|Google street view of 15 Duncan, May 2015.|
Built in 1903, 15 Duncan was among several buildings in the neighbourhood designed by the architect William Rufus Gregg‘s firm. Its siblings include the Telfer Paper Box building across the street and the Eclipse White Wear Building at King and John. For over half a century, the premises were occupied by Canada Printing Ink, who produced ink and other supplies for the printing industry.
Sex and violence were welcomed when the Centre for Experimental Art and Communication (CEAC) moved in during the mid-’70s. The publicly-funded, artist-run organization courted controversy during its short life as a venue for experimental, often politically charged fine art, film, music, and theatre. Funding grants were cut in 1978 following media outcry when an issue of its magazine Strike appeared to support Italy’s Red Brigade revolutionaries, and the organization soon folded amid claims of being “banned in Canada.”
|Toronto Star, May 20, 1977.|
As word about Crash ‘n’ Burn spread, it attracted people more into fighting than music. Alfonso once found a man kicking a hole in the front door and asked him why he did it. “Gee, I thought this was a punk club,” the man responded. “Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do?”
During its last two weeks of operation, complaints about drunkenness and vandalism piled up. One of the building’s other main tenants was the Liberal Party of Canada, and they promptly complained to CEAC. After a show featuring the Dead Boys on August 6, 1977, Crash ‘n’ Burn passed into the realm of myth and legend. It was replaced by the Funnel experimental film theatre, which moved on after CEAC folded.
Within two years of Crash ‘n’ Burn’s demise, the only mayhem occurring at 15 Duncan was financial. The building was purchased in 1979 by Joseph Pope, whose brokerage firm, Pope & Company, specialized in unlisted, obscure stocks. When he renovated the building, along with a nearby former factory he purchased at 156 Pearl Street, Pope asked architects to transform both buildings into “dignified, comfortable buildings with an old world charm that would be a credit to the financial district of any major city of the world.” Looking at the building today, with its comforting brick appearance, it’s clear the renovators carried out Pope’s wishes.
Additional material from Treat Me Like Dirt: An Oral History of Punk in Toronto and Beyond 1977-1981 by by Liz Worth (Toronto: Bongo Beat, 2009), and the October 14, 1967, January 19, 1985, and May 22, 1993 editions of the Toronto Star.