Shea's Yonge Street Theatre

Shea's Yonge Street Theatre


Address: 91-93 Yonge St.

Also Known As: Wonderland Museum, Robinson's Museum, Moore's Musee Theatre, Crystal Theatre, Eden Museum, the Bijou,


Details of Site Location: Located at 91-93 Yonge Street, on the east side, half way between King and Adelaide Streets, Toronto.

Boundary History: Built upon two lots (25'2" x 74'6" and 26' x 81'6") the theatre filled almost all of the two lots.

Current Use of Property: A high-rise office building which occupies more than the theatre site.

Historical Description: Constructed in 1889 and opening in 1891 as the Wonderland Museum or Robinson's Museum, since it was owned by Marvyn Robinson of Buffalo. Robinson sold the building in 1890 to George Moore of Detroit who called it Moore's Musee Theatre. Its next names were: Crystal Theatre, then Eden Museum. Then in 1896, Robinson took over the theatre again, this time calling it the Bijou. In 1897 the theatre was gutted by fire, one year from the time it began to show movies. In 1899, the property was bought by Shea Amusement Company of Buffalo, and the opening performances were given in September that year. The bookings were identical to those given at their Gordon Theatre in Buffalo and, under Mr. Shea's auspices, excellent bills raised the vaudeville bookings to a higher level. In 1910 Shea's bought the southeast corner of Richmond and Victoria and here developed Shea's Victoria. The old Yonge Street building was then named the Strand. As Moore's, the theatre had pyrotechnic displays, orchestras, operatic selections, blackface performers, and comedians. As Shea's it offered performances by dogs and cats, dancing comedians, singers, jugglers, and had shows given by the Aborn Comic Opera Company.

Relative Importance: Part of Toronto's performing arts history, the site, in its many incarnations should be remembered as an interesting Yonge Street fixture and attraction, and because most of its offerings were American in origin. It seems that little home-grown talent had a chance here, although the theatre was lucrative, despite its history with fires. It is part of a period when live theatre flourished and fought for survival against the growing movie business.

Planning Importance: Other than a plaque, there are no planning implications.

Reference Sources: Toronto Reference Library, newspaper collections; City of Toronto Archives, assessment rolls; National Library of Canada, newspaper collections.

Acknowledgements: Peggy Kurtin; James Orr. "Shea's Theatre." 

“Shea’s Theatre.” Toronto Historical Association.

"6 December, 1890, Toronto: Opening of Robinson's Musee Theatre, a dime museum; later operated under variety of names: Moore's Musee Theatre, Crystal Theatre and Eden Musee, Bijou Theatre." (pp.334)

"31 August 1896, Toronto: Edison's Vitascope at Robinson's Musee Theatre makes first public showing of a film in Toronto." (pp.336)

 Plant, Richard. "Chronology." Early Stages: Theatre in Ontario 1800-1914. University of Toronto, 1990, pp.288-346.