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Silver Rail Mural (1948) E-mail
Written by Michael LeBlanc   
The Silver Rail Mural :: photo by Michael McClelland The Silver Rail Mural :: photo by Michael McClelland
In 1948, Eric accepted a private mural commission from the proprietor of Toronto’s first licensed (serving alcohol) establishment. Up until that time, in “Toronto the Good,” if you wanted liquor in a public place, you had to buy it with a meal. The Silver Rail (photo from 1954) allowed patrons to buy just drinks, but you could have a meal there too, if you wanted! The art deco tavern was located across the street from Massey Hall, at Yonge and Shuter Streets, and for many years was the place to see and be seen. Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie took time out from recording sessions at Massey Hall in the early 1950’s to “knock back a few” at the Silver Rail. The mural was destroyed in 1998 barely a month after the tavern had been closed down to make way for a new retail complex.

Architect Michael McClelland (known for his work on re-purposing the Distillery District in Toronto), recognized the value of the mural; he directed the demolition crew to remove the wall with care and save the fragments. He took several pictures of the mural panels as they lay on the floor, and left the building that evening with instructions to the night crew that it not be disturbed. Tragically, by the next morning the panels had been tossed into the dumpster and carted away to the landfill.

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…the place doesn’t look quite as awful as I was led to believe, and after all I have been to Oshawa… The town does look rather as though they stopped progress in 1890 and have made no repairs since. Everything looks as though a good coat of paint would do some good...

-Eric Aldwinckle, on Halifax in 1940