Sunday, October 23, 2016Clear 6°C

A view from the beautiful Burroughes building

Posted by Jonathan Castellino / March 24, 2010

Burroughes BuildingAt 639 Queen St. West sits a building which has at various times over the years amazed me, confused me, and until only very recently, been completely inaccessible to me. Most of us will remember it as King Sol, abandoned in 2002, with its newspapered windows and imposing gates, but when it was originally built in 1907, it was the F.C. Burroughes Department store.

The seven-storey building narrowly escaped a major fire a few years back, which enveloped several of its neighbours. Since then, it has thankfully seen better days, recently being fitted with new windows and innards, awaiting prospective businesses and tenants.

Our first stop was the roof, which despite its only being seven floors above the street, still offers quite an impressive view of one of Queen Street's more interesting intersections...

Beyond enjoying the building itself, the view allowed us an interesting angle on those surrounding it. At one point we were looking down onto the now closed Big Bop, and I recalled an archival photo I had seen which showed it to have been originally constructed with a far more ornate roof...

Burroughes BuildingAlthough the Burroughes department store originally specialized in furniture, we found its current interior surprisingly lacking in such items. We decided to have a bit of fun with the ultra-modern pieces we did find...

Burroughes BuildingThe sense of space stretching backward from the street-facing windows in the massive rooms was spectacular, the wood floors and unfinished brick completing the picture brilliantly...

Burroughes BuildingThe original painted sign projects itself across an entire original brick wall on the side of one the main rooms, creating a very dramatic effect...

Burroughes BuildingBurroughes BuildingBurroughes BuildingBurroughes BuildingMe and my fellow explorer share a common passion for streetcars, and so we found ourselves returning to the roof to watch them as they passed...

Burroughes BuildingJust before our exit, we found a rather curious plaque-board which displayed a bizarre article announcing the grand opening of the Burroughes store...Burroughes BuildingBurroughes BuildingBurroughes BuildingFor years I had gazed at this beautiful structure from across the street, tried its alley for access, all to no avail. I therefore found my visit inside (and on top of) the Burroughes building satisfying on two levels. On the one hand, I finally rid myself of the curiosity-itch, and on the other, was amazed at the quality of the redevelopment.

While transforming what was for years an abandoned building in rough shape, they still kept enough of the raw charm which attracts me to such urban decay. Doing this in a practical, livable manner -- while still maintaining the dignity and history of a place -- has given me a great deal of hope for proper urban redevelopment in Toronto.

While a part of me misses the graffiti-covered windows and grubby facade, I look forward to the new life for this beautiful building.

(To see the rest of the photo set, as well as high-res. versions of those above, you can see my Flickr slide-show below.)



MelS / March 24, 2010 at 09:22 am
Neil / March 24, 2010 at 10:31 am
This is an amazing set. What a find!
Matt / March 24, 2010 at 12:02 pm
I like the views, but why are the photos so heavily processed?
Jonathan / March 24, 2010 at 01:09 pm
Matt - I thought I would try something a bit more 'fun' than regular doc. style photography : )

Neil / March 24, 2010 at 01:52 pm
I personally love the post-processing you've done to these photos. It gives them a very different feel. I want to know how accessible the roof is at that building. I live down the road!
Matt / March 24, 2010 at 02:24 pm
I wasn't knocking them - just curious. I really dig the one with the blue house.
Richard Freedman / March 24, 2010 at 05:47 pm
Nice stuff; I'm in the building that's joined to that one by the walkway in the alleyway, been warned to stay off the rooftop walkway (not safe), love the renovations to this building, but a shame they're not gonna offer live/work loft space, which this city is running out of. Queen/Bathurst has been due for a major overhaul, this space is a great start (too bad the Bop's renovations will be for a Crate & Barrel store). Once the last of our beautiful old buildings are bulldozed to condos, all the artists will be forced to Lansdowne.
Adam Sobolak / March 24, 2010 at 09:35 pm
The sign was once an exterior wall, was it? (i.e. Burroughes built in two stages)
Jonathan / March 24, 2010 at 10:04 pm
Adam: You know, that puzzled the hell out of me after seeing it INSIDE the current building - my only guess is that it was expanded slightly from the vintage image shown above on the poster-board ad...

Christopher / March 24, 2010 at 10:54 pm
F*ck Jonathan, best one yet.
Dave Z / March 25, 2010 at 12:48 am
It's photograph like a pirate day.

Jonathan / March 25, 2010 at 01:06 am
Dave: haha. Actually, no dreaded HDR was used. If you can show me how to do HDR on a camera that fits in your pocket without tripod, by golly that's awesome.

As I said before, I was merely a little more playful with these shots. Instead of the usual DSLR gear, I brought my nifty little German friend to take some snaps : )

Christopher / March 25, 2010 at 10:42 am
I absolutely love this building, and cannot understand how a building suitable for a Flagship store can stand empty of either businesses or lofts.
building jobs / March 26, 2010 at 05:28 am
Great post! I was looking forward and didn’t expect to see it so soon! Again, great, sound advice. Looking forward to read more under those new tabs you added!

Other Cities: Montreal