Designed my Thomas W Lamb, built in 1913, the Elgin and Winter Garden are not one but two grand full-sized theatres stacked on top of one another – a design fairly common in Edwardian days, but this beauty is now the last surviving example anywhere in the world.
The downstairs Elgin (originally Loew’s) was intended for general audiences, vaudeville and silent movies – while the winter-garden was fancier, simulating an outdoor theatre environment. They also ran vaudeville shows up there, but did more elaborate productions for which they could charge more.
In 1928 they installed sound equipment in the downstairs Elgin theatre, to play the new ‘talkies’ (movies with integral sound) and closed the Winter Garden – and then they left it closed right through to the end of the eighties – so long in fact, that when they did finally blow the dust off things, they realized they were in possession of the world’s finest collection of original vaudeville sets and flats.
Still some ways away from actually presenting any genuine vaudeville on site, mind you (more’s the pity), but both of these rare beauties are again in fine trim and back in service, which makes all of us here rather lucky.
But what I can’t help thinking about is – who had the awesome job of being the security guard in that lovely old haunted and abandoned theatre all those years? It could in fact have been the main arc of an entire security career for two such patient and non-dust-sensitive rounds-keepers in a row, or more!
Certainly would have made a zowie place to bring a date, or a keener friend with a camera! Right up there with the ghost-station that was built and then never used for underground streetcar platforms and subway connections, right at Queen and Yonge.
Not to say that I don’t like things better shiny and running of course – but hey, I am a writer, and the Winter Garden’s lonely bittersweet days, tough as they were at the time, were part of what protected it’s extraordinary vintage quality.
Never can be quite sure what misfortune might be needed, for what treasure.
(One of the better and more frequently demonstrated reasons to stay open-minded about our judgements, when it comes to the ‘meaning’ of events)
Yup – a whole wall full of tiffany windows – and it’s far more deluxe inside!