Queen

God Save the Queen! 
 
On March 30, 1954, Queen opened as one of the dozen initial stops of the embryonic Yonge subway. Funnelling shoppers to and from the Eaton’s Queen street store and Simpson’s, the station naturally became a major downtown transit destination point, with the (transfer-requiring) surface connection to the arterial Queen streetcar line another major source of traffic. 
 
Yet, a visitor from that era might have trouble recognizing the contemporary version of Queen—numerous visual changes have happened since then, particularly in the 1980’s.
 
For example, the north mezzanine was enhanced to properly accommodate the connection from the Eaton Centre, which had subsumed Albert Street upon completion. This project introduced the orange-red-brown tiling (also used for the two corridors beneath the tracks and elsewhere), new lighting, and a 2nd Collector’s booth. 

The hypnotically spaced ceiling lamps in the Albert Street entrance are fascinating to me for some reason I can't quite pin down. The fare collector booth used to be in the middle of the mezzanine.
The funky overhead lamps in the Albert Street mezzanine: like an enchanted field of glowing ceiling mushrooms.
 

Second, following the fresh example of the Spadina line stations, a sizable and dominating work of art was commissioned for the station’s platform walls. 

Consisting of four 50-foot-long, hand-painted, porcelain-on-steel-panel murals (repeated twice for each platform), Our Knell by John B. Boyle was paid for by Eaton’s, Cadillac Fairview, and Simpson’s, with assistance from Wintario. Boyle’s work beat out competing submissions from Gerald Zeldin (who did Summertime Streetcar at Eglinton West) and Ken Danby.

The clashing colours of Our Knell, by John Boyle at Queen subway station. Sandy Fairbairn, Mike Hewko, and John Moffat were Boyle's assistants on the piece. The murals were unveiled August 8, 1980 by Metro Chair Paul Godfrey, and TTC Vice Chair Karl Mallette. McClung's grandchildren, David and Marcia McClung were at the ceremony.
A chunk of Our Knell, viewed from the opposite platform
 

The murals depict: Nellie McClung, women’s rights crusader—one of the Valiant Five who successfully petitioned to have women recognized as “persons” by the Dominion government in 1927; and William Lyon Mackenzie, Toronto’s first Mayor and leader of the 1837 Upper Canada Rebellion. The social democrat and founder of the CCF, J.S. Woodsworth, was originally supposed to be McClung’s partner on the murals, but he was ditched by the staid sponsoring committee in favour of Mackenzie. The murals also depict the new City Hall, the Eaton Centre, and Simpson’s. 

The title of the piece plays subversively on the affectionate title (‘Our Nell’) given to McClung by her followers; it is intended to sound a cautionary note to the optimism of the piece.

Getting back to the station modifications, the bold red and blue bands on the platform ceiling were added, to create a strong optical sense of movement, a flourish not seen elsewhere in the system.  

Queen station platform view. Where does the stripe lead?
Peering down the platform at Queen station
 

Subsequent to this, the pale grey, glass platform wall tiling was replaced with ceramic (though a few of the Vitrolite tiles still persist at the northern-end stairwells). This was part of a much-maligned refreshment program of the original Yonge line stations; the Vitrolite aesthetic had fallen out of fashion and many station tiles had broken or cracked over decades of usage. Some of the Queen tiles wound up salvaged for repair use at Eglinton, which shared the same colour. 

Notably in the case of Queen, the primary station identification typeface no longer matched that found on the strap-line, which retained the blue tiling.

Queen station identification. Which typeface do you prefer?
Compare those Q tails! Some flavour of Helvetica below; the TTC subway typeface (subsequently called Bloor-Yonge) on the top.


Other alterations to Queen include:

  • the replacement of the initial street entrance stairwell on the north-east corner of Queen and Yonge, with an interior entrance via the old Bank of Montreal building (the old stairwell and entry space still exist, unused today, covered by a grille);
  • the construction of the south-west corner stairs for Simpson’s; and
  • the expansion of the second passenger corridor beneath the subway platform, to accommodate elevator access between the north and southbound platforms. The widened walkway cannibalized part of the empty shell of the Queen Lower space beneath the station. 

Happily, you can still find an overlooked smidgeon of the station that has been retained from its long history: a pair of overhead Northbound and Southbound platform signs, which may possibly be extant from 1954.

Southbound signage. This and the Northbound sign are perhaps the oldest of their type (black on a white background), possibly even original to the station.   In the 70s/80s these were largely replaced with white type signs on a black background.
You are heading southbound.

I hope the TTC keeps them in place! 

Queen station is named, like the street, in honour of Queen Victoria. Prior to 1837 the street was called Lot as it served as the baseline for York’s park lots, but Victoria’s ascension to the British throne gave our municipal mandarins sufficient impetus for a renaming.

 

Queen Lower

Yes, it’s true. When the TTC built Queen station, they also constructed beneath it, the roughed-in shell of a connecting streetcar platform for a Queen ‘subway’.

As I did with Bay Lower, I’ve diverted my ruminations on Queen Lower into a separate entry. Stay tuned for the next post!


Photo Gallery

Tour the station, and view captioned historical images from its past: 

Photo Gallery for Queen subway station in Toronto


Transfer: 

Queen station transfer

More about Queen

TTC Station info | Map | Wikipedia: Queen

My next stop: Queen Lower
Previous station: St. George

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