Preserving Toronto: How We’re Saving Toronto’s Most Historic Buildings

Formerly Jilly’s – now The Broadview Hotel (Image: Instagram/@neziam)

Another nostalgic and historic Toronto spot seems to close on the regular. And yes, it’s pretty depressing to kiss landmarks like The Brunswick House and Honest Ed’s goodbye, given how loved they were in all their gritty glory.

The good news is that the storied past of many of the city’s old buildings is being preserved in restoration efforts. While the sanitization and gentrification of Toronto move full-speed forward, the rich past of many of Toronto’s buildings isn’t erased the moment the pre-existing companies write their last cheque. These days, their history is reflected in everything from the restoration of the original façade, to the incorporation of original design and décor elements.

While the live music-lovers, University of Toronto alumni, and local beer-drinkers collectively mourned the loss of the historic Brunswick House, the positive is that some of its history has been preserved – even if it is now a Rexall drugstore. The drugstore chain worked closely with the City of Toronto’s Heritage Preservation service to remain as true to the building’s layered history as possible.

Rexall, formerly The Brunswick House (Image: Instagram/@torontourbanstrolls)

While the exterior teal-coloured Rexall signage just doesn’t have the same appeal (naturally), the building’s outdoor façade has been fully restored. The original “Ye Olde Brunswick House” sign lives on inside the space, as do the original chandeliers and tin ceilings. Memories of hard-partying (and likely underage) Brunny-goers are preserved in an encased collection of photographs. Perhaps the best part; the original barrel bar is now the checkout area and sits in front of a wall that visually maps out the building’s history. While nothing can replace “Ye Olde Brunswick House,” at least this Rexall is filled with more talking points than your typical drugstore is.

East of Yonge, the iconic strip club Jilly’s is now the Broadview Hotel, a Drake Hotel-esque, soon-to-be hotspot that will open its doors in June. The team behind the two-year revitalization project has placed a strong emphasis on preserving the history of the building in the creation of the 57-room boutique hotel and has even been recognized with the Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Award for Excellence in Conservation.

Restoring Jilly’s – now the Broadview Hotel (Image: Instagram/@riverside_bia)

With a facade designed by ERA Architects (the team behind the rebirth of the former Maple Leaf Gardens) and interiors by DesignAgency, the hotel retains things like the original façade, exposed brick, and arched windows. An artistic elevator feature wall is made from pieces of the original fire escape that used to line the exterior, and layers of pre-existing wallpaper inspired the new, freshly designed wallpaper. Some old signage, like the original “New Broadview Hotel” sign, will live on the rooftop patio. While the trendy hotel will likely draw young professionals with dollars to drop to the area; the gritty legacy of Jilly’s still lives on in the building’s rebirth.

A meeting with the son of the signmaker who made the original Jilly’s signs/ original “New” Broadview Hotel sign (Image: Instagram/@broadviewhotel)

In another historic building on the other side of town, The Symes has been brought back to life. The building will reopen as a coveted and history-rich, 9,700-square-foot multipurpose venue and event space in fall 2017. The building – which was once the site of an incinerator and waste transfer station – has been styled in design to reflect its authentic art deco heritage.

The Symes (Image: Instagram/@thesymesca)

Located at 150 Symes Road in The Junction, the site was a passion project of Viviana Kohon, Namita Tandon-Walsh, and Caitie Yue, who entered armed with a mission to keep the site’s original beauty intact, while still keeping with their own philosophy and vision. With an official Heritage designation, the building was re-envisioned by Jedd Jones Architect Ltd. and Barbara Nelson Interior Design to fuse the building’s raw industrial past with a modern elegance. Original design elements include the structure’s original Symes Road incinerator brickwork and stone, distinctive window cuts, cornices along the rooflines, and metal trusses. Aside from its spacious functionality, it offers an event space that’s rich with talking points  – always a quick crowd-pleaser.

preserving toronto

The ladies behind The Symes

So, while some of our most beloved buildings will inevitably transform with the times, the good news is that they’re taking pieces from the past along with them – and this shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.

RELATED LINK: Toronto Music Venues Continue to Close Despite the Push for The Music City Label

Do you think that it’s important for Toronto to preserve its historic buildings? Which buildings would you like to see preserved? Let Vv Magazine know in the comment section below or tweet us at @ViewtheVibe

Erin Davis

Erin Davis

Erin is a Toronto-based writer, actor and queen of the side hustle. When she’s not writing the day away in a face mask, she’s taking in the city’s vibrant arts scene, doing a red carpet interview or brunching with her leading ladies. Follow me: @erinnicoledavis
Erin Davis