Elgin and Winter Gardens Theatre ~ Toronto Ontario Canada ~ HIstoric ~ 2004 photo
Image by Onasill ~ Bill
The history of the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre is a long and fascinating one, spanning nearly 100 years. It not only chronicles the magnificent design, architectural and entertainment highlights of an era, it also reflects the evolution and growth of our heritage and culture.
Built in 1913, the complex was the Canadian flagship of Marcus Loew’s legendary theatre chain. Designed by Thomas Lamb as a "double-decker" theatre complex, it contained the Winter Garden Theatre, constructed seven storeys above the Elgin Theatre (originally known as Loew’s Yonge Street Theatre).
The two theatres were of distinctly different personality: the Elgin was all gold leaf and rich fabrics, a formal theatre of plaster cherubs and ornate opera boxes. The Winter Garden was a botanical fantasy, its walls hand-painted to resemble a garden, its ceiling a mass of real beech boughs and twinkling lanterns. The theatres played host to such greats as George Burns and Gracie Allen, Sophie Tucker, Milton Berle and Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy.
With the decline of vaudeville, the Winter Garden closed in 1928. It remained closed for more than half a century, becoming a time capsule of a bygone era. The Elgin, with its grand domed ceiling, continued as a movie house, gradually slipping into disrepair with the passing of each decade.
In 1981, the Ontario Heritage Trust purchased the building. Prior to the Trust’s ambitious restoration program, the successful production of Cats ran for nearly two years at the Elgin Theatre – the most successful pre-sales theatrical event in Canada at that time. In 1987, a two-and-a-half year, -million restoration began