A Guest Post by TVS Alum and Vintage Blogger - Liz from The Vintage Inn
Ontario has a rich history of dance halls in the 1920s to early 1960's. Palace Pier in Toronto was one of those gems.
The Palace Pier was originally conceived in the late 1920's to be a large amusement pier that was to rival the neighbouring "Sunnyside Pavilion".
The pier was to project 1800 feet into Lake Ontario with a steamboat landing at the end. However financial difficulties and the depression stopped construction and only 300 feet of pier was created.
For most of the 30's the Pier was vacant but on June 10th, 1941 the auditorium opened as The Strathcona Roller Rink, and then a short time later became The Queensway Ballroom in 1943. This reverted to the Palace Pier Dance Hall and would soon become a favorite destination for dancers.
Here is a picture of where the Pier was located (the left image) in Toronto.
Plans for the Pier before having to scrap almost everything (was to have had a bandstand, Theatre and "Palace of Fun" which I could only assume was rides).
The Big Bands
The Pier saw many Big Bands pass thru it's doors:
There is a story from Ernie Ince who was the General Manager for the Pier for many years that recalls the effect one Bandleader had on the audience "Lionel Hampton would work the crowd into a frenzy. He'd soak 3 suits in a performance and play louder and faster as the night moved along" ("Let's Dance" by Peter Young, pg 13).
The Pier's heyday was the mid-40's and into the mid-50's with the 50's seeing a renovation that had the Palace Pier boosting about having one of the largest dance floors around. 3 tiers were built with balconies surrounding the dance floor so that everyone could see the action on the dance floor ("Let's Dance" by Peter Young, pg 13). CBC Radio even did live Radio broadcasts from the Pier over the years.
Changing with the Times
By the mid-50's the Pier had to change direction to keep alive so they started booking country acts like Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash which ended up being very successful ("Let's Dance" by Peter Young, pg 15). Also during the week they would book Bingos, Boxing matches, political rallies, proms and such to help pay the bills to get them to the weekend where they were still seeing around 1000 attendees coming out to celebrate music and dance.
Sadly on January 7th, 1963 in the early morning there was a fire at the Pier and everything was completely destroyed and due to declining popularity it only made sense to not rebuild and sell the property. Condos were then eventually built on the spot where the hall stood (the Palace Pier Condos).
The building may not be standing anymore but you can still pay a visit to the monument on the Waterfront Trail at the Foot of the Palace Pier Court (it's just west of the mouth of the Humber River. Walk over the bridge and keep going till you see the monument).
Interesting fact: The base of the monument are the original concrete pier footings.
Have you been to this plaque in Toronto?
Did you dance at the Palace Pier when it was around?