During the 1960s, the CNE Board and the City of Toronto saw the need for a rest spot at the western end of the grounds for CNE visitors. In 1961 the CNE Board received a proposal to build a tea garden south of the Bandshell from the Canadian company Salada-Shirriff-Horsey Limited. Shirriff-Horsey, a Canadian company known for jams and marmalades, merged with Salada Tea (another Canadian company) in 1957 to form Salada-Shirriff-Horsey Limited. The Tea Garden was built that same year and opened in August during the CNE. The building is 5400 square feet and the outside walls are made of Canadian fieldstone. Its roof features a unique peaked design.
Salada-Shirriff-Horsey’s vision for the tea garden included two main purposes: First, it would provide a public showcase of Salada at the largest exhibition of its type in the world, and at other functions since it would operate around the year. Equally important, the Salada Foods Tea Garden would represent a goodwill gift to the community as a rest facility, and by raising nearly $8,000 each CNE for charitable organizations.
The Vice President and General Manager of Salada-Shirriff-Horsey, R. E. Liptrott, stated that “In building the Tea Garden, we believed it would serve as an excellent means of telling the Salada story and, at the same time – and more important – we wanted, as a company, to have a building on the CNE grounds which would benefit the community”.
Public & Industrial Relations Limited, Tea Garden Copy, 1961
The tea garden was to be operated for charitable purposes by non-profit organizations, who in turn would receive all profits. Tea and biscuits were to be served, donated by the sponsoring organization. Each day during the CNE, profits from the Tea Garden went to a different woman's charitable group with members of the sponsoring organizations acting as hostesses for the day. The Tea Garden was open during the CNE and on weekends during the "fair weather" season. The Tea Garden was also available for special events throughout the year.
Salada Foods ceased to sponsor the Tea House in the late 1960s. In 1968 Dalmar Foods Limited took over the management of the building with the High Noon Restaurant. The name changed again as Casey’s Restaurant and Tavern in 1978 and continued to operate until 1984. The name changed to Coaches Corner Restaurant in 1985 and then to Bandshell Café in 1986. In 2003 the Board of Governors looked at redeveloping the entire Bandshell Park area including the Bandshell Café. In 2005 a new owner took over the management of the restaurant. In 2008, the interior of the restaurant underwent a massive renovation and reopened as Gossip Restaurant.
Today the Bandshell Café is leased to Acqua Dolce (formerly Gossip Restaurant). For more information please visit Acqua Dolce.
George W. Gouinlock (1861-1932) was born in Paris, Ontario. Gouinlock began his career in Toronto with the architectural firm of Kennedy and Holland in 1886. In 1888, he set up a practice with G.W. King, but from 1901 until 1921 Gouinlock practised alone.
In the early 1900s, Gouinlock was approached by Toronto City Council to redesign the west end of the Toronto Industrial Exhibition (later known as the Canadian National Exhibition). Many of the buildings on the site at the time were wooden structures that were not meant to be permanent. Between 1902 and 1912 Gouinlock transformed the western end of the exhibition grounds with fifteen new structures set amidst broad boulevards and an open plaza. Gouinlock’s architectural plan was heavily influenced by the Beaux-Arts classical design he had encountered at Chicago’s World’s Columbia Exposition in 1893.
Unlike other Exhibition Place buildings by George W. Gouinlock, the Fire Hall and Police Station was not designed in the Beaux-Arts style. Instead, it has an eclectic architectural design featuring a clock tower, polychrome brick banding and a shallow pitched copper roof. The Fire Hall and Police Station has Arts and Crafts design elements. Its red brick exterior is designed in contrasting colours and textures and includes Tudor style detailing executed in wood and stucco. The building was also designed with wide entranceways, allowing easy access to the building for people and vehicles.
Although the Fire Hall and Police Station has undergone several planned alterations, such as one major restoration in 1981 to bring the building to Ontario Building Code standards as well as having modern, roll-up doors installed, the structure's basic character remains intact.
The Fire Hall and Police Station is divided into two sections. A detachment of the Toronto Police Services occupied a portion of the Fire Hall and Police Station year-round for a period of time from 2004 to 2013. In 2012, a detachment of Toronto Fire Services began to occupy the Fire Hall on a full time year round basis. Prior to 2012, Toronto Fire Services were only on site during the CNE. During the CNE Toronto Fire Services provide educational programming to visitors. In 2016, a detachment of Toronto Parks, Forestry & Recreation division took up residence in a portion of the Fire Hall for use as administrative services.
The Clock Tower of the Fire Hall and Police Station is currently undergoing restoration.
The Bandshell was designed by Craig & Madill Architects. Extensive research on other band shells, such as the Hollywood Bowl in the United States, influenced the design of the Bandshell. Art Deco features can be seen on the exterior of the shell that is decorated with stylized musical notes. The structure was built to accommodate a 100-piece band. The stage itself is 63 feet in width and 38 feet in depth and faces toward the north. The building includes a full basement which houses storerooms, a transformer room and dressing rooms. At the time it was built, the Bandshell featured the latest in acoustics and lighting. The ‘shell’ consists of eight semi-circular ‘louvres’ specifically engineered to achieve ideal acoustics. The Bandshell was built with 1,030 concealed lamps that illuminate the structure in red, green and blue. This lighting feature could be controlled with dimmers thus enhancing the musical performance on stage.
When it opened in 1936 the Bandshell featured the Kneller Hall Band, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the United States Navy Band amongst other noteworthy bands. The Bandshell became the place for visitors to congregate and listen to a variety of military bands and big bands from the 1930s to the 1950s.
Since its construction in 1936, the Bandshell has also served as the site of the official opening of the annual CNE. From the stage of the Bandshell, dignitaries such as William Lyon McKenzie King, Rear Admiral the Earl Mountbatten of Burma and Vincent Massey have presided over opening day ceremonies. In more recent years the CNE opening day ceremonies have taken place at the Princes’ Gates.
Over the years the Bandshell continued to feature various musical entertainment. In the 1970s, band competitions, also known as “Battle of the Bands”, were held on the Bandshell stage. The Bandshell has also been the site of body building competitions, celebrity appearances and talent shows.
Today, the Bandshell forms part of the Bandshell Park that is host to various festivals and events throughout the year. The structure also continues to highlight a variety of musical talent during the annual CNE in August.