Just a few blocks down the street from Jilly’s on Queen East sits a lesser-known but equally storied neighbourhood landmark. A yellow sign with “NITECLUB” written in blue letters marks the entrance to the Woodgreen Community Services building at 650 Queen St. E. But long before Woodgreen—or the nightclub, which came later—the building was The New Edwin Hotel, built in 1906 by architect James Patrick Haynes (who also designed Allen’s Danforth Theatre). The hotel catered to rail passengers at the Don Station, which used to be situated where King and Queen East meet.
Riverdale Historical Society president Gerald Whyte thinks the site, in a neighbourhood then populated with shopkeepers and bricklayers, was chosen because land was cheaper east of the Don than on the west. (Some things never change.) When the station closed in 1967, the Edwin fell into disrepair, and by 1975, the bottom floor housed a dance club—hence the gaudy sign. A Toronto Star ad from 1975 promoted Detroit band Pyramid Power at the Edwin: “Dance to boss disco sound on our illuminated floor.”
In 2008, Woodgreen Community Services bought the building and gutted the cockroach-infested rooms, which had been rented for $400 per month. Twenty-eight rooms were added for men transitioning out of homelessness, and space for community programs. The “NITECLUB” sign remains, at least for now. “It would cost a lot of money to take it down,” says Woodgreen president Brian Smith.