Forum member the charioteer has given us a sneak-peek into the construction process currently underway at MOD Development's Massey Tower, and we couldn't be more thrilled by what we're seeing. MOD has made the decision to place their sales centre within the historic Beaux-Arts Canadian Bank of Commerce building at 197 Yonge Street, the formerly derelict building across from the Toronto Eaton Centre.

Original woodwork doorframes looking towards exterior, image by thecharioteer

Carved woodwork with new constructionon the right, image by thechariotter

The images provide insight into the process of historic restoration, and what better style of architecture to see this worked upon than Beaux-Arts. The architectural style was popular from the latter half of the 19th century until the end of the First World War, and was a go-to style for well-known Toronto architects Darling and Pearson.

Exterior of 197 Yonge Street, image by androiduk

Beaux-Arts embraced classical proportions and features such as columns, cornices and the extensive use of marble, but added elaborate ornamentation in the form of carvings, intricate details and uncoventional materials. In its later days it became striped down and simplified — foreshadowing the rise of modernism and the 20th century focus on simplicity –—but continued to convey a sense of grandeur that we have yet to replicate.

Interior showing mosaic floor and layout, image by thecharioteer

These features are being restored by E.R.A. Architects, the same firm responsible for MOD's restoration and redevelopment of Five St. Joseph. Besides the extensive woodwork seen in the doorframes and carved pilasters, the building also contains fine examples of tesserae mosaic floors, currently covered by protective sheeting. Crown molding with dentils (or tooth-like blocks) can be seen in the rooms with relatively flat ceilings — other rooms have notable examples of double-barrel vaulting.

Pilasters with dentils above and double-barrel vaulting, image by thecharioteer

The restoration continues upstairs — windows are being re-opened, and the intricately worked railings are being restored. Here again is a great example of Beaux-Arts innovation — while classical architecture would dictate the use of balustrade railings, project architects Darling and Pearson chose a more ornamental, vine-like design, harking back to Beaux-Art's origins in the French École des Beaux-Arts.

Stairway with wood doorframes, image by thecharioteer

Stairway with original window frames and iron railings, image by thecharioteer

We're thrilled that a developer such as MOD managed to grab hold of this building, and that they've assembled a team that knows how to properly restore and reinvigorate one of the better examples of Beaux-Arts architecture we have in Toronto. Despite some reservations regarding the future use of the building as private condominium and retail, it must be realized that only through this type of large-scale private development could we expect to see such attention to detail. If you want to see more of the Massey Tower, our dataBase listing has extensive renderings — to see what forum members are saying about the project, check out the associated project thread.

Related Companies:  Cecconi Simone, ERA Architects, Hariri Pontarini Architects, Isotherm Engineering Ltd., Janet Rosenberg + Studio, MarketVision Real Estate, MOD Developments Inc., PRO-BEL, RJC Engineers, TUCKER HIRISE Construction