toronto bloor

The evolution of Bloor St. between the 1970s and 1990s

Bloor Street has undergone drastic changes over the last 50 years. Boosted by completion of the Bloor-Danforth subway in 1966, the downtown portion of the east-west artery has in just a few decades gone from low-rise commercial district to the tony home of the brutalist Manulife, Holt Renfrew, and Hudson's Bay centres.

Outside the core, change has come about much slower. Stores have switched hands, but west of Spadina and east of Sherbourne (save for Honest Ed's) the Bloor of the 1970s is still recognizable more than 40 years later.

Here's a look back at what Bloor St. used to look like.

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South side of Bloor at Jane in the mid-1990s. All three of these stores are still open, although Brown's Sports and Cycle has changed its signage.

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Bloor and Durie. Queen's Pasta Cafe is still going strong.

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"Smacks" hamburgers and ice cream at the southeast corner of Bloor and Beresford. The location has since been taken over by Pizza Pizza.

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The Runnymede theatre in 1989 when Black Rain and Fat Man and Little Boy, a movie about the Manhattan Project, were playing. The historic building is now a Shoppers Drug Mart.

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The Toronto Public Library branch at Bloor and Glendowynne. It's still there, of course, though the cyan signage has been removed and the exterior tastefully renovated.

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Honest Ed's in the 1960s (I know, I know. It's not the 70s, 80s, or 90s, but it's interesting to compare with the image below.)

toronto honest eds

Honest Ed's in its final and current incarnation shortly after 1982, when the current signage was installed.

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Looking north over Bloor on St. George outside the Bata Shoe Museum in the 1990s.

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Stores on the northeast corner of Bloor and Spadina in the 1990s--note the "Wraptors" restaurant, which is now the home of the Pizza Pizza. Curiously, that franchise has occupied four of the six available retail locations since the 1960s, as evidenced by the image below and the view today.

toronto bloor

Varsity Restaurant, Varsity Books, and a very early Pizza Pizza location at Spadina in the 1970s.

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The former Scouts Toronto headquarters on the north side of Bloor, east of Spadina in the 1970s.

toronto bloor

Rochdale College in 1970. The towers housed an experimental school that offered its students free education and co-op living. Though the organization soon became mired in scandals over the use of drugs among students, the presence of bikers gangs and squatters, Rochdale alumnae would go on to found Coach House Press and the Hassle Free Clinic. The school closed in 1975 after defaulting on its mortgage but the building remains under the ownership of Toronto Community Housing.

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Looking northwest at Bloor and St. George circa 1996.

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Aerial view of the intersection of Bloor and Bedford in the 1990s. Those now-closed Harvey's and Swiss Chalet franchises have history: they were the first Toronto locations of the now ubiquitous fast food brands.

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The Royal Ontario Museum from the air before the addition of Daniel Libeskind's Michael Lee-Chin Crystal.

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The Colonnade on Bloor, looking west in the 1990s.

toronto bloor archive

The University Theatre in Yorkville before its interior was demolished and the building abandoned. Return of the Jedi, "the smash of 85," is showing, according to the sign. Today, it's a Pottery Barn.

toronto bloor

Looking west along Bloor over Bay. The brutalist Colonnade near Avenue Rd. is visible in the distance. The building at the corner has since been replaced by a concrete office tower.

toronto bloor

The Bloor Building at the southwest corner of Bay and Bloor before construction of the Manulife Centre.

toronto bloor

The cantilevered north tower of the Manulife Centre at Bloor and Bay. Designed by Clifford & Lawrie Architects, the precast concrete development included a roof garden, a 51st floor swimming pool in the southern residential tower, shops, restaurants, and a cinema. Also worth nothing: the northbound Bay trolley bus.

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The facade of the Holt Renfrew store near Bay. One of two large concrete walls on Bloor St.

toronto bloor archive

Looking west on Bloor just east of Yonge. The construction hoarding is announcing the impending arrival of the Hudson's Bay Centre.

toronto bloor archive

The same Royal Bank of Canada building looking north from Yonge.

toronto bloor archive

The northwest corner of Yonge and Bloor used to be the home of the Pilot Tavern--"home of good food," according to its sign. The buildings at the corner were demolished to make way for Two Bloor West in the early 1970s.

toronto bloor archive

Stollery's and the southwest corner of Yonge and Bloor before the arrival of the Hudson's Bay Centre and Two Bloor West tower.

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Hudson's Bay Centre under construction.

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The old Royal Bank of Canada building at the northeast corner of Yonge and Bloor shortly before its demolition. Parts Hudson's Bay Centre were constructed around the structure. It was eventually placed by a low-rise concrete pavilion.

toronto bloor

"Hotel Plaza," now the Toronto Marriott Bloor Yorkville Hotel. When the complex opened in 1975, high-wire performer Jay Cochrane walked between the HBC and hotel towers without the use of a safety harness, writes Jamie Bradburn at Torontoist.

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West along Bloor from Church. The bunker-like face of the Hudson's Bay Centre would become the source of criticism from architecture critics.

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

Images: City of Toronto Archives, Toronto Telegram fonds, F0433, ASC05296.

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