May 19, 2011

A Time Capsule Unearthed in My Neighbourhood

There's a Chinese place, the Ace Restaurant, on my high street that's been closed for years. It may have been open in the mid-80s when I originally moved into the neighbourhood but I don't remember it ever being open. It's definitely been closed since 1997 when I moved back to the neighbourhood. I'm going to hazard a guess and say it's been closed for over 20 years.

I wondered about the Ace. The windows were always covered in a thick, motled beige curtain, but I knew someone was within because of the live house plants pressed against the window. Was the restaurant a port key? Was it the gateway to the Ministry of Magic? Was it take-out only? Was it an opium den with mad games of Mah-Jong happening behind the curtains. Was it being used for storage? Had it simply been turned into a residence without anyone bothering to remove the restaurant's sign?

 I saw the restaurant's door open once about 3 years ago.All I could gather was the strong smell of Pinesol emanating from within and the fact that it was still set up for business as a restaurant.

Then last weekend the drapes came down and what was revealed was a 30s-style diner almost perfectly preserved. The place is a dusty tomb. There's a cigarette rack, a soda fountain machine and vintage spinning stools. Even if the Ace had an electric sign out front from the 80s  this was a diner straight out of a Norman Rockwell print. There is a thin veneer of a Chinese-style decor that was probably added in the 50s, but the place rivals other retro-renovated diners throughout Toronto like the Senator and notably, the Swan which I blogged about here.The building which also housed Venus Florists was sold in 2010. The restaurant, which hopefully will be restored, is up for rent for $3,500 per month.

Madness was involved. Apparently the place had been a Chinese restaurant since the 1950s, but was mothballed and used for storage because the younger generation didn't want to take over. According to a commentor on BlogTO's article about the Ace, who once had tried to purchase the place, the restaurant was not used as storage but lived in by a mentally ill family member who was a hoarder. That may explain why a sticker obvious in one of the pictures reads 1995. (if you take time to visit BlogTO comments you may also think others are mentally challenged!!!)

A jar of Coke syrup found within has been removed already and the juke boxes have been removed prior to the Ace going on the market.Comfy chairs found inside will make a nice vintage find for someone.

I'm hoping that, despite the complaints about the gentrification of my neighbourhood, that the Ace is historically renovated and opens soon as a fantastic authentic diner.

Here are pictures via BlogTO.


Tess Kincaid said...

Gosh, it's fabulous!

Nancy said...

I think they should open up a diner like the kid my grandmother took me to when I was little. Like the woolworth counter in the store. You could get milkshakes, malts, blts and hamburgers while shopping. I felt so cool ordering a burger an dmalt and eating it in the middle of the ladies section where we bought me socks. Blue plates specials, and burgers.

Brings back memories.

Neil said...

What a stunning survival.

Giulia said...

That is so cool, Pup. I love these sorts of places...hope it will be open as a diner, too. Maybe I'll finally drag up there & we'll have a meal there.

Geisslein said...

This is SOOOO GREAT! I have fallen in love this sunny thursday morning! I would like to own such a beautiful old restaurant. I hope it will be open again one day - and I hope they will not change it in modern style! It is still perfect, isn`t it?!

mlle.amandine said...

Really nice! Beautiful place and pictures!