Folk music and Yorkville Coffeehouses

The Penny Farthing

The Penny Farthing opened in late 1963 and closed in late 1968. It was run by husband and wife John and Marilyn McHugh, who arrived in Toronto from England in the 1950s. They previously ran the smaller coffee house called The Half-Beat but like the Fielders, opted for a larger property to capitalize on the popularity of the coffee house in Yorkville. The namesake of the venue was influenced by its former status as a grand old Victorian house, with the penny farthing bicycle serving as a symbol of the Victorian era. Nevertheless, not many people grasped this concept as the coffee shop received many letters addressed to a "Ms. Penny Farthing".

The inside of the venue consisted of bare walls, a stage and used furniture scattered throughout for patrons to sit on. According to one café goer profiled by author Stuart Henderson, the most expensive aspect of the inside was the penny farthing bicycle itself. The coffee house was also unique for having an outside patio in the front and a swimming pool in the back, where bikini clad waitresses served customers in the summer.
McHugh described the venue as "primarily a jazz house" but it also catered to folk revival music as well. After the more boisterous clubs and bars in the city closed for the night, jazz musicians would retreat to the Penny Farthing to play their industrial sounds till the sun came up - rendering it the jazz after hours social club of choice for many.

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