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The Carlu

The Carlu is a historic event space in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Known for many years as the "Eaton's Seventh Floor", the Carlu is one of Toronto's best examples of Art Moderne architecture.

History

In 1930, the Eaton's department store chain, at the time Canada's dominant retailer, opened "Eaton's College Street", an imposing Art Deco store at the intersection of Yonge Street and College Street. The matriarch of the Eaton family, Lady Flora McCrea Eaton, was a member of Eaton's Board of Directors, and the Eaton's restaurants were one of her responsibilities. She retained the noted French architect Jacques Carlu to design the seventh floor of the edifice, which was to contain the 1300-seat Eaton Auditorium, the Round Room restaurant, lounges and a private dining room. All of the facilities were to be connected by a long foyer, designed in the style of the ocean liners of the day.

The Facility

Itself an Art Moderne masterpiece, the Eaton's Seventh Floor was at the heart of Toronto's cultural life for many years. The Auditorium played host to the major performers of its day, including Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington and Frank Sinatra. The first performance of the National Ballet of Canada was on the stage of the Eaton Auditorium. Canada's own Glenn Gould, fond of the Auditorium's excellent acoustics, used the hall for a number of his recordings.

The Round Room was, as the name suggests, a circular room, with circular mouldings in the domed ceiling and recessed alcoves in the corners. At the centre of the room stood a Lalique fountain, lit from below. Carlu was responsible for all aspects of the dining room's design, from the lighting fixtures to the Royal Worcester china, the stemware, and the waitresses' black uniforms. Carlu's wife, Natasha, designed the murals on the walls, depicting various scenes of pastoral life. For years, the Round Room was one of the most elegant places to dine in Toronto.

Decline

With the opening of the Toronto Eaton Centre in 1977, Eaton's College Street was closed to make way for the new Eaton's flagship store at Yonge Street and Dundas Street. The store was sold to new owners, and was rechristened College Park.

Although the new owners had originally agreed to preserve the Seventh Floor, they eventually determined that its preservation and restoration was not financially feasible, and they applied for a demolition permit to convert the entire floor to office space. After a lengthy court battle with the City of Toronto, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled in 1986 that the 1975 designation of the building under the Ontario Heritage Act protected the Seventh Floor from demolition. Despite several changes in building ownership, and the efforts of local heritage advocates, the Seventh Floor was sealed off for many years and allowed to deteriorate; although it was protected by law, there was no legal obligation to use or restore it.

Restoration

The Seventh Floor was eventually restored, after years of neglect, and was reopened in 2003 to much acclaim as "The Carlu" event venue. Even the original Lalique fountain, which had long been believed to have been lost, was restored to its place at the centre of the Round Room. The venue's new name was chosen in order to honour the architect that had originally designed the space.

External links

Recommended Reading

  • Anderson, Carol and Mallinson, Katharine, Lunch With Lady Eaton: Inside the Dining Rooms of a Nation, Toronto: ECW Press, 2004.

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