Saturday, November 14, 2009


What is it with Toronto and tall tower projects?
Why this city is sooo thristy for high structures?

Ok. There is the fact that it's a "big city", with a lot of people living in it per square meters. I get that - tall projects can "parked" more people within the boundaries of the GTA. But do we want "this" at any price? Do we need to build "whatever" as long as it's tall and profitable? And why it seams like there is no vision, no urban planning behind all this tall-tower-mania?

Take the project at 2055-2057 Danforth Avenue. A lovely panel is telling us right now that they are trying to change the by-law application for this zone to build a 12-14 storey multi-something there. That portion of our city allows 5 storeys right now. 5 storeys.... Isn't that zoning there for something?

See, I may be a purist in terms of urban planning, but I like when streets are forming a nice visual ensemble. You know - when it looks good all together. What I don't like is when there is a giant thing in the middle of dwarfed buildings. It's just that it look.... well... It's ugly, that's what.

Call me negative and against the futur if you want. but there is nobody that will convince me that these projects were successful in that genre:

- St-James Town
- Most of Jarvis Street...
- Main Square Towers
- The towers at Gerrard East and River Street
- Victoria Park
... and many other ones.

If only they were pretty. If only that.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Playter Farmhouse

Take the house of an old family of Toronto settlers (the Playters - famously known for being successful dairy farmers and what's not), put it into one of the best 'hood in town (Playter Estate, right there in the Greek/Danforth area), what do you get????

Well, first you get a very impressive historical house. Nice enough to get "the plaque treatment and all. This red-brick, rectangular house, sitting at 28 Playter Cres is decorated with a white brick pattern. A "grande dame" who was built in the mid 1870's by John Lea Playter.

You can't really miss it right now... It's under a masive reno.

Actually, at this point I will call this an overhaul. I don't know who is the owner(s), but they have a vision, that's for sure. But is it the right one? Restaurating an historical structure is very noble, but changing it into a massive multi-something? Is that keeping the spirit of the place?

When you look at it from the front, not much has changed. They bricked the gables on the roof, but the house still has the same proportions. It's when you look on the sides that you discover this:

It's like if 2 houses were growing back there! Call me a purist if you want, but what is the point exactly? My first guest is to split it into many households. I see $$$ here. Very mad to see this "protected house" going down this route (thanks again Toronto to have such an eye for heritage). And I am not the only one to think so: while taking the above pictures a cyclist stopped to tell me how sad he is that they are doing that to the house.

Sadness... And nostalgia when you compare the now with the then, before the early 1900's alterations.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Yes or No to a Bloor-Yonge Square?

Well, once again, another condo project that won't make it in Toronto. This time, it's the "fabulous" 80-storey deluxe project at the corner of Yonge and Bloor.... Buyers must be furious, people were in a crazy line-up to get their spot in that building...

But now that the entire block is demolished and that the tower won't happen, we have a problem: a big empty space in the middle of an incredible transit hub. Hum... empty space... in the heart of a growing city.... what should we do....

A PUBLIC SQUARE, isn't it the right answer?

Some people think so, and we are starting to hear them out there. Their message is clear: give Toronto a brand new showpiece-square. Cause let's be honest here: it's an opportunity of a lifetime! 

And I think the good people of Toronto deserve and desire a brand new square in their city!

If you are interested, there is a Facebook page called Bloor Yonge Square.
Also, there is a blog to inform the public.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Don Jail, or Dawn/Dusk Jail?

The Toronto Jail, known under the nickname "Don Jail", is in our city landscape since 1865. The site was already dedicated to this purpose since 1858, with the construction of another building there for offenders. Designed by architect William Thomas in 1852, this "modern jail" for its time has a distinctive façade in the Italianate style with a pedimented central pavilion and vermiculated columns flanking the main entrance portico. This gem is one of the architectural treasures of the city and one of very few pre-Confederation (1867) structures that remains intact in Toronto...

Well... intact for now...

After the jail closed in 1977, the building never got the care it should have got. It was used for many movies and TV shows, but beside that, not much happen in these walls since.

The bad news is that Bridgepoint is about to take over a massive project: integrating the old jail into their medical facilities. This means new buildings are planned for the surroundings of the jail AND the jail itself will be part of the grand picture.

The plan? Administrative offices and research centre. 

So good bye old original cells and other architectural features?

Well... some of it they will keep. The exterior will remain untouched (restauration perhaps would occur?), the rotunda will be restored to its former glory, and several of the prison cells will be kept as museum displays. But who will see that?

Cause let's be honest here! If the place will turn into an office building - do they really think it will become a public space? What about making it a cultural centre, or even better - A CITY MUSEUM! Instead of the City Hall, the people planning the City Museum could have shown interest in this beauty...

Wel... No.
More offices - THAT'S what we need in one of our great historical public building.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wait a minute, is this old or new?

Since like "forever", architects take inspiration in old styles when it comes to creating the blueprints for new homes. Some major architectural movements are based on pure nostalgia of the past. There was (and still is) some good, and some very bad.

Don't get me wrong - when it is done well, a new built that is inspired by older homes is simply grandiose! And it's a pure success when it's matching the surrounding.

But sometimes it's just wrong, or simply weird. Like a full size scaled fisherprice home, the badly inspired "new comer" can look pretty hideous.

I don't know... do you really need:

- A garage door in front of the house?
- A facade made of stucco instead of brick, wood or stone?
- Cheap "off the shelves" windows and doors?
- Strange proportions?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The empty shell heritage

If you knew me, you would be aware that I HATE seeing the older buildings of Toronto going to the "other world" to lead place for taller/greater/cleaner structures (which most of the time happens to be a darn condo tower). Layers of older architectures and styles is what really defines a city - in my book at least.

But lately I've seen a new phenomenon: people buying old houses and... keeping them! At this point, I am happy and I may even jump of joy if it's a nice heritage house who needs only TLC to renew its former glory. Only there is a problem sometimes....... the house may "appear" to be preserved, but in fact it is not! Introducing the lovely example of this former corner store in Cabbagetown.

The architect who bought this saw the opportunity to put his stamp on it. Fine you will say, just a glance at the building before would make you happy with the gentrification. See below the "before":

Yes the outside is now clean - Yes the windows and doors are new and match with the style of the building - YES YES YES! But here's where I am not happy. The corner store is no more a store.... it a residential space now:

And NOTHING inside was salvage... And why is that? The architect would probably say that nothing was good inside. Or maybe everything was ripped off in the 1960s.... But why would you have to make the place look so sterile? So "2009"? This is a nice example of the Cabbagetown brick structure shaped to receive a CORNER STORE at the first floor... NOT A CONTEMPORARY GALLEY KITCHEN....

But I have to aggree: it's better than demolition. But still.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Felician Sisters Convent & its twin, Rivervilla

It's been soooo long since I wrote something here that I won't even tell you how ashamed I feel about it! Instead, I will jump right in with a "Vanished Toronto" story!

The photograph you see up here is "Rivervilla” , a wonderful italianate villa that use to be at the northeast corner of Queen and River Street.  It was built for Thomas Davies (co-owner of the Daw Brewery situated just in front) in 1878... and of course was demolished in 1974 to make some space to the Toronto Humane Society. By then the house had such bad additions that it was considered "no good no more".

But this is where we are celebrating! The Rivervilla had a twin! And it's still standing today:

And the photo up here (by friend Scott!) shows that it's still "all there".  The twin, Leadlay House, is an exact mirror of the Rivervilla and it is unknown why. Even the architect of "the twin" is unknown apparently. The Felician Sisters are owning this house since the 1930's and it is probably one of the reasons why we can still enjoy this great piece of architecture.

2 thumbs up for the Sisters!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

John and Richmond Street Corner, 1935-2009

John & Richmond Street Corner - 1935/2009
Originally uploaded by Eric P + Concepteur + Designer + Graphiste

This is a shot of a corner that was nothing interesting in 1935... and still not very interesting nowaday! From small parking lot on a quiet corner of a residential street, it became a very busy corner in the middle of a busy Toronto.

The Montana sits in a building that was probably built just a couple years after the photo was taken in 1935. The victorian houses on the right are not there anymore, but if you look at the back on the left side, there is a building that still remains - minus the water reservoir.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

197 Spadina Avenue, 1891-2009

197 Spadina Avenue, 1891-2009
Originally uploaded by 
Eric P + Concepteur + Designer + Graphiste

I really wonder what Dr. W.T. Stuart would think about what happen to his lavish nice house on Spadina... Being right there in downtown Toronto, Spadina Avenue went from residential boulevard to busy Chinatown.I would LOVE to know why this house had to go. Was it in decay? Was it just in the way?

I tried to find out more about this doctor and his house... I have to say I found nothing really, except that in 1883, he was the doctor of Herbert George Hawkins, who died within 2 weeks of bronchitis.... Thanks Google!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

I am not dead... buy Walnut Hall is!

Walnut Hall.JPG
Originally uploaded by southofbloor
This is a message to show that this blog is not dead at all... I've been more than busy in the past month and I just can't keep up my "good work" on my Toronto blog... Sorry about that.

Anyhow, I am still here and I am still going on and about.

I wanted to share this flickr profile I found recently.

This is exactly the kind of torontonian that I like! I don't know him personaly, but one look at his images on tells me that he is into what I like the most: urban architecture - history - conservation.

I invite you to browse his many sets. Very very interesring to discover his point of view in images. Most of it in Toronto, but also other places.

The photo displayed here is from him. This was Toronto's best remaining Georgian row until it mysteriously collapsed in May 2007 (right when I moved here in Toronto.... Bienvenue to me???) Anyhow, it was sitting at George and Shuter....

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Toronto New Landmark - Canada's National Ballet School

I think it would be interesting to look at our new heritage. Believe or not, I think there is some good ideas out there that are working out just beautifully!

My first example is the National Ballet School, on Jarvis Street. Not only the married old buildings with new ones, but they also included interesting details - such as the music notes in the large windows OR, if you looked closer to the motif of the 2 top condo towers, you noticed that they are in fact keyboard, like a piano.

I think this is a good example of a project that include many type of buildings for many type of uses, but still keeping it pleasing as an urban ensemble.

What do you think?

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Queen Street West, Gladstone Hotel, dates unknown

No idea when this postcard was made... but it shows some interesting details about the Gladstone Hotel.

The Gladstone Hotel is the oldest continuously operating hotel in Toronto. It was originally built in 1889 as a stylish hostelry across from the then existing Parkdale railroad station which serviced the Grand Trunk, the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), and the Canadian National Railway (CNR) companies.

It was designed by George Miller, the architect of the Lillian Massey building of the University of Toronto, many other public buildings in the city, as well as a large number of formerly grand residential buildings in the Parkdale neighbourhood. 

The Hotel was designed in the Richardsonian Romanesque style - in the period a popular style for public buildings such as train depots, churches, and libraries. The architectural style of the Gladstone is characterized by the rough cut stone and brick and by the dramatic arches over the windows and porch entrances. The Hotel tower is also characteristic of the style. The cupola was removed in 1930 due to disrepair.

The Gladstone is a fine example of a Victorian Hotel with intact plaster moldings in the grand hallways. The two restored pillars in the hotel's Melody Bar are unique in Toronto in that their faux marble finish was rendered in true European fresco technique. No other architectural pillars such as these exist in Toronto. The meticulously restored Victorian elevator is one of the last hand-operated elevators in Toronto.

Too bad  the corner tower lost the cupola... it was quite something! Even the top brick details of the two facades is a bit different...

The good thing about the Gladstone is that it's still an hotel, even after all these years. The owners are actually pretty concern about the place, and they've been doing a lot of work to keep it in good shape.

A+ for the Gladstone!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Bathurst & Front Street, 1960 - 2009

This shot is interesting for the background. Look how Toronto grew up since 1960!

The Fairmount Hotel used to be THE tallest building of this shot. Nowaday, the skyline is changing almost every month, with all these new projects and condos in the works...

If you pay attention to the 2 pictures, you will sii that the building at the left is still there, but had some renos - you will also find the same street lights! For the rest, it's all pretty new!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Vanished Toronto - the Trinity College

To follow the previous post on Trinity Bellwoods...

I think it could be interesting to cover buildings and heritage from Toronto that are no more standing in our city. I will call this "Vanished Toronto". I know, very original!

So, back on the Trinity College, here a picture on the top showing the school as it was in 1929. Nowadays, the tennis court of the Trinity Bellwoods are were the foundation are... deep in the ground. I saw somwehre that there is A LOT remaining of the base of the school, because they had to fill the creek  to make it equal with Queen St.

Back to the origins of its story...

The old Garrison Creek emptied into Lake Ontario at the site of Fort York, and the land north and west of the fort was set aside as a military reserve. As the town of York grew around the fort, the military reserve was gradually sold off in lots to retiring British officers and friends of the military command. British Army Lieutenant-Colonel Samuel Smith is said to have bought 1000 acres (4 km²) of land here in 1801, which he called Gore Vale after Lieutenant-Governor Francis Gore; the Vale in the name referring to Garrison Creek ravine.

Much of the current park land was originally purchased from a Mrs. Cameron of Gore Vale in 1851 by Scottish-Canadian Bishop John Strachan, an influential Anglican deacon who wanted Toronto to have a private school with strong Anglican ties, partly in opposition to the recently secularized University of Toronto. Buildings were soon constructed and students began attending Trinity College in 1852. After federation with the University of Toronto in 1904 and completion of the downtown Trinity campus in 1925, the school left this location. The original buildings were then sold to the City of Toronto and most were demolished in the early 1950s. Of the college itself, only the stone and iron gates now remain, at the Queen Street park entrance facing south on Strachan Avenue, although the former St. Hilda's College building, (the women's residence of Trinity College) still overlooks the northern half of the park on the western edge. It is now a seniors' residence, John Gibson House.

In the 1950s Garrison Creek was entirely buried and the creek ravine backfilled around the Crawford Street Bridge, raising the surface of the northern end of the park to almost the height of Dundas Street. The steep drop from this upper level to the lower part of the park has become a popular local toboggan run in winter. Picnic tables and small barbecues are also provided here for summertime use, and public washroom facilities.

Queen Street West -Trinity Bellwoods Gates 1917-2009

An landmark on Queen Street West. "Meet me at the gates of Trinity Bellwoods"!

When this winter image was shot in 1917, the gates were actually leading to the Trinity College, who later got annexed to another Toronto University.

Torontonians where strongly against the demolition of the old gotic College... so the city placed the Kiwanis in it. Couple years later, they left too, leaving the college structure in a real bad state. It got razed in the 1950's.

We still have the gates to remember though. But they got painted cream... for some reasons I would prefer to see them dirty and unpainted. But that's just me.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Building Story - the Spadina Hotel

Everyday, I walk in front of these two old buildings and I'm wondering... what if these walls could talk! Well, actually they do - here's what I found on Wikipedia:

The Spadina Hotel is youth hostel located at Spadina Avenue and King Street, just south of Chinatown in Toronto. Built in the late 1873, the three storey Victorian building features a small clock on the east facade. In the early 1900s it was the Hotel Falconer and shared the corner with another hotel, the Power House Hotel on the southeast corner. Over its history it has been home to many notable residents. In the 1960s and 1970s it was a centre of the Queen Street West music scene, and saw such visitors as Leonard Cohen and the Rolling Stones. On the ground level the Cabana Room was a central venue to the strip. The Jack Nicholson film The Last Detail was also partially filmed at the hotel.

The hotel was renamed the Global Village Backpackers in 1997 and the once seedy motel is now a youth hostel to Toronto, Ontario. With 190 beds (four people per room) it is the largest youth hostel in Toronto.

WOW! Talk about something hidden! I am convinced that most of torontonians tha see these two old fellows don't even realize how historical they are.

Crazy colours though!

I can see you!!!

Ok... I am not alone!
Not that I was expecting to re-invent the wheel with "Now & Then - Views of Toronto". It's actually nice to see that there is other people in this city who are interested enough to persue researching archives and unveal our city history for our own good!

Check out this great blog: Toronto Before - A step into the past. They are blogging there since 2006... and they have great now and then pictures as well!

I will have to be very good at my Before/After - now that it's clear that there's competition! Hehe!

The Challenge of the week! The CN tower 1970s funky interior

CN tower in the 1970s VS 2009
Originally uploaded by Eric P + Concepteur + Designer + Graphiste

My friend-in-crimes Eve, a blogger from Montreal (Brick and Plastic), just challenged me to snap the interior of the CN Tower. I liked the idea SO MUCH that I'm opening the door to the "Challenge of the Week". Send me a picture of Toronto, and I'll try to capture a photo of it from now.

So she sent me the lovely picture of the interior of the CN Tower, in the 70s. An easy first challenge, the Tower is one of our client at my job! We are doing design from then...

The CN Tower is one icon that we canadians all know and recognize easily. For the amateur, it never changed... But even our dear tower, completed on February 22 - 1974, has been modified, following trends and current design ideas.

The left image shows what use to be the reception desk of the Tower restaurant - on the main street level. So these red lovely kiosks were where an hostess would welcome you, check your coat to the coat check (black rectangle behind). Before climbing the grand staircase, you could sit down and enjoy the view on the fountains that was just out there. A very nice ambiance overall!

Nowadays, there is not much left from this decor. The structure changed so much that I had a real hard time to find the exact same spot. Everything vanished - the coat check, the stairs, the kiosks, the lounge.... even the fountains outside were covered by concrete and a weird garden. The main purpose of that part of the tower is... main retail area and concourse.

Guess which photo I prefer!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Grand Opera at 11 Adelaide Street West - 1921

Originally uploaded by Eric P + Concepteur + Designer + Graphiste

Another Great picture from the Archives of Toronto, taken in 1921.

The story of the Grand Opera House on Adelaide Street West is an unfortunate one. It went from grandiose first Opera House to creepy scandalous.

The building use to sit just west of Yonge. It was built in 1874 and many know people of the time played there. Even the Great Albani appear on scene! THIS WAS the place were it was happening.

But with the booming of the Vaudeville theater, its former glory was in the past. Over the years, it was the scene of many fires and human tragedy. The last owner vanished and soon after that it was revealed that he had kept a secret sex room there!

It got demolished in 1927.... Today, with the massive Scotia Bank Complex, the only reminder of this Toronto landmark is a small street known as "Grand Opera Lane". What replaced the Opera building is the façade of another building - the Wood Gundy - that was moved from it's original address (40 King Street).

Today, this stretch of Adelaide is quite busy with cars. and construction crews! They are building another GREAT GIGANTIC tower just in front..

If you need a bit more info, wikipedia has a small article.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Queen Street East - Bathurst Street - 1928

Queen Street East - Bathurst Street
Originally uploaded by Eric P + Concepteur + Designer + Graphiste

I could not wait any longer.. I took my lunch hour to capture my very first NOW picture. This building always got my attention. I could tell even before seeing the old shot that it use to have charms...

Someone please tell me where is the third level? All the interesting details from this corner building are gone or damaged. I am not 100% sure what it use to be, but now it's the The Big Bop Concert Hall & Night Club (home of the Kathedral, the Reverb and Holy Joe's)

Did I say that I don't like deep purple???

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A New & Old view on Our City!

Hello everyone!

This will be our new blog to share our Toronto and its Heritage, Buildings, Arts, Urban Life... and other topics of interest. I hope to reach as many people as possible to show that this city is way more than just a landscape of condos where our cold fingers try to reach a bit of sun!

Seriously, the main reason why I created this blog....
I want to post some NOW AND THEN pictures of Toronto. Every once in a while, I will grab an old picture from the past and go to the same location to take a new pic of the place. I think this will be a quite interesting exercice! This will start soon. Stay tuned!

I guess this is were I introduce myself..

I am...
  • in Toronto since 2 years. I was born in a small town called Joliette - just north of Montreal.
  • a Graphic Designer and Exhibition Designer for a downtown production company that specialize in large events and exhibitions.
  • hoping that you will enjoy my blog!
I am not....
  • a professional photographer! So be nice with my low skills!
  • a full time writer - so sorry about mistakes... I'll do my best.