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Just west of Yonge leading south from Adelaide, I noticed a street sign for Grand Opera Lane

Just west of Yonge leading south from Adelaide, I noticed a street sign for Grand Opera Lane. This seems a rather highfalutin name for what amounts to about 30 metres of blind alley.—Basil W. Johnston, Peterborough

That unremarkable alley was named after Toronto’s premier concert hall of the late 19th century. Opened in 1874, with 1,750 seats and ultra-high-tech gaslights, the Grand Opera House showcased some of the world’s top performers, but it’s most famous as the site of another kind of drama. On December 2, 1919, theatre tycoon Ambrose Small deposited a million-dollar cheque in his bank down the street from the Grand and then vanished. The police investigation uncovered a gold mine of juicy tattle—including the revelation that Small kept a secret boudoir in the bowels of the Grand, where he cavorted with a string of mistresses—but no solution to the mystery. As for the Grand, it never recovered from the sleazy scandal. The building fell into dilapidation and was unceremoniously demolished in 1927.

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