The Early Shopping Mall as Community Centre

This posting will offer up a more historic examination of the Yorkdale Mall collection in contrast to the earlier postings which were more archival and technical in nature. After reviewing thousands of images and documents, it became quite apparent that Yorkdale was much more than a place to shop during the early years. In many respects, it was like a community centre that offered up a myriad of different attractions that were intended to draw in large audiences from different backgrounds, demographic groups and geographic areas.

British Week - 1967For instance, during the 1960s and 1970s, Yorkdale held many different international events that celebrated just to name a few — British, Japanese, Italian and German — culture, food and fashion. The image to the left captures Ray and Eileen Sonin engaged in a radio broadcast during British Week at Yorkdale in the fall of 1967. The images below feature a Japanese tea ceremony (Oct. 1969), a window display showcasing Italian fashions (Oct. 1970) and traditional German dancers (Oct. 1972).

14 - 1970016Tea Ceremony - Japan Week - 196984 - 1972087

In addition to introducing its customers to many different exciting and exotic cultures, Yorkdale also held a number of cutting-edge attractions at the time that one wouldn’t expect to find at a mall. These included cultural displays, sport, car and boat shows and other unique attractions.

The three images below document displays from the ROM, the AGO and the Antique Show, which were held at Yorkdale in 1971,1974 and 1977 respectively. These types of events served in making art, artifacts and antiques accessible to the general public and exposed these audiences to history and avant-garde culture.  While the ROM and Antique Shows were successful, Yorkdale customers were not ready to embrace the AGO’s modern art. According to an article published in The Mirror on 24 July, 1974, the modern pieces were widely criticized by the obviously more traditional audience at the time.

50 - 1971052AGO Exhibit - 1974Antique Show - 1977

Other more sporty events that were held at Yorkdale during the early decades included57 - 1971059 sports shows, car and boat shows and horse shows. These attractions took considerable time and effort to set up and certainly the audiences must have appreciated the magnitude of the events involved. The image to the right reveals a ski demonstration from the Sports Show (1971) and those below include huge sailboats from the boat and plane show (1971) and a horse stall from the Carlsberg Horse Show (1976).

46 - 1971048Carlsburg Horse Event - 1976

The final group of events that were quite unique were the Yorkdale anniversaries that were held for many of the milestones during this period and the Circus Vargas event, the latter of which included a big top set up in the parking area and wild animals. The photos below feature highlights from these events. The first is a trampoline artist performing at Yorkdale’s 10th anniversary in 1974 and the second is a bear act under the big top at Circus Vargas in 1977.

Trampoline - 1974 - 10th anniversary Summer 74 Circus Vargas - 1977

One can see that the mall during the 1960s and 1970s was more than a teen hangout. Yorkdale’s cutting-edge programming served as a cultural magnet for Torontonians and tourists alike. The myriad and unique experiences that it offered were often both educational and entertaining and appealed to a broad demographic. Yorkdale certainly embraced the optimism of the era and created cutting-edge events that set it apart from the competition.