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A Journey Back in Time

By: Lindsay Reid Luminoso

Have you ever wondered just how the Danforth got its look and feel? Join us as we journey back in time examining some of Danforth’s more iconic features. Our exploration continues at the intersection of Pape and Danforth Avenues

Stop 3: Pape and Danforth – Union Bank/Palace Theatre

The intersection of Pape Avenue and Danforth Avenue is always bustling with commuters and pedestrians trying to navigate their way through the area. Today, you can visit one of the several banks located on the streets, grab a burger from A&W, shop in one of the local stores, or hop on the subway to a new destination.

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No matter why you’re in the area, this popular crossroads has been a significant point of interest for the Danforth community for decades. The Pape and Danforth area houses many landmarks, including Holy Name Parish and the newly renovated Pape Station, however, many of the historical buildings and points have been modified and modernized. If you were to journey back in time to the mid-twentieth century, you still could have enjoyed many of the aforementioned features.

Figure 1 – Union Bank of Canada, City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 850

Figure 1: Union Bank of Canada, City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 850

In the early twentieth-century, you still would have been able to do some banking at the Union Bank of Canada, located on the northwest corner of Pape and Danforth Avenues. This image from 1919 shows the original building and its features, many of which can still be seen today. Although the name of the building has changed many times (currently it is the Royal Bank of Canada), the structure remains the same. It is beautifully constructed with white stone and inscribed lintels. The detail in the architectural edifice makes this building a great spot to explore the past.

Figure 2 City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 16, Series 71, Item 5484

Figure 2: City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 16, Series 71, Item 5484

This image is of the northeast corner of Danforth and Pape, taken on November 3, 1927. As you can see today, there are some significant changes. Instead of enjoying lunch at a local spot you could have shopped at the United Cigar Stores Limited. In the early twentieth century, the offices you see today would have been occupied by London Life Insurance Company. The company was founded in London, Ontario, in 1874, and expanded throughout all of the province, providing necessary insurance for thriving communities, like that of the Danforth.

One of the most iconic historical features of this area was the Palace Theatre, an old movie house previously located at 664 Danforth Avenue. This theatre opened on February 21, 1924 with the silent film feature Midsummer Madness, starring Jack Holt, Conrad Nagel, and Lois Wilson. A second feature was titled My Goodness, a popular slapstick comedy. In the far left of the photo above, you can see the vertical Palace sign. Underneath the sign the marquee cannot be seen, but it would change periodically bringing new films and entertainment to the community. One of the more famous movies featured at the Palace Theatre, Big Sleep, came in 1947 and starred Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacal. In the early twentieth century, going to the theatre was a sign of wealth and prestige.

The theatre itself sat roughly 1575 people. The floor was sloped downward toward the stage, which provided great viewing. The theatre mimicked that of stadium seating and there was no balcony. The interior of the building was grand and ornate, with extravagant gold adornments. Silver-grey furniture filled the lobby surrounding the east and west marble staircases, providing access to the auditorium area. In the seating area, the ceiling was in a Wedgewood-style design and had concentric circles, with a beautiful chandelier in the centre.

In 1937, all movie matinees cost roughly 25 cents. However, the late night show (any time after 7:30 pm) cost 32 cents. The theatre had lasting success and provided countless nights of entertainment for the Danforth. The palace theatre remained in the area much longer than similar theatres throughout Toronto. In 1987, it was closed.

Figure 3 – 8511 Lipton Loop Shelter (Bldgs.) April 28, 1931

Figure 3: 8511 Lipton Loop Shelter (Bldgs.) April 28, 1931

Pape and Danforth remains a popular spot for visiting, partly because of the amazing restaurants and shops, but also because of its accessibility. Recently, Pape Station was modernized to fit the needs of the community. Could you imagine this pocket of the city if it didn’t have subway access? Prior to 1966, it didn’t. However, the Toronto Transit Commission did recognise this area’s importance and created a transit hub known as Lipton Loop.

This site was located in the current spot of Pape subway station. The Lipton Loop existed for almost forty years prior to the construction of Pape station. It was opened in 1927 as a terminus and end of the line of the now discontinued Harbord streetcar route; this line connected passengers from all areas of Toronto, stopping at Lansdowne, Harbord, Church, and Pape, as well as hitting many major streets in between. This access point allowed for Pape and Danforth to become a popular spot for people to explore, shop, or perhaps catch a movie.

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