Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre – A National Historic Site

1935 - Looking northeast towards Loew’s Yonge Street Theatre at 189 Yonge St. On the marquee, “David Copperfield,” by Charles Dickens, with Lionel Barrymore and W.C. Fields, was playing. Today the theatre is home to Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre
1935 – Looking northeast towards Loew’s Yonge Street Theatre at 189 Yonge St. Today, the theatre is home to Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1488, Series 1230, 1098)

The Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre, originally Loew’s Yonge Street and Winter Garden Theatre, later Elgin Theatre, is located at 189 Yonge St (north of Queen St on the east side) in the Downtown Yonge area of Toronto. The theatre has a rear entrance address of 158 Victoria St.

Loew’s Yonge Street Theatre

Built in 1913/14, Marcus Loew hired architects Thomas W Lamb and Stanley Makepeace to design the Edwardian-style double-decker theatres. Mr Lamb was one of the world’s leading “picture palace” designers of the last century and was also the architect of the Uptown Theatre and Madison Square Garden.

In 1913, the lower theatre, now the Elgin, was originally known as Loew’s Yonge Street Theatre and was the Canadian chain’s flagship vaudeville location.

Late 1980s – The Winter Garden Theatre auditorium
Late 1980s – The Winter Garden Theatre auditorium (Mandel Sprachman Architect Fonds, photo taken at City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 122, Series 881, File 352)

In 1914, Loew’s opened the Winter Garden, a roof garden theatre decorated to resemble a garden in full bloom. Columns were masqueraded as tree trunks while the ceilings were hung with real leaves, blossoms and lanterns.

When the popularity of vaudeville declined in the late 1920s, Loew’s closed the Winter Garden. They kept the lower theatre open and wired it for sound to show talking movies.

National Historic Site Designation

The building received heritage status from the City of Toronto in 1973 and Ontario Heritage Trust in 1978. That same year, the theatre was renamed the Elgin. In 1981, Ontario Heritage Trust purchased the historic theatres, which included the world’s most extensive collection of vaudeville scenery. The following year, the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres, the last of their architectural style in the world, were designated a National Historic Site of Canada.

Restoration of the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres

1985 - An aerial view of the Elgin Theatre, today's Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre at 189 Yonge St, north of Queen St. “Cats” began its two-run. Notice Diana Sweets next door
1985 – An aerial view of the Elgin Theatre, today’s Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre at 189 Yonge St, north of Queen St. “Cats” began its two-run (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 428, Item 27)

In 1985, “Cats” began its two-year run, and once the production ended, the theatres 3-year restoration process began. It included removing 25 layers of paint in the lobby, using over 300,000 sheets of aluminum leaf to re-gild plaster details, re-creating opera boxes, and much more. Hundreds of pounds of raw bread dough were used to clean hand-painted walls in the Winter Garden theatre. The dough gently picks up dirt without wetting or removing any paint.

The theatre reopened on December 15, 1989, which was 76 years from the day it originally opened.

Spanning over a century, the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre is the world’s last operating double-decker theatre.

Haunted Tales

The historic venue is not only home to two theatres but also a few spirits. Its most famous ghost is The Lavender Lady. While no one knows who she is, there is speculation she could perhaps be a rival actress of a jealous castmate or a jilted wife whose husband fell in love with a Vaudeville showgirl. When she does make an appearance, those who have felt her presence notice a temperature drop and the fragrance of lavender flowers. The Lavender Lady is so famous that she was commemorated in 2016 on a Canada Post stamp.

Other haunted happenings include manually operated cage elevators operating on their own, hearing voices, theatre seats flipping down then back up and hearing a trombone or trumpet being played.

In 1984 during a rehearsal for Cats, some of the dancers noticed a man sitting in the second row. He was wearing old-fashioned attire – a brown suit and a brown bowler hat. They thought it could be a friend of the director or producer. After rehearsal, they asked the assistant manager who the man was but were told no one was there. You see, it was a closed rehearsal, and only the assistant and stage managers were allowed to watch. Click for more haunted tales.

Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre Photos

1935 - Looking northeast towards Loew’s Yonge Street Theatre at 189 Yonge St. On the marquee, “David Copperfield,” by Charles Dickens, with Lionel Barrymore and W.C. Fields, was playing. Today the theatre is home to Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre
1935 – Looking northeast towards Loew’s Yonge Street Theatre at 189 Yonge St. On the marquee, “David Copperfield,” by Charles Dickens, with Lionel Barrymore and W.C. Fields, was playing. Today the theatre is home to Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1488, Series 1230, 1098)
2020 - Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre, originally Loew’s Yonge Street Theatre, at 189 Yonge St, north of Queen St
2020 – Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre, originally Loew’s Yonge Street Theatre, at 189 Yonge St, north of Queen St
1929 - Streetcars and traffic on busy Yonge St. Notice Loew’s Yonge Street Theatre marquee on the right
1929 – Streetcars and traffic on busy Yonge St. Notice Loew’s Yonge Street Theatre marquee on the right (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 16, Series71 Item 6564)
1935 - Looking north on Yonge St from Queen St towards Loew’s Yonge Street Theatre. Notice F.W. Woolworth Co in the foreground, on the left
1935 – Looking north on Yonge St from Queen St towards Loew’s Yonge Street Theatre. Notice F.W. Woolworth Co in the foreground, on the left (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 16, Series71 Item 11702)
1935 – Looking northeast on Yonge St, north of Queen St towards Loew’s Yonge Street Theatre. On the marquee, “David Copperfield,” by Charles Dickens, with Lionel Barrymore and W.C. Fields, was playing. Today the theatre is home to Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre
1935 – Looking northeast on Yonge St, north of Queen St towards Loew’s Yonge Street Theatre. On the marquee, “David Copperfield,” by Charles Dickens, with Lionel Barrymore and W.C. Fields, was playing. Today the theatre is home to Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1488, Series 1230, Item 1097)
1945 - Yonge Street's neon signs at night. On the Loew’s Yonge Street Theatre marquee, “Our Vines Have Tender Grapes,” starring Edward G. Robinson and Margaret O'Brien, was playing. Today the theatre is home to Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre
1945 – Yonge Street’s neon signs at night. On the Loew’s Yonge Street Theatre marquee, “Our Vines Have Tender Grapes,” starring Edward G. Robinson and Margaret O’Brien, was playing. Today the theatre is home to Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 124, File 1, ID 14)
1970s - Loew’s Yonge Street Theatre, today's Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre at 189 Yonge St. On the marquee, “The Violent Professionals,” starring Luc Merenda and Richard Conte and “The Challenge,” starring Ezzedine Brika and Habib Chaari, were playing. Notice Marks & Spencer next door
1970s – Loew’s Yonge Street Theatre, today’s Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre at 189 Yonge St. On the marquee, “The Violent Professionals,” starring Luc Merenda and Richard Conte and “The Challenge,” starring Ezzedine Brika and Habib Chaari, were playing. Notice Marks & Spencer next door (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 615, Item 26)
1985 - An aerial view of the Elgin Theatre, today's Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre at 189 Yonge St, north of Queen St. “Cats” began its two-run. Notice Diana Sweets next door
1985 – An aerial view of the Elgin Theatre, today’s Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre at 189 Yonge St, north of Queen St. “Cats” began its two-run. Notice Diana Sweets next door (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 428, Item 27)
1987 - Elgin Theatre at 189 Yonge St, north of Queen St. “Cats” was completing its two-year run at the theatre
1987 – Elgin Theatre at 189 Yonge St, north of Queen St. “Cats” was completing its two-year run at the theatre (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 428, Item 23)
1987 - Elgin Theatre during renovations at 189 Yonge St. Today, its the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre
1987 – Elgin Theatre during renovations at 189 Yonge St. Today, its the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 124, File 3, ID 151)
1988 - Elgin Theatre, originally Loew’s Yonge Street Theatre at 189 Yonge St, closed for major restorations
1988 – Elgin Theatre, originally Loew’s Yonge Street Theatre at 189 Yonge St, closed for major restorations (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 428, Item 46)
Late 1980s – The Winter Garden Theatre auditorium
Late 1980s – The Winter Garden Theatre auditorium (Mandel Sprachman Architect Fonds, photo taken at City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 122, Series 881, File 352)
Late 1980s – The Winter Garden Theatre auditorium
Late 1980s – The Winter Garden Theatre auditorium (Mandel Sprachman Architect Fonds, photo taken at City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 122, Series 881, File 352)
Late 1980s – The Elgin Theatre auditorium
Late 1980s – The Elgin Theatre auditorium (Mandel Sprachman Architect Fonds, photo taken at City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 122, Series 881, File 352)
Late 1980s – Staircase in the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre
Late 1980s – Staircase in the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre (Mandel Sprachman Architect Fonds, photo taken at City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 122, Series 881, File 352)
2020 - Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre, originally Loew’s Yonge Street Theatre at 189 Yonge St, north of Queen St
2020 – Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre, originally Loew’s Yonge Street Theatre at 189 Yonge St, north of Queen St
2019 - The recreated exterior box office and beautiful stained glass transoms at the Yonge St entrance of the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre
2019 – The recreated exterior box office and beautiful stained glass transoms at the Yonge St entrance of the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre
2022 - A model of the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre created by Steve Hoffmann and Associates
2022 – A model of the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre created by Steve Hoffmann and Associates
2022 - Plaque featuring Marcus Loew (1870-1927), founder of Loew Theatres which included the Uptown Theatre and the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre
2022 – Plaque featuring Marcus Loew (1870-1927), founder of Loew Theatres which included the Uptown Theatre and the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre
1921 - Advertising for Mary Pickford in “Through the Back Door” at the Loew's Yonge Street Theatre. There was also a theatre named after the Toronto-born actress, the Mary Pickford Theatre, once located at Queen St W and Spadina Ave
1921 – Advertising for Mary Pickford in “Through the Back Door” at the Loew’s Yonge Street Theatre. There was also a theatre named after the Toronto-born actress, the Mary Pickford Theatre, once located at Queen St W and Spadina Ave (Toronto Public Library OHQ-EPHE-S-R-259)
1914 – Billboard ad for Loew's Yonge Street and Winter Garden Theatre and The Dominion Brewery Company Limited
1914 – Billboard ad for Loew’s Yonge Street and Winter Garden Theatre and The Dominion Brewery Company Limited (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1488, Series 1230, Item 1312)
2021 - Looking up towards the Yonge St facade of the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Center during the pandemic
2021 – Looking up towards the Yonge St facade of the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Center during the pandemic
2021 – Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres sign was installed in 1995. It's reminiscent of the 1913 original and has 1,240 light bulbs
2021 – Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres sign was installed in 1995. It’s reminiscent of the 1913 original and has 1,240 light bulbs
2022 - The Yonge St entrance of the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre, originally Loew’s Yonge Street Theatre
2022 – The Yonge St entrance of the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre, originally Loew’s Yonge Street Theatre
2019 - The beautiful recreated stained glass transoms at the Yonge St entrance of the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre
2019 – The beautiful recreated stained glass transoms at the Yonge St entrance of the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre
2020 - The recreated exterior box office of the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre
2020 – The recreated exterior box office of the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre
2022 – Looking northwest from Queen St E and Victoria St at the back of Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre
2022 – Looking northwest from Queen St E and Victoria St at the back of Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre
Between 1980 to 1991 – Looking northwest from Queen St E and Victoria St at the back of the theatres
Between 1980 to 1991 – Looking northwest from Queen St E and Victoria St at the back of the theatres (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 428, Item 9)
2021 – Looking northwest from Victoria St, just north of Queen St E towards the back of Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre
2021 – Looking northwest from Victoria St, just north of Queen St E towards the back of Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre
2021 – Looking west at the back of Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre at 158 Victoria St
2021 – Looking west at the back of Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre at 158 Victoria St
2021 - Looking towards the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre stage door entrance at 158 Victoria St
2021 – Looking towards the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre stage door entrance at 158 Victoria St
2022 - The stage door of the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre located at 158 Victoria St
2022 – The stage door of the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre located at 158 Victoria St
2022 - Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre stage door plaque at 158 Victoria St
2022 – Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre stage door plaque at 158 Victoria St
2022 - Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Center plaque
2022 – Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Center plaque
2022 - A plaque listing supporters of the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre restoration
2022 – A plaque listing supporters of the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre restoration
1914 - The Toronto City Directory showing the address of the Loew's Yonge Street Theatre
1914 – The Toronto City Directory showing the address of the Loew’s Yonge Street Theatre (Toronto Public Library)
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