Whatever’s left on the west side of Yonge St. from College to Grenville is on the endangered species list – even though it’s now part of a heritage conservation district. But . . . Fire Hall #3’s clock tower has been given a new lease on life.
<ABOVE – the clock tower in 2017; the street level small businesses have all been demolished.>
<ABOVE – the clock tower in 2018>
The elegant little tower lives on. It will soon be incorporated into the podium of a 38-storey condo tower named Halo Residences by architectsAlliance.
<PHOTO – west side of Yonge Street between College St. and Grenville, ca1950’s>
Built in 1872, the structure has a checkered career from fire station to auto tire emporium to hotel to Canada’s largest gay dance hall, restaurant and tavern. In 1939 a fire destroyed the whole building, but the little tower survived.
In 1955 millionaire horse breeder CHARLES HEMSTEAD opened the Oriental Room, serving Chinese and Canadian food. Soon it went decidedly gay. After he died in 1961, the building hosted a variety of clubs and discos – the Empire, Time, Tower, Circus, Maygay, Charly’s and Y-Not – until 1992. The clock, perpetually stuck, became a monument to gay culture in TORONTO.
“Meet me under the clock” was a summons for gay community events, cruising and a night out.
<PHOTO – the clock tower in the 1950’s; foreground future site of the Westbury Hotel, which itself could be demolished soon.>
Hallowe’en nights in the sixties and seventies attracted huge crowds – up to 5,000 – on the sidewalk opposite, hoping to catch a glimpse of a drag queen or an exotic dancer – many of whom were pelted with eggs.
VIMEO video – http://www.queerstory.ca/project/st-charles-tavern/
<The Survivor – standing tall on Yonge Street, 1872 – 2018>