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Leaves tumble downward in this theatre, concealing the roof in a flora veil. The walls are covered in nature sceneries, making each performance feel like an enchanted garden journey.

Marcus Loew’s network opened a flagship theatre in downtown Toronto in 1913. The theatre featured two independent stages placed on top of one other, which was unusual. The Elgin Theatre was customarily decked in crimson and gold with classical allusions on the main floor, but the architect had a more innovative design for the Winter Garden seven storeys above.

The walls were painted with murals of plants, trellises, and even the odd lamppost to bring the outside in, while the ceiling was covered with genuine dried leaves. Lights were transformed into lanterns and columns into tree trunks as part of this quirky fantasy-like design. The stage itself was designed to seem like the sky, complete with painted clouds and a lighted Moon.

Originally created to host vaudeville variety shows, the emergence of the cinema industry in the 1920s lessened the prominence of the genre. In response to declining attendance, the Elgin Theatre was turned into a cinema. However, after only 15 years in existence, the Winter Garden’s doors were unceremoniously sealed in 1928. They’d be closed for the next 53 years.

On Mondays throughout the year, a 90-minute paid guided tour is given, and the building is normally open for free during the Doors Open celebration in May. Alternatively, schedule a show and enjoy the theatres as they were meant! Shows are uncommon, with only 0-3 every month. You could even be able to travel in one of the original hand-operated elevators.

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