October 05, 2011

Grand Old Buildings

When I asked my girlfriend what was her favorite part about Toronto, she answered all the wonderful old buildings that eclectically spot Toronto's glassy, architectural landscape. The old city hall. The old bank buildings on Yonge street. Right across the street from our hotel is an old fire hall which appears to have been converted into what must be some of the city's coolest housing.

She's right, there are some real beauties, even in, in some cases, their derelict state. But the worst part about admiring these old structures is that we know so little about the history of each.

In the 2011-12 edition of Maple Street Press' Toronto Maple Leafs Annual (available now across Canada) I had the opportunity to write about the history of Maple Leafs Gardens. Of course, it's amazing history (both good and bad) is well documented in the newspaper archives and history books. It was an honour to write about not just the great hockey victories in the building, but about the concerts and shows and crazy other uses that building once saw.  Oh if that building could talk.

Maple Leaf Gardens in the 1930s
On my last night here in Toronto I wanted to pay homage to the "Carlton Street Cashbox." It was dark out, but that's okay. Because I did not much like what I saw.

Of course they are converting the building to a grocery store, with a new ice rink built on a new floor inside, as well as a full athletic center for Ryerson University. That all opens sometime in the new year.

In the mean time they are gutting out the lower level, destroying the area that King Clancy and Syl Apps and Frank Mahovlich and Dave Keon and Darryl Sittler made so famous, so Loblaws can sell tomato paste and dog food.

It seems so wrong. At least the final product will pay homage to the building's hockey history:


Maple Leaf Gardens' future
On the walk down Church street back to my hotel, I made sure to turn off and wander down the peaceful, residential area of Mutual Street. Located between Dundas and Shuter streeets was the Mutual Street Arena, where the Leafs (and Arenas and St. Pats) played their home games until 1931. In fact, from 1912 to the opening of Maple Leaf Gardens, the Mutual Street Arena was the home of hockey in Toronto. It remained in use right through to 1989, though it converted to a curling rink in the 1960s.

The Mutual Street Arena was torn down before 1990. The land was turned into residential homes with Cathedral Square Park. Earlier this year (May to be exact) the city of Toronto honoured the area's hockey importance by renaming the park "Arena Gardens"

So next time you travel to Toronto, don't forget to add these destinations to your usual hockey haunts like the Hall of Fame, Gretzky's and Legends of the Game.

Mutual Street Arena

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