Lawrence Solman, Canada’s Uncrowned Amusement King

Lawrence Solman, Canada’s Uncrowned Amusement King

From: The Toronto Star Weekly, November 18, 1926


◊ Profile of the remarkable Toronto-born entrepreneur Lawrence “Lol” Solman (1866-1931), who was managing director of the Royal Alexandra Theatre, Sunnyside Amusement Park, Hanlan’s Hotel, Hanlan’s Point Amusement Park and the Mutual Street Arena in Toronto; owner of the Toronto Ferry Company and the Toronto Maple Leafs baseball club; and vice-president of Loews Canadian theatres. Born Jewish, he married Emily Hanlan, sister of rower Ned Hanlan, and was buried at Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto.

* * *

The late Sir Edmond Osler, meeting a friend on the street in Toronto a few years ago, asked him to guess what was the most satisfactory investment he had ever made — the most consistent and persistent earner?

The friend was perplexed. Sir Edmond had the reputation of being somewhat of a financial wizard, with an uncanny sense for ferreting out the worth of any project requiring borrowed capital. After a few moments of deliberation, the puzzled expression left the friend’s face, and, with the expansiveness one feels on solving some problem that has floored another, replied: “I know you have had some money in most of the good things in this part of the world, and to some of your friends what you have asked me to guess might be pretty much of an enigma. But I will bet it was some brewery stock.”

“You are dead wrong! As an investment yielding a high return, and one that never had a lean year, Lol Solman’s merry-go-round at the island has been in a class by itself.”

Hanlans-Point-by-nightWhen I recalled this story during a recent conversation with Mr. Solman, his eyes twinkled in response to the reminiscences of the days when he enjoyed a most intimate friendship with the banker. During the latter part of his life Sir Edmond had a fixed and unshakable conviction that Lawrence Solman would make a success of anything he undertook. This was shown time and time again when Solman’s honesty and sagacity was backed with cold, hard cash.

“Well, I remember just as clearly as if it had happened last week, of going to Sir Edmond and saying: ‘We have the books closed and balanced for the season, and have decided to cut the melon.’ He asked how big a slice he was to get, and when I told him it was to be every cent of his principal back in one lump sum he flatly refused to accept it. However, we finally compromised, and he endorsed a dividend cheque for fifty per cent. One might never have suspected it and it may seem hard to credit, but the earnings of that little old gold mine at the island never varied more than few dollars year by year.”

“Were all of your investments as lucrative?” I next queried.

“No, I could hardly say that, but I have always found it much easier to make money than to hang on to it after it was made. Making money is very much easier than some people seem to believe, but there is a real art in saving it.”

Those that know anything about the private life of Lol Solman will wonder at this statement. His tastes are simple in the extreme, and the money is certainly not spent on himself. Then, too, he is much too shrewd to lose it through unwise investments. Then where does it go? The answer to this question reveals to one in an intimate way the mode of life and the character of a man who is oft-times referred to as “Canada’s Uncrowned Amusement King.”

Lives Near Birthplace

Lawrence Solman is an unusual mixture of sentiment and business shrewdness. With his various enterprises basking in the warmth of solvency and pouring profits into his no longer surprised pockets, he continues to live in the same characteristically modest way.

When he goes motoring it is in a car that some of his employees might scorn to drive.

He was born just back of the present site of the Royal Alexandra Theatre; consequently, this particular neighbourhood has a very strong sentimental attachment for him. Although he has spent the past forty summers at the island, during the winter he lives in an old home on the corner of John and Richmond streets in Toronto.

I met him there the other day, and as we walked down John street to King his memory seemed to overflow with the events of the days when that was the aristocratic residential neighbourhood.

“It doesn’t look much like it now, but do you know that John street used to be one of the very finest in the town? Why, when I was a young fellow many of the best families lived right along here.

“See that house there,” and we had come less than a block, “that is the building where John Ross Robertson was born. Across the street there is the old home of Ed. Hanlan. Down on that next corner was where the old Government House stood. Two of the Heintzman boys were born in those houses there. They look mighty shabby now, but I remember when they were considered fine enough for our most opulent citizens. The Royal Alexandra Theatre was built where the entrance to the old Upper Canada College was, and the old buildings and grounds covered the entire block bounded by Adelaide, John, Kind and Simcoe streets.

“There may be some men who are small enough to be ashamed of ever having lived down in this section, but they have no cause to be, for all these old homes belongs to the most substantial of the city’s old families. A person had to be considered mighty well-off to afford one of these houses that were the pride of their owners and the cause of many a pang of envy on the part of the less fortunate.”

At this stage I could no longer resist enquiring: “I know you do not live here any longer from necessity. Is it the memory of your youth that keeps you here?”

“Well, in the first place, I find it very convenient; you see, I can walk to my office in a few minutes. However, I suppose I find some sort of an attraction rising out of the happenings of the old days.”

There is a legend that one sometimes hears, and that is that he is penurious. Even to those who have heard no more of Lol Solman than his proverbial cigar, this misrepresentation is so gross as to produce no more serious an emotion than that of amusement.

Although I have spent a good deal of time with Mr. Solman I could not draw from him one fact about his benefactions. One has only to spend as much time with his associates to hear of enough incidents of people he has helped in their time of trouble to make a good-sized book. However, I will venture to say that none of these deeds have been mentioned by the man himself but have been related by the unfortunates themselves or by someone that has witnessed his response to some appeal.

One of his closest colleagues told a story a few days ago which may be taken as a typical example of his belief that a man should not wait until he is ready to die before using any of his money for helpful purposes.

A Case of True Charity


Maple Leaf Stadium

During the early days of the war Mr. Solman had working for him at the Royal Alexandra Theatre a girl whose head had been more than partly turned by the stories constantly coming from trooping actors as to the high wages obtainable in New York City. They finally convinced her that she as imply wasting her talents on the desert air. So one morning she met the boss at the door with a demand for an immediate increase. More in fun than with any intention of refusing her request, the boss asked her what she was going to do to make her services more valuable to the company. This query was all that was required to ignite the fireworks, and on the impulse was interpreted as a refusal.

The next morning she was conspicuous by her absence. Past favours were lightly forgotten, and without the mere formality of saying good-by she flew posthaste to the city of opportunity and shattered hopes. On reaching Gotham she experienced little difficulty in securing a position with one of the hotels. Within a few months she was terribly burned in a fire and died. Her people were without the wherewithal to settle her bills and bring her body back for burial in the family plot in eastern Canada. It was to Lol Solman the appeal for help came. Many men might have considered this too much like being asked to turn the other cheek, but not this man. At an outlay running close to the four . . . he brought her body back to its final resting place amongst her own people.

Can anyone find a finer case of true charity?

It is claimed by those who know him best that he gives over a third of his time to helping others. However, these same persons will not attempt to hazard a guess as to what percentage of his income goes in the same manner. If he does not spend his money on himself, if all of his ventures have long been savoring the warmth of prosperity, is it not reasonable to assume it finds its way to aiding those that are destitute or in trouble?

Even though Lol Solman never has refused to assist a truly deserving case he is the kind of a man that never asks or accepts a favour from anyone.

A Canadian who has reached one of the highest executive positions in the industrial world said to me: “Of all my old friends Lol Solman is the only man that has not asked me to do him a favour at some time. Everyone of them has asked me to loan them money, or to use my influence to get something for a friend. The last time I was talking to him I asked him how that was, and he said: ‘I have had at least fifty come to me and ask me to use my influence with you to get something for them. I have offered to do what I could personally, but I simply told them you could not place all of the unemployed.”

Was Rushed into Baseball

One can rake the records of Solman’s youth in vain for evidence that he was afflicted with any pre-conceit as to the place he was destined to fill in the realm of sport and in the world of the theatre.

In 1885 he left Toronto to engage in the mail order business in Detroit, and did not return until some ten years later. In 1893 he was married to Emily Hanlan, the daughter of the late John Hanlan. From the time of his return home up till now he has been actively interested in all improvements and developments that have taken place at the island.

Some say he wandered into professional baseball, but the truth is he was pushed in. And the late Jim McCaffrey did the pushing. On the death of the latter in 1923 Lol Solman became not only the titular but the active head of the Toronto Baseball Club. This year he built in the city of his birth the finest baseball park in minor league baseball, and there are teams playing in the majors who cannot lay claim to as sumptuous a home.

Hanlan's Stadium, Toronto Island, where Babe Ruth was said to have to hit his first professional home run.

Hanlan’s Stadium, Toronto Island, where Babe Ruth was said to have to hit his first professional home run.

In speaking of the championship just won from the strongest teams in the minor leagues, Mr. Solman said: “It is not generally appreciated up here just how much favourable publicity Toronto has received in the States through our team winning the junior world’s championship. In my opinion, it is worth far more than all the paid propaganda we might care to invest in. I’ll venture to say there are lots of people who never heard of Toronto before.”

Professional ball players, boxers, actors, hockey players and so on, when successful, are paid larger salaries than university president, for the single reason that they bring in the box-office receipts. Consequently, a few generalities on the salaries paid ball players, as told to me by Mr. Solman, are worthy of recording here.

“Players are paid so much per month for a season of five and a half month, including all expenses while on the road.

“No matter how good a left-hand pitcher may be, the market value of his services is never nearly as high as that of an equally effective right-hander. Some claim that throwing with one’s left arm is a strain on the heart, and that this tends to shorten the playing life of most of the southpaws.”

“Who is the highest paid man on the Toronto team?” I asked.

“Ownie Currell is the highest paid player in the minor leagues.”

Every ball club owner has had his bitter experiences, and Mr. Solman is no exception

A few years ago, when Toronto was standing a close second in the league race, Mr. Solman was sitting with a friend at a game on which a great deal depended. The score stood two to one for the visitors and Toronto came to bat in the last half of the ninth — one run down. The first two batters went out: then the next man cracked out a beautiful double.

“Well, Lol, I’ll bet that makes you feel good,” the friend remarked.

“Yes, that’s not so bad.”

The next batter duplicated the feat, driving in a run to even the count.

“That must make you feel real good, Lol.”

“Yes, it would if I were a fan, but as the owner of this club it does not. I would rather have seen any other man on the team get that hit. When the time comes to get out the contracts for next season that fellow is going to remember that particular two-bagger, and if it doesn’t cost me five hundred dollars’ — I’ll miss my guess. He hasn’t got one atom of business sense, and I blame him for our team being in second place. All summer he has done nothing but find fault, disturbing other players and generally spoiling the morale of the team through his efforts as an agitator. But you could never make him realize the amount of money he has lost for us, the hundreds of dollars he has driven away from the box-office, though our hot heading the league.

His Theatrical Activities

The next batter won the game. Mr. Solman turned to his friend and said: “There is a man that is a real comfort. He got into trouble so deep that I had to go to his rescue. He was grateful, and insisted on playing for us this season, although he rightly belongs in the big leagues. From the minute he steps on the field he plays the game, and attends strictly to his knitting. If that other fellow would only take a leaf out of his book — Toronto would be on top right now, and would stay there.”

Solman was ushered into professional sport by way of lacrosse. The erstwhile mail order man was a staunch supporter of the old Tecumsehs in the days when lacrosse was our great national sport. And when they won the championship in 1911 he sent them to the west in quest of the Minto Cup — the emblem which represented the championship of the world.

Anyone who ever attended a lacrosse match in the old days or a baseball game at the island, or one at the new stadium this season, has probably observed the boss of the works wearing a half-anxious, tentative look as though he were wondering what was going to happen to him next; or else you have noticed him the background furtively watching the reaction of the crowd to that particular game, and wondering what could be done to make things more interesting or comfortable for his patrons.

Royal-alex-exterior-1911When the Royal Alexandra was built some eighteen years ago, there were many who regarded it as a white elephant, but under the management of Lawrence Solman it was made to do its tricks.

Lee Shubert was just emerging from the mass of ordinary theatrical producers, and gave promise of becoming one of the powers behind the American midway. With his usual vision, which is one of Solman’s greatest qualities, there was born in his mind a fixed and unshakeable conviction that Shubert was destined to hold the place he does today.

In speaking of the show business, Mr. Solman said: “It is extremely difficult to make a success of a new theatre today; and equally hard to secure the financial backing, as the great trouble for a beginner is to hook the worthwhile plays. These shows are in the hands of men who made their connections many years ago.”

The innate modesty of Solman has kept his achievements from being more generally recognized and appreciated. If he had been an equally successful playhouse operator in one of the large cities of our southern neighbor, his name would appear in the big electric sign out in front. And if he had built there as a magnificent a stadium his friends would have insisted on the park being known and advertised by a more appropriate name.

However, in future years, when it is more generally realized what this quiet, reticent little man has done towards furnishing us with cheap wholesome amusements, there is little doubt but that the new “Maple Leaf Stadium” will be known by its proper name, and that will not be the only tribute his fellow-citizens will pay him when his absence has made known the value of his presence.

As one is thrown in contact with his employees, he discovers man after man who have been on his payroll most of their lives — one of these assured me it was thirty-three years. He enjoys to a remarkable degree the affection and loyalty of these men. The men that are or have been associated with him in any of his undertakings have implicit confidence in his ability and integrity. It is claimed that Lee Shubert’s most powerful rival today is Marcus Loew; but it is Solman who is given the credit for having so firmly entrenched Loew’s in the hearts and mind of his fellow Canadians. In any case, whether these two great American rivals are foes or secret allies, the fact remains Mr. Solman enjoys their mutual confidence.

Recently someone started trouble in connection with the sale of the ferries to the city, resulting in an investigation that completely exonerated Lol Solman, and cleared his name of all inferred or intended stigma. . . . “I am not as young a man as I used to be and the injustice of those charges was a mighty severe blow,” he said. . . .

“The whitest [i.e., the most spotlessly clean in reputation] man I know,” is the way one of our leading bankers described Lawrence Solman. ♦

Brief History of Manitou Road, Centre Island

Brief History of Manitou Road, Centre Island
A Brief History of the Buildings and Businesses on Manitou Road, Centre Island, Toronto

by Edward Guthrie

  • Created by:
    Edward Guthrie
  • Date:
  • Provenance:
    Collected by members of Toronto Island Connections group. Scanned, OCR, & PDF by Eric Light
  • Notes:

The walkways in the photographs above, taken by visitors to Centre Island in 2013-14 are located on strips of land which at one time supported a very lively business community. That community on Manitou Road provided a living for numerous families and basic services and entertainment for people living on the Island as well as visitors to the Island. However, by 1959 the buildings on the street were demolished to make way for the development of parkland to meet the plans of the Metro Toronto Parks Department. Businesses on the ‘Main Drag’, Manitou Road, Centre Island
In her book “More Than an Island” Sally Gibson wrote “By the year 1905 Manitou Road, which ran from the bridge over Long Pond to Lakeshore Road, was already known as the ‘business street of Centre Island’ – complete with a new freight wharf near the bridge.”1 “Until 1884 there was no store—– then tall, thin white- aproned William Clark opened his ‘pio- neer store,’ which was a plain, unpainted shop raised on piles and fronted with a little veran- dah located on the east side of what became Manitou Road.”2
According to the Goad map of 1890 the store was located opposite what later became Iroquois Avenue.3 Around 1894-95 “few businesses lined Manitou Road. The Island Supply Company was using William Clark’s old place to sell high class groceries, fancy fruits, nuts, bread, and other necessities” as advertised in the Mail and Empire.”4
The City of Toronto Archives contain two interesting records dated 1909. On the 4th of Decem- ber a K. Hyslop applied for a building permit with “plans for the Temperance Hotel, located on Manitou Road on Centre Island, for Mr. Oliver Spanner.”5 General notes associated with the application state “This hotel looks like a very pleasant house with verandah from the front, but it extends a long way back to the rear. There are two stories with 49 rooms.”
1 Page 127, More Than An Island, Sally Gibson,1984 2 Page 101
3 Page 107
4 Page 119
5 City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 410, File 1485, Box 140927
The second 1909 correspondence consists of textual records re: “application of Fred Ginn, Manager of Price Dairy at 33 Manitou Road, Centre Island , to lease more land on part of lot 22 of Plan D441” from a Mr. Solman.
# 7? HANLAN’S BOAT HOUSE (James & Sara Hutchewson)
#15PUMBLECHOOT (Jane Dowely, Head, and Harry Williams)
# 17 STORE (Richard Glover, Mgr.) # STORE
#14 RESTAURANT (G.Orlando)
#18 HIAWATHA HOUSE (George H. Harrison)
#25 HOTEL MANITOU* (Olive r & Maria Spanner)
#334 ELLESMERE HOTEL (PEIRSON HOTEL) (George Whitely, Head)
NOTE: Map from
V3-1911-179.tif *likely Spanner Hotel in 1911
Names from 1911 Can. Census, Toronto, Ward 4.
Note: Differences between names on map and Census.
Sally Gibson continues “By August 1914, Manitou Road (also known as the Main Drag) boast- ed a wide range of services. Frederick Ginn now operated a grocery store as well as an ice- cream parlour. Ginn’s brother-in-law, Thomas Clayton, had opened a meat market next door. The Forsythe Laundry had (temporarily) joined New Method Laundry in an attempt to keep Is- landers clean. (In later years the Swiss Laundry and the Parisian Laundry joined in.) Oliver Spanner had created his grand restaurant.”6
6 Page127
By the early 1930s the “Main Drag….was the commercial lifeline of the Island. Hanlan’s Point and Ward’s Island each now had a small grocery store, but all Islanders depended on Manitou Road as well as the delivery services of both Eaton’s and Simpson’s for supplies. Clayton’s Meat Market and the Dominion store provided groceries. Mr. Marshall ….provided pharmaceuticals. The Dominion Bank opened a branch. The Farmer’s Dairy and the City Dairy still vied for customers, while several laundries struggled to keep men’s white flannels and la- dies dancing frocks pressed. And several restaurants catered to the needs of hungry Is- landers – from the fine dining at the old Pierson’s Hotel…to the more mundane fare at the newly opened Honey Dew.”7
In the late 1930s to 1940s, beginning at the Manitou Bridge and looking south towards Lakeshore Road, on the left hand side of the street were the following businesses:
7 Page 182, More Than An Island
The 1935 Canadian Voters List indicates a staff of four working at the boat house; George White, carpenter, Bailey, boat builder, Edward Warren, handyman, and Thomas Mitchell, carpenter.
The Refreshment Stand, 1959
As time went on an addition to the south end of the storefront became a Bicycle Rental and Repair shop operated by Freddie Jackson.
The next building, a store front with residence behind, was New Method Laundry, oper- ated by Mr. & Mrs. John Russell McMacken, assisted by Leonard and Robert McMack- en. A pick-up and delivery service was available or articles could be left at the store- front. The laundry was shipped to the city in light wooden hampers about 3’ by 4’ x 3’ in size where it was processed and then returned. Mrs. McMacken worked at the city loca- tion and ensured that all laundry from the Island was processed in a timely manner.
In the early 1900s this property was leased by the Clark family, possibly members Tom and Margaret Clark of Clark Limited, which operated the T.J. Clark freight boat to and from the city to the Island. A map from 1918 shows a building and yard at this location with the name “Clark Yard”.
Below; JOHN (RUSS) MCMACKEN ON BIKE , BOYS IN TRAILER (mode of delivery at the time, 1944-45).8
8 Photos courtesy of Edith Lang (McMacken)
Parisian Laundry operated by a Mr. & Mrs. Ted Wilson was the next building. Years later this building became the home of the beer delivery service of Hardy Cartage then Brewers Retail, operated by Johnny Orrick. Johnny also delivered ice for a sum- mer.
Brewers Retail prior to demolition, July 1958.
Hand written notes reflect data associated with demolition, ownership, condition of building and amount of settlement offered by Metro Toronto to owners.
In the early 1950s two buildings were constructed between the beer store and the hardware store. The first a one storey structure built by Chuck Singer as the Penguin Cleaners and shown as #19 Manitou Rd.
The second building was for Trusty Cycle.
In 1949 the hardware store was replaced as 43 Manitou Rd.
In relation to the demolition of homes and businesses Percy Miller long time operator of the hardware store described his experience with Metro in the October 2, 1957 issue
of the Toronto Star; “This place cost me $22,000 to build eight years ago, and I asked $35,000 for it from Metro because of the great business have built here. Do you know what they offered me? — and I guess I’ll have to take it– $17,000. I can’t start another business again. I don’t know what to do.”
Behind the hardware store was a large two storey house, no doubt originally a single family residence, but in my memory it was home to a number of families, much like many other large houses on the Island. This house had an unusual name, “The Bum- bleshute”. An earlier map of 1918 refers to it as the “Pumblechoot” And behind that was a small house, “Cozy Corner”, facing the lagoon that was the home of Lefty Fortner and his family of six children and a horse. I mention the horse because it was so important to him that it was allowed in the house during cold winter days. Lefty delivered milk during the winter months by horse and sleigh.
Next to Miller’s hardware was the building owned by Thomas Clayton, consisting of the grocery store and butcher shop. Mr. Clayton was a butcher by trade. At both sides of the grocery store were small businesses. The north end was Bob Laird’s Cleaning and Pressing business, and I remember a Cole’s Bakery occupying the south store for a number years then a Mrs. Grey operated a Gift Shop later.
This store may have been owned by a Mary Clark around 1903. A file exists in the To- ronto Archives consisting “ of textual records re: permission for Mary Clark, owner of a store and ice house on part of lot 22 at Centre Island, to lease her lot to grocer George Melhuish for the 1903 season. The store was on what became Manitou Road.”9 Check- ing maps of that era indicate that this was the only store which had an ice house on the same property.
9 Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 768, Subseries 2, File 43, Box 145254.
Photo 1954? (submitted to Island Archives , Ted Ring )
The buildings on Manitou Road from left to right; Brewers Retail, Penguin Cleaners, Trusty Bike Shop, Miller’s Hardware, Clayton’s Grocery, Borden’s Dairy, Dick’s Grill, Is- land Milk Bar (formerly Acme Dairy), Hotel Manitou.
The Toronto Archives contain a file, dated 19 February 1931, with the title “Dairy and store with dwelling over” a plan and specifications for a store and ice cream parlour with two apartments above, located at 35-37 Manitou Road on Centre Island for Thos. A. Clayton. This was for the construction of a large semidetached two storey building con- sisting of City Dairy operated by Mr . Crowhurst. In the mid 40’s Borden’s Dairy took over this business. The front of the Dairy contained a large room with a counter-type serving bar along one side and the rest of the room contained fancy wrought iron tables and chairs. It was here that one could buy ice cream sodas and sundaes . City Dairy was earlier located across the street on the corner of Iroquois Avenue.
Photo of Tom Hodgson at the rear of City Dairy , 941.
Note stacked milk cases, in foreground metal baskets for carrying bottles of milk.
(Tom became a noted Toronto artist. Photo taken prior to Tom’s entry into the Royal Canadian Air Force.)10
10 Photo by author
The other half of the building housed Dick’s Grill, operated in the ‘40s by Steve Preisinger, serving full course meals.
The upper floors of both buildings were residences and rooms for staff.
A large barn-like building used as an Ice House was located behind Claytons and City Dairy. The walls were insulated with wood chips and shavings and when the ice was drawn in during the winter months it was covered in wood shavings. During the sum- mer the ice was delivered by Roy Burton to the various businesses and homes. As time went on and refrigeration became available the ice house was demolished and re- placed by a warehouse for Claytons Grocery.
This photo from 1958 of Ted Ring shows a space between the hardware store and Island Milk Bar where Clayton’s , Borden Dairy and Dick’s Grill stood before demolition.
Then came Acme Farmer’s Dairy. . Beginning in 1928 Acme Farmer’s Dairy was oper- ated by Ed and Jessie Guthrie. The building located at 33 Manitou Road consisted of a small store in the front facing the street. Behind the store was small office and a room into which ice was stored to provide cooling for the milk storage room and the ice box in the store. As time went on this room contained refrigeration equipment. The rear of the building contained a small bedroom and a kitchen. On the second floor were four bedrooms and a deck over the kitchen. Access to the upstairs was via a door in the driveway. During the early 40’s a one storey addition was built to the rear of the build- ing to house additional ice cream cabinets. Ice cream (5 cents a cone) and milk (12 cents a quart) was sold at the storefront, Three men delivered milk to the Island resi- dences and milk and ice cream to the other businesses on the Main Drag, as well as to the variety of large picnics that came to the Island Parks. All of these deliveries made by hand drawn manpower, or bicycle. Milk for the picnics was delivered from the dairy in the city in 5 or 8 gallon metal containers. At the picnic the milk was either ladled out into paper cups or a hand pump was provided. The ice cream, delivered packed in dry ice in 5 gallon leather containers, was usually served in paper Dixie cups.
Acme Farmers Dairy under construction 1919.11
Note the building to the right of the dairy which must have been demolished before Mr. Clayton built the dairy bar, as noted above, in 1931.
11 Photo from City of Toronto Archives, Series 1317, Item 522
Number 33 Manitou Road. 1930-31
1940-42 Jessie and Ed Guthrie
The freight tug Aylmer in background. Ed Guthrie unloading milk off the freight barge 12
Eddie Guthrie in front of hand drawn cart 13
12 Photos by author
The Guthries spent their last year on the Island in 1949. A fellow Acme employee, Percy Emslie, took over operation of the business until demolition in 1959. Percy then con-
tinued to deliver dairy products to the remaining residents of Algonquin and Islands until his retirement.
13 Photo by author
14 Photos by E. Guthrie (author)
The next building to the south of the dairy was the Manitou Hotel, a three storey structure built 1909-1910. Number 27 Manitou Road.
According to the 1911 Canadian Census for Toronto South the hotel was operated by Oliver and Maria Spanner. A Toronto Island map dated 1918 refers to the building as the Spanner Hotel.
The following photo and description are from the “Canadian Summer Resort Guide Book” Published in 1912 by Frederick Smily, Toronto. Smily wrote “Hotel ManItou, Cen- tre Island’s newest and most up-to-date hostelry”…“The cuisine is unsurpassed and not to be compared with the usual run of summer hotel bill-of-fare. The Manitou is equipped with bathrooms, hot and cold water, toilet rooms, new grill and dining rooms, with hardwood floor, available for dancing etc. It is lighted by electric light throughout. There accommodation for 150 guests (200 in dining room), rates are $2.00 per day, $10.00 to $15.00 a week. Contact Mr. O.B. Spanner, Hotel Manitou, Island Park, Toronto.”
The Manitou Hotel was the largest building on the street, three storeys at some points on the front of the structure. The hotel contained a large sitting area on the left side as you entered the front doors with a small restaurant on the right. On the first floor access to rental rooms was made off a hall that ran down the middle of the building and at the back was a large room with hardwood floors where dances were held. During the 40s this room became a beer parlour.
Bill Sutherland and family were the owners of the Manitou from 1929 to 1959.
Bill Sutherlandwasseenasarealinnovator.Heopenedabeerhall,builtaminiature golf course, built a small stand out front from which he sold soft ice cream, bought a doughnut making machine to produce and sell fancy doughnuts, built a terrazzo out- door dance floor, known as ‘The Deck’, with a sound system for jitney dances, and at times brought in dance orchestras from the city, held Teen dances, had an archery range as well as the usual tennis and badminton courts.
Immediately behind the hotel was a two storey house which was divided into several
rental units.
Note: All Advertisements are from the Centre Islander, 1945-46
During the 1940s Jack Fordham operated the Roselawn Dairy from a storehouse in the rear of the hotel and a small storefront in front of the hotel.
However, due to competition from the two larger dairies this business did not survive. Mr. Fordham then opened a laundry and dry cleaning business.
The next building towards the Lakeshore housed the Dominion Bank, Percy Hughes Barber Shop and a Dominion Store. As time went on Percy took over the whole building Which then contained the Barber Shop, a Beauty Parlour, a Variety Store and Hughes Marketeria. The back of the building and the second floor consisted of the Hughe’s residence and rental apartments.
The 1918 map of Manitou Road indicated Clayton’s Meat Store as the southern portion of a building and Ginn’s Store as the other portion, located where Hughes Groceteria was located in the 40s.
MANITOU RD. MERCHANTS (front of Hughes property, Manitou Hotel in background)); RIGHT TO LEFT; PERCY HUGHES, BILLSUTHERLAND, ART TYNDALL, & VINCE LAMANTIA. 1942.
According to the Assessment Rolls, June 1954 Hughes had leased the gift and tobacco shop to Alexander and Reta Dalby, and the barber shop and beauty parlour to Carlo Herto. Hughes continued to operate the groceteria until it became Morton’s.
Then came the large building occupied by Mr. Ginn as a restaurant, the Casino Dance Floor and a store front that sold soft drinks, ice cream etc. operated by Fred Sherman. The favourite drink at this refreshment bar was Root’s Beer sold in ice cold mugs.
The photograph below, from the 1950s, shows Hughes Marketeria, the Casino Restaurant, the Casino dance floor converted to a bowling alley operated by Kris Kantaroff, and the refreshment store front under the management of Chris Pavio. In the right background can be seen the bathing change building on Lakeshore Road.
Before renovations the Casino had a roof above the front first floor windows supported by decorative square pillars.
The assessment Rolls of 1954 show Agustino Lamantia as the owner of these buildings.
Across the street on the Lakeshore was the building housing City restrooms and bathing change house.
Let’s return to the Manitou Bridge.
On the ferry boat [north] side of the bridge was located the Park Manager’s, home Mr. William Potter, surrounded by beautiful gardens, and all the duck and other water fowl ponds and enclosures.
Of course one could not miss the old Merry-go-round operated by Mr. Reed, who also managed the picnic pavilion and a refreshment store. In earlier years the Pavilion was a very popular dance hall.
Returning to the Main Drag, immediately on the right was a small freight shed, part of the Freight dock where most of the goods arrive from the city by the tug boat Aylmer. The photos below show the changes in buildings that occurred over time.
This 1928 photograph shows the variety of two and four wheel wagons used to haul the merchant’s goods. An Acme Dairy wagon can be seen beside the shed on the left.
The buildings in the background are without signage. Over time they became English’s refreshment stand, New Method Laundry and Parisian Laundry.
The freight boat T.J. Clark delivered goods in the earlier period. 15
15 Photo by Ted Ring
Also moored at this dock was the fireboat the Charles A Reed.
The Fire Hall was the next building. The firemen of the time would ride a pair of Harley Davidson motorcycles to and from the ferry docks, the only motorized vehicles. Imme- diately behind the Hall was a horseshoe pitch. Often the merchants would play a game of horseshoes while waiting for the noon freight boat, Aylmer, to arrive.
Police Station and Fire Hall , 1950s.
One spring upon our return to the Island we found a new Police Station under construc- tion beside the Fire Hall, a small holding cell included.
There was many a fun filled pick-up ball game played on the small area park behind the police station, girls and boys included.
Iroquois Avenue branched off to the west next with the two storey Ye Wayside Inn situ- ated on the corner. Until about 1931 this building was the home of City Dairy.
The photo of the interior was included in this advertisement “Our plant at Centre Island, Toronto, equipped with refrigerating units, also Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlour.”
The building then became a restaurant owned by Mr. & Mrs. William Alexander, with residence above. A 1935 Canadian Voters List shows that a Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Din- don were also associated with this restaurant. This was later taken over by Mr. & Mrs. Wetzel who added a one storey building extension to the south which served as a cof- fee shop and refreshment stand. Latterly the business was under the ownership of Art Bowden and later still Fran Hutchinson.
16Photo in poor condition, however shows coffee shop in 1940s.
In the mid – 1940s an outdoor bowling alley was built in the lot to the south of the Way- side Inn. The 1954 Assessment Rolls records Robert Andrews of 40 Manitou Road as an operator of an outdoor bowling alley. Jimmy Jones remembers, as a teenager setting pins at these alleys.
Mrs.AnnieLairdandhersonBobownedandoperatedthesinglestorey building,‘The Beeches’, containing a number of small apartments at 34 Manitou Road. The author and his wife spent their first winter on the Island here. Although, like many Islanders, we had no inside plumbing conveniences, we hauled water from a tap on the front lawn, which was left running all the time to avoid freezing, we survived the winter quite com- fortably with our small Coleman oil space heater, purchased from Buster Ward. The pipe did freeze one time and Bill Sutherland was called upon to thaw out the pipe using a car battery with wires attached to the tap at one end and the city connection at the other end.
In front of and to the south side of Lairds Raymond and Josephine Hamstead operated a fish and chip stand.
The photo below shows Mrs. Wetzel of the Wayside Inn delivering a pie to the Guthries. Note the hut in the background which contained four telephone booths. (front of # 33 -34 Manitou.)
The “Blink Bonnie” was the next building, a two storey house with a veranda across the front. The home was owned by Jean and Jimmy Watt’s grandmother .Over the period of time the building underwent numerous renovations and housed the Helen Gray Gift Shop and Toronto Laundry. In the early 40’s it was purchased from Mrs. Watt by Aquila Skene who operated a bicycle shop.
A major renovation to the original Blink Bonnie by Mr. Skene to accommodate a restau- rant operated by David and Christine Barton
Next to the Blink Bonnie was the restaurant Watt’s Coffee Shop owned by Mr. & Mrs. Fred Watt during the 1930s, a two storey building with rooms above the restaurant. From 1939 to 1943 the business was operated under lease by Mr. and Mrs. Jimmy Jones. Then in 1944 Mr. Earle Reginald (Buster) Ward purchased the building from Mrs. Watt and opened the Honey Juice Coffee Shop.
Mr. Ward was involved in a variety of Island businesses prior to this venture; cartage and contracting, fruit retailer, the Island representative of Copeland Breweries in 1934, and of Canada Bud in 1935. He and his wife Nina lived over Perce Hughe’s store in 1934 and Mr. Ed English’s in 1936.17
17 From the Centre Islander, August 30, 1946
Following article regarding the Wards by Alan Woods for the Aug. 30 issue of the Centre Islander and printed in News from the Archives June 1996.
The next building to the south, # 20 & 22 Manitou Rd., was a single storey divided into two businesses. The first was Honey Dew, famous for their Orange Drink and Ritz Carl- ton Hot Dogs. You could buy a take – out order of Orange Juice packaged in a waxed cardboard container with the waxed paper cups included. The other half of the building housed Marshall’s Drug Store. Later (1938-39) taken over by Mr. And Mrs. Arthur Tyn- dall, who later again expanded and took over the whole building when Honey Dew closed. The Assesssment Roll of 1954 records Mr.Earl Ward as propieter of the drug store.
On the right; Watt’s Coffee Shop, Honey Dew, and Marshall’s Drug Store. ( late 1930s)
Thomas Clayton and his wife Elizabeth strolling in the high water in 1952. Note that the Tyndall name no longer appears on the drug store.
18 -20 Manitou Road, 1958
According to the 1918 map the next two storey dwelling was known as the Swiss laun- dry. However, as time went on the northern half became a store for Toronto Laundry and Dry Cleaners operated by Richard Barrett, and also Mrs. Redican’s Home Baking, and the other half Lamantia Brothers, Vincent and Peter, Fruit and Vegetables. During the early 40s the Lawless family who lived in the upper apartment opened the store as a tea room. In the photo above #20, beside the drug store, is seen as a coffee shop.
At the end of the street was the Pierson Hotel, formerly Mead’s, operated by Mr.Wier . A grand white three storey building with a veranda all around the ground floor and overlooking the lawn and bowling green on the east side and the lakefront on the south. Although the hotel had a Lakeshore address the Waffle Shop and Snack Bar had an entrance off Manitou Road. The rear property contained a number of smaller buildings which provided living quarters for the staff.
By the end of 1959 all of these buildings on Manitou Road had been demolished and razed.
Not all Island business was conducted on Manitou Manitou Road. Here are some adver- tisements from the Centre Islander of the 1940s.
Harry the Baker was popular.
Ken Sinclair and Henry Argent were among a number of men in the cartage business.
Some general ads follow.
A collection of hand carts used to carry goods from the freight docks to stores. The cart on the right with two large wheels was used by the dairies to deliver milk to customers. Circa 1928. It was the mid 1940 before trucks were allowed on the Island for delivery purposes, only in the winter months to start and eventually year round.
Edward Guthrie lived on Manitou Road during the spring to fall months from 1929 to 1948. Then spent 2 full years on Manitou and Iroquois Avenue. He knew most of the business men and women on ‘The Drag’ and during his teen years worked for the Tyn- dall’s at the drug store, Clayton’s grocery, New Method Laundry and latterly for Percy Hughes at his grocery store. On occasion he would help his father deliver milk and work around Acme Farmers Dairy.