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.