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Auberge On The Park 
1095 Leslie Street, Toronto
Developer: Tridel, Rowntree Enterprises

Auberge On The Park | ?m | 45s | Tridel | Graziani + Corazza

Discussion in 'Buildings' started by AlvinofDiaspar, May 9, 2006.

  1. No more rooms at this inn
    May 9, 2006. 05:50 AM

    In many cities, the destruction of a landmark would be seen as an act of vandalism. In Toronto, it's business as usual.

    As anyone who has gone past the corner of Eglinton Ave. and Leslie St. in the last day or two knows, the old Inn on the Park is now nothing more than a pile of rubble. The 1963 building, designed by pioneering modernist architect Peter Dickinson as he lay dying of cancer, has been demolished to make way for a car dealership.

    Some might think that is progress, but it's another sign of a city that lacks even the most basic modicum of self-respect. The fact the building was torn down to make way for an auto showroom only adds insult to injury.

    "If I had realized demolition was to occur before (today), my advice would have been to wait."

    So says Don Valley West councillor and mayoral hopeful Jane Pitfield, who has been involved in this ill-fated scheme from the beginning.

    She was referring to the deputation that was to have been presented today at North York Community Council to designate the Inn on the Park. That's not something the council need worry about now.

    What a coincidence!

    Though the complex was listed as a historical property, that didn't give it any legal protection. Designation, on the other hand, would have allowed the city to stop demolition. Of course, council could have designated the inn anyway — changes to the Ontario Heritage Act empowered the city last year — but that would have entailed standing up to business interests.

    "Demolition permits should not be given by the city until the designation process has been completed," says Pitfield, a member of the Toronto Preservation Board, somewhat after the fact. "But it's difficult to keep up with everything."

    Oh dear.

    Councillor Cliff Jenkins, Don Valley West, sees things differently. According to him, the fact the dealership will bring "300 much-needed jobs" to the site justifies tearing down "a badly deteriorated partially wooden structure." Besides, he adds, the owner of the dealership, Brian Rowntree, "has an agreement with the city heritage department" to rebuild parts of the original structure, specifically the "triangular projections on the front, the courtyard and the ballroom."

    Any heritage architect will tell you that's not preservation, no matter how well intentioned.

    For North York, which has precious little architecture worth worrying about, this is yet another self-inflicted wound. Next will be the old Bata Headquarters on Wynford Dr., to be demolished by early summer to make room for — of all things — a cultural centre. Bata was designed in the 1960s by Toronto architectural icon, John Parkin.

    "In North York, this was prime time for buildings," comments heritage architect Michael McClelland. "The Inn on the Park was one of those big optimistic buildings that summed up the times. It was a fantastic site, part of our cultural history.... It boils down to lack of political leadership."

    Rollo Myers, manager of the Ontario Architectural Conservancy, also laments the destruction of a '60s monument.

    "What an appalling way to start off Architecture Week in Toronto," he says. "It was a landmark. And from an environmental point of view, tearing down a perfectly adaptable, well-constructed, building represents a staggering waste. Thirty-five percent of all garbage in landfill sites comes from demolished buildings. The destruction of a single building negates the effort of recycling literally tens of millions of pop cans."

    To be fair, the inn had suffered numerous indignities over the decades, most notably the undistinguished tower built beside it. Ironically, the new plan retains that tower. But the features that made Dickinson's design compelling — the carport, courtyard, entrance — are gone.

    "We could have saved it," insists architectural activist Catherine Nasmith. "We had the power and we didn't use it. The local councillors — Jane Pitfield and Cliff Jenkins — just didn't care. It's an act of vandalism."

    Nasmith may be prone to the naivety of the idealist, but she's right. Though no one would dismiss 300 jobs, this is a big city with many other sites.

    But what business wants business gets.

    Just what she is saying, then? Tautology at best, tact admission of her role in the act, at worst. And that's from a Mayor-in-running.


  2. And from the Post:

    'Modernist' inn to be demolished
    Wrecking ball arrives day before heritage hearing
    A group is urging council to stop the demolition...

    Peter Kuitenbrouwer, National Post
    Published: Tuesday, May 09, 2006

    A bright orange excavator with a pulverisor attachment ripped through the Inn on the Park yesterday, one day before North York community council was to consider saving the north Toronto landmark. The owners plan to replace it with a Lexus car dealership.

    Built to replicate the Star of David from the air, the Inn, the first hotel of what became the Four Seasons chain, opened in 1963. It became one of Toronto's most famous destinations, playing host to the Rolling Stones, among other luminaries.

    "You just could imagine Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney going up the drive in their little roadster and alighting," said Catherine Nasmith, a Toronto architect fighting to save Toronto's historic buildings. "I remember floating down that staircase in a fancy dress as a young woman. It just made everybody in there feel glamourous."

    Ms. Nasmith said volunteers pitched in to write the Toronto Preservation Board report that recommended designating the building at 1100 Eglinton Ave. East under the Ontario Heritage Act.

    "The Inn on the Park is significant as the only surviving example of the two Four Seasons Hotels built in Toronto by the prominent early modernist architect Peter Dickinson," the report notes. "[It] is highly characteristic of Dickinson's talents as a contemporary designer and is a very fine example of a building fashioned in the modernist idiom."

    Mr. Dickinson designed the building for his friend, Four Seasons founder Isadore Sharp, on his deathbed. Mr. Dickinson died in 1961, aged 35.

    Ms. Nasmith said the designation report will go to council today as expected, and that a positive vote would stop the wrecking crews. But that could prove difficult: Clifford Jenkins, the local councillor, supports the demolition.

    "I support the city staff position -- the heritage aspects of the building can be retained through the agreement with the applicant," Mr. Jenkins said yesterday.

    In the late 1980s the Four Seasons sold the property, which later became a Holiday Inn. Eight years ago, Rowntree Enterprises bought the hotel and continued operating it, first as a Holiday Inn and later as Toronto Don Valley Hotel.

    Yesterday, taxi driver Gerald Herbert Manley of Able Atlantic, who has driven a cab in Toronto for 33 years, called it "really a sad day."

    "It used to be a very, very high-end hotel," Mr. Manley said. "It was extremelty convenient, on an extremely beautiful setting. It had the rural setting. You could cross the road and wander through the park there."

    At the site yesterday David Harris, a spokesman for Rowntree, said his company plans to save the stonework and put some of it back, recreating the courtyard. "We're retaining a lot of the historical features to try to appease the community," he said.

    Mr. Harris said Rowntree worked 18 months with the city and called in the wreckers as soon as it got its demolition permit last week. He said the building was too rundown to save.

    "It was very much like an old submarine. It would be really a monster job to try to bring back what was there."

    Ms. Nasmith said architects face a similar challenge saving modern buildings today as they faced 40 years ago trying to save buildings from the Victorian era.

    "Every generation produces good work and it's important to recognize it," she said. "When you tear down a building as important as this it sends a message to every architect that's practising today, 'It doesn't matter what you do, because nobody cares.' "

    Interesting "coincidence" that these things always happens before city council, hertiage board meetings.

  3. Citywriter

    Citywriter Guest

    How is it possible that they got a demolition permit?
    Who is running this city?

    And wasn't this very question at issue recently re: a significant modern house in Etobicoke?

  4. I often have gone out of my way to show people the Inn on the Park. Just two weeks ago, in fact. Even Lastman would have made an effort for this building. Argh...
  5. A shame. I cycled by this building only a week ago, and admired it still. A few observations:

    1) I think Hume is dead on that now the city has the power to stop this kind of thing and it is their first real test and they failed. They had lots of time to designate and halt the demolition and did nothing.

    2) I think this is another nail in the coffin of Pitfield's candidacy. She is heavily unimpressive, and I'm not sure I've ever heard a politician in campaign mode say, effectively, "Something bad happened - and we could have stopped it - oh, well". Has she even a brain?

    3) The issue of the Bata building is definitely more complex than this one, where ripping it down for a car dealership will cheapen and uglify the corner, and that part of the city in general. It's a lose-lose-lose proposition.
  6. urbanboyto

    urbanboyto Guest

    I didn't even know this was coming down.
    Simply astonishing...and as for about wonder Lastman's cronies aren't lining up behind her.
  7. Ed007Toronto

    Ed007Toronto Guest

    They had a contents sale last fall. People knew this was coming. Damn them. I had my wedding reception here. And I got engaged at the WTC. My past is disappearing.
  8. tudararms

    tudararms Guest

    "...pave paradise..."
  9. maxy505

    maxy505 Guest

    I don't disagree -- but to extend your point, this happened under Miller's watch. As mayor, ultimately overseeing both the heritage board and whatever group approved demolition, doesn't he hold the final responsibility?
  10. thenay

    thenay Guest

    An auto showdown to replace it, now thats pathetic!

    I stayed at the Inn on the Park once, back in 2003.
    It was an okay hotel, nothing special to me, I prefer many others than this one but I find it silly to knock it down without heritage approval (well the day before, if it gets it).

    It may create 300 jobs but who says this dealership will last, I've seen some close down before.
  11. maxy:

    Actually no, under the current system I don't believe the mayor has the authority to prevent the demolition of the structure, or direct oversight of both organs in question.

    Now, assuming that he does, how would one react to any attempt on his part to 1. intrude on the affairs of the NY community council and 2. the matters of privately owned properties? I suspect one (read: the right wing) would be screaming about nappropriate intervention of legitimate democratic and business decision making processes with the blink of an eye.

  12. Strange, why is it than no one who professes great love for this old motel has actually bothered to go up there and put themselves between the building and the wreckers in an attempt to stop it?
  13. mark simpson

    mark simpson Guest

    So if the designation is passed will demolition cease?

    (Unlikely a 14 storey, 200 plus unit hotel can be turned into a pile of rubble in a day)
  14. She's a gonner.
  15. weisblogg

    weisblogg Guest

    Toronto Life, Jan 2005 v39 i1 p130(1) (English)

    Inn on the Park: May 1963-January 2005.(The End). Cobden, Josh.

    Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2005 Toronto Life Publishing Co. Ltd.

    For decades, the Four Seasons Hotels logo, a stylized tree in various stages of bloom, has been a homing beacon for well-heeled travellers. It carries with it a confident promise: herein find elegance, taste, luxury. When the Inn on the Park opened, it was only the second hotel in Issy Sharp's newly minted chain. Sharp gambled that his mod structure--from above, it resembles an elongated Star of David--plunked in the middle of yet-to-be-developed Don Mills, would pack in the people. And it did. On weekdays, Bay Street types migrated up the DVP for well-lubricated closing lunches. On weekends, partiers flocked to Canada's first discotheque. Over the years, guests included all manner of big shots, from Nikita Krushchev to the Queen Mum, Henry Winkler to Liberace, in addition to most of moneyed Toronto (E. P. Taylor and Paul Godfrey were regulars; Mel Lastman's sons were married there).

    So it was with pride and high hopes that I joined the staff of the Inn in 1992, fresh out of university, as a junior manager of the Harvest Room restaurant. Never mind the $20,000 salary--I figured I'd arrived in hospitality-industry heaven. I was wrong. The disco had long since packed up, and the hotel looked perpetually like the morning after a big night. It wasn't retro or shabby chic; it was just shabby. Occasionally, incognito celebrities stopped by for a night or two. Guns n' Roses checked in under pseudonyms (front man Axl Rose brought his exercise bike, and guitarist Slash inexplicably brought a skeleton). They entered through the back doors under the cover of night, but they needn't have bothered--few of the greying patrons or staff would have recognized them. By then, most stars had long since dropped he uptown Inn for its younger, sexier sister in Yorkville.

    The clientele now comprised pyramid sellers from Nu Skin, who convened in the restaurant once a week to meet new recruits. Chirpy reps spread out across a dozen or so tables, lingering for hours over coffee while pitching easy riches and work-from-home freedom. Sometimes they left without paying. Seasons, the once-fine dining room next door to the Harvest Room, by then did its best trade serving hordes of Don Mills suburbanites who descended on Sundays for an old-school brunch buffet. The waiters, mostly hold-overs from the Inn's glory days, could barely contain their scorn.

    After just five months, I left, dejected. On my way out, at midnight after my last shift, I was stopped by the hotel security guard, who demanded proof that I hadn't stolen the farewell cake I had tucked in a box under my arm.

    I returned to the Inn just once, 11 years later, for a drink with an old friend in town on business. The sign out front had changed from Four Seasons Inn on the Park to Holiday Inn Don Valley--a final indignity. But it would get worse. Crossing the intersection at Leslie and Eglinton not long ago, I east a furtive glance up the hill at the old hotel. The Holiday Inn sign had been covered with a veil of white plastic. It reminded me of the way airlines dispatch teams to whitewash the company logo off crashed planes before the TV crews arrive. The ploy usually works: most people can't tell one big plane from the next. But the Inn on the Park was a different kind of bird, and its nose-dive played out in slow motion--sadly, for all to see.

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