Heritage watch: 150 Laird Avenue

What Former Durant Motors of Canada headquarters.When Two-storey brick structure from post-World War I Leaside era was built in 1928.Distinguishing.

What Former Durant Motors of Canada headquarters.

When Two-storey brick structure from post-World War I Leaside era was built in 1928.

Distinguishing features An important example of late Gothic Revival architecture. Other examples of the early 20th-century style include Toronto’s Hart House and Manhattan’s Woolworth’s skyscraper.

History Durant Motors was founded by American businessman William Crapo “Billy” Durant in 1921 on two acres at Laird and McRae that used to be occupied by the Leaside Munitions Company, which manufactured shells for the war effort.

Durant began manufacturing cars on the site in 1922 for the Canadian and UK markets. By 1924, the automaker was the third largest in Canada, exporting some 5,000 vehicles a year to the UK alone. The facilities would expand to some 18 acres and 11 buildings.

But the company would fall on hard times during the Depression after its Michigan-based parent defaulted on a loan, causing the Leaside branch to become wholly-Canadian owned. Durant’s former sales manager, Roy Kerby, took over operations in 1928, reopening as Dominion Motors Ltd. The REO Speedwagon and Frontenac luxury sedan were built at the plant up until the Second World War during which its manufacturing facilities were sold off in pieces, at first to nearby Canadians Wire and Cable Company and later Frigidaire. Durant was dissolved for good in 1944.

Why The Toronto Preservation Board wants the city to designate the two-storey structure under the Ontario Heritage Act. But a proposal for a retirement residence featuring two buildings of seven and eight storeys and 284 units, has also been floated for the site and adjacent property at 146 Laird. If permitted, the buildings would mark the first large-scale residential development on the commercial-retail strip. A pre-hearing was scheduled last month at the OMB.

enzom@nowtoronto.com | @enzodimatteo

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