Opened in 1890 THE GREAT HALL at Queen West and Dovercourt was in danger of shutting down forever. What a loss this would have been for the West End and TORONTO’s music scene.
Over the past two years and with $4-million in the bank, the red-brick Victorian has been restored to its former glory. An elevator now makes the building more accessible, layers of plywood and tile were pulled up to reveal the original wooden floors, windows – some dating back to 1890 – were repainted and rebuilt, and a modern cooling system has been installed.
The building began life as the first West End YMCA; then was taken over by the Royal Templars of Temperance; then the headquarters of the Polish National Union where a newspaper was published and Polish refugees from World War II were taken in; distance runner Tom Longboat trained here before winning the Boston Marathon in 1907; psychics gathered; politicians debated; the Theatre Centre, YYZ Gallery, Toronto School of Art all made their homes here, and today it’s become a popular arts centre and performance venue.
The raised wooden running track that dates back to the West End YMCA is now a balcony for the “completely revamped” lower level. <PHOTO ABOVE – Fred Lum, Globe and Mail; restoration – Bernard Watts Architects>