Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Tuesday Treasures

 Tom the backroads traveller hosts this weekly meme.

Toronto ON

As per the request to the city to name the lane Frank Natale Lane.

Mr. Natale is now almost ninety years of age and in frail condition, but, for over fifty years he operated a business known as Elgin Produce, accessed through the lane described above, which has recently been expropriated by the City. (Note: Frank Natale has since passed away ) 

The Natale family emigrated from Sicily in the early 1900’s and lived in and/or operated businesses in three properties 130, 132 and 134 Dundas St. East, which backed onto the lane. Frank Natale still owns one of the properties, namely 132 Dundas St. East. Elgin Produce is still operated by Frank’s son and grandsons, although it has now moved to larger premises. In addition to a son in the business, Frank’s other children include a Toronto police officer, a teacher and a nurse at St. Michael’s hospital. 

This would be a fitting recognition of the contributions of a hard working family, now into the fourth generation as Canadians and Torontonians, who were and still are respected in the area and have a long standing connection with the lane and this section of Dundas. 

 The lane runs between Dalhousie and Mutual, North of Dundas and South of the former Sears warehouse building. 

Robert Simpson Co. Mail-Order Building and Additions
108 Mutual Street

This photo from November 1920 shows just how large the Merchandise Building was – and still is – looming over the corner of Dundas and Mutual Streets

Building and Additions 1916-1939 This landmark industrial building was designed by Chicago architect Max Dunning and the Toronto firm of Burke Horwood and White. In later years matching additions were built to the north. Originally serving as a warehouse manufacturing and administrative building for the Robert Simpson Co. mail-order business it also became the first headquarters of Simpsons-Sears (later Sears Canada) in 1952. In the late 1990s the building was converted to residential lofts.

It would now cost you almost $2 MILLION dollars for a 1,600 sq ft 2 bed 2 bath loft.

Designated under the Ontario Heritage Act 1997.

Click here for the full story of Simpsons-Sears.

The Robert Simpson Company opened on the corner of Queen and Yonge in Toronto in 1894 and maintained a prominent place in the Canadian retail market for nearly 85 years.

The retailer’s Canadian ancestry stretches back to Robert Simpson’s decision to offer mail order service from his dry goods store at Yonge and Queen soon after it opened in 1872. Though the Simpsons catalogue never achieved the iconic status across Canada that rival Eaton’s did, it contributed to the store’s profitability as it outgrew several warehouses.

The solution was an 11-storey service warehouse on Mutual Street north of Wilton Avenue (now Dundas Street). Built in 1916, it was touted as “the finest reinforced concrete building in America.” 

Besides mail order, the complex housed delivery and service departments which ran out of space at Yonge and Queen. Mail order’s reach continued to grow—by the time an addition extended the building north to Gould Street in 1931, catalogues printed on site were sent across Canada and to Newfoundland, St. Pierre and Miquelon, and the British colonies in the Caribbean. A final expansion completed in 1950 resulted in a building with over 1 million square feet of floor space, the most in the city until the Toronto-Dominion Centre arrived in the mid-1960s.

Dalhousie Street, looking south from Gerrard Street East, September 19, 1950. The Simpsons service building/Simpsons-Sears building is the background on the left. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 372, Subseries 58, Item 2076.


  1. Cities are full of fascinating stories!

  2. ...Jackie, you come up with the most interesting Toronto history. Thanks for sharing.

  3. These are some great nostalgia!!

    Thanks for sharing your link at My Corner of the World this week!


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