Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Spadina St.

UPDATED August 2022 - video added.
April 2016 - Toronto ON

After we had lunch in Chinatown we went for a stroll, we had just skipped spring and it was summer 25 C!!! Click here for our lunch.

Chinatown is on Spadina at Dundas and surrounding streets. I did a walk last year featuring Chinatown so I'll try not to repeat photos.

This section of Spadina is called the Fashion District.

Click here for a video of the area's history.

The origins of Toronto's Fashion District start in the 1920s and used to be situated around King Street and Spadina Ave. Called 'The Garment District', it was the centre for fashion and textiles and many of the original building, plus their store signs, still stand today. In fact, they built a giant thimble in honour of the old Toronto Fashion area.

In the 1950s when the Jewish community that used to inhabit Spadina Ave and Kensington Market moved to Bathurst Street. Many of the immigrants were seamstresses or tailors and opened up their own businesses in the location now known as the Fashion District.

A ghost sign for M.Wintrob and Sons, purveyors of combs, curlers, sunglasses and housewares. Sounds like a department store.

Discovered this "new" art gallery and cafe called the 401.

At the turn of the 20th century, the 401 Richmond building was occupied by the Macdonald Manufacturing Company, which operated a factory producing the finest lithography on tinware in Canada. The original building, which began construction in 1899, was followed by four four-storey expansions between 1903 and 1923 to the west, north, and northeast. From the sky, 401 Richmond looks like a capital "A" with a crosswalk or bridge (what we now call the skywalk) connecting the north and south buildings.

The Macdonald Manufacturing Company was purchased in 1944 by Continental Can of Canada who then occupied the premises until 1967. Over the next twenty-five years the building fell into the hands of several owners, and by 1994, was bankrupt and ready for the wrecker's ball. That same year the building was purchased by the Zeidler Family and Margaret Zeidler took over as President.

A first ever exhibition featuring Benjamin Brown, one of Toronto's most significant architects of the early 20th century.

The Ontario Jewish Archives, Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre (OJA) presents the work of Architect, Benjamin Brown (1890-1974), whose career made a significant and lasting impact on Toronto’s built heritage. Brown’s buildings—the Balfour and Tower Buildings, the Hermant Building, the Primrose Club, Beth Jacob Synagogue—are exquisite examples of Brown’s mastery of the au courant Art Deco styles while also incorporating the more traditional architectural tropes of the period. Brown’s iconic loft-style buildings on lower Spadina express his signature style that characterized the garment district for much of the 20th century.

The ten-storey Art Deco-style Tower Building at 106-110 Spadina Avenue, on the northwest corner of Adelaide and Spadina Avenue, is today a landmark structure in the Fashion District. Erected in 1927 by the Oxford Clothing Company, it was owned by the Poslun Brothers and C. James. They specialized in ladies clothing –cloaks, suits, and dresses. The Tower Building was designed by Benjamin Brown, who also designed the Balfour Building on the opposite side of the street.

I took this photo of the Tower Building when we were back on Spadina.

Across the street from the Tower Building is his Balfour Building.

A road map of his buildings around the city.

South to Queen St. W and Spadina.


This streetcar is heading south towards Harbourfront.

Dropped into this lamp shop.

We took a short detour along Queen St. W lots of fabric stores in this area.

Funky outfits.

Back on Spadina, on the west side walking north.

They didn't have a menu posted for us to check out.

We take a turn down an unfamiliar street. A very cool bench outside a men's salon.

Window display.

Odd, another men's salon, right next door.

Spotting some murals we head down another street.

Strange looking house.

I checked and this business is still operating.

Seriously they didn't have anywhere else to put their sign???

Another "remnant" in the Fashion District, it's up for lease.

Down a laneway and we realize we are in Graffiti Alley behind Queen St. W.

Back onto Spadina. School of Burlesque and cabaret Arts.

Back in Chinatown.

For over forty years, the Labor Lyceum was the epicentre of political activism for Toronto’s textile workers. Located at the southwest corner of Spadina Avenue and St. Andrew Street, it was an important cultural centre through which the collective identity of Jewish Torontonians was forged. J.B. Salsberg, a lifelong labour activist, wrote that “no single institution and no single building on Spadina – the main street of Jewish Toronto – was more important in the refashioning of the Jewish immigrant into an actively involved Canadian Jew” than was the Labor Lyceum.

Between 1901 and 1931, the Jewish population of Toronto grew from 3,000 to 45,000, a rate of growth that was four times that of the rest of the city. During this time, Toronto’s economy was growing. However, garment workers were faced with increasingly dire conditions on the factory floors. In 1913, united by hardship, they formed a co-operative led by businessman Henry Dworkin and machinist Sam Easser.

Dworkin and Easser encouraged garment union workers to purchase shares for the Labor Lyceum Association at five dollars each.

Despite their early efforts, conditions on the shop floor remained dreadful into the 1930s. Lighting was poor and there was no heating and no ventilation. Furthermore, so-called “task-masters” were charged with managing the workload, discriminating in the distribution of work and rewarding those who did favours. Armed with stopwatches, they instigated “speed-ups” when the workload increased.
On February 25, 1931, garment workers organized in front of the Labor Lyceum as part of a major strike by dressmakers. At exactly ten o’clock in the morning, members of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU) put down their work, stopped their machines, and abandoned their posts, walking out of garment shops along Spadina Avenue.

One final look down Spadina before we get back into the car.

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  1. That mustache bench really catches my eye. What a horrible thing for that realty place to do, putting a sign over that mural. I've seen it done here as well. It is quite an eclectic area!

  2. So many cool things to look at. I too liked the mustache bench, but also the interesting buildings, the murals, the market, and the ghost sign.

  3. Thanks for sharing your city. I would love to visit the fabric shops. We live in a mostly rural area, and our local quilt store has closed as has the next nearest one, 65 miles away. It is sad not to be able to just run downtown to grab a spool of thread, or a 1/4 yard of fabric. *sigh*

  4. Thanks for the tour! Your photos always make me want to visit the areas you portray.

  5. Jackie, I love that you travel all over the world but manage to find the exotic near home too. Here's Mine

  6. So fun! Some day I'm going to see all this with my very own eyes!

  7. I spotted a bike there as I whizzed past, Jackie! Happy walking and thanks :) :)

  8. Fascinating look at areas of this city! The history was so interesting and photos great!

  9. We skirted this area when we were in Toronto and meant to go back - too little time! We'll have to return some day. It was actually the day my current post is about (Kensington Market) - I know we walked past those dragons.
    The Glasgow Gallivanter


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