UrbanToronto has partnered with Heritage Toronto to capture a moment in Toronto's past. On a weekly basis, we will both be highlighting a historic photo of the city's people, places and events, and will be telling the stories behind them.

Many thanks to both Gary Switzer of MOD Developements and Maya Bilbao for putting together the photos and research. This week's photo: 

The O'Keefe Centre, 1960, Toronto, Photo courtesy of Gary switzer and Maya Bilbao


Located on the southeast corner of Front and Yonge Streets, the O'Keefe Centre opened in 1960. Years in the making, the O'Keefe was designed as a multi-use performance venue that catered to ballet, dance, opera and many artistic performers. Its single theatre, seating 3250 people made it the largest theatre in Toronto when it opened. The O'Keefe Centre was designed by a team of architects including renowned firm, Page and Steele and Toronto architect Earle C. Morgan. Located in what was then an old warehouse district, the theatre with its distinctive canopy stood out with its bold modern design in the international style. The International style came into prominence in Toronto in the 1950's and was characterized by simple, clean lines and a less is more philosophy of design.

The O'Keefe opened in October 1st 1960 to a star studded list of attendees including prime ministers and heads of state. That night, the stage opened with a performance of Camelot featuring Julie Andrews, Richard Burton and Robert Goulet. Over the years top performers graced the stage, the likes of Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Jack Benny, Elton John and K.D. Lang. The O'Keefe Centre was renamed the Hummingbird Centre for the Performing Arts in 1996 and later the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts in 2007. In 2008, the Sony Centre closed to for a redevelopment of the site, led by American architect, Daniel Libeskind. The new complex will incorporate the theatre as well as a 57 storey residential space known as the “L Tower”. The redevelopment is scheduled to reopen on October 1st 2010 on the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the O'Keefe Centre.

Sources: http://canadianencyclopedia.ca/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=U1ARTU0002619 http://sonycentre.ca/


Related Companies:  Castlepoint Numa, Cityzen Development Group, Claude Cormier + Associés, Fernbrook Homes, Milborne Group, Page + Steele / IBI Group Architects, Studio Daniel Libeskind, Studio Munge