The Robertson building at 215 Spadina Avenue is an architectural gem located among the many warehouse/loft structures on Spadina, between King Street West and Dundas Street West. The five-storey structure was built between the years 1911 and 1913 to accommodate the needs of James Robertson and Company, which moved into their new building from their former location on King Street. The firm manufactured and distributed plumbing fixtures. The architects were Denison and Stephenson. The exterior walls of the building are of attractive red bricks, the 100,000 square-foot interior containing douglas fir support posts and beams, as well as magnificent pine flooring.
The building was purchased by the Urban Property Group in 2002, and has been meticulously renovated and restored. The 250-square-foot bio-filter green wall in the lobby contains a myriad of plants, with a constantly flowing waterfalls. These features reduce the contaminants in the air that float inside the building from the traffic on Spadina Avenue. The filtered air is circulated throughout the entire five floors. The building also has a 4000 square-foot roof garden that features Ontario wild flowers. Sadly, I have never had the opportunity to view the garden.
The present-day owners provide an excellent web-site that explains the history of the Robertson Building, and also placed signs in the lobby to provide pertinent information. The building today is home to many tenants, perhaps the most visible being the Dark Horse Espresso Bar on the ground floor, facing Spadina Avenue. It is worth a visit, not only for the great coffee, but to see the interior of the cafe. The coffee beans for a customer’s order are not ground until the order has been placed. The flavour of the brew more than justifies the few moments delay.
The Urban Property Group is to be highly commended for their sensitive restoration of this historic building, which otherwise might have been demolished, as has been the fate of so many of Toronto’s architectural gems.
The Robertson Building in 1920 – photo from City of Toronto Archives. The building is on the east side of Spadina, between Queen Street West and Dundas Street West. Pictures such as this one never cease to amaze me, as it is difficult to picture any main street in Toronto with so few automobiles.
Modernized doorway to 215 Spadina and detailing above the doorway.
The west facade of the building, the Dark Horse Espresso Bar evident on the ground floor. The cement and stone trim on the ground floor greatly enhance the building.
In summer, the space in front of the building has attractive flowers, which I believe, are provided by the building’s owners.
The bio-filter green wall in the lobby. It is worth visiting the building to view this installation, particularly in winter, when the street outside is so bleak and colourless. Douglas fir beams and a small section of the plank ceiling are also visible.
Lush vegetation is maintained year-round in the bio-filter green wall.
The door in the lobby that leads to the Dark Horse Espresso Bar, and the serving area in the cafe.
The Robertson Building on a hot summer night.
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Links to other posts about the history of Toronto and its buildings:
Links to posts about Toronto’s movie houses—past and present.
Recent publication entitled “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” by the author of this blog. The publication explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It also relates anecdotes and stories from those who experienced these grand old movie houses.
To place an order for this book:
Theatres Included in the Book
Chapter One – The Early Years—Nickelodeons and the First Theatres in Toronto
Theatorium (Red Mill) Theatre—Toronto’s First Movie Experience and First Permanent Movie Theatre, Auditorium (Avenue, PIckford), Colonial Theatre (the Bay), thePhotodome, Revue Theatre, Picture Palace (Royal George), Big Nickel (National, Rio), Madison Theatre (Midtown, Capri, Eden, Bloor Cinema, Bloor Street Hot Docs), Theatre Without a Name (Pastime, Prince Edward, Fox)
Chapter Two – The Great Movie Palaces – The End of the Nickelodeons
Loew’s Yonge Street (Elgin/Winter Garden), Shea’s Hippodrome, The Allen (Tivoli), Pantages (Imperial, Imperial Six, Ed Mirvish), Loew’s Uptown
Chapter Three – Smaller Theatres in the pre-1920s and 1920s
Oakwood, Broadway, Carlton on Parliament Street, Victory on Yonge Street (Embassy, Astor, Showcase, Federal, New Yorker, Panasonic), Allan’s Danforth (Century, Titania, Music Hall), Parkdale, Alhambra (Baronet, Eve), St. Clair, Standard (Strand, Victory, Golden Harvest), Palace, Bedford (Park), Hudson (Mount Pleasant), Belsize (Crest, Regent), Runnymede
Chapter Four – Theatres During the 1930s, the Great Depression
Grant ,Hollywood, Oriole (Cinema, International Cinema), Eglinton, Casino, Radio City, Paramount, Scarboro, Paradise (Eve’s Paradise), State (Bloordale), Colony, Bellevue (Lux, Elektra, Lido), Kingsway, Pylon (Royal, Golden Princess), Metro
Chapter Five – Theatres in the 1940s – The Second World War and the Post-War Years
University, Odeon Fairlawn, Vaughan, Odeon Danforth, Glendale, Odeon Hyland, Nortown, Willow, Downtown, Odeon Carlton, Donlands, Biltmore, Odeon Humber, Town Cinema
Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres
Savoy (Coronet), Westwood
Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes
Cineplex Eaton Centre, Cineplex Odeon Varsity, Scotiabank Cineplex, Dundas Square Cineplex, The Bell Lightbox (TIFF)