Monday, 27 May 2013

Playing tourist in my own city

The annual Doors Open Toronto enabled me to play tourist for a day.   When we travelled abroad, we would go madly looking for beautiful architecture and unique buildings - in fact these are in abundance in our own city.  The old CIBC building in Commerce Court North and the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres are two such buildings within a 10 minute walk of each other downtown.

Staircase to the lobby of Commerce Court North from the basement mall
Stunning lobby 

The limestone building was completed in 1930 as the headquarters of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and was for three decades (until 1962) the tallest building in the British Commonwealth

Door handle details

The front door portal
Walking north a few blocks from 25 King West up Yonge Street at No. 189 is an unassuming building that houses the Elgin and the Winter Garden Theatres.  You would never have guessed what the interior looks like when you see the building from the outside.  

Once you're inside though, you'll realize that you are in a very special building.  

The faux marble is everywhere but it created the ambiance for the hallways and inside the Elgin Theatre itself.
We have gone to the Elgin many times as it is the home of the baroque opera company Opera Atelier but we have never gone as "tourists", have never taken pictures of the inside, have never gawked!  In general, we behaved ourselves as concert goers.  Visiting it during Doors Open was another experience all together.

The ornate boxes

The balcony and the ceiling above
Seven stories above the Elgin Theatre is the Winter Garden Theatre.  These are the last surviving Edwardian stacked theatres in the world.   We walked up several flights then up three sets of escalators to get to the The Winter Garden Theatre.  It has a very special look - literally that of a winter garden, with trees for columns and millions of leaves, faux, dried or otherwise preserved. 

The Doors Open crowd listening to the history of the theatre and descriptions of how the leaves were preserved.  Someone asked how they are cleaned - response is they build scaffolding in order to do the cleaning.  You can imagine they won't be cleaned every month!

The boxes are very differently decorated from the ones at the Elgin

The hand painted fire screen

A closeup look at the tree and the leaves
It was a great way to spend a Sunday - exploring my own city!  After lunch we visited One King West, BCE Place and the Canada Life Building.  More in the next post.


  1. I thoroughly enjoyed the tour! Reminds one to view one's home city through a tourist's eye. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thanks, H Gotts! Glad you liked it.