Join us as we continue our visual tour of the history of the East End’s main drag from the Don to Victoria Park. This is the third installment. A nod of appreciation to the Riverdale Historical Society who has done amazing work to keep local history of Riverdale alive. To find out more about them and to join, go to: https://riverdalehistoricalsociety.com/
By Joanne Doucette. Joanne is a local historian, a past Chair of the Toronto Public Library, founding member of the Leslieville Historical Society, and co-founder of the DisAbled Women’s Network. She is retired and lives in the Coxwell-Gerrard neighbourhood. She is administrator for the Metis Minute Facebook Page and moderates the following Facebook groups: Midway, Toronto Beaches Historical Photos, and the Coxwell-Gerrard Facebook page.
This walk starts at Munro Street and and goes along the north side of Queen Street to Broadview Avenue. As well as photographs, newspaper articles will be posted to help us understand more about who lived and worked here.
At the time the Broadview Hotel/Dingman’s Hall was built East End bars had a bad reputation. Dingman’s Hall, however, did not share this notoriety spelled out in the article below.
MANY DISREPUTABLE EATING HOUSES
Low Whisky Dives That Are Operated Under City Licenses
Rendezvous of Thieves and Shameless Women—No Pretense Made to Respectability—Few Victuals Sold, But Immense Quantities of Liquor Disposed OF at All Hours of the day and Night—The City Council to Blame.
The present license system in Toronto has much to answer for. To it is due the existence of some of the most objectionable resorts in the city. Under its cloak the liquor law and other laws against immorality are publicly or semi-publicly violated.
When I speak of the license system I have reference to the system by which men who have frequently been convicted of the illegal sale of liquor can secure the sanction of the city to run resorts with no pretence to respectability.
As it is now an application need only be made to that august body known as the Property Committee of the City Council and permission is secured.
A year or two ago a faint bluff was made that the issuing of these licenses was under the control of the police because the police were asked for a report before the application would be considered. But in most cases where the report was unfavorable, the request was granted, for there were always ward heelers enough around to force the goodly representatives of the people at City Hall to give their consent.
Lately, however, even the report from the police is not asked for. The result is that at the present time the city is beginning to swarm with beer and whisky dives that bear the very innocent name of “all night restaurants.”
There are a few decent and respectable places where meals can be had at any hour of the day or night. There are many where a dollar is turned over in liquor to every cent that is made of victuals.
Nor is this the most objectionable feature of the places. They are the resorts of fallen and degraded women and men that have almost by their acts severed themselves from the human race.
In these holes the frequenters of the police court are found in numbers.
There are, of course, grades in these places, but the highest grade of these liquor dives is altogether too low for a city that lays claim to morality as does Toronto.
The other evening I went out on a tour of investigation. At the door of a York street establishment a young woman was sitting in order that the approach of the police might be made known to the people on the inside.
I was allowed to pass the sentinel without being challenged and on stepping inside I found what was once a store divided on the one side with stalls. On the other side was a short counter.
There was not enough food in sight to feed a dyspeptic pug dog though the place is supposed to be an eating house.
Each of the stalls contained a table and four chairs and all of these were fairly well occupied.
The sight was disgusting. There were men and women in various stages of intoxication, drinking beer and telling the vilest sort of stories.
In the motley throng were young men who have served terms of imprisonment for crimes that they were led into by frequenting resorts of this kind: young men who are not yet recorded in the calendar of crime, but who are in a fair way to have the distinction before many months have passed.
The women, some young, some older, for the most part were of that class that has fallen as low as it is possible to fall. Without reputation, shame, or honor, they assemble in such places as this to gather what pleasure they can out of brutal pastime.
I crossed the road and went in to see a man who for so long kept a dive on Elizabeth street. There were not as many people there that evening as there sometimes are but it is hardly necessary to say that they were the sort of people that respectable citizens would not care to entertain.
Another old-timer runs a similar place on King street west. His patrons are of a better class. His is the sort of establishment where “respectable” young men entertain ladies of doubtful reputation.
A very fair meal can be had, and all the beer that is necessary to wash it down. Private rooms are provided for ladies and their escorts and no questions are asked.
Still another old-timer has a place on Adelaide street near Simcoe. It is placarded all over with bills announcing that oysters have arrived, but if a past record counts of anything he will not trust to oysters to bring him an income.
In his time he has contributed more than a moiety to the provincial and civic coffers in the way of fines.
He formerly ran an establishment on York street and though he is not at the old stand, the old stand is there doing business as usual.
And another old-timer is back in our midst. He has a restaurant on Queen street, west of the avenue. He has not long been there, but long enough to be caught selling liquor and fined.
He and his better half did not when they lived together enjoy that domestic felicity which is conducive to happiness. The result was that she applied to Magistrate Denison for an order of protection and was granted her request.
Her husband was cast upon the cold world and she continued the business. She had been well instructed while she submitted to her husband and when he was ordered to quit the place, she continued right along to sell liquor. She was fined for so doing.
Recently she moved from Yonge street to King street east, where she is now to be found. Then there is another woman who was proprietress of a restaurant on York street for some years. She left the rather doubtful place and now she is selling liquor on Queen, a few blocks west of Yonge. She may not be there herself all the time, for when last I heard of her she was doing time across the Don, because she could not pay a fine.
It is quite impossible for the police to break up these resorts, while the present license system is in vogue.
Aldermen do not or should not know the vice of the dens that they license. They why should they undertake to issue the licenses? The matter should be left entirely in the hands of the police who know the character of the places as well as the people who run them.
It is a shame the one man, for instance, who has run a whisky dive in the city for many years should be granted an eating-house and a cigar license as he was granted them within the last fortnight.
It is a shame that similar licenses should year after year be granted to a dozen others whom I have located as having been convicted of law-breaking.
And just here there is room for another protest. When these dive-keepers are convicted Inspector Dexter out of the goodness of his heart postpones the cases from week to week to give the guilty an opportunity to scrape together their fine.
That is not the spirit of the law. The Ontario Government never intended that money should be extorted out of people guilty of violating the liquor law. The idea was to stamp out illicit selling and regulate the legal sale and this can best be done by vigorously prosecuting the offenders and giving them no time in which to pay their fines.
The community can well afford to pay the board of such people in jail.
Some years ago the good fathers of the city though they could manage pedlars’ licenses.
What was the result?
Just before the exhibition crooks from all over the continent were in the habit of coming to Toronto and procuring a license that give them the freedom of the city.
The vagrancy act, the great preventive of crime, was in this way rendered useless and Toronto was overrun with blacklegs.
Now the police regulate these licenses. As a result pedlars are more respected and citizens are better protected.
The revolution brought about in this way could also be brought about with regard to these all-night eating houses. A few night restaurants are a convenience, but when the great majority of them has degenerated into grog-shops, haunts of thieves, institutions where all the vices are permitted, it is high time that something was done to bring about a change. Toronto Star, 1894
The Broadview Hotel/Dingman’s Hall
There are so many good articles on the Broadview Hotel (began birth as Dingman’s Hall) that I’m going to send you to some of them for more info about this building that anchors the four corners at Broadview and Queen.
To find out about Archibald Dingman’s business out west in the oil patch. http://www.canadianpetroleumhalloffame.ca/archibald-dingman.html
Written when the Broadview Hotel was still host to Jilly’s, Angus Skene, in this article from the Toronto Star of January 4, 2004, explains the evolution from community hall where local churches held concerts, Morse Street School put on plays, and various politicians campaigned, to a strip-joint and flea-bag hotel.
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