Paradise's original architect: Benjamin Brown
Happy birthday, Benjamin Brown!
Paradise’s original architect was also Toronto’s first practicing Jewish architect, producing beautiful buildings in what was still a largely antisemitic climate. When he started his practice in the 1920s, it proved difficult to attract broad clientele, and many of his early commissions came from members of the Jewish community.
He designed and built over 200 projects in our city, many in the Art Deco style. You may recognize the Balfour and Tower buildings on Spadina and Adelaide: two towers facing each other with tall, stately windows and Art Deco cladding of cut stone and brick. Standing proudly in the heart of the garment district, these were two of his earliest projects.
In 1920, Brown also designed the Standard Theatre at Spadina and Dundas, one of the earliest Yiddish theatres in North America. This was his only other theatre, before being selected by David Bernholtz, Harry Garalick, and Ben and David Borlack to redesign what was then a “one-storey brick theatorium” on the corner of Bloor and Westmoreland.
Today, you can see Brown’s original blueprints for Paradise in the Toronto Archives. His attention to detail, care for balance, and, frankly, gorgeous calligraphy, make the trip worthwhile.
So today on his birthday, here’s a moment for Benjamin Brown, and buildings with stories in their bones.