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Category Archives: King-Spadina Heritage Conservation District

Demolition of historic Westinghouse building

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The Westinghouse building on the southeast corner of Peter and King Street West is being demolished (April 2016), only the north and west facades being preserved and included in the new King Blue Condominium. The historic Westinghouse structure is one of the finest examples of the industrial buildings erected in Toronto’s downtown during the 1920s, a decade in which the city’s economy was booming. The Westinghouse building was constructed of steel and concrete, its symmetrical facades faced with red/brown bricks.

In the early-decades of the 19th century, King Street was Toronto’s fashionable shopping district, and as the city expanded westward, fine houses appeared. Among them was the lieutenant governor’s official residence (Government House) at King and John Streets. However, after the railway lines were built south of King Street, families began relocating northward, and sections of King Street slowly became industrial. The area was seen as advantageous for industry as it was close to the harbour and the railway lines for exporting and importing goods. By the 1870s and 1880s, many large factories and warehouses appeared on King Street. The Gurney Iron Foundry, west of Spadina, is one of the best examples. A few of the multi-colour brick buildings remain in existence today, recycled to contain a chic restaurant and several shops. Factories were also erected on King Street between Peter and John Street in the 1920s.

The Westinghouse building today has the postal address 355 King Street. However, even as late as the mid-1920s, the site contained four working-class homes, their postal numbers 349 to 355 King Street. It is likely those who lived in the houses were renting, as the occupants changed frequently. In 1920, at 349 King Street lived Lawrence Guay , at 351 King St. lived George Porter, at 353 King Street there was Peter Brady, a fireman working at the City Abattoir, and 355 King Street was the home of Frank Hopper, a labourer.

During the years ahead, the occupants of the houses continually changed. In 1927, at 349 King St. was Thomas MacWilliams. At 351 King St. was William Bannerman, a stationary engraver, while the houses at 353 King St. and 355 King St. were vacant. By the end of 1927, all the houses were vacant and soon demolished. In 1928, the City Directories reveal that where the fours houses had been located was the six-storey Canadian Westinghouse Company building, manufacturer of electrical equipment. The founder of the company was George Westinghouse.

King Street West, between University Avenue and Bathurst Street is now the main artery of the city’s Entertainment District. Many up-scale restaurants and clubs are located on this narrow street, which hums day and night. The TIFF Bell Lightbox has greatly enhanced the number of visitors to the area, and King Street is the centre of the annual Toronto Film Festival. Many people are desirous of living close to these exciting venues, causing condos to proliferate on King Street and the surrounding avenues.

When I read the reports in the press that the Westinghouse Building was to be incorporated into the high rise condo named “King Blue,” I incorrectly assumed that the structure would be preserved. I was deeply disappointed when I discovered that the building was to be demolished, only the west and north facades being retained. 

Series 1465, File 456, Item 1

View gazing east on King Street West between the years 1975-1992. The Westinghouse building is prominent of the right-hand (south) side of the street. Toronto Archives, S 1465, Fl 0456, Item 0001.

Series 1465, File 530, Item 20

The north and west facades of the Westinghouse building in 1982. Toronto Archives, S 1465, Fl 0530, Item 0002. 

Series 1465, File 51, Item 91

Gazing east on King Street West from west of Peter Street at the Westinghouse building in 1995. Toronto Archives, S1465, Fl 0051, Item 0091.

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                Gazing south on Peter Street toward King Street in 2015.

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    The north facade on King Street of the Westinghouse building in 2015. 

March, 2016

The building in March 2016, as it is prepared for demolition. View gazes east on King Street.

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Gazing west at the east facade of the Westinghouse building on April 26, 2016, as the demolition work proceeds. The steel supports on the north facade on King Street are visible.

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                         Demolition on the east facade of the building.

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Artist’s sketch of the King Blue Condominium, showing the old Westinghouse building as part of the complex. 

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                      The Westinghouse building during the summer of 2015.

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2016/03/02/tayloronhistory-comcheck-it-out/

The publication entitled, “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” was written by the author of this blog. It explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories by the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                          cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852

   To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Shop, and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

                                 image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[1]    

Another book, published by Dundurn Press, containing 80 of Toronto’s former movie theatres will be released in June, 2016. It is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It contains over 125 archival photographs and relates interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating history.

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

Another publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. This book will be released on June 1, 2016. For further information follow the link to Amazon.com  here  or to contact the publisher directly:

http://www.ipgbook.com/toronto–then-and-now—products-9781910904077.php?page_id=21.

 

 

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Developers’ appeals to the OMB ruin neighbourhoods

Developer’s appeals to the OMB are usually disastrous for neighbourhoods and heritage buildings. This concerns me greatly, as I have now placed over 800 posts on this blog that explore Toronto’s historic neighbourhoods and heritage sites. My intent has been to increase awareness of our city’s past, so that more of the buildings of yesteryear, and communities where they are located, will be preserved for future generations.

I realize that not every older building can be maintained, and some are clearly not worthy of preservation. However, though we have improved in our approach to saving historic structures, much more is required. Many developers still pay too much homage to financial gain at the expense of the neighbourhoods where they build. Even in Heritage Districts, the city allows structures that are clearly too tall for the narrow streets where they are located. If the city refuses the extra height, developers appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).

A proposal has been submitted to the City of Toronto to erect a 13-storey building on the southeast corner of Camden and Brant Streets in the King-Spadina Heritage Conservation District. The developers assert that they have considered the impact of their project on the neighbourhood, as they also live in the district. However, unless they live on Brant or Camden Streets, they are not directly affected. They do not agree that the traffic their hotel would generate is simply too much for the two narrow roadways to absorb.

A thirteen-story hotel does not belong on 19th-century streets such as Brant or Camden. All the problems that residents fear relate to the building’s height — the more floors, the more rooms, therefore the more traffic, greater noise, and the increased shadow effect on the surrounding buildings and St. Andrew’s Playground. I doubt if either of the developers would allow a project of this height to be built next door to them. Would they really welcome a structure that would place their dwellings in shadow for most of the day for at least five months of the year? Would they endanger their families by allowing traffic to increase to a point where emergency vehicles could be seriously delayed?

May I be allowed to give a personal example. On Tuesday, March 31st, we were to be picked up by Wheel Trans for an appointment. The vehicle was late in arriving, as the driver was unable to proceed westward on Camden Street due to the illegally parked cars. The driver reversed, went south on Spadina to King, and turned north on Brant. It required five minutes to journey up Brant. Due to the illegally parked cars, the northbound Wheel Trans was forced to wait for southbound cars. Needless to say, we were late for the appointment.

What if we had called an ambulance, the police, or the fire department? Minutes lost can cause the loss of a life! The traffic on Camden and Brant Streets is already beyond capacity, and the Ace Hotel has not been built.

I fear that the City of Toronto has a conflict of interest in this development. The city wants the hotel to be erected. This is understandable as Ace Hotel is a prestigious brand and the tax dollars it would generate would be enormous. In this instance, what is good for the city is not good for the neighbourhood, yet it is the city that will decide on the height of the building—a conflict of interest. Which member of our city council would agree to allow a building of this height to be erected next to their home?

The developers of the Ace Hotel state that they have carefully assessed the financial viability of their project, and concluded that they are unable to reduce its height. Does this mean that the eight-story Hotel Victoria on Yonge Street operates at a loss? This hotel is the type that would more readily fit into the Brant/Camden neighbourhood, and be an asset. It is a boutique hotel, with no rooftop bar and of a size that would be better suited to narrow streets such as Camden and Brant.

I believe that the Ace Hotel as planned is architecturally attractive, but its 13-storey height will create a dangerous amount of traffic. It will also decrease the public’s enjoyment of St. Andrew’s Playground, which will be over-shadowed by the building. The City of Toronto owes the residents of the area more support to reduce the number of floors. I realize that if the city enforces the bylaws and refuses the extra storeys, the developers would likely appeal to the OMB.

According to recent articles in the press, developers are the largest contributors to all three of the provincial political parties. Perhaps this explains why no government has ever abolished the OMB. It is an unelected body that favours the developers when making decisions. This is very unfair and undemocratic. As long as developers are able to appeal to the OMB, neighbourhoods will suffer and heritage buildings will be demolished. 

Map of 51 Camden St, Toronto, ON M5V 1V2

Site of the Ace Hotel, on the east side of St. Andrew’s Playground, where the hotel will cast shadows.

For more details about the Ace Hotel project, see the blog of the Garment District Neighbourhood Association (GDNA)  www.gdnatoronto.org

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2016/03/02/tayloronhistory-comcheck-it-out/

The publication entitled, “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” was written by the author of this blog. It explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories by the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                          cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852

   To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Shop, and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

                                 image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[1]    

Another book, published by Dundurn Press, containing 80 of Toronto’s former movie theatres will be released in June, 2016. It is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It contains over 125 archival photographs and relates interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating history.

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

Another publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. This book will be released on June 1, 2016. For further information follow the link to Amazon.com  here  or to contact the publisher directly:

http://www.ipgbook.com/toronto–then-and-now—products-9781910904077.php?page_id=21.

 

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