Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Heritage: 7 Austin Terrace

The building at 7 Austin Terrace in Toronto, Ontario, originally built in 1922, faced an unknown future on 13-September-2009

TORONTO, ONTARIO - On Sunday afternoon, I attended the Heritage Toronto walk "Atop the Davenport Hill in the 1920's." As with many of these activities, the walk stopped at a variety of interesting buildings in a neighbourhood, in this case the area north of Davenport Road and south of St. Clair Avenue between Spadina Road and Wells Hill Avenue.

One of those structures on the route was a 7 Austin Terrace. Built in 1922 by Lieutenant-Colonel John B. Maclean, who had published a magazine called "The Business Man's" which morphed into what we know today as "Maclean's," the building had clearly been rebuilt over the years and had become a multi-unit complex. While plenty was known about Maclean and the building's early history, its contemporary status was not known, and in fact a demolition notice was found on the door. Our tour guide, Doug Fife of the Spadina Museum, did not know what was happening with the building.

Just minutes later as the walk started down Wells Hill Avenue, local residents who were out working in their yards filled in some details. It seems that a proposed land use action to build a large condominium complex on the site had been posted while most of them were on vacation in late August, requiring comment by 31-August. When those who were in town called the telephone number listed to protest the proposed action, no human being ever answered.

Meanwhile, the doors to the building were being left open, apparently to encourage vandalism. The owners of the building--and nobody knows who they are--seem to be hoping that the building will fall into such a state of disrepair that the building cannot be saved.

7 Austin Terrace does not have a historical designation just like many homes in the neighbourhood built in the 1920's, which is retrospect may have been a major oversight by the city. Whether the home built by an iconic Canadian media figure survives in something like its present form or not, it is clear that a building with significantly more units than the existing structure would not fit its surroundings, which are mostly single-family homes with some two-story apartments.

This kind of additional information, beyond what even the researcher of the walk had been able to come up with, is one of the joys of Heritage Toronto walks.

Those concerned about what has happened with this building are encouraged to contact Toronto city councilperson Joe Mihevc, who represents the St. Paul's Ward.


Robert said...

This reminds of the time we banded together with our local councillor to help save the Palmerston iron lights - the City staff had decided that they could not "meet" the City's safety standards and proposed demolishing them in favour of replicas. We all made the point that Toronto has so little historical architecture and monuments that we need to do whatever we can to preserve what we have - especially in the Casa Loma neighborhood which has some of the most beautiful Arts and Crafts structures in the City and a scale that makes it so popular for walking tours. We must try to preserve this structure or at least it's facade - the way that 153 Lyndhurst (Lyndhurst Lodge) was preserved.

Chris said...

After living there as a tenant for 5 years, we're sure going to miss it.