Given how quickly parts of Toronto are changing, some of our 'Throwback Thursday' features don't entail throwing it all that far back. Sometimes, just three of four years means a transformed urban environment. The northwest corner of Shuter and George streets is one such example, where the completed O2 Condos now fronts the formerly vacant corner. In November of 2013, work on the Identity Developments and Stal Inc. condo was just getting underway, with shoring rigs preparing the site for excavation.

O2 Condos, Toronto, by Identity Development, Stal Inc. O2 Condos site in November 2013, looking north, image by Craig White

Fast forward almost three-and-a-half years, and the 14-storey Page +Steele / IBI Group design stands completed. Located immediately north of Moss Park on a fairly low-rise stretch of Shuter, the building is a conspicuous presence on the street, featuring a tower volume above a three-storey brick frontage. 

O2 Condos, Toronto, by Identity Development, Stal Inc. The site in February 2017, image by Stefan Novakovic

As with sites throughout Downtown Toronto, the span of a few years brings about a major change, creating a new urban landscape that's sometimes hard to recognize.  Of course, the truth of Toronto's evolution is seldom so neat and simple as creating something from nothing. It's certainly not the case at Shuter and George, where a handsome row of four Georgian-style homes known as Walnut Hall once stood. 

Walnut Hall in 1932, image via City of Toronto ArchivesWalnut Hall in 1932, image via City of Toronto Archives

Built in 1856, the four-storey property was the city's only remaining complete row of townhouses from the mid-19th century by the time the building was demolished in 2007. Despite being recognized as a historically significant structure by both the Government of Canada and the City of Toronto, the building's unmitigated decay nonetheless meant that it was demolished for safety reasons, when falling bricks and a partial roof collapse endangered pedestrians and surrounding properties. Given the demolition happened for safety reasons, the narrative here isn't that of a misguided decision, but of the misguided century of neglect that made it necessary.

Walnut Hall in 2006, image by Kevin McBride, via Wikimedia CommonsWalnut Hall in 2006, image by Kevin McBride, via Wikimedia Commons

We will return next week with another look at the changing face of Toronto.