The name “the Annex” can be traced back to the early 1880s when merchant and local speculator Simeon Janes used “Toronto Annexed” for his elite residential developments. The land had been annexed by the City of Toronto in order to provide necessary services, such as water, sewers and paved roads. The city continued to annex properties west to Bathurst Street, thus the Bloor Annex was formed.
Bloor Street is home to several buildings with long histories. Timothy Eaton, founder of the Eaton’s department store empire, helped fund the building of Trinity Methodist Church in 1889, known today as the Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre (located at 427 Bloor St. W., near Spadina). The Centre includes the United Church and a performing arts centre, which offers a great variety of classes. The centre is also home to Tafelmusik, the renowned baroque orchestra, and community-based services including Out of the Cold for homelessness.
Wiener’s Hardware, established by Annex resident Hyman Wiener in 1923, was formed as a family-run and community-based store. Hyman’s son, Gerry, merged the original company with Home Hardware and Wiener’s Home Hardware was formed. When Gerry sadly passed away in 1991, his son Marty and his staff took over and in 1998 expanded the business into the building next door, almost doubling in size. Today, Wiener’s Home Hardware continues to operate as a community-based store, offering friendly service from their knowledgeable staff, the way Hyman Wiener did over 90 years ago. Drop in to have a look at the historical photos above the doorway.
Paupers Pub is a beautifully restored building at the corner of Lippincott, near Bathurst Street. It was originally built as a bank in 1914 by the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. Today, it is a three floor pub, with one of the Annex’s best views of the Toronto skyline from the roof top patio!
Near Bathurst Street sits the historic Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. Built as a movie theatre in 1913, the building has undergone many major renovations over the years. The most recent renovation in 2012 saw an upgrade to its technical capabilities, the installation of a larger screen, and improvements to the lobby, orchestra seating, facade and canopy. With 727 seats the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema is the largest-capacity operating cinema in the city and one of the only documentary-focused cinemas in the world. It hosts many festivals, including Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival among others, in addition to its regular programming.
Across the street is Lee’s Palace, which was also originally built as a movie theatre in 1941. Take a look at the back of the building and notice that it still has a rounding-top shape like most theatres of that time. Since 1985 it has been a well-known venue for live music concerts. The colourful cartoon mural was added on in the 1990s.
In sight of the Spadina subway station and on a stately residential street just one block east is the famous Madison Avenue Pub and Restaurant. In 1983, the pub opened in one room at the bottom of 14 Madison Avenue, and today it occupies three spectacular Victorian homes and features six British style pubs, four fireplaces and five multilevel patios.
At Spadina and Bloor is the bustling Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre. Located at 750 Spadina Avenue, the JCC is dedicated to serving the community, cultural, educational and recreational needs of downtown Toronto. Its programs and services are guided by Jewish values and are open to all members regardless of race, origin or religious affiliation. Check out the numerous facilities at: www.mnjcc.org.
At Bathurst and Bloor Street there is the not-to-be-missed sight of Honest Ed’s. It is a one-of-a-kind landmark discount store named for its proprietor, Ed Mirvish, who opened the store with his wife Anne in 1948 and oversaw its operations for almost sixty years, until his death in 2007. The exterior is covered with huge red and yellow signs advertising the name of the store like a theatre marquee. The outside facade is also peppered with humorous slogans such as “Come in and get lost!” and “Only the floors are crooked!” Much of the stores interior decor consists of posters and photos from old films and stage productions. Sadly, Honest Ed’s will be closing in December 2016.
Just south of Bloor at 292 Brunswick Avenue, is the Tranzac. This is a non-profit member supported community organization with a focus on promoting arts, music and theatre. TRANZAC is the abbreviation for the Toronto Australia New Zealand Club which started in 1931 and found its home here in 1971. Check on all their events: www.tranzac.org