The historic buildings on King Street, most of them built in during the early decades of the 20th, today house trendy restaurants, health clubs, fashionable clothing stores, and wine bars. Some contain offices of companies involved in the film industry. One of the buildings that is particularly impressive is 511 King Street West, near Brant Street.
511 King Street West
The facade of the building has rich classical detailing.
Constructed in the days prior to elevators, the stairwell is impressive with its rich mahogany and imported marble.
The information below is from the book “The Villages Within” which includes a tour with detailed information on many of the buildings on King St. West.
511 King Street West, south side, slightly west of Brant Street
(The address is visible above the door on the east side)
This Richardsonian Romanesque structure, built in 1893, is a solid, fortress-like building. It was originally the American Watch Case Company, owned by George W. Guinlock. Today, gazing at its impressive façade it is possible to catch a glimpse of the “ideal” attributes of industrial architecture of the early decades of the previous century—strength, power, discipline, and respect for the classical traditions. These sentiments were the hallmark of the British Empire, which was at its height when this building was constructed. Torontonians were fiercely loyal to the sentiments of Empire, and the owners of the American Watch Case Company believed that their premises would inspire customers to patronize their establishment.
The framework of the building is cast iron, with black cast-iron pilasters (fake columns) on the first level, and large blocks of Credit Valley limestone pilasters at either end of the building. The maroon-coloured wooden trim above the first floor has dentils (teeth-like patterns), as well as the Greek “egg and dart” pattern. The windows become progressively smaller with each floor, an attempt to create the appearance of extra height. The second-floor windows have large blocks of stones inserted above the lintels (top of the windows), similar to some of the windows at Toronto’s old city hall. The third-floor windows are topped with Roman arches, whereas the fourth floor windows are small and rectangular. Inside the entranceway are marble stairs, and the stairwell has solid mahogany trim.
It is one of the finest examples of commercial Richardsonian Romanesque architecture in the city. Henry Hobson Richardson (1838-1896) studied at Harvard and in Paris. He became fascinated by ancient Roman architecture with its massive walls, large interior spaces, and graceful rounded arches. His adaptation of this style became known as Richardsonian Romanesque, and he influenced many architects during the years ahead.
The old Toronto city hall, designed by E. J. Lennox, is the city’s best example of Richardson’s ideas. Another is the Gooderham Building, built between the years 1891-1892, at 49 Wellington Street (Front and Wellington Streets).