Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Maple Leaf Gardens Update

Prior to attending a meeting (June 28th) for members of the Society of International Hockey Research (Toronto Chapter), I decided to make a pilgrimage over to Maple Leaf Gardens. While walking along Wood Street, I snapped the following photographs.

Work continues to be performed on the windows and bricks.

On Church Street, I discovered a large opening, revealing a decent interior view of the Gardens (above photograph). Of particular interest is the area incorporating the domed portion of the roof. The dome is a stunning feature which enhances the overall appearance from an external perspective. It's peak is 150 feet from the street pavement.

A view of the dome - circa early 1930s
Just as interesting, is the interior design and construction of the dome. Situated directly in the middle of Maple Leaf Gardens, the rectangular area of the dome is 207 feet by 225 feet in size. The dome is constructed of 4 trussed ribs which are braced by a number of trusses. These trusses, in conjunction with roofing ribs, provide a base on which the roof decking is placed.

The roof of the dome is draped with steel sheets. These sheets are covered with a special paint and a coat of aluminum paint. Insulation was then placed on the sheets. The insulation is protected by a slate-surfaced, built-up covering. The entire roof (dome & flat surface) was put up in four weeks. An amazing accomplishment by any standard - 1931 or 2011.

The centre of dome was reached by walking/crawling along a number of cat walks. Back in 1931, a platform was built below the dome. In the days before the centre-ice scoreboard, a boxing/wrestling ring could be lowered for such events. The space also served as the location for lighting, audio speakers and radio microphones.

Of note along Church Street and Carlton, is the fact a number of bricks have been removed at street level.

As the above artists rendering reveals, much of the street portion of the redevelopment will incorporate storefronts. The top photo shows where workers have punched out existing bricks.

This would return the retail market back to it's roots at Maple Leaf Gardens. In the early 1930s, stores set-up shop at street level along Carlton and Church Streets. Those living in the community could visit Love & Bennett Sporting Goods at 62 Carlton. The United Cigar Stores were tenants in the prime location of 438 Church Street - nicely situated at the north-west corner of Church and Carlton. The space at 446 Church was occupied by JJ Beauty Parlour Supplies.

A member of the Toronto Maple Leafs roster even got into the retail action. Hap Day, captain of the Maple Leafs, opened Happy Day Pharmacy at 50 Carlton Street.

As I turned the corner at Church & Carlton, it felt as though I was entering the twilight zone. I was walking into a foreign area, as though I was transported to another era via a time machine.

The above photo reveals why one may lose their bearings while walking along Carlton Street. The marquee above the main entrance has been stripped bare. The final association with the name - Maple Leaf Gardens - has been removed. The lettering for the full name (facing south) and coming events (east & west) is no more. It is the final nail in the coffin. The name on the calling card changed forever. There will be no further mail addressed to Maple Leaf Gardens, 60 Carlton Street, Toronto, Ontario.

In the print depicting the completed renovations, the marquee is still in place. However, Maple Leaf Gardens is replaced by Ryerson University. A series of banners can be seen above the marquee, one being blue & white and spelling out Maple Leaf Gardens. Well, it's something at least.

Researching the City of Toronto Council Meetings for 1931, provided some historical background concerning the marquee. Prior to construction taking flight, Maple Leaf Gardens, Limited were operating out of offices at 11 King Street West. As part of the building process, they made an application to the Commissioner of Works concerning erecting a marquee.

The canopy was to be situated on the south wall and it measured 106 feet by 10 feet. The main components were steel and glass. The marquee would sit 10 feet 6 inches above the city sidewalk.City officials only concern pertained to encroachment (10 feet). It was the Commissioner's opinion MLG could proceed as planned. However, while working with a city solicitor, certain conditions would have to be met. It was required that Maple Leaf Gardens, Limited enter into an agreement with the city. This related to "clauses providing for (1) indemnification of the city against any action, claim, damage or loss whatsoever, and (2) in the event of the city council levying a tax on all such encroachments same will be paid."

The city was operating within the provisions set-out in by-law no.13252 (canopies, erection and maintenance of).

For millions of hockey fans, passing under the marquee/canopy was something special. It marked the main entrance to Toronto's hockey palace. The side panels telling everyone who glanced up "TONIGHT NHL HOCKEY." Most vintage film of the exterior usually includes a shot of the marquee, with fans making their way into the home of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

As time passed and with taller buildings rising above 60 Carlton, the marquee took on greater significance. At street level, walking east from the College subway station on the north side of Carlton, the marquee was the only visual marking indicating Maple Leaf Gardens was within sight.

It was like a lighthouse guiding those at sea to shore.

1 comment:

  1. I have a question about one portion of the article:

    "Back in 1931, a platform was built below the dome. In the days before the centre-ice scoreboard, a boxing/wrestling ring could be lowered for such events."

    Are you saying a wrestling/boxing ring was kept way up in the roof dome, and lowered for events? Or am I parsing the sentence incorrectly?


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.