elgin and winter garden theatre

The last double-decker theatre in the world is in Canada and it's absolutely beautiful

While double-decker theatres were common and abundant in the early 20th century, only one remains in the entirety of the world and it's located right here in Canada. 

The Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre situated in downtown Toronto is the last remaining double-decker theatre in the world, and its beauty makes clear why so many have committed to preserving it. 

What exactly is a double-decker theatre, you ask? Although it may simply sound like a theatre with multiple levels, it's actually two theatres built directly on top of one another. 

The Winter Garden and the Elgin were originally two separate theatres, with the former constructed seven storeys above the latter, according to Heritage Ontario.  

They were initially intended to house vaudeville acts and separated peasants (seated below) from high society (seated above). 

Originally built in 1913 to serve as the Canadian flagship of Marcus Loew's theatre chain, the building in its entirety was only used up until 1928. 

And while the Elgin continued to be in operation as a movie house, the Winter Garden was closed for more than 50 years. 

It wasn't until the Ontario Heritage Trust purchased the building in 1981 and began a $29-million restoration program that the theatre was restored to its originaly glory. 

According to Heritage Ontario, the restoration included the construction of more than 65,000 square feet of new space such as lobby and lounge areas as well as an eight-storey backstage pavilion with modern dressing rooms and two rehearsal halls.

With the help of government agencies, individual and corporate donors, and volunteers, the theatre reopened as the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre in 1989. 

It now functions as a beautifully historic space for musicals, movies, TV sets and more. 

Lead photo by

Greg David


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