Harold Solomon Kaplan (1895-1973) was a Toronto-based architect who, in partnership with Abraham Sprachman in the firm Kaplan & Sprachman, was well-known for the design of Art deco and Art moderne movie theatres in the 1930s and 1940s and for designing buildings for Jewish communities across Canada from the 1930s to the 1960s.
Kaplan was born 10 Sept. 1895, in Bucharest, Romania. At the age of three, he and his widowed mother, Tillie Hohan, moved to London, England, and in 1902 they moved to Toronto where his mother subsequently married Frank Kaplan. While in his teens, Kaplan spent time in Philadelphia living with an uncle and studying draftsmanship. Upon returning to Toronto, Kaplan attended Toronto Technical School where he took courses in architecture and building construction. He also served an apprenticeship with the architect Henry Simpson. In 1919-1920, Kaplan worked for the firm of Page & Warrington, before establishing Kaplan & Sprachman with Abraham Sprachman in 1922. In 1923, he married Dorothy Spain. They had two daughters, Phyllis (Pepper) and Ruthetta (Reiss).
Kaplan & Sprachman were best known for their more than 300 movie theatre projects completed from the 1920s to the 1960s, designing and renovating theatres across Canada in progressive "modern" styles and using innovative building materials. In 1937, they were awarded the bronze medal in the Sixth Biennial Toronto Exhibition for their interiors to the Eglinton Theatre (400 Eglinton Ave. W.) in Toronto, considered to be the finest example of their Art deco design work.
Over the course of their careers, they designed many synagogues for the Jewish community, such as the Anshei Minsk and Shaarei Shomayim synagogues in Toronto, Beth Israel Synagogue, Edmonton, and Beth Israel Synagogue in Vancouver. They also designed the new Mount Sinai Hospital, the Oakdale Golf & Country Club, the Jewish Home for the Aged (Baycrest), and the Jewish Community Centres of Toronto and Hamilton. Their design for the Oakdale Golf & Country Club was chosen as a Canadian entrant in the Arts Competition of the 14th Olympic Games in London, 1948.
In addition to the projects already mentioned, Kaplan & Sprachman worked on retail stores, warehouses and factories, apartment buildings, and single family residences. Their partnership continued until 1965, when the firm of Kaplan & Sprachman was dissolved as of 30 October 1965. Kaplan continued to work as an architectural consultant for several years after this date. Harold Kaplan died 1 April 1973 in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Kaplan was a member of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, the Ontario Association of Architects, and the Province of Quebec Association of Architects. Kaplan & Sprachman's contribution to the architecture profession was recognized by the Ontario Association of Architects when both Kaplan's and Abraham Sprachman's names were entered on the Honor Roll for prominent members of the profession, established by the association in 1989.
Scope and Content
The fonds documents Kaplan's work as an architect from the 1930s to the 1960s with Kaplan & Sprachman and some of the consulting work he undertook after the dissolution of the partnership in 1965, primarily through architectural drawings and photographs. The preponderance of the materials relates to a series of renovations of Loew's Yonge Street Theatre (189 Yonge St., Toronto, now the Elgin Theatre) and the Uptown Theatre (764 Yonge St., Toronto, just South of Bloor St.) between the 1930s and 1960s, and Kaplan & Sprachman's design of the Primrose Club (Russell Hill Rd at St. Clair Ave., Toronto) in 1958-1959. There is also a large number of photographs by commercial photographers of movie theatres designed or renovated by Kaplan & Sprachman.
Project records are arranged chronologically, with sub-sub-series defined for successive projects at the same site. Some of the materials document project proposals which were not carried out (e.g., proposed renovations of the Winter Garden Theatre).
Other series in the fonds contain business correspondence and newspaper clippings concerning Kaplan & Sprachman projects, and a small amount of personal material such as family photographs, awards Kaplan received over the years for his design work and a colour photocopy of the invitation to Kaplan's stag party in 1923.
Includes: 132 photographs (131 b&w, including 8 negatives; 1 col.), 8 cm of textual records, and 1 bronze medal.
Kaplan, Harold S., 1895-1973
Kaplan & Sprachman (Firm)
Loew's Yonge Street Theatre (Toronto, Ont.)
Primrose Club (Toronto, Ont.)
Uptown Theatre (Toronto, Ont.)
Winter Garden Theatre (Toronto, Ont.)
Some of the blueprints and drawings are torn or water-damaged. All of the architectural drawings are currently stored in rolls.
Accession 2003-7-1 contains additional photographs of buildings designed or renovated by Kaplan & Sprachman, as well as a copy of a published inventory of Kaplan & Sprachman movie theatre projects, compiled by Mandel Sprachman from Kaplan & Sprachman records
Mina Sprachman, widow of Abraham Sprachman, discusses Kaplan & Sprachman in oral history recording AC-142
Kaplan & Sprachman records can also be found in the Mandel Sprachman fonds, at the City of Toronto Archives