Monday, July 15, 2013

Fire at Broadview and Gerrard Destroys Century-old Corner Building

A four-alarm blaze at Broadview and Gerrard this past weekend has caused major damage to the south-east corner building, which has stood there for about a hundred years.

'Cai Yuan pano 4' by Craig Jenkins; used with permission.
View additional fire photos by Jenkins here

Work crews are now busy demolishing the structure, which housed the Cai Yuan supermarket and numerous residents above it. It’s unclear whether the building can be saved. We’ll see!

Work crews assessing the damage and and beginning demolition.

This may eventually lead to a change in the tenor and character of the East Chinatown neighbourhood. I’m not going to pretend that it was a ‘pretty’ building; nevertheless the structure has anchored that corner for a century and is accordingly part of the fabric of the area. It has seen many uses and will be missed.

In 1914 the building was used by Fred Jacobs, chemist (pharmacist).
Image courtesy City of Toronto Archives. (h/t: @wherethestory)
A postcard view looking south on Broadview circa 1911.
Image via Chuckman's collection
Entry for Jacobs at 361 Broadview
in the 1906 Might's City Directory for Toronto

I’ve passed by this building countless times in the past couple of years, en route to my local climbing gym. While it may not be a designated heritage property, it has become a familiar mental landmark for me. I hope the former tenants are able to find a new place to live.

An oft-busy supermarket in Toronto’s east Chinatown
Image courtesy Simon Fraser University

While East Chinatown may appear somewhat ragged and run-down to the outside observer, it is really like a charming village. The atmosphere is laid-back and unassuming, a contrast to the bustle of the downtown core.

I hope that whatever takes shape on the intersection stays true to the neighbourhood — please, no stucco or glass monstrosities!