Here’s what Queen West looked like in the ’80s and ’90s
Ten years ago, Patrick Cummins, a former City of Toronto archivist, was sorting through a box of donated photos that looked oddly familiar. They belonged to Ivaan Kotulsky, a local street photographer and jeweller, who spent decades photographing everyday people along West Queen West, where he owned a jewelry store. Cummins, an OCAD graduate, spent the same years photographing the area, but with a focus on the shops and architecture.
The two never met, but their combined works document the radical transformation of the Queen West neighbourhood over the past 40 years. For this year’s Contact festival, the Toronto Media Arts Centre will show their photos side-by-side as part of a interactive exhibit where visitors can take an app-guided tour of historic Toronto. Here’s a sneak peek at the exhibit, which runs from Monday, May 20 to Thursday, May 30.
Queen and Spadina, 1999
Jacobs Hardware was a staple of Queen West for decades. The store opened in 1924, and its interior resembled Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium: there were floor-to-ceiling shelves overflowing with screws, bolts, electrical equipment and any other tool you might need for a home reno. After 94 years in business, Jacobs closed its doors in 2018. Now, the building is occupied by a Domino’s pizza.
Queen and Bathurst, 1983
This textile store changed hands several times before shutting down a few years ago. Now, Queen Street Warehouse occupies the space. The restaurant was eventually replaced by the Bovine Sex Club in the early ’90s.
Queen and Bathurst
Lester Pawis was one of Kotulsky’s most photographed subjects. He was a well-known character in the neighbourhood and the two became friends over the years. This shot was taken near what is now the Bovine Sex Club.
Queen and Manning, 1981
Cummins returned to the same spots year after year to document the life cycle of a building. This diner was eventually converted into a video rental shop, a perfume store (which was replaced by another perfume store) and a clothing store.
Queen and Manning, 1999
Here’s one of the perfume shops.
Queen and Manning
This red doorway was beside Kotulsky’s jewelry store. He kept an eye out for interesting people and would pull them aside to take their portraits.
Queen and Euclid, 1996
This family-run butcher shop and deli opened in 1924, but closed down after the man who owned it died. His wife kept the storefront for a few years, but never reopened it. “She sat in the window a lot,” says Cummins. “People used to refer to it as an art installation. She was there, the signs were still there, but the doors were never actually open.” Czehoski eventually became a restaurant. The owners decided to keep the sign (and the name), but it has since been replaced by a trendy cosmetics store. The sign is not longer up, but it is for sale at a nearby antique shop.
Queen and Manning
Here’s another doorway portrait. This shop has since been turned into a boutique called Champagne and Cupcakes.