May 26, 2009

Adventures in YYZ: The Flatiron

The 10th annual Doors Open Toronto ran this past weekend, but I was only able to go out on Sunday. I missed the TTC-related sites, but was able to visit the Carlu, the Flatiron and the Drake Hotel.

The Gooderham Flatiron Building

While we waited outside in line to view the interior of the Flatiron building, we were treated with a spiel by a Doors Open volunteer who provided some pretty interesting information.

George Gooderham was president of the Bank of Toronto (later known as TD Bank) and owner of Gooderham & Worts Distillery. He was the king of an empire that produced over 1/3 of all proof spirits for Canada to drink. He had money to burn - literally! It was rumoured that he would have incoming money inspected and any bills with creases, marks or other such deficiencies were burned rather than be deposited into the bank.

In 1891, Mr. Gooderham commissioned the Flatiron Building to be built as his office. It was to oversee a very busy section of town, facing the North Market (which in perpetuity has designation to be used only as a farmers market) and the city's first permanent city hall, which is now St. Lawrence Market. There, Mr. Gooderham would be able to stand at the 'helm' of the triangular building and see a city that his philanthropic family had a huge hand in building, both in business and in community.

The reason that I love to look at this building and the reason that it has its name is because it is a building built out of two walls.

Some interesting facts about the Flatiron:
- It is officially called the Gooderham Building, but known locally as the Flatiron because it is in the shape of an old-fashioned iron.
- It is the first "flatiron" shaped building to be built in a major city - it was completed 10 years before the famed Fuller Building in NYC was completed in 1902.
- The two walls are privately owned, but the west wall is owned by the City of Toronto. The original structure was created by building two walls to an existing building!
- The entire construction costs were $18,000 - a huge sum of money at the time
- The exterior is composed of pressed brick. Take a close look - the round columns are actually made from stacked brick in the shape of the letter "i" (round + rectangle)
- All of the window ledges and facade over the main entrance are hand-carved
- The building is well-preserved, with original flooring and glass (see the glass-a highly viscous liquid- flow towards the bottom of the panes)

The Gooderham Building
49 Wellington Street East, Toronto

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