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Take a tour of a city builder's favourite Toronto places

When famed B.C. architect B.C. Ron roamed Hogtown's streets

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Toronto’s Firehall No. 4, built in 1905, became the Alumnae Theatre in 1972. The classic Toronto building is one of the stops on a 1972 guide book written by British Columbia-born architect Ron Thom (1923-1986). The book features 12 illustrated walks authored by a who’s who of Toronto Modernists – Jack Diamond, Barton Myers, Macy DuBois, Eberhard Zeidler and Jerome Markson to name a few. Mr. Thom came up with the clever renovation scheme that gave the firehall new life.

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Sherbourne Street south of King is the site of B.B. Smith, an old furrier at No. 37. Today, held up by a bright yellow steel frame, the façade awaits new life as the heritage face of a condominium tower. A hole in the ground punctuated by a tall red crane suggests occupancy is a ways off; although a look in almost any direction reveals a crane or two.

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St. James Cathedral (1853) at King Street East and Church Street. Inside the various ‘porches’ are old headstones that have been mounted on the walls – St. James Park was once the church’s graveyard – Mr. Thom proclaimed them to be ‘fascinating reading.’

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Near the Gooderham and Worts’ 1861 Stone Distillery building - now at the centre of what’s known as ‘The Distillery District’and at the bottom of Berkeley Street is what Mr. Thom called a ‘fine group’ of 19th century industrial buildings, saved by Greenspoon Brothers, the wrecking company hired to demolish them in 1971. Today, this impressive complex is home to the Canadian Stage Company.

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Workers' cottages on Berkeley Street.

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Just past Little Trinity Church is ‘Toronto’s oldest school building,’ the Enoch Turner schoolhouse at 106 Trinity St. In Mr. Thom’s book, a photo shows a portion of the roofline crumbling; the Enoch Turner Schoolhouse Foundation was formed in 1971 to raise funds to restore the building, but work clearly hadn’t started by the time Mr. Thom’s book went to press. A retrospective of Ron Thom’s work is coming to Toronto’s Gardiner Museum. For more info, see gardinermuseum.on.ca/exhibitions/ron

Dave LeBlanc/The Globe and Mail

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