Interesting Building in Toronto : Queen Street West and Bathurst

This building (located on the south east corner of Bathurst Street and Queens Street West), was built in the late 1800s and was originally a Masonic Hall. By the early 1900s it had changed to become the home of retail shops such as United Cigar Store (based on the historic photograph). Sometime in there it’s top floor was removed and the exterior covered in a new layer of bricks, and by the 1960s it became the Holiday Tavern, and had a sign stating ‘Exotic Dancers Daily’.

By the 1980s the building was turned into a nightclub by the Ballinger Brothers. At that time it was a new idea to build huge nightclubs, so this would have been a unique place. It was at this time that the exterior was painted in colours that would make it stand out.

By the 1990s the brothers moved on from Toronto to run clubs in New York city, and it changed ownership becoming a live music venue with three stages and the outside was painted dark purple.

This is the version of the building that I remember, and our band performed quite a few shows there during it’s last few years of operation. The owner was a really nice guy who once told me that he always enjoyed our shows and that we could play there whenever we wanted to. Our favourite room to have was a small dark one tucked into the back of the top floor, called Holy Joe’s. I was there alone decorating for a show one afternoon and I could swear that a ghostly figure showed himself to me.

In more recent years I was there many times I love seeing (or should that be ‘hearing’?) live indie music, and lots of good bands played there. It was a great music venue and I really do miss it. Especially since it was within walking distance so after a night of partying getting home was no problem!

When it closed down in February 2010 the building obviously needed significant repairs because it had lived a hard life and looked pretty bad. Following was a period of at least a year and a half, that the big purple eyesore sat abandoned and empty on this busy corner, with mean looking street people and their big dogs hanging around outside, asking for money and running into traffic with small bottles of dirty water and squeegees to ‘clean’ windshields.

By the middle of 2011 finally something began to happen and the building was covered in scaffolding. It stayed this way with work busily being undertaken inside until January of this year, when the covering was removed, revealing a remarkable transformation.

Apparently the building was purchased by the American furniture store Crate and Barrel, who invested $3 million to bring the heritage building as closely as they could to what it originally looked like. Throughout the months of work on the place, pedestrians could catch glimpses through the netting, and I once saw a large skid of old bricks that would have been salvaged from a demolition somewhere .. they were using the old bricks to fill in the holes so they would match!

This last picture was taken on Monday, so this is what the building looks like now. It is actually a new glass building cleverly built within the skin of the old building. I haven’t been inside the store yet, however the outside really looks nice. Especially in comparison to what it looked like for as long as I’ve known his building.

I had a fun discussion with an elderly gentleman who struck up a conversation with me when he saw me taking pictures. He remembered the place as the Holiday Tavern, he told me with a wink and a glint in his eye! It must have been particularly interesting for someone of his generation to see it now.

Thanks for taking a look!
xo loulou