The Broadview Hotel Spotlights Canada’s History of Play with New Toy Exhibit: Streetcar Scoop December Edition

By now, it’s likely you already know (and hopefully have visited) one of our most recent and exciting projects, The Broadview Hotel. After just over a year in business, the hotel has quickly made a name for itself as a Toronto dining and entertainment destination. It has also established itself as the boutique hotel of choice for wedding parties and out-of-towners. We are so excited to have given a new life to such a storied building.

As part of The Broadview Hotel’s ongoing mission to promote history and culture in the east, the hotel spotlights artwork throughout.Everything in the building, from the art on the walls to the bathroom amenities, has been carefully curated to give visitors a sense of local flavour. One of the first touchpoints for guests is the gallery boxes on the wall that divides the front desk from the ground-floor Café +Bar.

For the month of December, the display cases/gallery boxes will feature an exhibit from Reliable Toy Company. For those who don’t know, Reliable Toy Co. Factory was one of the largest makers of dolls, plush toys, and novelties in the British Empire, and their home was located here in the east end at 258 Carlaw Avenue.

For more than 60 years, the building pumped out dolls and all their accessories. At first, it imported doll heads from Germany and composition parts from the US, but in 1922 Reliable began making dolls on their own. Originally named the Canadian Statuary and Novelty Company, the business was formerly located in a 500 square foot room on Queen Street. After a series of expansions, Reliable was able to buy out their competition and in 1933 had a monopoly on the doll industry in Canada.

By 1935, Reliable had become the largest toy factory in the British Empire with more than 72,000 square feet at their Carlaw Avenue location. One year later, the company’s annual production of dolls reached over one and a half million. According to the heritage sign outside the building, at Reliable Toy’s peak in the 1940s and 50s the factory included a doll clothing mill, a hairstyling department, and facilities for creating shoes, eyes, voice boxes, and even squeakers. Popular products included the Carrie Doll and the Reely Ride-em Tractor.

The building itself is also a piece of history. The complex was originally designed in 1907 by Toronto architect E. J. Lennox. Before it was home to Reliable Toy Co., the building housed Phillips Manufacturing Company, which produced picture frames, furniture, glass, and mirrors.

“My Aunt worked at Reliable Toy. She painted the doll’s faces,” recalls Diane Bandura Miller, pictured above with her parents, sister and Santa Claus in 1952. “My sister and I got the latest dolls at Christmas each year. My favourite doll was Barbara Ann Scott, complete with little ice skates!” (Photo courtesy of Diane Bandura Miller).

Reliable was also a leader in plastics technology, particularly in the area of injection moulding, which enabled them to create small plastic items for the Canadian government during the war. Throughout the 1940s, the company manufactured plastic bullet tips, bayonet covers, and oil containers for the armed forces. Their expertise and experience in the space boosted the toy business, as many of the toys were made from military surplus.

The war impacted not only the materials used for making toys, but also the toys themselves. War toys in Reliable’s vast line included aircraft ships, fighter jets, tanks, and toy soldiers.

In 1985, Allied Sign Letters purchased Reliable Toy and merged it into its Viceroy toy division. Today, the building accommodates many uses, including artist studios.

Catch the Reliable Toy Company exhibit by visiting the Broadview Hotel any time in December. If you can’t make it to the hotel to see it in person this season, we invite you to learn more about Reliable Toy online by following the link.