Burroughes Building

A view from the beautiful Burroughes building

At 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 Building

Although 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 Building

The 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 Building

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

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Me 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 Building

Just before our exit, we found a rather curious plaque-board which displayed a bizarre article announcing the grand opening of the Burroughes store...

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For 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.)

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