What's the Future Ever Done for Me?

Lakeshore Bridge/Palace Pier/Then and Now

20101222-PP1 Series 372, Subseries 34 - Humber bridge photographsArial+-+Palace+Pier Palace Pier roller rink 1940s

Toronto, Palace Pier, Palace Pier Towers, Humber Bay, Humber River, 1920s, 1930s, 1940s

During the swing era of the 1930s and ’40s, Toronto had a number of well attended dance halls – the Palais Royale, Columbus Hall, Club Esquire, Top Hat, Embassy, Mutual Arena, the Silver Slipper, and the most popular, Palace Pier, located west of the Sunnyside Amusement Park (today the site of the Sunnyside Park), at the mouth of the Humber River, in the Township of Etobicoke, then composed of many rural communities in the north and industrial ones in the south.

Toronto, Palace Pier, Palace Pier Towers, Humber Bay, Humber River, 1920s, 1930s, 1940sIn the summer of 1927, the Provincial Improvement Corporation released a plan to construct a “year-round amusement enterprise” that was to include four buildings housing 260-foot long, all-year ballroom, 260-foot long Palace of Fun (with a games arcade, along with a variety of shops, food stands, and restaurants), 1500-seat theatre, and 170-foot long bandstand. This structure was proposed to stand on a pier with several walkways and promenades that would reach a third of a mile out into the lake and allow from access by water. Similar and highly popular waterside amusements of this type were also built in England, and this is where the idea originated for a similar attraction for Toronto.

The construction started in 1931, when Arthur Meighen, former Canadian prime minister, laid the cornerstone of the first building, the ballroom. However, the final result, after years of litigation, was much smaller than the original grand plan and came to include only the ballroom. It was only three hundred meters, a far cry from that envisioned third of a mile. It opened in the spring of 1941 as a roller rink, and not a dance hall, named Strathcona Palace Pier. Later, it was also known as the Queensway Ballroom and after that, the Humber Pier Ballroom. The heyday of the landmark was its days as a dance hall, going back to its original name, Palace Pier, holding big band dances, until it burned down in a fire set by an arsonist on January 7, 1963.

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2 responses

  1. Bruce Chown (Dad)

    That brings back a lot of memories, Greg. Barbara and I were at the Palace Pier several times in the ’50s to see some of the big bands of the era – usually with Bob & Claire or Al & Marg. Strangely, your mention of Mutual Arena triggers one of my best memories. In my teens, I really enjoyed Norman Granz’s Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts. When I heard that Lionel Hampton was coming to Toronto – NOT ENOUGH SPACE TO CONTINUE?

    December 21, 2012 at 2:02 am

    • JUst add another comment to continue…

      December 21, 2012 at 3:15 pm

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