The Studio Building, 1914 – earliest purpose-built artist studio in Canada

STUDIOBLDG7STUDIOBLDG2Thousands of Torontonians pass this building daily, and few probably even notice it.  The Studio Building is adjacent to Ellis Portal, through which the Yonge subway trains run.  It’s the earliest purpose-built artist studio in Canada, and so significant that the Canadian government recently erected a red and gold plaque.  Many of the greatest Canadian painters lived and worked here – including A. Y. Jackson, Frederick Varley, Lawren Harris, Harold Town, J. E. H. MacDonald, Tom Thomson, and several others.  Tom Thomson’s shack stood in behind, before being moved to the McMichael Gallery, Kleinberg, where it’s now a Group of Seven artist’s “shrine”.  <PHOTOS BELOW – Tom Thomson, A.Y. Jackson and Lawren Harris>

Koerner Hall, Royal Conservatory of Music – one of 5 downtown concert halls

KOERNERHALL2The spectacular Koerner Hall seats 1135; it’s surprisingly warm and intimate; the sightlines and accoustics are excellent.  Over the past year, Koerner Hall has brought concertgoers a full program of large scale performances, which is continuing apace.  The concert hall is one part of the Royal Conservatory of Music’s renovation and expansion.  Studios, classrooms, a new-media centre, library and rehearsal hall have all been added to the original building.  Architects – (KPMB) Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg.KOERNERHALL3Box office – 273 Bloor Street WestKOERNERHALL1

The Alexandra Studio, 1870-1970’s

The Alexandra Studio was established at 322 Queen Street West around 1870.  In 1908, photographer Louis Turofsky bought it with $165 in borrowed cash, and went into partnership with his younger brother, Nathan.  Among their clients over the years – the Canadian National Exhibition, Ellis-Don, the International Union of Operating Engineers and the Subway Property Committee.  The Turofsky’s photographs of  life in early TORONTO are much valued today.  <PHOTOS BELOW – The Turofskys & friends outside Alexandra Studio, ca1950; Grey Cup “mudbowl”, Varsity Stadium, 1950; and window shopping at Eatons College Street, 1937>

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Massey Hall, the ‘Old Lady of Shuter Street’, has been entertaining Toronto since 1894

Massey Hall was built for about $150,000 in 1894.  It’s the oldest of five concert halls in TORONTO’s core.  The clock, above the distinctive red lobby doors, once hung in the Parliament of Upper Canada.  The walls of the basement bar are hung with programs and photographs of the countless “great ones” who have performed here – and still do, most nights of the week.  At one time, Massey Hall was home to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the Mendelssohn Choir.  Excellent accoustics, seats about 2700.
Subway stop – QUEEN or DUNDAS

A LANDMARK – THE GALLERIA, 181 BAY STREET – ARCHITECT: SANTIAGO CALATRAVA

<PHOTOS ABOVE – Holiday time at the Galleria>

The Galleria, 181 Bay Street, Financial District, connects Bay with Yonge Street.  Architect – Santiago Calatrava.  The “hall of light” is five storeys high and runs parallel to Front Street.  One floor below is a connection to the Hockey Hall of Fame.  First class art and cultural events are often presented here.  For large commercial developments, the City requires that 1% of the budget be devoted to ‘public art’. This has resulted in some rather horrific sculptures decorating plazas of little use. But in this case, the architects proposed the Galleria itself as public art. Happily, the City agreed and the result is (one of) Toronto’s finest indoor public spaces. Not to be missed!

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TORONTO’S SUBWAY SYSTEM – IS CLEAN, EFFICIENT AND RELIABLE (FOR THE MOST PART)

If you’re a tourist, TORONTO’s underground will serve you well.  There are about 70 stations altogether, and we’re now building six more plus a massive lightrail network in the suburbs.  The subway is open from roughly 6 am until 2 am Monday to Saturday, and on Sundays from 9 am until 2 am.  Avoid the rush hour.  It’s wicked.  <PHOTO – a Line 2 delay, Bloor and Yonge station>PROS
– rush hour trains run every minute or two; off-peak, every 3-5 minutes
– all cars are air-conditioned
– stops are announced clearly
– the system has an anti-graffiti policy; you’ll never see any in the cars; seldom in the stations
– most of TORONTO’s major tourist attractions are on the subway or nearby
– single fares are about $3, but there are Day Passes ($11.50 per adult weekdays; $11.50 for 2 adults on weekends) and Family Passes (up to 4 children, on weekends and holidays).  There are also reduced fares for students and seniors.
– transfers are free, and allow you to ride the subway and transfer to buses and streetcars
– you can get to Pearson International Airport by subway (Kipling station, and then an airport bus) for one fare
– there’s a window in the front of some trains.  Kids love that.

CONS
– a few of the stations are ugly, ugly, ugly
– stations are always being fixed up or rebuilt or something
– escalators seem to be continually out of service.  A green indicator on station platforms will tell you if an escalator is functioning.  Elevators are also available in most stations.
– the trains will squeal and screech, as steel wheels hit steel rails.  Kids love that.