Category Archives: Palace Pier Ballroom Toronto

Toronto’s heritage buildings and sites on


Below are links to posts about Toronto’s heritage sites that have appeared on the blog,, since it commenced in 2011.

Toronto’s Maple Leaf Baseball Stadium

Brunswick House on Bloor Street West, now closed

Centre Island’s lost village

Demolition of the Westinghouse building on King Street West

Walker House Hotel at Front and York Streets, demolished 1976

Cyclorama on Front Street, demolished 1976

The Toronto Star Building on King Street West

Fond Memories of A&A Records on Yonge Street

Memories of Sam the Record Man on Yonge Street

Toronto’s old Land Registry Building (demolished)

The Gordon House on Clarence Square, one of Toronto’s lost mansions

Old Toronto Star Building on King Street West.

The Grand Opera House on Adelaide St. West

The High Park Mineral Baths

The old Dufferin Gates at the CNE

Toronto’s first brick house, built by Quetton St. George

Toronto’s Old Registry Office Building

Centre Island’s Lost Village

Arcadian Court Restaurant in Simpsons

Toronto’s Old Customs Houses

Grand Opera House on Adelaide St. West

Palace Pier Ballroom and Amusement Centre on Lakeshore, on West bank of the Humber River

Cawthra House—Toronto’s most historic mansion at Bay and King Streets (demolished)

Ford Hotel at Bay and Dundas (demolished)

Dufferin Gates of the CNE (demolished)

Quetton St. George’s mansion on King Street, now demolished

Mineral Baths (swimming pools) on Bloor Street opposite High Park

Upper Canada College’s first campus on Russell Square on King Street West

Upper Canada College’s former boarding house at Duncan and Adelaide Street

St. Patrick’s Market on Queen West – the first market buildings

Armouries on University Avenue (demolished)

Trinity College that once existed in Trinity Bellwoods Park

Hanlan’s Hotel on the Toronto Islands (Hanlan’s Point) now demolished

The Palace, the mansion of John Strachan (demolished)

Holland House—one of Toronto’s lost mansions (demolished)

Crystal Palace of the CNE (demolished) —now the site of the Muzik nightclub

Queen’s Hotel (demolished) —historic hotel on Front Street

CNE Grandstand (demolished) —History of

Maple Leaf Stadium (demolished) at Bathurst and Front Streets

Eaton’s old Queen Street Store at Queen and Yonge Streets (demolished)

Bank –Toronto’s First—Bank of Upper Canada (demolished)

Post Office—Toronto’s First

Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) on Dundas Street.

Ontario’s Fourth Legislative Assembly

Ontario’s First and Second Legislative Buildings

Old Mill Restaurant in the Humber Valley

Montgomery’s Inn at Dundas West and Islington Avenue

Cecil Street Community Centre near Spadina Avenue and Cecil Street

Former Ryerson Press Building (now Bell Media) at 299 Queen Street, at Queen and John Streets

Former Bank of Toronto Building at 205 Yonge Street, opposite the Eaton Centre

Buildings at 441-443 Queen Street, west of Spadina Avenue

History of the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)

Boer War monument at Queen West and University Avenue

History of Toronto’s CN Tower

Gurney Stove Foundry at King West and Brant Streets

Historic Royal Alexandra Theatre on King Street

Former Bank of Montreal at Queen and Yonge Streets, now a subway entrance and coffee shop

Fairmont Royal York Hotel

Toronto’s Union Station of today that opened in 1927

Old Fort York

19th-century Bay and Gable house at 64 Spadina Avenue

Old houses hidden behind 58-60 Spadina Avenue 

Historic Gale Building at 24-30 Spadina Avenue

Commercial block at 654-672 Queen West containing shops

Warehouse loft at 80 Spadina Avenue

The Systems Building at 40-46 Spadina Avenue

The Steele Briggs Warehouse at 49 Spadina Avenue

The building at Queen and Portland Streets, which once was a bank of Montreal

The 1850s buildings at 150-154 King Street East and Jarvis Streets

The Manufacturers Building at 312 Adelaide St. West

The old Eaton’s College Street (College Park and the Carlu)

The John Kay (Wood Gundy) Building at 11 Adelaide St. West

The Grange (AGO)

The Eclipse Building at 322 King Street West

The Toronto Normal School on Gould Street

The Capitol Building at 366 Adelaide Street West, near Spadina

The Reid Building at 266-270 King Street West

Mackenzie House on Bond Street

Colborne Lodge in High Park

The Church of the Redeemer at Bloor West and Avenue Road

The Anderson Building at 284 King Street West

The Lumsden Building at Yonge and Adelaide Street East

The Gooderham (Flatiron) Building at Wellington and Front Streets East

The Sick Children’s Hospital on University Avenue

St. James Cathedral at King St. East and Church St.

The E.W. Gillett Building at 276 Queen King St. West

The Oddfellows Temple at the corner of Yonge and College Streets

The Birkbeck Building at 8-18 Adelaide Street East

The Toronto Seventh Post Office at 10 Toronto St.

Former hotel at Bay and Elm streets

The 1881 block of shops on Queen near Spadina

The stone archway on Yonge Street, south of Carlton Street

The former St. Patrick’s Market on Queen West, now the City Market

The Brooke Building (three shops) at King East and Jarvis streets.

The old Work House at 87 Elm Street, an historic structure from the 19th century.

The building on the northwest corner of Yonge and Queen Street.

The former student residence of Upper Canada College, built in 1833, at 22 Duncan Street, at the corner of Adelaide streets.

Church of the Holy Trinity beside the Eaton Centre

The former site of the “Silver Snail” comic store at 367 Queen Street West.

The Toronto Club at 107 Wellington, built 1888,  at the corner of York Street. 

The YMCA at 18 Elm Street, built in 1890, now the Elmwood Club.

The old St. George’s Hall at 14 Elm Street, now the Arts and Letters Club.

The 1860s houses on Elm St. (now Barbarian’s Steak House)

The old “Silver Snail” shop on Queen St. West

The north building at the St. Lawrence Market, which is slated to be demolished

The Ellis Building on Adelaide Street near Spadina Ave.

The Heintzman Building on Yonge Street, next to the Elgin Theatre

The tall narrow building at 242 Yonge Street, south of Dundas

Toronto’s first Reference Library at College and St. George Streets.

The Commodore Building at 315-317 Adelaide St. West

The Graphic Arts Building (condo) on Richmond Street

The Art Deco Victory Building on Richmond Street

The Concourse Building on Adelaide Street

The old Bank of Commerce at 197 Yonge Street

The Traders Bank on Yonge Street—the city’s second skyscraper

Toronto’s old Union Station on Front Street, built in 1884

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church at King and Simcoe Streets.

The row houses on Glasgow Street, near Spadina and College Streets

The bank at Queen and Simcoe that resembles a Greek temple

The cenotaph at Toronto’s Old City Hall

The magnificent Metropolitan Cathedral at King East and Church Streets

St. Stanislaus Koska RC Church on Denison Avenue, north of Queen West

The historical St. Mary’s Church at Adelaide and Bathurst Streets

The Bishop’s (St, Michael’s) Palace on Church Street, Toronto

The Union Building at Simcoe and King Street West

The Ed Mirvish (Pantages, Imperial, Canon) Theatre, a true architectural gem on Toronto’s Yonge Street

The Waverly Hotel on Spadina near College Street.

The Art Deco Bank of Commerce building on King Street West.

The Postal Delivery Building, now the Air Canada Centre (ACC)

The Bellevue Fire Station on College Street

The Bank of Nova Scotia at King and Bay Streets

Toronto’s old Sunnyside Beach

Toronto’s architectural gems—the Runnymede Library

Spadina Avenue – sinful, spicy and diverse

The Reading Building, a warehouse loft building on Spadina Avenue

The Darling Building on Spadina Avenue

The amazing Fashion Building on Spadina Avenue

Toronto’s architectural gems – the Tower Building at Spadina and Adelaide Street

The Balfour Building at 119 Spadina Avenue

The Robertson Building at 215 Spadina that houses the Dark Horse Espresso Bar

An architectural gem – Grossman’s Tavern at Spadina and Cecil Streets

History of the house that contains the Paul Magder Fur Shop at 202 Spadina

An important historic building that disappeared from the northeast corner of Spadina and College

Historic bank building on northeast corner of Spadina and Queen West

History of the Backpackers’ Hotel at King and Spadina

Hamburger corner – Spadina and Queen Streets

Lord Lansdowne Public School on Spadina Crescent

The Dragon City Mall on the southwest corner of Dundas and Spadina

Buildings on the west side of Spadina a short distance north of Queen Street.

History of the site of the Mcdonalds on northwest corner of Queen and Spadina

A former mansion at 235 Spadina that is now almost hidden from view.


Military hero of the War of 1812 lived near corner of Spadina Avenue and Queen Street West.

The Art Deco bus terminal at Bay and Dundas Streets.

Photos of the surroundings of the CN Tower and and the St. Lawrence Market in 1977

The old Dominion Bank Building at King and Yonge Street

The Canada Life Building on University and Queen Street West.

Campbell House at the corner of Queen Street West and University Avenue

A study of Osgoode Hall

Toronto’s first City Hall, now a part of the St. Lawrence Market

Toronto’s Draper Street, a time-tunnel into the 19th century

The Black Bull Tavern at Queen and Soho Streets, established in 1822

History of the 1867 fence around Osgoode Hall on Queen Street West, near York Street

Gathering around the radio as a child in the 1940s

The opening of the University Theatre on Bloor Street, west of Bay St.

122 persons perish in the Noronic Disaster on Toronto’s waterfront in 1949

Historic Victoria Memorial Square where Toronto’s first cemetery was located, now hidden amid the Entertainment District

Visiting one of Toronto’s best preserved 19th-century streets-Willcocks Avenue

The 1930s Water Maintenance Building on Brant Street, north of St. Andrew’s Park

Toronto’s architectural gems-photos of the Old City from a book published by the city in 1912

Toronto’s architectural gems in 1912

Toronto’s architectural gems – the bank on the northeast corner of Queen West and Spadina

Photos of the surroundings of the CN Tower and and the St. Lawrence Market in 1977

The St. Lawrence Hall on King Street

Toronto’s streetcars through the past decades

History of Trinity Bellwoods Park

A history of Toronto’s famous ferry boats to the Toronto Islands

To view the Home Page for this blog:

To view the post that contains a list of Toronto’s old movie houses and information about them:


Tags: ,

Toronto’s old Palace Pier Ballroom


The Palace Pier Ballroom and Amusement Centre, depicted on a 1930s postcard.

My memories of the Palace Pier, an immense structure that extended 300 feet into Lake Ontario, date from the days of World War 11. On hot summer days in the 1940s, when my parent took my brother and me to Sunnyside beach to paddle in the cold waters of the lake, I gazed at its enormous size, as it dominated the scene to the west of Sunnyside Beach. I asked my mother about it, and she dismissed it as a place where people of “dubious” character attended, as it was a “dance hall.” My father gave an amused smile as if he seemed to disagree with her assessment, but said nothing. He had played a trumpet in McCormick’s Dance Band during the 1930s, before he met my mother, and had a more liberal view of dance halls.

A year or two later, I learned what the word “dubious” implied and discovered that my father thought that to dismiss Palace Pier as a mere dance hall was do it a great injustice. Located on the west bank of the Humber River, there were no other buildings in the area that competed with it in size. In its heyday, it was one of the most spectacular dance spots in Toronto. However, when I was a boy, I was too young to know about the famous entertainers who were featured there or to appreciate its importance in the night life of the city. Also, it was another few years before I became unaware of the inherent attraction of “dubious” places.

The Palace Pier was conceived in 1927 by the Provincial Improvement Corporation. It was inspired by the wonderful seaside piers in Great Britain, such as those in Brighton, one of which survives today. Toronto’s pier was to be a “year-round amusement enterprise.” Sunnyside Beach, which opened in 1921, had been a great success and the Palace Pier was an attempt to improve Toronto’s lakeside area by extending development further west along the shoreline. In some respects, it was a project similar to Ontario Place, which was constructed to celebrate Canada’s Centennial in 1967. It too was built out over the water, although it was created by dumping landfill into Lake Ontario. Similar to Palace Pier, it was an amusement centre and contained a theatre—Cinesphere.

Palace Pier was to have four buildings, each 260 feet in length, one of them containing a ballroom and another, a Palace of Fun. The latter was to have shops, an arcade, games, restaurants, and food kiosks. There was to be a 1500-seat theatre and a 170-foot bandstand. When the covered walkways and promenades were added to the sides of it, the structure would extend over a third of a mile into the lake. At its southern end there was to be a steamboat landing, as the 1920s was an era when leisure travel on Lake Ontario was highly popular. It was envisioned that over 3000 couples would dance the night away its ballroom, in a multifunctional facility that could also be used for roller skating and bowling.


Artist’s sketch of the proposed Palace Pier employed to promote its construction and attract investors. Sketch from Toronto Sun, Jan. 10, 2016, contained in an article by Mike Filey. 

Palace Pier was designed in the Moroccan style by Craig and Madill, a Toronto company that was later to design the CNE Bandshell. However, by the time the pier transitioned from the architects’ drawing boards to the construction site, the Great Depression had descended, necessitating that the plans be greatly reduced. Only the first phase of the structure was to proceed, and due to delays, its corner stone was not laid by former Prime Minister Arthur Meighen until 1931. It extended out into the lake 300 feet and contained the main ballroom. Unfortunately, it was the only part of the original grand plans that ever materialized, and even after it was completed, it stood empty for a decade due to the financial restraints of the times. When it finally opened on June 18, 1941, it was a roller rink named Strathcona Palace Pier, another site of the Strathcona rink on Christie Street, south of St. Clair Avenue. I attended this rink when I was a teenager.

The pier’s 19-foot wide boardwalks, located on the east and west sides of it, provided commanding views of the lake. On the east side, the city’s skyline was visible. Its inaugural event was a fundraiser for the British victims of the bombing by the Nazi’s, the headliner for the event the Hollywood star, Bob Hope. He was in Toronto to promote his latest film, “Caught in the Draft.”

In 1943, the pier reverted to its original purpose and became the Queensway Ballroom, and later the Humber Pier Ballroom. During the years of World War 11, some of the famous “big bands” performed at the it—Lionel Hampton, Artie Shaw, Less Brown, Duke Ellington, the Dorsey Brothers, Louis Armstrong, Harry James and Stan Kenton. 

It was renovated in the 1950s and reverted to its original name, the “Palace Pier.” It was one of the few surviving large-scale dance floors in the city. In the mid-1950s, it included country acts such as Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline. As attendance slowly dwindled, on weeknights, the pier held bingo events and rented its space for private functions such as political rallies, boxing matches, high school dances, and year-end proms.

However, its life came to an end on January 7, 1963 when it was torched, the arsonist never caught. The structure was destroyed to the extent that it required complete rebuilding, which was not financially practical. It was demolished and the great pier disappeared forever.

On the site of the pier, two luxury condominium towers and public park were constructed, which were named after the famous amusement facility. The north tower was built in 1978 and the south tower in 1991. A monument, donated by the residents of the condominium, was erected to commemorate the original Palace Pier. It was placed on the west side of the footbridge across the Humber River. The monument had originally been one of the cement footings that had been used in the pier’s construction.



Location of the Palace Pier Dancehall, beside lake Ontario, on the west side of the Humber River.

Series 372, Subseries 34 - Humber bridge photographs

Entrance to the Palace Pier on July 29, 1931, when it was under construction. Toronto Archives, S 0372, SS 0034, Item 0070.

Series 372, Subseries 34 - Humber bridge photographs

Looking west on the Lakeshore Road, the facade of the Palace Pier visible in the background, to the left of the tall hydro tower. Pictures was taken on August 4, 1931, while the building was under construction. Toronto Archives, S. 032, SS 5500, Item 0078.


Undated photo of the Palace Pier, the view showing the north and east facades. The covered walkway and terrace on the east side can be seen.

Palace Pier c. 1940s (public Domain). 

         Palace Pier in the 1940s, the north and west facades visible. 

1954, bridge over Humber  pictures-r-3136[1]

View looking south toward Lake Ontario in 1954, when the bridge over the Humber River was being constructed. The Palace Pier is in the background. Toronto Public Library, r- 3136. 

Series 65 -Metropolitan Toronto Planning Department Library collection of Alexandra Studio photographs

Aerial view of the area surrounding the Palace Pier in 1958. The pier is in the bottom left-hand corner of the photo, on the west bank of the Humber River. The widened Lakeshore Road is to the north of the pier, the Gardiner Expressway to the north of it. Toronto Archives, S 0065, File 0047, Id. 0011.

              TRL,  1963  tspa_0000344f[1]

The Palace Pier after being ravaged by fire in January 1963. Photo from the Toronto Star, Baldwin Collection, Toronto Public Library tspt 000344f. 

To view the Home Page for this blog:

A link to view posts that explore Toronto’s Heritage Buildings:

A link to view previous posts about the movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern.

The publication entitled, “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” was written by the author of this blog. It explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories by the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  


   To place an order for this book: .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Shop, and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

Another book, published by Dundurn Press, containing 80 of Toronto’s old movie theatres will be released in the spring of 2016. It is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It contains over 125 archival photographs.

A second publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. This book will also be released in the spring of 2016.




Tags: , ,