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Toronto Behind the Boarding: 1495 Queen West

Posted by Jonathan Castellino / November 23, 2008

1495 Queen WestTen years ago, where Dowling Avenue joins Queen St. West, a housing project built in 1920 went up in flames. Two perished in the fire, two more in its aftermath. 1495 Queen St. West has sat vacant ever since, awaiting the results of numerous battles between independent housing groups and city councils.

Given the circumstances surrounding this buildings' demise, it piqued my curiosity in a special way. It has sat unoccupied, yes, but not empty - all of the former tenants' belongings and accoutrements were left intact after the evacuation. This, coupled with the startling realization (after climbing to the top of an adjacent building to get a holistic view of the ruin) that approximately 1/8th of the 3-story structure has literally fallen into itself, made my visits inside an absolute must.

1495 Queen West

1495 Queen West
The property was finally expropriated by the city a few years back, but from what I've seen, the only 'real' work began a few weeks back with the erection of some exterior boarding, followed by a visit from a cherry picker (possibly to assess the roof-damage). The ability of a city to expropriate property is controversial to say the least, and at least one independent group (whose meeting myself and a friend attended just under a year ago) had suggested a 'use it or lose it' law, very similar to ones already in place in other cities.

1495 Queen West
One must be careful in using tragic situations such as this one as a precedent, however, as hard cases often make for bad law. The efforts of the aforementioned group did succeed in pinning ownership of over 10 derelict properties in the Sherbourne area (including that row of abandoned 'red' houses just behind the Sherbourne TTC station) to a single 'ghost company'. Since examples of such abject and large-scale neglect such as these tend to occur in Toronto's less well-to-do areas, and the fact that abandonments and crime tend to travel not too far apart, I question the lack of motivation on the part of the city to adequately and swiftly deal with this issue.
1495 Queen West
As for future plans, the property will be turned into affordable housing by the Parkdale Activity-Recreation Centre by 2010. Notices that were recently put up on the edifice state that a "4th story will be added to the existing 3", making me wonder if the damage was properly assessed before these signs were made.
1495 Queen West
Looking at a 2006 Toronto Council expropriation approval report for this building, Copper Crow Property Management Ltd. would be given $420,000 in exchange for the property as it sits (as well as $200 for the owner to merely sit-in on the meeting), but even since then, the building has become exponentially more dangerous, making it more than just a "blight on the neighbourhood", as the report put it.

1495 Queen West
A local homeless man informed me and a friend that the roof had caved in only a few days prior to my first entry. This, again, some 10 long years after the fatal fire occurred. I hope that the structure is indeed still salvageable, as it would be sad to see yet another beautiful old Toronto building suffer from demolition-by-neglect.

1495 Queen West

Below are a few more snaps from inside this beautiful ruin:



ape / November 23, 2008 at 10:27 pm
Why were the tenants contents left there??

Prior to the fire, was this a low income squat ?

Great pics!
Jonathan / November 23, 2008 at 11:19 pm
Ape: the tenants were rushed out of the scene; it was not a 'squat', but at the meeting I attended re. this place, one of the prev. tenants gave a talk, and it sounded like a hovel run by an evil landlord; they were going to re-name the 'new' development after one of the young men who died in the fire; he lived in particularly poor conditions there - the pic I have with an 'X' mark on a door (in the flickr slide-show) was of his bedroom door...the 'x' being a firefighter signifier to the police that there is a body inside : /

Robin / November 24, 2008 at 12:01 am
Awesome as always Jon
Sean / November 24, 2008 at 07:55 am
Hey... you, Jonathan Castellino.

Couldn't there be another way covering this story without you trespassing on private property?
Feldwebel Wolfenstool / November 24, 2008 at 08:21 am
Ratpick / November 24, 2008 at 09:09 am
Fabulous, Jonathan. Always wondered about that place.
grammarian / November 24, 2008 at 09:10 am
Interesting, but I can't overlook the error "peaked my curiosity" which should be "piqued my curiosity".
Jerrold / November 24, 2008 at 09:12 am
^^^Got by us. Thanks. Fixed.
steph / November 24, 2008 at 09:39 am
another great story,the rotting time capsules in the furnished rooms is super interesting.
Jonathan / November 24, 2008 at 10:37 am
Thanks guys; thank you grammarian and Jerrold for noticing/fixing my silly error respectively ; P


gegtik / November 24, 2008 at 02:41 pm

do you have anything better to do

Jonathan / November 24, 2008 at 03:18 pm
...I am somewhat surprised no one has 'questioned' the final photo in the non-flickr series; it was taken with a backlit-flash near a set of stairs where only the banister remains. Lo and behold, when I checked the shots a few days later, what looked like a disfigured body seemed to be grasping the banister, attempting to mount the stairs...one of the 4 possible ghosts? hehe...I am sure it was a coincidental casting of shadows, but it sure freaked the hell out of me at first sight.

; P

Christopher King / November 24, 2008 at 09:09 pm
Sean, gegtik:
What exactly wrong with what Jonathon does? I envy him his adventures. There was a time when I would have been doing the same thing. One of my favourite moments is the exploration of an abandoned War 0f 1812 fort that sits out in the middle of nowheresville in Rouses Point, NYS.
Think of the stories that would be lost if people just allowed their apathy and ignorance rule their lives on a daily basis and let things like this just slip away unnoticed?
They would be no better than sheep!
nick / November 9, 2012 at 06:22 pm
I have since won an extended legal battle with the owners of this company, Copper Crow Property Management Ltd, ( Rocco Cornacchia) – I proved in court that they tried to rent me an apt that they knew in advance would flood in the spring (and when it did it was a huge personal disaster for me) – I won the case and I received my payment but only after a lengthy garnishment process - he failed to attend many of his court dates so this was the only route. I would likely not have pursued this 2 year process were it not for this article and the many documents about his history and questionable M.O. made available through the City of Toronto that shed light on his dealings – THANKS BLOGTO.com you guys RULE. YES Copper Crow Property Management Ltd have been proven by my case to be not operating within the law (in my situation, not the one in this article) and while I'll leave personal comments about their integrity out of this comment, should anyone else ever need to take legal action against them (and you may), you can find me through my twitter acct @nickpagee. I will recount the details if they are helpful in your actions against this company.
Jermaine / May 29, 2013 at 09:24 am
I mean, I wasn't really" fat" anymore. It worked and I learned a lot about food in that time. A successful diet is supposed to fill her up with very few calories. The over-weight people that get surgeries for stomach-clamping, this is not the quickest strategy to 'lose weight'. So there you are, the longer the extra weight will stay off. When you hear that jelly doughnut a-calling, imagine yourself eating some other kind of food that you are stable on your leg or legs without falling.
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