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Edgewater Hotel Sign Comes Down


Top: the Edgewater’s roof, as it was in 2000. Photo by Kevin Steele. Bottom: the Edgewater last week. Photo by Joel Charlebois/Torontoist.

The Edgewater Hotel sign is gone. City officials ordered that the Parkdale landmark be removed on November 3, after nearly three years of working to convince the owner of the building to which it was attached to make necessary repairs. According to a Municipal Licensing and Standards manager, the sign had finally become so derelict that city inspectors deemed it unsafe.

The neon sign, located near the intersection of King and Queen streets, at 14 Roncesvalles Avenue, had been a stalwart emblem of fading mid-century seaminess in Parkdale. The earliest locatable photograph of the sign belongs to Toronto Public Library’s picture collection, and is dated 1957.
City officials first noticed the Edgewater Hotel sign’s deterioration in May of 2006, when the owners of the building at 14 Roncesvalles Avenue applied to the city for a variance, so that they could erect a new sign on the building’s rooftop. The building was then a Days Inn (it recently became a Howard Johnson), and the new sign would have been an illuminated Days Inn sign.
During the approval process for the new rooftop sign, city staff determined that the Edgewater Hotel sign had heritage value. The variance was approved, but only on the condition that the owner of 14 Roncesvalles Avenue agree to restore and maintain the Edgewater sign. The new Days Inn sign was to have replaced the still-extant upper, triangular part of the Edgewater sign—the part that said “Hotel.” The familiar “Edgewater” portion would have remained intact.
Nearly three years later, in February 2009, no noticeable restoration work had been completed on the neon sign, and the new rooftop Days Inn sign had not been erected. City inspectors returned on February 6 and noted deficiencies in the Edgewater sign’s upkeep, including damaged supports and faded lettering. The case went before the Property Standards Committee on April 24. The Committee granted the owners—who are identified only as “1118084 Ontario Limited”—an extension on making the repairs, until September 1.
If any repairs were made, they weren’t sufficient. Shortly after the city issued its take-down order on November 3, the sign was removed—presumably by the building’s owner. Telephone messages left with the owner’s office staff went unreturned.
It’s impossible to say definitively that the owner of 14 Roncesvalles Avenue allowed the Edgewater sign to fall into disrepair deliberately in order to skirt the city’s demands that the sign be repaired and maintained, but, given so much evidence of the owner’s indifference, this is a likely explanation. Gord Perks (Ward 14, Parkdale-High Park) has been telling his constituents as much (and he said the same thing to NOW Magazine). Also, there are precedents for this tactic of strategically avoiding repair work. Toronto has a somewhat infamous history of allowing heritage buildings to be demolished by neglect.
City Council passed a bylaw, in 2007, to close the loophole that used to enable heritage property owners to refuse to repair their buildings, but the bylaw only applies to designated “heritage properties.” The building at 14 Roncesvalles Avenue isn’t designated, and so Parkdale has no recourse but to adjust to life minus a prominent marker of its past.
Huge thanks to Jane Clark for the tip, and for assistance with research.
Hat tip to Rami Tabello.


  • Rohan Jayasekera

    I’m glad the sign is gone. Keeping a sign for something that no longer exists is false and misleading.
    “Heritage value” has become an excuse for keeping things around even when getting rid of them would be an improvement. It’s not as though many people thought the sign was nice to look at. “Reactionary value” would be a better term.

  • http://undefined Nolan

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with preserving vintage signs. They’re beautiful, and have a handmade charm that newer signs lack.
    Sad to see this one go, I had always admired it. Thanks for the article!

  • http://undefined Svend

    I’m glad it’s gone. How about tearing down some of the other ugly clutter in that photo?

  • Adam Sobolak

    Well, if you want to know where the owners’ values lie, it’s in their previous decision to mummify the Edgewater’s yellow brick Moderne detail in tacky EIFS stucco.
    And Rohan (and maybe Svend too), if you think that’s an “improvement”, I pity your philistinism, “heritage” or otherwise.

  • http://undefined Green Sulfur

    Agreed. Let’s start with the billboard and then move on to the McDonald’s.

  • Rohan Jayasekera

    Agreed that the horrible stucco was a giant step backward. And down the road it too will have existed long enough that it will be designated as having “heritage value”. Unfortunately, while the ugly sign was at least able to rot from neglect, the ugly stucco likely has cockroach-like survival ability.

  • http://undefined Nolan

    I would love to see photos of the old facade. Do you have any?

  • Adam Sobolak
  • http://undefined Svend

    Do you like that massive billboard framework, Adam?
    It wasn’t there in the 70s but maybe it’s historic now.

  • Adam Sobolak

    Rohan, going back to
    “It’s not as though many people thought the sign was nice to look at.”
    look at it this way–when it comes to the bigger picture, those who do (or at least “see the potential”), matter. Because they tend, more often than not, to have an inherently creative eye, a creative sensibility–and it’s anything but “reactionary value”. Maybe you feel otherwise; that’s your problem.
    The way I picture it, the *actual* majority viewpoint re the Edgewater sign is either (a)sympathetic, (b)latently sympathetic (i.e. swayable, in an oh-wow/too-bad way, by pieces like this), or (c) harmlessly neutral/indifferent. By this measure, the actively unsympathetic is actually quite marginal, or easy to marginalize–and as for the latently unsympathetic, look: relative to a piece like this, which side’s gonna sway’em? When all is said and done, perennial-blog-commenting-type urban-teabagger grumps don’t come across as a terribly attractive party, you know…

  • Adam Sobolak

    Which side’s gonna sway’em: the Torontoist piece, or Svend? I rest my case.
    (Or at least consider that those who’d be swayed by Svend are more likely to be the jerkwater types who think Edgewater-style EIFS jobs are “urban improvements”.)

  • Thbthttt

    I feel so sorry for that abused little building. The stucco job they did a few years ago sapped it of most of its charm, and the loss of the sign took the rest. If “1118084 Ontario Limited” applies the same level of care to the inside, I can’t imagine they get very much business.
    That said, I keep my fingers crossed for a Drake/Gladstone-like overhaul. Now that would be something!
    P. S. To McDonald’s credit, they at least stayed true to the history of the corner coffee shop they displaced. I miss the Grey Coach bus stop, though.

  • http://undefined pman

    Outstanding display of overhead wires and visual clutter, even by Toronto standards.

  • http://undefined Adam Sobolak

    Admittedly, when you’re in an island of streetcar tracks and streetcar barns, you can’t avoid the visual clutter…