I went for a walk along King Street West, between Bathurst Street and Spadina. This is a stretch within “The Fashion District”, though it might be a mystery as to why nowadays, as there is very little remaining to indicated it’s onetime significance in the clothing industry. That’s because the area has changed tremendously in the past decade, going from a series of garment factories with not much else, (aside from a strip-club and a budget motel), to an area hosting the most chic of restaurants and fancy private clubs.
Not so long ago this was a place people who made things could venture after-hours, and gather all kinds of fabric remnants and trim that had been put to the curb for garbage pick-up by the garment manufacturers lining the street. At night, it was a dark and quiet place back then, and one had to be careful of the shadows lurking in the lane-ways between buildings. During the day, the street would be teaming with workers at the end of their shifts, heading home after a long day spent at the sewing machines. During the spring and fall, when the weather was decent, a passer-by could hear the humming of the machines through open windows. Since all traces of this by-gone time are all gone now, I rely on a happy childhood memory to know this, as we had a beloved family friend who worked in a manikin warehouse in the area, and we visited him there.
Now this area has been completely transformed. There is construction going on at several lots, with the building of some of Toronto’s most expensive new condominium developments. Some of them are incorporating the original old ‘brick and beam’ buildings into their design, while others are demolishing what was once there and building anew.
One such site, located at 621 King Street West, which until recently housed what was probably the last standing motel in downtown Toronto, called the Executive Motor Hotel, is slated to become one of the fanciest boutique style condos in the city, The Thomson Residences, built by Freed Development.
So on my walk this week I noticed that they have found something that appears to be of architectural significance on the building site. When I got home I researched what had once been there. Turns out it had been an estate built in 1850 and torn down sometime in the next hundred or so years.
This is what this site will become ..
Photograph taken from their website at Thompson Residences
It is interesting to note how their promotional material prominently shows an image of the CN Tower, the defining pinnacle on Toronto’s skyline, considering their buildings look like they will block this iconic view from many people living in the old residential neighbourhood west of Bathurst Street. This is kind of sad from that perspective, but it’s a trade off … growth and development in an area that had been pretty stagnant for a long time.
This is the first time that I have ever seen an archeological dig in Toronto. I understand from reading up, that builders are required by law to allow archeologists time to survey any potentially historic findings on a building site before they are allowed to proceed. So now that they have seen and documented what was here, the building will continue.
Here’s a photo of another building in process, called The Fashion House, located a little further East, being constructed by the same developer, Freed Developments. This one will incorporate the old structure into the new.
Photograph from their website at The Fashion House