These architectural remnants of a bygone era remind us of the glories of 19th-century artisanship and titillate the imagination. But who is going to protect this neighbourhood? Not the preservation board, it turns out. They're sitting on their thumbs while developers plot a skyscraper intrusion.
49 Wellington East: The Gooderham Building (aka the Flatiron Building), built in 1892, predates New York's by 10 years and is perhaps the most photographed site in Toronto. It housed the offices of George Gooderham, former president of the Bank of Toronto (forerunner of the TD Bank) and owner of Gooderham and Worts bakery and later distillery. In the early 1800s, it also served as a major terminus for stagecoaches to Niagara and Queenston. The first gas street lamp in city was installed and lit in front of the Flatiron Building.
1 Front East : The Hummingbird Centre, formerly the O'Keefe Centre, is a jewel of the mid-50s urban renewal (it was declared a heritage property in 1990) that saw the city demolish more than 20,000 buildings and replace them with more modern structures. The Seven Lively Arts mural in the lobby by York Wilson, who went on to artistic fame and fortune in Italy, was chosen by a committee headed by Group of Seven artist A.J. Casson. The Centre sits atop the site of the Great Western Train Station, built in 1863, that served western Ontario.
35 Front East: One of the many Venetian-style palazzos that once dominated Front, the Beardmore Building, built by leather king George Beardmore in 1872, was originally a world-renowned harness- and saddle-making factory and, more importantly, one of the first structures built to accommodate the busy waterfront industries.
The Esplanade: Back in the early 1800s this desolate strip formed part of the largest and most ambitious civic rebuilding project in T.O. history - a landscaped walk and "people place" (the Mall). Modelled after the Promenade along the Thames in London, England, the greening plan was meant to clean up the crowding created by runaway commercial development in the area. Alas, commerce eventually won out, and the stately homes of British aristocrats and the merchant class lining the walk were replaced in the 1850s by the Grand Trunk, the first railway line to come through Toronto.
9 Church: The Toronto Cold Storage Building, as it would later be known, was built in 1877 and is one of the few remaining examples of the tangle of warehouses that used to dominate the old town just above Cooper's Wharf, the city's busiest and most important wharf. The city declared 9 Church a heritage property in 1973.
Berczy Park: Named after William von Moll Berczy, who was instrumental in the construction of Yonge (before John Graves Simcoe threw him in prison for not finishing it), the first bridge across the Don River and the first St. James Church. The site was a native fish camp before the white man arrived; a creek used to flow along present-day Church.
St. Lawrence Market: The cornerstone of the old town and site of Toronto's second City Hall, this 1844 Henry Bowyer Lane edifice marked the major gateway to the old harbour when 20-foot cliffs along present-day Front Street formed part of the Lake Ontario shoreline. The old town's first public well, now boarded up, is located here. Today, the building is still home to the 200-year-old Saturday farmers' market, and the second floor is home to the Market Gallery and City of Toronto Archives.
Market Street: Site of the city's original open public market, this section south of Front, which includes the A.R. Denison Building, the Armory Hotel (also known as the Old Fish Market) and the 150-year-old Leader Building (a liquor store today), is all that's left of what in its heydey in the 1830s was the cultural centre of the old town. Market Street also represents a piece of Toronto's more morbid history: from the foot of the street 150 years ago, corpses were thrown into the harbour when no room was left in graveyards.
Sources: Local historian Bruce Bell; City of Toronto; historyoftoronto.ca; stlawrencemarket.com; oldtoronto.ca