Tuesday, January 11, 2011

VICTORIAVILLE....The place we love to hate!!

Constant harping really gets us nowhere when we talk about Victoriaville Centre in the heart of Fort William Ontario(now Thunder Bay). Yes, it was our cruising strip, harshly taken away from us when cruising was at its peak. This blog site has spoken about this in the past ......click on each of these three links now or later then come back to read the rest. http://hotrodsandjalopies.blogspot.com/2009/04/our-old-cruisin-strip.html ,here http://hotrodsandjalopies.blogspot.com/2009/07/early-east-victoria-avenue.html and here http://hotrodsandjalopies.blogspot.com/2009/06/cruisin-strip-and-old-trollies.html .
This city has opted to keep it there for no specific reason, maybe hoping for some business there after the new courthouse is built, but I have my doubts that the enclosed mall will be able to resurrect itself. Our city will have to continue to shell out upkeep expenses as well.
Here are some great historical shots of the place called Victoria Ave and Syndicate Ave in a better time!!

These 4 photos are the exact same north/east corner taken in different era's. Gillespie's Drug Store, then Crooks Pharmacy, the Brill Trolley turning at the Crooks corner and finally it is now a Robin's Donuts and of course now inside Victoriaville. The first B&W photo is from about 1939 and shows an old car(Buick?) at the intersection, Rudil's restaurant along the side(far left) and a bit of the McCartney Jewellers sign as well. The next one shows the hustle bustle on any typical day down Victoria Ave in the early 1960's.

Avco Finance had an office along side somewhere about where the Rudils Restaurant was, and at this point it was still Crooks Pharmacy taken about 1968. The final of these 4 photos shows the Robin's donuts store at the same corner...note the curved top....the same in all the photos.
The strip as it appeared in 1939 with rail trolley tracks taken on about Christmas Day(low vehicle traffic). You'd have to be older than I, to recognize the black and white photo, but the next one taken in about 1962 is more recognizable to me. Shopping in the beautiful Chapple building on the left in both photos brings back tons of memories. I was a regular at the small restaurant on the 3rd floor(I think) when I worked downtown in the early 70's.....they made the best chili around.
This photo was taken in 1974 at about the same spot where the Western entrance to Victoriaville was constructed....that picture shown on the right.
NEXT - The Victoria Hotel, Restaurant and Tea Room....
I am not sure exactly when the "Vic" was built, but it did appear in a 1913 periodical about Fort William and Port Arthur as shown here. The next picture here backs down Victoria Ave a little. Be sure to click on this one in particular once or twice to read all the bubbles and notes. The booklet read that Fort William and Port Arthur would become the Toronto or Montreal of the north due to its close proximity to the railroad and the natural harbour of Prince Arthur's Landing(Port Arthur). WHAT HAPPENED!
Here is an old postcard from about 1940 showing the "Vic" on the right and the sign Victoria Grill and Tea Room. Many eateries were called tea rooms in our area at the time. The next photo is a plate from my own collection from the 'Vic"
Here is a close-up of the decorated plate(would you believe a yard sale find)! This picture shows the side of the hotel and a bit of a sign on the side that can be easily read. There used to be a door to the bar on the side with a sign saying "Ladies with escorts only".
This is the actual spot where the Victoria Grill, Hotel and Tea Room stood, on the south/east corner of Victoria Ave and Syndicate ave.
The next trolley photo was taken in 1941 in front of Chapples Ltd, and would be right inside Victoriaville today.
Be sure to double click on this one to read the note. The blue and orange rectangles shown in the next two photos are the same corner where the today photos at the end of this post were taken. The Brill trolley buses were such a part of my childhood memories here in Fort William.
These two photos are just close-ups of prior ones to show a little more detail.
The Chapple Building(used to be call the Grain Exchange Building) corner with the beautiful stone work is still there today to be admired, but locked away in time in a place we all love to hate....The Victoriaville Centre
I still believe that in my lifetime this area can resurrect itself but only if Victoriaville is torn down.....a pipe dream? Maybe!
Be sure to double click on all the photos to enlarge them!!


Anonymous said...

I used to work at the Robin's in the picture back in the 90's when it first opened up when I was in college. I used to marvel at beauty of the buildings "inside". Especially the Chapple building.
I don't know if taking the roof off Victoriaville would help the downtown core be vibrant again...but I don't think it would hurt. Most of the inside store fronts are occupied, and the ones that occupy the space on the old "streets" could move to the open spaces on the storefronts. The city has a large presence with the Civic Centre located there.
I remember Chapple's as a kid. The candy county was something to behold...as a child at least. I remember it being a very busy place. Victoriaville was also a busy place when it first opened...but if memory serves me it didn't last long.
I also remember the old silver and green buses as a kid. A lot of nice pics in this post.

Dave said...

It's not just taking the roof off Victoriaville, but at least have Victoria Avenue a through street again, and move the kiosk businesses to the empty store fronts. It would be easy to close off the hallways to the city offices and the old Chapples building.
Thanks for your comments...always appreciated, Dave

Anonymous said...

Oh I agree with taking off the roof. While we are at it get rid of the parkade. The federal building that is covered up is just a travesty.

Anonymous said...

Some day it will be restored to its old glory.

Dave Cano said...

Here's hoping!!