Tag Archives: history of Toronto


Big CONGRATULATIONS to local author GEORDIE TELFER on his packed-house book launch last night held at Toronto’s Dominion Pub & Kitchen.  He entertained his guests with selected readings, music and original songs that told the tale of the disappearance of Toronto theatre mogul & millionaire, Ambrose Small (pictured below), who led a life of dodgy dealings and showbiz shenanigans.AS_Composite“Hogtown Empire” is a tale of money, deception and betrayal with a cast of captains of industry, socialites and would-be con artists. It’s the culmination of several years of research, interviews and scouring official police and news archival records, much of which led Geordie in different directions complete with red herrings and false starts.Hogtown Empire Cover-v4Here is an exciting true-crime adventure story. Ambrose Small and his wife, Theresa, were wealthy entertainment impresarios who owned a prominent chain of theatres in southern Ontario. On December 2, 1919, the Smalls banked a cheque for $1-million, a down-payment on the sale of their theatrical empire. That night, as dusk fell, Ambrose disappeared into the darkness and was never seen again. What happened? Was he murdered? Did he disappear of his own volition? No body was ever found and, as far as anyone can tell, he took none of his money with him. RipleyStyleSummaryAmbrose left behind his wife, his mistress, and his frustrated secretary. The case prompted an international man-hunt that spanned the globe and had renowned psychics of the day hearing voices and seeing visions. There were lurid rumours of infidelity and accounts of suspicious activities by Small’s enemies….so many enemies. The subject of films and TV shows, Canada’s longest running cold-case remains unsolved after 100 years.  20191022_213146 20191022_222941 20191022_223108 20191022_222849 20191022_222931Ambrose Small was famous for his HUGE handlebar mustache so we made sure all the guests had their very own moo-stash on a stick…which worked well for the sing-along during the “Ambrose Small’s Mustache” song. It also provided lots of laughs at the photo wall, too!20191022_223539 20191022_22424020191022_225152If you would like more information about this fascinating real-life unsolved mystery and to purchase a copy of Geordie’s book ($24.95), visit the official website: www.HogtownEmpire.com  The book is also available from Amazon.com or .ca   Geordie also hosts regular Hogtown Empire podcasts, also found on the website.  And thanks to the Dominion Pub & Kitchen for the great service, deelish food and frosty drinks. Check them out in person: www.fabrestaurants.ca/restaurant/dominion


I have the pleasure of introducing you to my new client, artist HANNA KOSTANSKI, whose work I first discovered in 2017 when she presented her solo show at Urban Gallery in Toronto (below)20170803_174822 20170803_173123She was born in Szczecin, Poland, and in the 80’s her family emigrated to Hamilton, Ontario, where she grew up and first discovered her love of painting. Hanna attended the Ontario College of Art & Design where she obtained her BFA in 2007. She still resides in Hamilton with her husband and two rescue dogs and a black cat who really runs the house! Hanna’s work can be found in dozens of private and public collections, including a hospital, several law offices and hotels in both Toronto and Hamilton.

Her most recent series of paintings are based on photographs found at the City of Toronto Public Archives. These images span several decades and show a nostalgic view of the city as it once was. They celebrate the past while showing the development of Toronto and the ways in which people helped shape it.  In contrast to Hanna’s previous collections which embody the loneliness of an environment in the absence of human touch, this series celebrates the vibrancy of people interacting with the streets and neighbourhoods.

Bay & Adelaide Streets circa 1940s

Bay & Adelaide Streets circa 1940s

I’ll let Hanna tell you herself about her passion for vintage views and recreating mid-century street scenes…

For over a decade, my work has been focused on the visible passage of time, experienced through the exploration and documentation of abandoned and decaying buildings in cities like Hamilton, Detroit and more recently, Toronto. I’ve always been fascinated with historical architecture, specifically how we interact with our buildings and structures, and what happens when that interaction ceases to exist. – Hanna Kostanski

It was wonderful visiting Hanna in her home studio, seeing where and how she works…20190329_121929 20190329_122119 20190329_121832… and discovering new works currently being undertaken (below)20190329_121841 20190329_125311We’re currently researching showcase opportunities at this year’s DOORS OPEN TORONTO, a weekend in May where the public can visit historic buildings and venues. Hanna’s brilliant painting of the Yonge & Dundas intersection, circa 1978, would be the perfect illustration of Toronto’s past so I’m busy pounding the pavements and visiting building management offices to secure a spot for this incredibly detailed view of the busiest spot in Toronto!Hanna Kostanski YONGE AND DUNDAS 1978 acrylic on boardHanna is also in high demand for commissioned work and she’s currently working on a number of pieces for birthday and retirement gifts so some very special paintings will soon be going to some equally special homes. If you would like to learn more about Hanna and get in touch for your own commissioned slice of the past, visit her website and follow her on social media: http://www.hannakostanski.com  Watch my social media (Fcbk, Twtr, IG) over the coming weeks for more video interviews with this talented artist.

A Parisian street scene, given the Kostanski touch!

A Parisian street scene, given the Kostanski touch!

The heavy industrial side of Hamilton, ON, also gets the Kostanski treatment

The heavy industrial side of Hamilton, ON, also gets the Kostanski treatment


Last night, Toronto’s coolest indie art venue, URBAN GALLERY, hosted the opening reception for HANNA KOSTANSKI, whose work is inspired by vintage photographs of our city from years gone by, found in the City of Toronto Archives.  With permission from the Archives, Hanna has recreated well-known intersections and streetscapes from the early 1900’s through to the 1980’s, adding colour and movement to the imagery, bringing the scenes to life.  Her show, 20th Century Toronto: Intersections & Interactions, runs until August 26th at Urban Gallery (400 Queen St East, Toronto) and I strongly recommend you visit in person to see if you recognize each of the locations she’s painted. Betcha you’ll be amazed to see how our city has changed!

About the artist:  Hanna was born in Szczecin, Poland, and grew up in Hamilton, Ontario. She obtained her BFA from OCAD University in 2007 and currently resides in Hamilton and works in Toronto. Her work can be found in dozens of private and public collections in both cities.Hanna Kostanski YONGE AND DUNDAS 1978 acrylic on board(Above) Yonge and Dundas, 1978 Acrylic on Wood 30″ x 60″ by Hanna Kostanski
From City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 92, Item 49 • Original Photograph by Harvey R. Naylor

Artist Statement:   For nearly a decade my work has been focused on the visible passage of time, experienced through the exploration and documentation of abandoned and decaying buildings in cities like Hamilton and Detroit. I have always been fascinated with historical architecture, specifically how we interact with our buildings and structures, and what happens when that interaction ceases to exist.

My current body of work continues to explore the connection between people and their environment, but with a focus on historical representations of that relationship.  To that end, I have been working on a series of paintings based on photographs found at the City of Toronto Public Archives. These images span several decades and are nostalgic of the city as it used to be. They celebrate the many past incarnations of Toronto, the vibrant intersections of the city and the interactions of its people.  Hanna Kostanski (2017)

The gallery was quickly crowded with fans of Hanna’s work which has recently garnered some exciting media attention – even Toronto Mayor John Tory has weighed in on Twitter about Hanna’s ability to capture a sense of time and place with her large format paintings.20170803_18202620170803_17482220170803_17564020170803_16431220170803_164228Two of Hanna’s BFF’s came to support her and found a familiar sight in this painting (below) of Yonge Street between Queen & Dundas! 20170803_171702 20170803_173123I think this fellow (above) must work on Bay Street – he appears to be looking for the location where his office now sits and explaining the old geography to his lovely companion.20170803_173228 20170803_180704Hanna welcome many of her friends and fans (above), all of whom seemed eager to see her newest paintings.

Fellow artist Nancy Bennett (below) looks like she’s calling a cab from the intersection of Yonge & Dundas…LOL20170803_172148Amidst the hub-bub of the busy gallery, I managed to grab Hanna for a quick chat about her work…

Hanna is also offering fine prints for those who don’t have the space for the original BIG paintings…here’s a happy art-lovin’ family who purchased 2 prints of their favourite paintings….20170803_173528(0)Here’s Wayne Abell of Urban Source Catering (they always present the most deelish treats for gallery openings!!) with KJ Mullins, publisher of NEWZ4U.ca, a Toronto-centric e-newspaper who really liked Hanna’s work.20170803_173304If you would like to come and play “spot the street” with Hanna’s work, please visit www.urbangallery.ca for gallery hours and directions.  You can also follow Hanna on social media via her own website: www.hannakostanski.com



Thank you for supporting Canadian artists!


Any plans for this weekend? No? Well, you do now!  Join the groovy folks from Yorkville’s 60s and 70s as they launch the first annual SPIRIT OF YORKVILLE MUSIC FESTIVAL on Friday May 22nd and Saturday May 23rd with shows at The Pilot Tavern, 22 Cumberland St. (at Yonge & Bloor). www.spiritofyorkville.com

SpiritofYorkville2015Poster WED PROOF - high quality available upon requestI was thrilled to speak with one of the Festival’s founders, CATHY YOUNG, the Juno Award winning Canadian folk singer/guitarist from Yorkville’s golden era. Billboard Magazine named Cathy’s A Spoonful of Cathy Young (below) as its ‘Pick of the Week’ in 1969 .

Cathy Young albumSince those hippy-dippy folkie days, Cathy (pictured below then and now) toured constantly throughout the 80’s and 90’s and has diversified into theatre & television work including roles in the Canadian touring version of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ (as Mary Magdalene) and vocal work on ‘Rita MacNeil & Friends’. She has also worked around the world including headlining shows in Hong Kong and Bangkok.

Then and Now-Juno Award Winner Cathy YoungCathy, who are the organizers of the Spirit of Yorkville Music Festival?
CY: The founders are David Depoe, Linda Goldman, Brenda Armstrong, Ken Stower, John Brower, Rosemary White and myself.

What inspired you to launch the Spirit of Yorkville Music Festival?
CY: Linda put on some events at the Yorkville Library, and then she gave me a blowup photo of the Yorkville street scene which I posted on Facebook and tagged everyone I knew from back in the day… it caused a commotion!  A guy named Richard Olds put a Facebook group page together and the rest is history. From the posts we realized that people wanted to get together and feel the spirit again, so that’s what we did. We formed a committee two years ago and are going strong now.

So what qualifies you to present such a 60’s/70’s era-specific festival?
CY: WE WERE THERE from the beginning to the ‘ end ‘. (Cathy is pictured below kneeling bottom centre)

Sunday Oct 12 1969 front of Penny Farthing includes Cathy Young centre bottom, Danny Marks Top row 3rd from right and many other well known musiciansWhy do you think it’s important to remember Yorkville and the musicians from back in those days?
CY: Many careers were launched there and still enjoy World fame today. We built a community, and with David Depoe and the Diggers, we set up the very first Love-In in Queen’s Park on May 22 1967. Almost 8,000 people showed up for the free festival, including members of the Jefferson Airplane who were in town – they enjoyed the concert sitting on the grass and feeling the spirit. Leonard Cohen and Buffy St. Marie performed. It was also my first big public performance. (Cathy went on to win a Juno Award in 1974) It’s important to remember all the musicians who were part of a thriving community, also the poets and artists of the time. Their work goes on and Yorkville is represented well by them.

map RiverboatApart from the concerts, any other activities or displays for visitors to enjoy?
CY:  We will have a video Tribute to the artists we’ve lost. There will be displays of photos and artwork, donated to the Spirit of Yorkville.

Do you have plans for continuing this Festival next year?
CY:  Next year and every year. We’re building up to the 50th anniversary of the original Love-In and we are creating a YORKVILLE WALK OF FAME complete with stars!

Can people buy tickets ahead of time and if so, where/how?
CY:  There are a limited number of tickets for each show – Friday and Saturday evening shows are $37.00 and the Saturday afternoon folk fest that starts at 12 noon is $15.00.  There are some tickets still available online at www.spiritofyorkville.com and there will be a few tickets available at the door for those who prefer not to not buy online. We’re looking forward to seeing you all at The Pilot Tavern, 22 Cumberland St. in the Heart of Yorkville.

Some of the greats from back in the day will be performing or dropping by, including Luke and the Apostles, Johnnie Lovesin, George Olliver (below)…..Then and Now-Luke and the Apostles Then and Now-Johnnie Lovesin-credit Library & Archive Canada 1980 and Yorkville Village Alumni Association 2014 Then and Now-Juno Award Nominee George Olliver…as well as Greg Godovitz (a.k.a. Goddo) and Ken Whitely (below)

Then and Now-Greg Godovitz from Goddo-1978 in band Goddo Then and Now - Canadian music legend Ken WhiteleySo get your tie-died T’s, jeans and earth shoes outta the attic and join me at the Love-In this weekend!