Who was “Bigley” of the Richard Bigley building at Queen and Mutual?
Who was “Bigley” of the Richard Bigley building at Queen and Mutual? And is it true that this is the oldest ghost sign in North America?—Hugo Bernier, Downtown
Ghost signs—ancient ads left painted on walls long after businesses have folded and owners have passed on—are scattered around Toronto. (There is a sizable number on Sorauren Avenue, west of Lansdowne.) Most surviving ones date to the early 20th century, and spotters say Bigley’s is indeed the oldest they know of in the city. But since ghost signs are continually uncovered as billboards are removed and adjacent buildings demolished, it’s hard to say what might still be lurking. Richard Bigley went into business as a 22-year-old woodworker in 1875 but later became a well-known man about town by selling the Happy Thought line of stoves (“_‘Grate’ Happiness at Home” promised an 1885 ad in the Globe). The building that bears his name was finished in 1876. As for Bigley, he died in 1933 and was eulogized in the papers as a “noted stove man.” In the 1970s, his little building spawned a giant one: this was where architect Eb Zeidler drew up plans for the Eaton Centre.