The First Fifty Years
In 1951, permanent theatre seats were installed on a raked floor, and the Eaton Auditorium lost some of its acoustic distinction. With the building of other concert halls in Toronto its use declined in the 1960s and 1970s, and it was closed in 1976 prior to the Eaton's College Street closure 5 Feb 1977. In the ensuing commercial redevelopment of the building by its new owners, Toronto College Park Centre Ltd, the organ was removed and the auditorium's seating was reduced to 1,000. Glenn Gould was the only user of the auditorium at the time, recording there 1971-81.
Managers of the Eaton Auditorium were Paul Johnston 1931-67, a New Yorker of Canadian parentage who had been an impresario before joining the auditorium as booking manager, and John P. Heffernan, who managed the auditorium until the College Street store closed.
Restored and Modernized
Opposition to the owner's proposal to demolish the hall was led by The Friends of the Eaton Auditorium and local preservation groups. Thus began a decade-long debate, that included a 1986 Supreme Court of Canada decision prohibiting demolition. A $12-million plan for the restoration of the auditorium (designated a national historic site in 1983) was accepted by the municipal government 21 Nov 1989 but was not implemented because of a lack of financial support.
An $8.5-million restoration of the Eaton Auditorium was finally begun in 2001 by businessmen Jeffry Roick and Mark Robert; Great West Life Realty Advisors (the building's owners beginning 1997); and Toronto architects ERA Architects Inc and Webb Zerafa Menkes Housden. The auditorium, named The Carlu in honour of its original designer, reopened 1 May 2003.
The venue was restored to maintain its former style yet incorporate 21st century technology, and has been recognized as a fine example of Art Moderne architecture. The Carlu concert hall has a flexible seating capacity of 1,200 (the theatre's raked floor was removed during restoration) and a modernized sound system. A multi-functional hall, it is suitable for a range of events, shows and receptions, as well as theatre and concerts. It has hosted performances by André Laplante, Bryan Adams, the Stuttgart Chamber Choir, and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, among others.
See also Toronto Feature: The Eaton Auditorium.
Anderson, Carol and Katherine Mallinson. Lunch with Lady Eaton: Inside the Dining Rooms of a Nation (2004); Hafner, Katie. A Romance on Three Legs: Glenn Gould's Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Piano (2009).
Author Marjorie Hale, Sarah Church
Links to Other Sites
The website for the Historica-Dominion Institute, parent organization of The Canadian Encyclopedia and the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada. Check out their extensive online feature about the War of 1812, the "Heritage Minutes" video collection, and many other interactive resources concerning Canadian history, culture, and heritage.
The website for The Carlu, a downtown Toronto venue that has been designated a National Historic Site.
Eaton's 7th Floor Auditorium and Round Room
An illustrated tour of Eaton's 7th Floor Auditorium and Round Room, part of Eaton’s College Street Store. Designed by Canadian architects Ross & Macdonald of Montreal and Sproatt & Rolph of Toronto. From Parks Canada.
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