The site now occupied by the Queen Mother Cafe has had a building on it from at least 1850. Originally it was a wooden structure which did not have a street number since that designation only came into effect in Toronto in 1861. The present brick edifice was built about 1880 in the Second Empire architectural style as reflected in its mansard roofing. That building has remained an enduring presence in the ever changing Toronto urban core.
Showcased in the restaurant’s entryway are artifacts discovered in the location during a series of renovations. A timeline listing the dates and tenants over the lifespan of the site to this day has been painted on the walls that surround the display.
Beginning in 1850 with William Ferguson, tailor, the array of businesses that have operated here includes everything from a blacksmith, to a wagon repair shop, to a straw bonnet shop, to a candy factory, to a bakery, and even to a number of prior restaurants, the earliest being in 1913. The Queen Mother Cafe took up residence on October 26,1978.
Displayed in the case are an interesting pair of Canadian Rye Whiskey bottles, one with a glass stopper and one with a pewter cap. The address on the label of the latter one suggests that it was either bottled or distilled at 188 Queen St. W., a couple of doors east. The script on both labels is almost identical to the one adopted and made famous by Canadian Club for its brand.
Amongst the other items found in the plaster and lath walls and on show are a variety of old pop bottles including an early Coca Cola one, an old soldering iron (wagon repair?), hand forged nails, old bakery card signs, and an assortment of household items.
The four early twentieth century Arts and Crafts hand wrought copper cameo and glass pendant lantern lights, although not original to the space (they were made for a venerable New York City tea house), have become an iconic feature of the venue.
Descendants of Mr Wills presented us with a vintage picture showing the Wills Bakery at this location around 1921.