From November 2011 through July 2012 I wrote the "Past Pieces of Toronto" column for OpenFile, which explored elements of the city which no longer exist. The following was originally posted on December 2, 2011.
The Starbucks at 675 Yonge Street isn’t your typical branch of the
corporate coffee giant. The walls are lined with sturdy old wooden
bookshelves while the floor is a checkerboard of black and white. Why
this location is not like the others is hinted at on the façade. Look up
to the second floor and you’ll notice a legendary name in Toronto
bookselling: Albert Britnell. The quality of the literature on the
shelves inside doesn’t always match the standards the Britnell family
maintained for over a century of book retailing, but it’s a nod to the
building’s past that comes in handy while waiting for a friend or first
English native Albert Britnell entered the book trade by working in
his brother John’s bookstore in London. Both brothers moved to Canada i…
From November 2011 through July 2012 I wrote the "Past Pieces of Toronto" column for OpenFile, which explored elements of the city which no longer exist. I've republished all but two of those pieces on this website.
Here's the first of the final pair, both of which provided good lessons for future writing. Prepare yourself for a lengthy preamble.
This installment of my "Ghost City" column for The Grid was originally published on January 29, 2013. The building is still boarded up as of this reprint.
The Church of Scientology’s Toronto headquarters are in the midst of an “Ideal Org” makeover—signalled, last month, by boards nailed to the Yonge Street high-rise. While it remains to be seen whether the move will fracture the controversial faith’s local followers as similar, costly refurbishings have in other cities, the plans are less than modest, indicating a colourful new façade will be placed on the almost-60-year-old office building, along with a new bookstore, café, theatre, and “testing centre” inside.
Built around 1955 in the International style of architecture, 696 Yonge’s initial tenant roster included recognizable brands like Avon cosmetics and Robin Hood flour. They were joined by an array of accounting firms, coal and mining companies, and the Belgian consulate, along with a number of construction and propert…