Every great city has its fair share of iconic neon signs that add a glow to the main streets and highlight some of the city’s destination hot spots. While some of them you might not be so keen on entering, all of them share the same nostalgic feel and add a touch of colour to the eclectic, quirky nature of the town. In Toronto, we’ve lost some of our most cherished signs from the crazy colours of Honest Ed’s to the dead and resurrected Sam the Record Man sign. Here we look at 10 of the most iconic signs still standing in Toronto.
We have to start with the Toronto sign simply because this is a blog about Toronto, after all. Located alongside the fountain cum skating rink at Nathan Phillips Square, this sign is not yet nostalgic. However, it has become a colourful icon that speaks to the multicultural nature of our fine city.
While some might find the Filmore a far cry from respectable, it undoubtedly holds its rightful position as one of the most iconic signs for Torontonians. Many of us feel we’re home when we see its bright pink glow. This marquee sign might be part of Toronto’s seedier history, but it is a part of our history nonetheless. Located at George and Dundas. This strip club that was once a Toronto hotel flashes its flirty pink glow and giant cocktail sign unabashedly advertising open arms to the weary-looking for a place to lie low.
Although this Toronto spot is now known as the Mattamy Athletic Centre today, it was once home to the Toronto Maple Leafs, concerts, circuses, ice camps and more. Many Maple Leaf’s fans saw their first game at this ice rink, where the black-and-white marquee welcomed them on Carlton. Also the former home of the historic Hot Stove Club, many deals were made, many beers were quaffed, and many steaks were eaten, following some of Toronto’s most memorable concerts and exciting hockey games.
The Cineplex era saw the demise of many historic movie theatres in Toronto. However, Paradise Theatre reinvented itself in early 2019. The old Bloor Street theatre features a replica of the original sign that once drew Torontonians to the latest silver screen hits when it opened in 1937. Hopefully, this is a trend the city will enjoy as more people look for less crowded spaces to enjoy simple pleasures like seeing a movie on a big screen as part of an audience.
Another historical building taken over by the corporate world, the grand Royal York Hotel, has welcomed train weary travellers to the city since the 1940s. Now donning the Fairmont name, the sign still represents the glitz and glamour of a bygone era.
You’d be showing your age if you recognized El Mocambo’s shining palms. You might be one of the few who saw the Rolling Stones play here back in 1977, or maybe this is the first place you snuck in without getting ID’d. From April Wine to Elvis Costello and from The Ramones to Duran Duran, the El Mo’s green palms and silver moon marked the venue where locals could listen to underground live music and drink.
Another hallowed ground where many Torontonians honed their music fanships, Massey Hall is one of Toronto’s best music venues. Its red and gold sign lit up the night as people of all ages and backgrounds shuffled into the Victoria Street entrance to listen to music that ranged from rock to folk and classical to Christmas concerts. The refurbished concert hall has a long list of talent scheduled from old favourites like Gordon Lightfoot to City and Colour.
This Parkdale diner has a regular flow of loyal customers who continue to revel in its retro vibe and comfort food. Distinctly Toronto, the sign is an homage to the old school diners who have fed people throughout the best and worst times this city has seen.
Although no one will ever buy their first vinyl in this cherished record store again, the massive record that stood over Sam’s at 347 Yonge Street for decades dodged the dumpster, finding a home at Yonge-Dundas Square. While it has to compete with the huge “Blade Runner” LED ads in the area, it still stands as a testament to the Toronto retailer who brought music into the homes of thousands of music lovers for over 40 years.
As downtown Yonge street undergoes a massive rebirth that will change the face of the longest road in the world forever, the one constant that remains is the multi-coloured signage of the Zanzibar. The classy, sassy lady in top hat and tails still stands to watch over a city that has not been overly kind to her. As one of the oldest clubs in Toronto, she continues to tap her cane to let everyone know if they are seeking adult entertainment and drinks, this is still the place to go. Amidst this iconic transformation, Zanzibar’s allure received a contemporary boost through vibrant renovations, courtesy of creative design services, breathing new life into its historic charm.
If you would like to create your statement sign to add to the iconic signs Toronto is known for, call Club Ink at (416) 694-1996 or contact us here.