support for my motion to support the City staff report's recommendation to designate the Columbus Centre a Heritage Property. For all intents and purposes it protects the Columbus Centre from demolition and redevelopment. It's a victory to save this historic focal point which serves all our Ward 8 community groups after a very important and hard fought two-year battle to stop development on the Columbus Centre.
The property has historic value for its association with the Sisters of the Good Shepherd and St. Mary's Training School originally constructed in 1941. It is also valued for its association with Italian Canadian Benevolent Association (now known as Villa Charities) who from 1969, through a lengthy campaign of personal initiative, dedication and extensive fund-raising, created a community campus containing facilities for the elderly, and for those in need of care and respite as well as day care, recreational and cultural facilities. In 1980, with the construction of the Columbus Centre and the renovation of St. Mary's, the expanded facilities provided were "dedicated to the spirit of multi-culturalism" in Toronto while maintaining a cultural heritage focus for the Italian-
Canadian community. Situated on the south side of Lawrence Avenue West, the Columbus Centre, has contextual value as it is visually, physically and historically linked to its surroundings. The Columbus Centre rotunda is a focal point within the landscaped setting of mature trees and an Italian sculpture garden, surrounded by the Villa Colombo, the two retirement residences, Casa Del Zotto and Caboto Terrace and the Dante Alighieri and Regina Mundi schools, and a landmark for the surrounding community.