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cityscape

From Dingman’s Hall to Jilly’s

A short history of the Broadview Hotel.

Broadview Hotel, circa 1945. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 518 .

When it opened nearly 125 years ago, the landmark building at the northwest corner of Queen and Broadview was a community gathering spot. Fraternal brotherhoods, athletic clubs, and other local organizations met there. Political candidates stumped for east-end votes. Music lovers enjoyed the occasional concert. We suspect that dances were held, though few would have involved poles or the intentional removal of clothing.

It’s possible that some or all of these activities could return to the Broadview Hotel now that the current home of Jilly’s strip club has been sold to Streetcar Developments. If, as the new owner has indicated, condos aren’t part of the building’s future, it might make sense to cater to a wide range of interests.

The site was built for $25,000 in 1891 by soap manufacturer Archibald Dingman. The Romanesque Revival building, originally dubbed Dingman’s Hall, was the tallest on the east side of the Don River. In its early years, it featured a the Canadian Bank of Commerce branch on the ground floor, professional offices on middle floors, and grand halls on the upper levels. From the start, politicians used it for community meetings or campaign stops—in July 1891, for example, Mayor Edward Clarke convened a meeting to discuss neighbourhood concerns regarding pollution problems in Ashbridge’s Marsh (part of which became the modern Port Lands).

Looking north up Broadview Avenue from Queen Street East, June 26, 1918. Fonds 200, Series 372, Subseries 58, Item 750.

For the next 15 years, Dingman’s Hall was a major social gathering spot for the city’s growing east end. Dingman was an absentee landlord during the last few years of his ownership, as he’d decided to pursue his fortunes in the District of Alberta in the Northwest Territories. He ran a natural gas firm which lit Calgary’s streets, and saw his name bestowed on Alberta’s first commercial oil well in 1914.

Dingman sold the property in 1906 to T.J. Elward, proprietor of a hotel near the St. Lawrence Market. Elward’s petitions to transfer his liquor licence and transform Dingman’s Hall into a hotel were opposed by local teetotallers and the Globe, which felt that the three taverns already in the area should be sufficient. In 1907, though, the plan was resubmitted to the City’s licensing department and approved—and the building was soon renamed the Broadview Hotel.

While groups like local athletic clubs continued to meet there, in some ways the building’s downward slide had already begun. Reports of ownership squabbles made it into the papers, as did charges during the mid-1920s that it sold beer that was stronger than advertised. The name evolved over the years: Broadview Hotel, Lincoln Hotel, Broadview House, New Broadview House, etc. By the time the building was purchased by Harold Kamin for under $2 million in 1986, the main floor housed a strip club.

During the 1930s, the site was known as the Lincoln Hotel. Its neighbour was the Teck Theatre. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 641.

Jilly’s earned notoriety for its loud and public promise of “Girls! Girls! Girls!”, but it wasn’t always the dancers who drew attention. Local animal activists were horrified in December 1991 by the “Jane Jones Exotic Circus.” Ms. Jones’s striptease routines were accompanied by a boa constrictor, a python, and a 450-pound defanged Siberian tiger named Qedesh. “She brings out the animal and the tiger just lies there on the stage,” activist Liz White told the Star. “She takes off most of her clothes and kind of lies all over the tiger while a male commentator talks about how this is an endangered species. It’s unreal.” Jilly’s staff noted Qedesh was “just a pussycat.” The complaints reached city council, spurring debate on outlawing the display and ownership of wild animals.

As faded west-end hotels like the Drake and Gladstone revived in the mid-2000s, speculation about the future of the Broadview increased. Drake owner Jeff Stober fended off rumours he was interested in the property. Kamin admitted to speaking with condo developers and architects, but, as he told the National Post in 2006, “I’m at the stage in my life where I don’t want any other problems.” Articles focused on its gritty nature and the fact that it, as well as being a strip club, was home to a number of low-income tenants.

Broadview House, July 11, 1977. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 7, Item 134.

A brief closure in November 2013 for renovations renewed interest in the Broadview’s future. Councillor Paula Fletcher moved a motion at Toronto and East York Community Council to assess the possibility of a heritage designation. (The site was listed in 1975.) Yet the National Post’s Peter Kuitenbrouwer felt secure that Jilly’s would serve patrons for years to come: “As long as I live, Toronto will never again grant a licence to a strip club. Grandfathered strip clubs cling jealously to their status.”

The building’s importance may have been summed up best by architect Angus Skene a decade ago: “What is important is that the building still stands.” And as he said more generally of buildings with colourful pasts: “They’re more interesting when they’re debauched, proving that, despite where you start in life, you never know what your future holds.”

Additional material from the July 6, 1891, and May 10, 1907 editions of the Globe; the December 19, 1991 edition of the Globe and Mail; the June 16, 2006 and November 27, 2013 editions of the National Post; and the January 4, 2004 edition of the Toronto Star.

CORRECTION: May 13, 2014, 6:30 PM This post originally stated that the Broadview Hotel is an example of Romanesque architecture; in fact, it represents the Romanesque Revival style.

Comments

  • RiverdaleBoy

    Pedantic, I know, but it’s Romanesque REVIVAL.

    • TorontoistCopyEditors

      Thanks for pointing that out! We’ve made the change.

  • Colleen Newell

    Streetcar developers are among the highest level of bad neighbours. As someone who has lived beside their development process and seen how they ignore the neighborhood and any scrap of being a good neighbor I am very skeptical about their “affinity” for anything but the bottom line. In the upper beach neighborhood they tore down 2 perfectly fine historic buildings that could have provided moderately priced housing young families with children and put up what looks like a Yorkville glass upscale retail space that is now going to be abandoned by the retailer that it was built for. In the process they exposed myself and my family to mold, heavy metal solvents, unknown substances from the building debris, noise without notice and every thoughtless action that bad developers are know by. Even to this day they caused a flood in our basement by aiming their downspout hose toward our building without thinking about what would happen to their neighbor. A huge tree fell on their property in the winter ice storm and wrecked our fence and they have yet to take care of any responsibility for getting it off our fence or making repairs. They left the lot behind this property for years without any lawn care until the retailer took responsibility for it and cut the weeds down just last year . They had let this go for 5 years . When people are negligent in small things they are negligent in big things too.
    In speaking with the people I know who bought condos at this upper beach location the dissatisfaction with the workmanship of the building and the problems they have had, has been over the top, in the stories of dissatisfied condos owners.

    They have yet to prove their “affinity” for historic buildings. Stay tuned to the “oh what a tangled web we weave, when we practice to deceive” antics of another self serving developer.

    • bobloblawbloblawblah

      There seems to be a great desire by politicians and the general public to preserve this building. It’s fallen on hard times but isn’t beyond redemption. I’m sure the city will move quickly to give it heritage designation(if it doesn’t already have it) and even though that designation hasn’t always prevented developers from doing what they want, Streetcar won’t find it easy to just knock down this building. Re-purposing this place as a “Gladstone Hotel East”:would add to the up and coming culture of Queen-Broadview and be good investment property for Streetcar.