Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Sentenced to an Artistic Dinner in Toronto, Canada

Close to the intersection of Church and Adelaide Streets in downtown Toronto sits the Adelaide Street Court House or as it was once known, York County Court House. It was built between 1851 and 1852 by Cumberland and Ridout, who were also the architects responsible for the current incarnation of St. James' Cathedral just around the corner, built in 1853.

The building itself now houses a jazz club called Live@Courthouse and Terroni, a Southern Italian-style trattoria. Terroni, which means "people of
the earth" is part of a chain in Toronto. The Court House location, which opened in December 2007, is the most recent addition. The interior is stylish with giant fireplaces, modern Italian art, an open kitchen, a spacious enoteca (wine bar) and a delicatessan selling Parma ham and other imported Italian specialities. The former cells in the basement now house the restaurant's wine cellar. The food is typical Italian fare with pasta, pizza and meat dishes featuring highly. The Spaghetti al Limone is simplicity at its best.

The Court House has borne witness to many events including the last public execution in Toronto and the formation of Canada's renowned artistic movement, the Group of Seven.

The Adelaide Street Court House was the third court house in Toronto and in 1910 hosted meetings of the Arts and Letters Club of Toronto on its second floor. The Club had been formed in 1908 by Augustus Bridle, an arts journalist, who had encouraged about 100 men to jo
in him in regular discussions of artistic creativity. Originally located above the Brown Betty restaurant at 36 1/2 King Street East, the Club members were evicted and moved to the Club's new home above the Court House. The lease required that members use the rear entrance on Court Street and so the venue became known as the Club's Court Street Quarters.

Members of the Arts and Letters Club represented those interested in literature, architecture, music, painting, sculpture, photography and the stage. Notably, the Club was the meeting place for a group of artists, later to become known as the Group of Seven, although the membership actually numbered ten in the end and eventually changed its name to the Canadian Group of Painters.
Tom Thomson, J.E.H. MacDonald, Arthur Lismer, Frederick Varley, Frank Johnston, A.Y. Jackson, Lawren Harris and Franklin Carmichael were all original members of a group of landscape artists looking to create a new direction for Canadian art who met on a regular basis. Tom Thomson drowned mysteriously in Algonquin Park during the spring of 1917 but his name became synonymous with the Group. A.J. Casson, who liked to call himself number eight of the Group of Seven," once recalled that they would all meet "just about every day, for company and a good meal."

In May 1920 the Group of Seven, the original members minus Tom Thompson, held their first exhibition at the Art Gallery of Toronto. Their landscapes were strongly influenced by both Post-Impressionism in France and Scandinavian art. Their canvases were bold and vividly-colored bringing a new edge to artistic creativity in Canada by capturing their interpretation of the country and such views as those of Algonquin Park, the Arctic and the western mountains.

In 1926 A.J.Casson replaced Frank Johnson in the Group following his resignation. Later, in 1930, Edwin Holgate (of Montreal) and L.L. FitzGerald (of Winnipeg), in 1932, were asked to join the Group. The final Group of Seven exhibition was held in 1931. Many of the Group's works can be seen at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg, just outside Toronto, and at galleries across Canada. Eventually, a further eviction notice was served and the Arts and Letters Club relocated to its present home at 14 Elm Street.

Address: 57a Adelaide Street East
Tel: 416-203-3093
Opening hours: Mon - Sat 9:00 - 23:00

Afternoon Tea at the Windsor in Toronto, Canada

Located in the affluent area of Yorkville with its swanky restaurants and just off the city's Bloor Street, lined with designer stores such as Tiffany, Gucci & Prada, you can find one of Toronto's best kept secrets, the Windsor Arms Hotel. Ideally situated for those wanting to hit the shops and take in some of the city's best museums such as the Royal Ontario Museum and the Bata Shoe Museum, the hotel is a classy boutique style residence with 28 guest rooms, including 26 suites. There's also a fitness centre, spa and swimming pool.

The building dates back to 1927 when hotelier William Arthur Price decided to open a new hotel. It was designed to blend in with the nearby University of Toronto, with its neo-Gothic Victorian buildings.

This recently revitalised hotel might have disappeared forever had developer George Friedmann not transformed and reopened it in 1999 following years of neglect and its eventual closure in the 1980s. Many of the original features have been retained, such as the stained glass window and the stone portico and vestibule entrance on St Thomas Street.

The tearoom still has its original 1927 fireplace although it now has a very contemporary decor.
It's a real treat to sit in the tearoom and over a refreshing cup of tea, delicate sandwiches and divine pastries to reflect on all the visiting glitterati who have passed through the doors. During the 1950s and 70s, Elizabeth Taylor kept a year-round suite in the hotel.

More recently the co-founders of the Toronto International Film Festival Bill Marshall, Henk Van der Kolkand Dusty Cohl came up with the idea for hosting the film festival as they sat in one of the hotel's bars, now the barbershop. Now, many of the Hollywood Moghuls and red-carpet bound film stars stay here when attending the annual festival in September.

Address: 18 St Thomas Street, Toronto
Tel: 416-971-9666
Fax: 416-921-9121
Rates $250 - $1750
Afternoon Tea: $24-30