Monday, January 03, 2011

Historic Empress Hotel destroyed by fire

The Empress Hotel building (more commonly known as the William Reynolds Block, also known as the Edison) was destroyed by fire early this morning. Built in 1888, this structure was one of the most prominent and visible links to an older Toronto along Yonge Street.

Even in dilapidated condition the William Reynolds Block looked great. Photo circa August 2005

The Former Edison Hotel in 1978

It makes me sad. The corner of Yonge and Gould has given up the last vestige of its history. I spent many hours playing chess opposite this building at Haskell Square (sic). Now that this building is gone -- along with Sam the Record Man on the other side -- I will have to reconfigure my mental map of the area. New buildings will arise, but will they have the same character? I doubt it.

Sam the Record Man (formerly CIBC) is also gone from the corner of Yonge and Gould.

The timing of the fire borders on suspicious. The edifice -- designated a Heritage site by the city -- had previously suffered a wall collapse last spring which had ousted its tenants, including the popular Salad King. A meeting for setting a timeline to restore the William Reynolds block building had been set for later this month... That's obviously not going to happen.

Our stock of irreplaceable heritage buildings continues to decline precipitously. What can be done to save these lovely odes from the past?

Update: the fire was determined to be arson!
Update (July 2012): More details emerge -- arrest made
Update (Aug 2012): Litigation ties up Empress hotel site (pdf)
Update (Dec 2012): Empress Hotel arsonist sentenced to 10 years