Tag Archives: Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra

E.J. Lennox: Toronto’s Architect

If you build it, they will make postcards of it

This Large Letter postcard highlighting Toronto’s key landmarks feature three of E.J. Lennox’s designs c1954.
Architect E.J. Lennox 1885

Edward James Lennox was born on September 12, 1854 in a Toronto of just over 30,000 people. The son of Irish immigrants, Lennox would one day be Toronto’s most important and influential architects during the great growth and expansion of the City of Toronto during the 1880’s through the 1910’s.

Looking northwest from the top of the Canadian Bank of Commence building on King near Yonge St. c1915. The monolithic clock-tower of (Old) City Hall seen from everywhere much as the CN Tower is today.

Having designed over seventy buildings in Toronto, prolific architect Edward James Lennox near single-handedly designed the look of Toronto. Graduating in 1874 first in his class from the Mechanics’ Institute, Edward apprenticed for five years with William Irving before forming his own firm in 1881.His quickly rose to the top of his profession, winning the contract to build Toronto’s third City Hall on the northeast corner of Bay and Queen streets.

Looking west on Queen Street West at Bay Street past the front of City Hall at 5:15pm, April 13, 1923.
Looking north up Bay Street toward the towering clock-tower of City Hall c1912.

Built in the Richardson Romanesque style, the now-Old City has been and is still one of Toronto’s great features. Due to time-delays, cost over-runs and legal disputes, City Councillors spitefully refused to allow a plaque titling E.J. Lennox as the architect of the building. E.J. Lennox was not to be denied and had stonemasons engrave “EJ LENNOX ARCHITECT AD 1898” on corbels around the entire building on upper floor eaves as well as a carved portrait of himself on the facade. This was not enough for Lennox who also included grotesque caricatures of City Councillors and opponents.

Toronto’s City Hall at Queen Street West and Bay Street c1919.

E.J. Lennox would go on to build many landmarks in Toronto including St. Paul’s Anglican Church (1909-1913) on Bloor Street West, the Neo-Classical Bank of Toronto Building (1905) on Yonge Street and the King Edward Hotel (1905) on King Street. Lennox would pioneer in the Romanesque Revival style, the Annex House, an indigenous Torontonian house named for the Annex neighbourhood but used in most elite neighbourhoods. The Annex House blended Richardson Romanesque style of large rounded archways with Queen Anne turrets and were built mainly of brick and Credit Valley Sandstone.

In 1908, Lennox would be commissioned to design Toronto’s most famous house.

Former residence of Sir Henry Pellatt, the Casa Loma (the House on the Hill) c1930.

E.J. Lennox was notorious in Toronto society for his bravado, self-promotion in the press and networking at high-society parties. Infamous for publicly criticizing and insulting anyone who disagreed with any of his many opinions and he would shamefully slight other architect’s work. It was only a matter of time before his brazen antics brought him together with another larger-than life character, Sir Henry Pellatt.

Casa Loma

Commissioned in 1908 E.J. Lennox began construction on Casa Loma between 1911-1914, and it proved to be an exercise in the excessive vanity of the two men. With materials brought from as far away as Scotland and Italy, Casa Loma proved to be too much for Sir Henry’s pocket-book and with the start of World War One, Casa Loma would never be finished.

Aeriel view of Casa Loma c1954.

During this same time, E.J. Lennox would begin building his own dream-house just northeast of Casa Loma called Lenwil, a combination of Lennox and his wife’s name Wilson. Built between 1912 and 1914, E.J. Lennox now almost 60, saw Lenwil as an ideal 21-room retirement home and in 1917 sold his firm and retired from architecture. Though retired and no longer designing buildings, Lennox continued being involved in several architectural societies and associations and returned to the architecture spotlight in 1931 when the Province of Ontario passed legislation that required architects to be certified. Though retired for 14 years, a 77 year-old Lennox was certified, having written and passed the exam. E.J. Lennox passed away two years later at the age of 79 leaving behind a lifework that proves to be the cornerstone of the City of Toronto.

The now – “Old” City Hall looking northwest in 1929 showing what would eventually be raized to become “New” City Hall.
Old City Hall’s clock-tower after the gargoyles were reattached. The original stone gargoyles were lost after many years of absence were finally replaced with these cast bronze monsters.
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Scott Pilgrim vs. Keeping Toronto Anonymous!

Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t seen Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and really want to be surprised, bookmark this article and read it later.

Scott Pilgrim vs The World is a 2010 film based on the 6-part Scott Pilgrim graphic novel series by Canadian Graphic Novelist Bryan Lee O’Malley of London, Ontario. Directed Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead""), Scott Pilgrim vs. the World stars the City of Toronto and tells the story of a rock band bassist and habitually bad boyfriend, Canadian actor Michael Cera (Arrested Development) of Brampton, who meets the girl of his dreams – literally. In order to pursue a relationship with his American dream-girl Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Scott Pilgrim must fight and defeat in a videogame-esque, martial-arts battle, an alliance of Ramona’s 7 Evil X’s led by the fiendish Gideon Graves (Jason Schwartzman).

The film sets the scene with screen copy that reads: “Not so long ago…In the mysterious land…of Toronto, Canada…Scott Pilgrim was dating a high schooler.”

After calling his sister at work at a Second Cup, and telling her that he is dating a 17 year-old, his sister complains that he is falling into his typical routine of bad relationships and that he should call it off. Thus begins the adventure of Scott Pilgrim in the City of Toronto. While building the storyline with bits of acting like Scott picking up his teenaged girlfriend Knives Chau (Scarborough actress Ellen Wong) at school and again at a video game arcade, things get quite interesting with a shot of Bathurst Street and Bloor Street West. The viewer gets the opportunity to see the pomp and pageantry of the 23,000 light-bulb encrusted Vegas-esque marquee of Honest Ed’s on the south-west corner with Central Technical School back in the distance. Sadly, the scene is in the daytime and the millions of lights are dark.

Honest Ed’s is a landmark department store in Toronto opened in 1948 by the larger-than-life Toronto personality “Honest” Ed Mirvish. With World War II behind Canada and the future looking bright, Ed created a bargain basement department store filled with close-out, bankruptcy and fire-sale merchandise. The no-frills style business model was an immediate success and Honest Ed’s began to expand. Eventually Honest Ed’s would consume almost an entire city block and would bill itself as the “world’s biggest discount department store”. In the late 1950’s began buying houses on Markham Street south of Bloor with the intention of razing the lot and for an expanded store and parking lot. When the City rejected Ed’s application to tear down the Victorian houses on Markham, Ed rented them to out to local artists at low rates and the street became a community of shops and galleries known today as Mirvish Village.

Perhaps because of the red of Honest Ed’s sign, Scott dreams that night of Ramona, a red-haired beauty and while at the library with Knives the next day, he sees her in the flesh. His obsession builds. After t rehearsal, when Scott introduces the star-struck Knives to his band Sex Bomb Omb, including girl-drummer Kim Pine played by Toronto actress Alison Pill, they head out into one of the more exciting scenes in the film.

Sex Bomb Omb walking up Manning St. at Queen St. W.

Suddenly, and out of nowhere Toronto again steals the scene when the band is seen walking up Manning Street! From just north of Queen Street West in the extremely cool neighbourhood of Trinity-Bellwoods, you see 793-797 Queen Street West in the background. Filmed before the fire that on May 24, 2010 would leave 791-797 in ruins, the cameraman mistakenly excluded 791 Queen Street West, the eventual home for Canadian Culture Thing and Valhalla Cards and Gifts. Perhaps it was because he felt psychically that without CCT and Valhalla in the shot there was no point to widen his shot.

Looking north up Manning at Queen 1900.

The four-alarm fire that started accidentally on the apartment deck above 793, would take 18 fire trucks and 65 firefighters an hour and a half to put out. The damage would exceed $600,000 and would leave several people and a poodles named Rocco homeless and three business closed. The resulting shuffle would have Australian Boot Company formerly at 791 and Sydney’s at 795 moving across the street into new spaces while Flight Centre would go on with business as usual after a three-day closure. In December of 2010 cool baby fashion shop Minimioche, a children’s clothing boutique would move into 795 and Deluxe who had temporarily closed awaiting renovations would wait to move back in June of 2011.

Sex Bomb Omb walking up Manning St. at Queen St. W.
The fire of May 24, 2010 that left 791-795 Queen St.W. a charred ruin.

While some took the disaster in stride as one tenant commented, “Like anything bad that happens in life, something good will come from this; I just don’t know what it is yet…It’s just stuff.” Others would take a more realistic view, “I had $50,000 worth of uninsured vinyl in there…so that’s f#@*ing gone.” The something good that would come would be in February 2011, when Canadian Culture Thing and Valhalla Cards and Gifts, after being further west on Queen Street for 12 and a half years, would upgrade their space and move into the newly renovated and structurally sound 791 Queen Street West…but I’ve gratuitously digressed.

Looking south to Queen West down Manning 1900.
Queen and Manning 2011 – Valhalla standing out in lime green.

After having walked up Manning Street in a show-stopping scene of (almost) cinematic brilliance the group goes to a party where Scott meets his dream-girl Ramona in the flesh for the first time. With his thoughts of Manning Street distracting him, Scott’s indifference is overwhelmed by his band-mates excitement at an upcoming gig at the Toronto International Battle of the Bands, the TIBB. The TIBB will offer Sex Bomb Omb an opportunity to win a record contract.

Dreaming again of Ramona, Scott wakes to find that the dream has turned to reality and she is at his door. Scott Pilgrim convinces her to go out on a date with him and they have an amazing time. Scott is hooked but little does he know that Ramona is carrying a terrible secret.

Pressured by his room-mate (Kieran Culkin), his band and his conscience, Scott knows he must break things off with Knives but just can’t find the right time. Even at his next gig, he forgets entirely about Knives and is confronted with having two girlfriends present. Fortunately, Knives’ naivete keeps her clueless and her excitement in seeing Sex Bomb Omb play at the Club Rockit on Church Street keeps her unconscious. Having fainted, she misses Scott’s fight for the love of Ramona.

The first battle takes place at Club Rockit on Church Street south of Richmond against Matthew Patel (Satya Bhabha) in which Scott is triumphant defeating the first Evil X. With Knives having gone home, Scott and Ramona ride home on a TTC bus heading east on Carlton towards Parliament St. (although that is actually a streetcar route…oh, those crazy magical movin’ pictures!) in the Cabbagetown area of Toronto.

The next day as Scott prepares to leave, with plans to finally break it off with Knives, his roommate mentions that Lucas Lee an OK skateboarder turned OK actor “is filming a Winnipeg Healey movie in Toronto right now.” To which Scott Pilgrim responds, “They make movies in Toronto?” As he leaves, the Spike channel is on TV airing a Lucas Lee movie. In the clip, the Toronto skyline is shown with Lucas Lee charging towards a phone-booth near Cherry Street in the foreground.


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