Lee’s Palace Shows its True Colours

by Eric Veillette

Yesterday, Torontoist reported that the colourful amoeba and monster-laden mural which has adorned the facade of Lee’s Palace for over twenty years was taken down, to be replaced with a new creation by original artist Runt. Annex residents may feel it looks temporarily naked without it, but it gives us a better view of the building, which once housed a movie theatre.

Designed by architect C. Howard Crane in 1919, it opened as The Bloor Theatre, which was part of the Allen’s national chain of cinemas. This photo, taken in 1921, shows  the westward view of the Bloor’s signage along with that of its neighbours. When the Allen circuit collapsed in 1922, it was taken over by Famous Players, who ran it until 1957. Before Lee’s Palace opened in 1985, the building had served as various nightclubs and dining establishments. In 1973, it was known as the Blue Orchid Dining Room.

Like most main thoroughfares in the city, Bloor Street once featured several movie houses. Across the street from Lee’s is the former Madison, which still runs today as the Bloor Cinema. One of the city’s largest neighbourhood cinemas, it opened in 1913 and has operated under various names: in the ’40s and ’50s it was known as the Midtown; the Capri; it showed adults-only fare in the 70s as the Eden; and settled upon its most recent namesake in 1979. In 2005, Peter Kuplowsky and Robin Sharp made a great documentary called The Bloor , which can be seen here.

West of Bathurst you would find the Alhambra, Metro (still around today as Toronto’s only surviving porno theatre), Adelphi, Kenwood, Paradise, the Academy. Most of these buildings still exist; the Academy, at Bloor & Sorauren, is currently undergoing a facelift.

– Eric Veillette

Thanks to Paul Moore for sharing the above photo of The Bloor, which appeared in Construction magazine, 1919.

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