Known for decades as the home of furniture retailer Marty Millionaire, the once bright cyan-blue painted exterior of 345 Queen Street East is no more, as a restoration project brings the four-storey Toronto building back to its architectural roots. The building's lineage traces back to 1907, when the site was purchased by John Francis Brown and a building permit for the property was granted to architect Henry Simpson on behalf of the Home Furniture Carpet Co.. The resulting brick building was designed in the style of the Chicago School of architecture and built later that year.

345 Queen East as it appeared in 1913, image retrieved from City of Toronto Archives

The structure would be expanded to the west on Queen Street between 1925 and 1926, taking over the properties at 339 and 341 Queen Street and doubling the site footprint to create the building known today. The next major development came just over five decades later when Marty Millionaire Ltd. purchased the property in 1978. The quirky furniture retailer—known for its brightly painted exterior and neon signage—would remain the building’s main tenant until the property’s 2014 sale to ‘Free the Children’, now known as WE Charity, and the subsequent 2015 announcement of a heritage restoration of the site. While plans to restore the building had already been set in motion, a December 10, 2015 decision by Toronto City Council stated an intention to designate the property on the City's Heritage Register.

345 Queen East as it appeared in early-2016, image retrieved from Google Maps

Free the Children/WE announced that the building would be reverted to its original aesthetic in a restoration effort from developer TriAxis and Kohn Partnership Architects, living on as an institutional space for The Global Learning Centre. Construction work on the former Marty Millionaire location commenced shortly after the property sale was announced, and by mid-September 2016, a scaffold was in place around the structure to support the extensive exterior work.

345 Queen East as it appeared in September 2016, image by Forum contributor skycandy

Once complete, WE Charity will use the facility as its global headquarters, as well as serving as an innovation hub where students from across the globe can be provided with the necessary tools and support needed to foster social change. 

339-345 Queen Street East viewed from the south on Parliament, image by Forum contributor skycandy

The new space for WE will include features like a Dedicated Learning Centre capable of hosting large groups of students and events; Global Classrooms that offer interactive workspaces and virtual Skype sessions; and an Incubation Hub for small start-up organizations.

339-345 Queen Street East, image by Forum contributor skycandy

You can keep track of new developments with the project, review the building's construction, and join the conversation by visiting our dedicated Forum thread, or you can leave a comment in the space provided at the bottom of this page.