Archive for the ‘old buildings’ Category

Well, that was quite a weekend.  An April winter storm with snow, sleet, ice pellets, freezing rain, and even some just plain rain.   The streets were icy and the sidewalks were slushy and wet.   Chunks of ice have fallen off roofs, tree branches have broken off with the weight of the ice that formed on them.  And then there was the wind that blew hard.   Of course I went out!

hazy, blurry picture of a person walking with an umbrella up Yonge street with other people, cars, wet sidewalk,

below: Dressed in our April finery. Black parkas.

people walking in the rain, downtown Toronto

below:  There is a small, but interesting, exhibit at the Toronto Reference Library at Yonge and Asquith that I wanted to see.  It’s called ‘Toronto Revealed’ and it’s in the TD Gallery on the main floor.   It features drawings and paintings of Toronto’s past.

sign in the window of the Toronto Reference library re the display at the TD gallery, Toronto Revealed, pictures and paintings of Toronto in the past

below: One of the paintings in the exhibit is this one, ‘Cherry Street Hotel’ by Gerard Lazare (1978).  The Cherry Street Hotel was built in 1890 at the corner of Cherry and Front Streets.  It later became the Canary Restaurant (1965-2010).  The building is still there but it stands empty.

painting of the Canary restaurant on the corner of Cherry and Front streets

below: There was a display of small artworks by Nicholas Hornyansky (1896-1965), including this one of St. James Cathedral (1938).  Hornyansky was born in Hungary and immigrated to Canada in 1929.  He is known for the etchings and aquatints (another print making technique) that he did of Toronto buildings and landscapes.

small framed painting of Saint James cathedral in Toronto, by Nicholas Hornyansky, painted in 1938 .

below: Most of the paintings were very realistic (documentary) except this one – a wacky view of Bloor Street looking west from Yonge towards Bay by Carlos Marchiori, painted in acrylic in 1976.   Even then, it is fairly true to reality.  The darker tower on the right is on the NW corner of Bloor and Yonge.  Stollerys store (the low building on the SW corner) is long gone.

bright painting of city landscapre, Yonge & Bloor, bendy buildings, cars as coloured blobs on the streets, puffy clouds in bright blue sky, by Carlos Marchiori

While I was at the library, I wandered around and took a few pictures of its vast open spaces.  It was warm and dry!  I was expecting to be told to put my camera away, but no one seemed to care.

interior of the Toronto Reference Library from the fifth floor, semi circular tables, reddish carpet, open concept architecture, rows of books,

below: Most were too busy working to notice.

looking down an aisle between two stacks of books (book shelves), a woman is sitting at a table studying and writing, there is a window behind her

below: One more picture from the ‘Toronto Revealed’ exhibit is this painting of the intersection of King and Jarvis by Vernon Mould.   It was painted in 1979.  Was gas really 20 cents a gallon in 1979?  No! That was the year that prices went metric and a litre of gas was 20 cents.    I came back to this picture because I chose to chase down that intersection to see what it looks like today.

painting, in mostly brown tones of a three story building at the corner of King and Jarvis, Toronto, with a small gas station across the street, sign says gas 20 cents, 2 gas pumps,

below: Et voici, same intersection, approximately the same angle.  There is now a building (with a Second Cup on the ground floor) where Mould would have stood.   By the looks of it, the three storey brick building on the NE corner has been fixed up since 1979.  So glad to see that it hasn’t been replaced by a glass condo tower!

intersection of King and Jarvis, looking north, three story brick building,

below: I wanted to find out more about the building, so I googled Sportsman’s Shop and I found a wonderful old picture of it from the 1970’s, obviously taken before it was renovated.    Apparently, it was fixed up in the early 1980s.

old black and white photo of the Sportsmans Shop at 150 King East in Toronto, three storey brick building

photo credit: Gary Switzer, source: Urban Toronto

below:  The next photo was taken as I stood on the same corner of King and Jarvis, but pointing my camera in different direction – looking west on King towards St. James Cathedral.  This is the eastern limit of the King Street streetcar project which is why the multicoloured barricades block part of the righthand westbound lane.

looking west on King street from Jarvis, St. James Cathedral and park on the right, downtown towers and office buildings in the distance, rainy day, TTC streetcar,

below:  These women are waiting in the wrong place.  Although the city changed the location of the streetcar stops along King Street, the bus shelters haven’t been moved yet.   At least they were (sort of) out of the rain.   They soon realized their mistake.

below: Looking back, the prerequisite photo of a TTC streetcar through a rainy day window.

looking out the back window of a streetcar, rainy day, raindrops on the glass, another streetcar is passing by

It’s always better to end a blog post on a happy note, right?  It may be a dream (I hope not!) but spring can’t be too far away.  April showers bring May flowers, right?  On my second warm up stop I saw this cheerful, hopeful drawing tacked to a wall.   It was one of many on the wall, all the work of Maihyet Burton.  They were at the Artscape building at the Distillery District.

a pen and ink drawing of spring flowers, poppies, in blues and purples, and fiddleheads in bright green

below: Headed home again.

two people with their back to the camera wait on the subway platform as a train arrives

Don’t put away your boots and hats yet!

two women holding cups of coffee walk across Victoria St. on Queen Street East

Just after I wrote the previous blog post about some of the buildings on Yonge Street that are in the middle of an area being redeveloped, I walked across Queen Street East.  I noticed that there were a lot of similar three storey buildings here to those around the corner on Yonge.  Toronto must have been a booming city in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s when these stores and warehouses were built.

below: What I also noticed is how many of the storefronts are empty.   This is the northeast corner of Queen and Mutual.

the northeast corner of Queen street east and Mutual street, with an empty building on the corner.

What I don’t have is a photo of the northwest corner – it is about to be developed, or at least there is a plan to develop it, into a 29 storey glass tower.   Urban Toronto called this location, “a spot that currently feels disconnected from the rest of the City. ”  … maybe because the Moss Park neighbourhood is on the lower part of the socioeconomic spectrum?    Urban Toronto is a website that is, their words, “populated by the tastemakers, condo aficionados, buyers, builders and realtors”.   I try to stay neutral in the pro/con condo development argument but it irks me to read things like, “Redefining the urban experience” and variations thereof over and over and over again to describe mediocrity.

To be fair, this 88 Queen West project is redeveloping a parking lot.  Why is it a parking lot?  Because in the 1950’s a parking lot was more important that the buildings, including Cooke’s Presbyterian Church (1857), that originally stood there.   Perhaps we get what we deserve.

 

below: Richard Bigley (1853-1933) started off as a woodworker but soon switched to selling stoves. He sold the ‘Happy Thought’ line of stoves. He holds two US patents, one for a water heater and one for a sectional water heater. The building was converted into loft apartments, one loft per floor, back in the late 1990’s.

tall brick building, Richard Bigley 1876 written in white at the top (4 storeys), large glass windows in front, once an old store and warehouse, now a 3 loft apartments. 98 Queen Street East

below: Two views at the corner of Queen East and Jarvis.  You can just see the Moss Park Armoury building on the right side of this picture.  This Canadian Forces facility was built in 1960’s and it takes up a large chunk of land.  Development  rising in the north…

Queen and Jarvis intersection looking north to tall towers being built on Dundas
below: … and development rising in the west.

the intersection of Queen and Jarvis, looking northwest, with a foodora cyclist in pink in the intersection, traffic, street car, and in the distance, development on Yonge and westward, cranes, glass towers

large blue public parking sign, also a large box shaped sign on a tall pole. The sign is wearing out

below: At Ontario Street, the street sign says, Old Town Toronto.  In 1797 the city limits were moved north to Queen Street (then called Lot Street).  Ontario Street was one of the most easterly streets at that time.   And, oh yes, the city was still York.  It officially became Toronto in 1834.

toronto street sign for Ontario Street with the top part that says Old Town Toronto

below: Posters on a boarded up window – once it was a barber shop?  Posters on Queen East for events on Queen West.

posters on an empty building, exterior wall, bottom of wall has barber pole stripes painted on it.

below: A blue and white Development Notice. I still haven’t found out how many of these there are hanging around the city.  My best guess is ‘hundreds’.

blue and white city of toronto development notice sign on a chainlink fence in front of a vacant lot wehre cars and trucks are parked. For 245 to 285 Queen Street East, Bridgen Place and Richond.

At the risk of another anti-development rant, I just want to say a couple of things about the above photo.  The development here involves the closure of two public lanes, McFarrens Lane and Brigden Place.  There will be pedestrian access (public access on private land) between Queen and Richmond, between two large buildings with three towers built above them – 39, 39, and 49 storeys high.

From a City of Toronto report written in April 2016…”City Planning staff is not in support of the proposal in its current form, as the proposal not only represent over development, but also fails to recognize the existing built-form character and scale of the King-Parliament Secondary Plan Area by departing from the existing warehouse and main street typology where the site is located.”

I am not sure what the status of the project is at the moment, but the developer has a website for this project, Queen & Sherbourne, that describes it exactly as the original proposal – Three glass towers on two boring bland base buildings. It’s yet another development that looks flashy from above but is blah ick at street level.

below: The northwest corner of Queen and Sherbourne

northwest corner of Queen and Sherbourne, Moss Park variety store on the corner, three storey brick Victorian buildings, cars, people,
below: Bright and cheerful.

three storey victorian buildings includia Acadia Book Store, established 1931 and Seaton Butcher

below: 310 Queen East at the corner of Queen and Berkeley.

below: Moving slightly east to the corner of Queen and Parliament (NE).  That looks like a solid old bank building on the corner.

northeast corner of queen and parliament, old brick buildings,

flat roofed old brick buildings, with oriel windows on third floor, Ray's Discount Convenience and Supermarket on the ground floor. A bus shelter on the sidewalk, people waiting for the bus, building painted rust red colour,

below: 354 and 356 Queen Street East

two narrow three storey buildings squished in between two slightly larger buildings. On the ground floor of the building on the left is Redline Coffee and Espresso while Ryans Restaurant is on the right.

below: 380, 382, and 384 Queen Street West.

two storey store fronts on queen street east, 380 Queen, 382 Queen and 384 queen.

below:  Wherever you walk there is construction.  Some of it good, some of it poor.  That’s Toronto these days.

a man walks through a covered sidewalk, past a construction site and towards a bus shelter

The other day I discovered that there is a small gallery on the 3rd floor of Ryerson’s School of Image Arts.  If you want to find it too, it’s in a building that it’s in is attached at the ground floor level to the Ryerson Image Centre on Gould Street.   At the moment, there is a small exhibit of photos by Avard Woolaver.

the back of a man looking at a wall in a gallery, old photos of Toronto

below:  The photos are ones that Woolaver took in Toronto in the late 70s and early 80s.

old photos of Toronto from the 1980s by Avard Woolaver.

below: This photo is one of Woolaver’s – it is looking towards the northwest corner of Spadina and Queen Street West.  For those of us who lived in Toronto at the time, it’s a bit of nostalgia.  Somethings are very familiar – the older TTC buses, the car styles, and a lot of the architecture, for example.   This photo in particular lends itself nicely to the game of ‘Spot the Differences’….. compare this with

photo by Avard Woolaver of Toronto in the 1980s, this view is the north west corner of Queen and Spadina

below: …..this. Here is the same intersection, at a similar angle, last week.   The large brick building is still there but without a billboard.   The poles are no longer wood but they are covered in posters and remnants of posters – so no change there.    The street signs have been updated and there is now a streetcar lane in the middle.   All in all, I was surprised how little had actually changed in 30ish years.

the northwest corner of Queen and Spadina in 2018, pedestrians, buildings, street scene

below: I found this photo online (originally from the Toronto City Archives, 1950?) but before we can play another round of ‘Spot the Differences’, we have to identify these buildings?  Any ideas?

vintage photo of 357, 359, and 361 Yonge street, black and white, 3 storefronts,

below: Here is the same location in the 1980’s (not a photo from the exhibit).  Not too many changes.   The building that housed George Richards Men’s shop, 361 Yonge Street, was replaced by a dull and boring two storey brick building but the other changes were just to the facades and the owners/tenants.   The tavern is still a tavern and the drug store is still a drug store.  The large brown building on the top right that you can only see part of is Ryerson College.   Unfortunately the Wrigleys ghost sign on the taller building on the left has been covered.

357, 359, and 361 Yonge street in the 1980s including the Zanzibar tavern

photo source BuzzBuzzNews online

below: Fast forward another 30 years.  The Zanzibar is all bright lights and dazzle while the building that housed the drug store is now for sale.  Ryerson is now a University and has expanded out to Yonge Street – that’s the large blue building in case you are not familiar with the area.

Yonge stree, easy side, just north of Dundas, about 357, 359 and 361 Yonge Street including the Zanzibar Tavern. The blue glass wall of Ryerson University behind the Zanzibar,

below: If you pull back a bit, and look just a bit farther north on that stretch of Yonge Street, you’ll see that there are many empty buildings

yonge street, between gerrard and dundas, most storefronts are closed and boarded up waiting for redevelopment of that stretch

below: … including what was until recently the XTC clothing company.  It looks like it has gone through a number of ‘renovations’, not all of which were good.  Some traces of its original brick facade can be seen at the top but at street level it is (was?) a mess.

empty two storey building, once was X T C clothing store

 There is a plan to build a 98 storey mixed-use building on this site including just over 900 residential units ranging in size from 520 to 2000 square feet.    It will be the tallest residential building in Canada.   In the promotional material for YSL Residences, as they will be called, is this: “The epitome of luxury living, designed to elevate the fortunate few who will call it home.”

 

below:  Back to Ryerson, also on the 3rd floor of the School of Image Arts, there was a small series of photographs like this one hanging on the wall in the hallway.  There was no sign as to the name of the artist that I could find either on the wall or online.   I quite like the technique and the resulting image.  Two ideas melded into one.  Two time frames in one frame.  Two artistic styles combined to create another.

a photograph on a gallery wall, a hand holding a photo printed on glass in the middle of another photo, superimposed landscapes

If you are interested in Woolaver’s work, you can find more on his blog.

I was meeting a friend at Queen and Church for walkies and coffee last Monday. I was there a few minutes early so of course I took a few pictures while I was waiting. I had come across King Street because the streetcars tend to be faster on King these days. Plus, it was a nice day for a walk.

below: Looking north up Church Street from Richmond.

looking north on Church St. from Richmond Street, stores, street, people, street scene,

below: Metropolitan United Church is on the NW corner of Queen and Church. Even if you aren’t religious, there is something inspiring about the architecture. In this case, the setting adds to the grace and beauty of the building.  Usually there are people around but it was surprisingly quiet that day (too cold outside?)

front of Metropolitan United Church, with the snow covered park in front, snow, large trees, red door

below: Take a few more steps towards Metropolitan United and then turn around. This is the view that awaits you. The intersection of Queen and Church from a different angle.

looking at the intersection of Queen and Church, through the park, with yellow building and other stores in the background

below: As I walked back to the intersection, this man walked in front of the streetcar. I think that he called himself either Cowboy Bob or Cowboy Bill.

man in long coat and hat stands in front of a TTC street car with his arm up in the air.

below: Church #2. Jarvis Street Baptist Church.

Jarvis Street Baptist Church, from diagonally across the intersection

below: Yes, there are a lot of churches in this section of downtown. This is the third (and last for today’s blog) but there are many more. Grace Church through the trees.

park, in winter, with large mature trees, in the background is Grace Church, brick building with green roofed steeple

below: A stop at Allan Gardens conservatory for warm and a washroom. If this picture is looking a little fuzzy around the edges, my camera lens kept steaming up faster than I could wipe it off.

inside shot at Allan Gardens conservatory, with two people looking at the plants, glass roof, large yellow flowers

below: Every Christmas, the conservatory at Allan Gardens is decorated with many amaryllis plants. The other day, many were looking a little worse for wear. These buds were a few of the exceptions. At some point (soon?), the Christmas plants will be switched out for spring plants.

close up of two small red amaryllis buds at the bottom of a red and white amaryllis.

below: Barrel cacti in differing sizes in the Allan Gardens conservatory.

4 barrel cacti of differing sizes in a semi-circle in a conservatory, glass house, with some succulents in front and some taller cacti behind

below: And just around the corner from Allan Gardens there is this painted cactus (or is it a succulent?) standing in the cold.

a metal telephone or traffic box on the sidewalk that has been painted with a picture of a cactus.

below: This part of Church Street is now in McGill Granby Village. There is even a lovebot on the pole.

street sign for Church St., with the top part being McGill Granby Village

below: “Enough is enough”, a large Church Street mural.

large mural on the side of a two storey building, with metal fire escapes on the side of the building as well. Mural is enough is enough, rainbow flag and other things

below: On Church Street, another redevelopment victim.

old, large, three storey red brick house with boarded up windows, about to be redeveloped, people walking past on the sidewalk, winter, street scene,

below: And just up the street, another.

an older two storey house house boarded up with construction hoardings in front, looking at it through a park with large trees, winter

below: Trucks, construction, and condos. Ho hum. Been there, done that.

large truck parked on a street with tall buildings behind, and a large billboard with a KFC ad on it

below: One set of construction hoardings has been decorated with kids’ paintings.   Bright and cheerful.

white construction hoardings with childrens paintings on it. a painting of a soccer ball, kids playing, words too

below: Through the layers

looking in a window, people sitting inside, looking through the window on the other side as well, a large tree is reflected in the window too

below: Icicles!

older yellowish brick building with green bay window, with icicles on the eaves of bopth roof and window

below: Trudeau senior looks down on the world.

 a large black and white picture of Pierre Elliott Trudeau in the window of the Ryerson Image Center, with a tree in front of it, some snow on the tree

below: The guys over the entrance to the Chang School at Ryerson are wearing little puffy white hats.

stone sculpture of the door of the Chang School at Ryerson, two men with interlocking arms, looking at each other, wheat, apples, and other produce in their hands, covered with snow


below
: As we walked past Yonge Dundas Square, I stopped, took another look, and then said: “Isn’t that a new sign?”. My walking partner replied that she wasn’t sure. Neither was I.

Yonge Dundas Square, men working on sign

I happened to walk past Yonge Dundas Square again yesterday, and yes, there is a new sign. A big one.

below: “It’s OK to be scared, just take a deep breath” as the fourth panel of the new sign is installed.

a large crane is putting part of a new light sign in place at Dundas Square, large billboards and lighted signs behind, people walking past, street scene

below: Working on the new sign. That billboard on the left, 98.1 CHFI is all Christmas music? Still? In February?

two men on a lift are working on a new elevated sign at Dundas square

C’est too for now friends!

This is the story of one building at one intersection, Yonge and Belsize (just south of Eglinton) but it’s also a story that is being repeated over and over again in the city.  The story of demolition and rebuilding.  The story of loss of the older wood and brick structures as they are replaced by glass and steel.

By December 2016 all of the businesses had closed down.

row of two storey store fronts, old brick building, that is now empty and about to be demolished, on Yonge Street

Mars advert on Belsize convenience store, old brick building with large windows and blue window frame, snow banks on sidewalk, now empty

signs in the window of a store that has just closed down. one is a permit to demolish the building and the other is a hand written sign on orange paper that is a thank you note from the managers of the store to the public

below: The back of the building

back of a brick building, winter time, with snow on the ground, construction fence around it, windows boarded up

Just over a year later demolition began in earnest.

back upper storey of building being torn down, exposing office furniture that was abandoned

interiorwallson upper storey are exposedin building being demolished

a construction worker in heavy winter orange clothes and yellow helmet, holds a stop sign to stop the traffic on Yonge street in front of a building being demolished

workmen standing around beside a front end loader that is being used to tear down an old brick building

exterior of building being demolished, black door uperlevel with drop below

old metal water pipes exposed on green and blue interior wall when building being demolished

red plastic danger tape blows in the wind. one end is tied to a blue fence and one strand is also tied to a building being demolished

remains of an old building being torn down in the foreground, a front end loader in the middle, and apartment buildings in the background.

on old metal chair frame sitsin a room with a lot of wood debris around it

This is part of my ‘end of the year clean up and sort through photos’ process that I start most years at this time – I don’t always finish but that’s a whole other story.  One of the drafts that I found this morning was this post which I was in the midst of writing when the fan on my laptop died.   The technological hiccups have been dealt with and  on we go…. .   back in the fall I spent some time around Bloor and Spadina and this is the result.

below: On the SE corner of Spadina and Bloor are these supersized Dominoes. It’s rather silly but I like the juxtaposition of Dominoes and Pizza Pizza.  This is also part of Matt Cohen Park.

sculpture of very large black dominoes on sidewalk, street and shops in the background, including a Pizza Pizza restaurant

below: The hoardings went up around Honest Eds late in October.   By the time you read this, most (if not all) of the building will be gone.

the start of grey hoardings going up around the old Honest Eds store on Bloor Street as preparations are made to demolish it

below: Jimi Hendrix Sculpture Garden includes the bronze sculpture “People helping People” 1990, by Al Green.  The sculpture also appears on the property of an apartment complex in Davisville – the connection being that the two properties were developed by the same family company (the Green family as it turns out).  The garden also includes two bas-relief sculptures on the wall.  These are reproductions of some of the decorative facades of the Victorian houses (1890’s) that used to be on this site until they were torn down in 2004.

a small sculpture of two hands holding, vertical, one hand from above and the other from below, in a small garden with some shrubs with autumn foilage, orange colours

below: What the well dressed mummy was wearing this fall season.

a mannequin in a window of a men's clothing store, Theodore 1922, wrapped up like a mummy, scarf loosely draped around his neck, wearing a bowtie, and holding a folded up compact umbrella

below: There is not a lot of street art as you get closer to Spadina (there is more closer to Bathurst).  This garage door is one of the few pieces.

mural on an alley garage, black and blue predominant colours, some flowers, and birds

below: Poster for the YCL (Young Communist League) of Canada.

old posters on a a green utility pole, Join the socialist movement in Canada, gig economy,

below: The Ten Editions books store which sits on University of Toronto property.  There is some debate/discussion going on at the moment re the development of this site.  Ten Editions has been there since 1984.  At that time, the building was 100 years old as it was started its life 1885 as the John James Funstan Grocery Store.   The University of Toronto wants to tear it down so they can build a 23 storey residence on the site.

Ten Editions, a used book store on a corner, blue trim, large windows covered with white paper, door is open, stack of boos can be seen inside, old brick building

below: On the grounds of Trinity St. Paul Church is a sign that marks the spot of another garden.  This one is the Heart Garden and it is there to honour the children who were lost in or survived the residential school system.  “May we be part of a future of reconciliation and justice”.  It is designed in the shape of an Indigenous Medicine Wheel.  You can see the four concrete ‘paths’ that divide the wheel into four sections.  I have never noticed this garden before and it is unfortunate that the first time was late in the autumn when nothing was growing.  I will come back in the spring and/or summer to take a closer look.   Apparently it is part of a project, just one of many heart gardens across the country.

sign in a garden beside a church on a corner, autumn so there isn'tmusch growing in it, recnciliation garden

below: Walmer Road street sign.  Most of these green Annex signs have faded over time and it is rare now to find one in good shape like this one.

Toronto street sign, Annex neighbourhood, Walmer Road, top part of the sign is green with 4 houses on it.

As I type this, there is still snow falling from the sky, the tail end (I hope!) of the latest snow fall. ..  so you can expect some snowier pictures in the near future!

Traces left behind, reminders of the past

oldworn sign painted above the door to a store

 

Along Spadina on a cold November day – from King to College.

below: A streetcar passes by, down the middle of the road with young trees growing alongside the tracks.  In the background is an old white brick building  with rounded brown arches over the upper windows that now houses the Furama Cake & Dessert Garden – one of the many restaurants, coffee shops and bakeries along this stretch of Spadina.

a new ttc streetcar on Spadina, down the middle of the street, with young trees growing along side the tracks, old brck building in the background, some cars,

 Construction of Spadina Avenue began in 1815.  It was always a wide street, running between Bloor and Queen.

Spadina, and neighbouring Kensington market, was the center of Jewish life in Toronto in the early 1900’s with synagogues, delis, tailors, a Yiddish theatre, and more.  About 80% of Toronto’s Jews lived in the area.   It was also home to the garment district (also known as the fashion district) with its numerous furriers, clothing factories and warehouses – what we’d probably call sweat shops today.

below: The northeast corner of Dundas and Spadina, June 1930 showing the sign over the door of ‘The Standard’ a Yiddish theatre that opened in 1921.  It was converted into a (mainstream) cinema in 1934 and renamed ‘The Strand’.   Another renaming occurred in 1941 when it became ‘The Victory’.  Twenty years later it became the Victory Burlesque.  The doors closed permanently in 1975.  Photo found on Bygone Theatre website.

vintage black and white phot of the sidewalk and front of Jewish cinema at the corner of Dundas and Spadina in 1930. old cars parked in front,

below: This plaque is on the west side of Spadina, just north of King Street.  It describes the contributions of Benjamin Brown (1890-1974), architect, to the area.

Benjamin Brown, one of Toronto’s first Jewish architects, designed more than 200 buildings throughout his career.  Born in Lithuania, he came to Canada as a child.  Brown graduated from the University of Toronto’s architecture program in 1913.  He was partners with architect Robert McConnell until 1921, when he set up an independent practice.

Commissioned largely by members of Toronto’s Jewish community, Brown’s projects ranged from parking garages and gas stations to apartment houses and factory lofts.   His Tower Building (1927) and Balfour Building (1930) on Spadina Avenue at Adelaide Street formed a gateway to Toronto’s garment district.  Other well known buildings by Brown include the Hermant Building (1929 on Dundas Square, the Primrose Club (1920) and the Beth Jacob Synagogue (1922), the first Toronto synagogue designed by a Jewish architect.  Brown retired in 1955.

toronto historic sites plaque to benjamin brown

Both the Tower Building and the Balfour Building still stand.  The later, pictured on the plaque is on the NE corner of Spadina & Adelaide.  It was named for Arthur J. Balfour, British statesman, the author of the 1917 Balfour Declaration that pledged British support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

below:  This is ‘Uniform Measure/Stack’ by Stephen Cruise and it includes that giant thimble on a stack of buttons,  a few button shaped tree planters, and a tape measure carved into the sidewalk as it goes around the corner (you can see a bit of it at the bottom right of the photo).  This tribute to the garment district, or rag trade if you want to call it that,  dates back to 1997.   A few years ago the tape measure was painted yellow – but not by the artist.  It has since been cleaned up.  Recent sidewalk work has scarred the tape measure but most of it remains intact.

public art on the corner of Richmond and Spadina, giant thimble and giant buttons

below: Another piece of garment district history – an old Singer sewing machine as an ornament above a narrow alley between two buildings.

an old SInger sewing machine sits on a beam that crosses a small alley bewteen two buildings, it's about 8 feet above the street level

In the 1960s and 70s, the Jewish population moved out and the Chinese moved in.  In keeping with the changes that were occurring on Spadina, The Victory was sold in 1975 and subdivided  into shops on the main floor and a Chinese language cinema upstairs, first named the Golden Harvest and then the Mandarin. This cinema closed in 1994.

In the late 60s and early 70s, the city demolished a large section of land to make way for the new city hall.  At that time, Chinatown was centered around Dundas and Elizabeth streets.  Many of the Chinese who were displaced by the construction moved west along Dundas to Spadina.  Although many of the Chinese businesses and residents have moved north to Markham & vicinity, this stretch of Spadina is still considered to be Chinatown.

below: A panda eating bamboo, painted by Murals by Marg with support from Chinatown BIA & StreetARToronto.

mural on a wall of a panda bear sitting on the ground and chewing on bamboo

below: Another Chinese themed mural, with tags unfortunately.

orange bikes parked outside a building that had a mural of a Chinese scene that has been tagged over.

below: This caught my attention – Does it look like fresh ginger?   And no, there was nothing in front of the sign either.  Smile.

box of pineapples for sale outside a Chinese grocery store, the sign by the box says fresh ginger

below: Even on cold days you can buy fruits and vegetables on the sidewalk outside the Chinese grocery stores.

a woman is buying tomatos from a vendor with a large table of tomatoes outside a Chinese grocery store on Spadina, in CHinatown.

below: Feeding the pigeons.

a man is feeding pigeons outside on a cold day. He is wearing a heavy coat and a hat.

below:  This is an old display of CD’s mounted on a wall inside a window of an empty store.  The window is dirty but if you step into the recess of the entrance way, you can see the possibility of reflection, light and colour playing together.   This was actually the first picture that I took when I walked up Spadina the other day.   After I saw this window I started paying closer attention to other empty stores.

design and pattern made with many old CD's mounted on a wall inside the window of an empty store.

There are quite a few empty stores and sections of Spadina are quite grubby looking.  As I mentioned above, many of the Chinese businesses have move on and once again the area is the middle of a change.

below: Someone cared enough to paint this delicate birdcage and ivy scene on the wall.  Doesn’t it make you wonder who did it?  and why?  and what happened to them?

looking through a window into an abandoned and empty store, leaves have blown in and are on the floor.

below: A painted over intercom –  a remnant of the past.  But the plywood that the intercom was mounted on is partially torn away to reveal an even older, more hidden, past.     Does anyone live or work at 437 anymore?  What lies behind the door?

exterior wall, brown paint, number of 437 above the door, cracked wood plywood beside the door, old and broken intercom system that has been painted over, next door window is a store, with mannequin head on a shelf

below: This little place had a short life as a store – but for the life of me I can’t remember what it was.   I think that once upon a time it was an 8 Eleven (play on 7 Eleven stores) but that was long ago and I know that it closed before I first saw this space.    How easy it is to forget.

very small building with door and window papered over.

below:  As I passed by this window, I thought to myself “How cute, pikachu.”  Then I stopped and went back.  No, not pikachu.  Part of the seedier side of Spadina Avenue.

articles for sale in the window of a store

below:  Layers.  On the left, hoardings around an old building being demolished and on the right, a staid brick building.  Behind them is a newer development with its bright east wall.

street scene, Kensington, with hoardings for demolition, a building from the70's and a newer apartment building in the background with bright coloured squares on the side.

cracked brick wall and decorative carving, on upper storey of an old building

a pair of Bell telephone boxeswith a grey wall behind