Every now and again, the Gladstone gets gifted some fascinating old photographs of the building. Each one has a story to tell, and it’s always interesting to see the way the neighbourhood and building have shifted over the years. While photos from the 1950s onward aren’t uncommon, sometimes we’re especially lucky to come across some truly vintage photos of our Victorian building; we’re talking about a time to when the roads weren’t paved and the Gladstone was the tallest building on Queen St. West.
The two pictures below were recently gifted to the Gladstone’s Chief Alchemist, Christina Zeidler, and they’re now some of the most interesting pieces in our collection.The photographs come from the collection of Gertrude Mitchell (1903 – 1999), and were generously passed on to the hotel by a relative of her’s, Peter Mitchell. Gertrude had a collection of photographs which she started in her 20s, and it’s likely that her uncle, Richard Mitchell, is pictured wearing a bowler hat in back row of the bottom picture.
This information is a good start, but pinpointing the the history of these gems more exactly is a tricky proposition.
Here’s the first picture and what we know about it:
1) There was an old railway station across the street, so the Gladstone would have been an ideal location to roll out a welcome banner for those coming from abroad.
2) This photo pre-dates street paving on Queen Street. Now, when exactly that paving happened is hard to say exactly (it was probably rolled out in stages), but the push to pave city streets started in the 1890s. Interestingly, it was cyclists who lead the charge, asking city engineers to create more bike friendly road surfaces. There’s a pretty comprehensive research paper on the subject: Asphalt Modernism on the Streets of Toronto, 1890–1900.
2) The Irish Guards were actually kind of a big deal. If our research is correct, this is a photo of none other than the Band of the Irish Guards anointed by Queen Victoria very shortly before her death in 1901. The band is still active today, playing at Crown ceremonies such as the changing of the guard in London. Back then, in the first 5 years of playing together, the band gained world-wide fame: “Although the Irish Guards have not been long in existence… they have already gained a reputation for themselves as a magnificent organization..” (The Globe: July 6, 1905)
4) As part of their touring duties, the Irish Guards came to play at the CNE in Toronto twice, once in 1905 and again in 1913, so we think it’s safe to say that those are our two possible dates for this photo. This is about as far as we can go though, as we haven’t yet found enough information to be sure in which year the Irish Guards were pictured on our doorstep.
Here they are again at the National Exhibition grounds in 1905:
However, when it comes to the 42nd Highlanders, pictured below, we’re even more in the dark about when they might have visited. One thing we can say is that this photo was likely taken on a different date (notice the decal on the window on the right is missing an “L” in the first photo, but not the second).
If you have any more insights or information on who these bands were, and what brought them to the Gladstone’s doorstep, let us know in the comments!