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The Silver Dollar could get heritage protection

Posted by Chris Bateman / March 24, 2014

toronto silver dollarThe Silver Dollar Room could become a Toronto heritage property and be protected from possible demolition if a city report gets the green light. Heritage staff say that adding the music venue to the list of protected properties would allow the city to control alterations to the site and refuse plans that call for it to be torn down.

The report doesn't call for the Hotel Waverly, which is also threatened with demolition, to be given the same protection, however.

A plan by property owners The Wynn Group that would demolish both the Hotel Waverly and The Silver Dollar Room for student housing is currently being appealed at the Ontario Municipal Board. In January, Toronto and East York Community council rejected the proposal, saying it "does not promote a harmonious fit with the existing neighbourhood context."

toronto hotel waverlyThe plans for a 20-storey tower were first revealed in June 2013. If built, The Silver Dollar Room would be given an new home in the ground floor of the building, owner Paul Wynn said at the time. Local councillor Adam Vaughan called the tower "a terrible idea."

The simple one-and-a-half storey bar was built in 1958 as a cocktail lounge for the Hotel Waverly. It became "a venue for erotic dancing and striptease" in the 1960s and emerged as an incubator for rock and blues music in the 1970s. Heritage staff say the building deserves to be protected for its association "with the development and growth of music in Toronto, particularly the genres of jazz, blues, rock and bluegrass."

The report also says The Silver Dollar Room, Grossman's Tavern, the Horseshoe Tavern, and the El Mocambo are part of the cultural heritage of Spadina Avenue and that the circular Silver Dollar Room sign is also deserving of protection.

What do you think? Should The Silver Dollar Room be protected by the city? What about the Hotel Waverly?

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Image: City of Toronto, The Wynn Group/Kirkor Architects and Planners

Discussion

33 Comments

M / March 24, 2014 at 12:59 pm
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There's a significant difference between a building that has heritage and is worth saving, and....this block.
gabe / March 24, 2014 at 01:03 pm
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completely agree with you M.
Tech No / March 24, 2014 at 01:03 pm
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Viva la zona
Ilgustavo / March 24, 2014 at 01:08 pm
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They could keep it open as a Toronto rave museum in all it's ratty glory.
Blah / March 24, 2014 at 01:16 pm
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Applying heritage protection willy nilly is not only a wasting that option, but it devalues the other properties it currently applies to. Especially since the Silver Dollar would still exist, just in a different form. Not everything that exists at this moment is the way it has to be until the end of the world.
John Labatt / March 24, 2014 at 01:25 pm
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Tear it down cash paid at end of day.
Mr. / March 24, 2014 at 01:35 pm
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Living next to The Comfort Zone would just be amazing - Cracker-jacks and Creatures hanging around - oh what fun! FAIL
Jim / March 24, 2014 at 01:40 pm
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M, that could also be said about the Cavern Club in Liverpool, CBGBs in NYC and countless other buildings that have historical/cultural value for music, literature and other arts. It's not about the architectural values per se - it's about the cultural importance of the venue.

Blah, what makes you think heritage protection is being applied "willy nilly"? These venues are significant in the history of Toronto's music scene - a culture that spawned many artists who enrich our lives and some who now generate lots of money for the economy, if money is only compass point people care about. That's a totally legitimate rationale for preserving these venues - nothing willy nilly about it.
Dre replying to a comment from Jim / March 24, 2014 at 01:49 pm
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Exactly except the Comfort Zone hasn't really been that significant to the Toronto music scene or world music scene.

It's just another venue, just cause a few big names have played there doesn't mean its really had a major cultural impact like the Cavern Club or CBGB's that spawned music scenes and bands that changed music forever.
steve / March 24, 2014 at 01:54 pm
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Tear it down
Keep the sign for the name of the student housing
Sometimes its best to know when to say goodbye
Andy / March 24, 2014 at 01:55 pm
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Why Block the future improvement of this corner?

They can build something good there that will serve the area and students of U of T OR you can leave it as is, and shoe horn/retro fit some other establishment there and wonder why nothing can survive in that location. REbuild.
Yammy / March 24, 2014 at 01:58 pm
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The Cavern Club is across the street from its orignal location. CBGB's is a high-end clothing store. Has the history associated with these disappeared?
Ellen / March 24, 2014 at 02:08 pm
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Definitely an area that deserves protection. Once it has the heritage board's designation, a restoration can come and pretty it up for all you judgmental assholes.
W.M. Johnston / March 24, 2014 at 02:12 pm
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This is a strange application of the concept of heritage preservation. Preserving a historic structure by preventing demolition or alteration makes sense based on the architectural merits of a structure. Physical maintenance is straightforward. But how does one preserve heritage based on the use or function of a structure? If a future owner of the Silver Dollar Room wishes to operate a coffee shop or clothing store out of the location, would the city be able to prohibit such a use?

"Sorry, this is officially designated as a heritage dive bar. You must operate a somewhat sketchy drinking establishment with live music at this location."

This would be a silly proposition, obviously. So what is to happen? If the Silver Dollar Room closes one day, the city puts up a plaque on uninteresting box of a structure to remind us that it once existed? That's an odd way to go about heritage.
Ezra replying to a comment from Yammy / March 24, 2014 at 02:19 pm
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Nope. Exactly whether CBCG's still exists or not its history is in the past where it should be, and you still see CBGC's shirts all the time. Sometimes its best to let it go, instead of trying to reinvent or relive the past today.

steve / March 24, 2014 at 02:24 pm
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Is this building not half gone already. It is missing a floor and the back end has been rebuilt, the ground floor facade is butchered. It deserves a plaque at this location recognizing its contribution to the music scene, but to keep it because it is old, this is no way to preserve the history of the city.
Blah replying to a comment from Jim / March 24, 2014 at 02:33 pm
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There is a venue that is as important to this city as CBGB was to NYC: The Horseshoe Tavern. If someone wanted to build a 22 story condo on that site, then I might share your concern. If we were to list other performance venues (not named Massey Hall) in this city that should enjoy the same protection, we would be far down the list before we got to the Silver Dollar. Lee's Palace? The Rex? El Mocambo?. Not that I would say any of those buildings deserve the protection, and the Danforth Music Hall probably shouldn't have the protection it currently has for eternity.

25 years from now, there will be multiple venues in this city with just as much a claim to "heritage" as the Silver Dollar does now, and 25 years from then there will be even more. Why can't we just enjoy and document these places now, and remember them how they were, without getting in the way of the natural process of reusing the space to fill a more pressing need? I understand the argument of sharing cultural spaces over time, but the buildings that really resonate with people are obvious and few. The purpose of heritage protection is to give certain important buildings integral to the fabric of a city certain protections against the free market. When the Silver Dollar is an example of a protected music venue, how many buildings in other facets of Toronto life should have protection?

As to the money thing, if the main argument for preservation of a building is that people who played in it went on the generate lots of money for the local economy, then the Skydome would already be encased in amber.
James / March 24, 2014 at 02:34 pm
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If we create a music museum in Toronto with all the history and artifacts, can people go there for nostalgia and importance instead, something we can show tourists too about the importance of the Toronto music scene. It would be much more educational that a dive bar that I can't really take my kids too and try and explain its importance.
PROGRESS_NOW! / March 24, 2014 at 02:40 pm
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Can we just demo it build what needs to be built and put a plaque on the sidewalk such as,

"this is the site of the former Silver Dollar room, one of Toronto's greatest music venues. For full history and details on the Silver Dollar visit toronto.ca/siverdollar"
Blah replying to a comment from Blah / March 24, 2014 at 02:43 pm
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I should note two other things.
- The Silver Dollar will still exist inside the new building. We could get into the Ship of Theseus and all that, but if you go to the NW corner of College and Spadina after they build the tower, you will still see the Silver Dollar in more or less the same spot. Music will still be played there, presumably. As a society, we will be deprived the Silver Dollar staircase.

- NYC is trying to place heritage protection on a parking lot (http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20140320/upper-east-side/city-consider-landmarking-ues-parking-garage). This is what can happen when attempts at preservation are not checked properly. Everything is important to a few people, or some people. Even the most insignificant building in a city is attached to people somehow. Without a unique historical claim or architectural importance, heritage protection should be used to preserve the buildings that many people, or most people, find to be an important aspect of their city.
r / March 24, 2014 at 02:51 pm
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get rid of silver dollae, the cz, and the waverly they are cockroach.rat infested. dan burke will find a new gig. do you know the amount of drugs that flow threw these places. partiers will find other place to pary. please clean up thsi corner. r
Davy Gravy replying to a comment from Blah / March 24, 2014 at 02:57 pm
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Except that the NYC parking garage (not parking lot) is a 1914 design by George F. Pelham. It's architecturally and historically significant. Dismissing it as a "parking lot" doesn't change that.
Jake replying to a comment from Blah / March 24, 2014 at 02:58 pm
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BMO field is as heritage important to the city as it gets! Lets expand it, fund it, preserve it. This is Canadian Soccer!

Simon Tarses / March 24, 2014 at 03:36 pm
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The Silver Dollar should be kept as is; its a part of out city where blues and other kinds of music are played, and where history was made (as should the Waverley; if the Drake and Gladstone hotels can be restored, so can the Waverley.) What's REALLY needed, IMHO, is cooperation between the colleges and TCHC to build student housing that's affordable, decent-looking, and sturdy (not this proposed monstrosity that's made of glass and will probably be too expensive for the students to afford.) Or they could simply restore the Waverley and turn it into student housing.
Davey replying to a comment from Simon Tarses / March 24, 2014 at 03:44 pm
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If you want to keep the Silver Dollar as is then I need you to attend at least 2 shows a week for the next two years. Its one thing to say leave it as is from the comfort of your home but when you rarely go there, if ever then stop screaming about it.
Simon Tarses replying to a comment from Davey / March 24, 2014 at 04:36 pm
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I wasn't aware that I had to attend the Silver Dollar just so that I could support it according to you.
iSkyscraper / March 24, 2014 at 04:41 pm
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Toronto has absurdly weak historic preservation laws. They need to be a lot stronger (copying NYC's landmarks regulations and processes would be a start), but they also need to pick their battles and focus on appropriate buildings. This is not one of them.

W.M. Johnston / March 24, 2014 at 04:44 pm
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The more I think about it, the more I see the need for an institution devoted to commercial heritage. Such a place would display things like the Sam the Record Man neon signs, pieces of Honest Eds and other items that are important to our collective memory but don't quite fit the usual definition of heritage. There we could sit inside a retired TTC streetcar, touch old newspaper boxes and parking meters and a thousand other things we don't miss until they are gone. The museum would be like 'Toronto's attic' and rather than being static, it would serve food and booze and host concerts and presentations... "hey! This booth used to be at Sneaky Dees, that bar counter used to be at the Opera House..."

The artifacts would be donated as time passed, with some of them being given a second chance at being used. Just an idea.
Mr. Blonde / March 24, 2014 at 05:11 pm
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I'm with Jim
chester / March 24, 2014 at 09:00 pm
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If Silver Dollar is a heritage site then thats like saying Zanzibar should be a heritage site considering it had the same musical acts back in the day.
toronto dude / March 24, 2014 at 10:09 pm
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i'm with iSky
iSkyscraper replying to a comment from W.M. Johnston / March 25, 2014 at 09:41 am
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Yes, I wonder what such an institution would be called?

Perhaps, oh I don't know, a "museum"?

Many big cities have their own museums. Toronto does not, though at times it has half-tried to start one. (Same could be said for a Toronto transit museum). If the city could ever get its act together (and maybe not have a Tea Party infant as mayor), it would be the perfect institution for preserving this sort of commercial heritage.

http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/london-wall/
http://www.mcny.org/
http://www.chicagohistory.org/
http://www.edinburghmuseums.org.uk/Venues/Museum-of-Edinburgh.aspx
http://kansascitymuseum.org/
http://www.philadelphiahistory.org/index.php
http://sydneylivingmuseums.com.au/museum-of-sydney
B. Ross Ashley / March 25, 2014 at 06:43 pm
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The Silver dollar is important to Toronto music history ... the Waverley, not so much; go ahead and tear it down. It's an eyesore.

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