– Mark E. Smith

(Now with UPDATE)   At the Toronto and East York Community Council meeting on 2005.07.05, city staff presented a report on rezoning the building that used to house the Toolbox (op. cit.). There’s a plan to construct four tæunhæumes with the existing preserved structure.

Now, what does this report – authored by Heather Inglis Baron, Planner, West Section – have to say about the history?

Heritage Listing

The Ayre Hotel was built in 1887 by Charles Ayre, who operated the facility as a small hotel which served the working-class neighbourhood “Riverside” (now part of Leslieville). The building is architecturally notable. It is a good example of a neighbourhood hotel that is distinguished by its pattern of brickwork, bay windows, and a corner entrance.

With the recent sale of the property at 508 Eastern Ave., and application to redevelop the site, there was community concern that the existing building (Ayre Hotel) would be demolished. Staff researched the property and determined that it merited inclusion on the City of Toronto Inventory of Heritage Properties.

Well, let’s unpack this, shall we?

  1. The recent history of the building – for 18 years, in fact – was as a gay leather bar with a hotel of sorts above. The bar was the Toolbox and the hotel was Muther’s (or the Simcoe Hotel, depending on whether you trusted the exterior sign or the marketing).
  2. Hence, “the existing building” that was subject to “recent sale” was a gay leather bar, not a hotel founded in 1887.

I thought it was a kind of genteel, but still rather pernicious, extinguising of queer history for city staff to completely erase the most recent usage of this building. Was Inglis Baron too squeamish to list the actual most-recent usage? That’s my theory. Why else did she have to reach back 118 years to avoid talking about a gay leather bar? (And keep repeating a name for the building – Ayre Hotel – that nobody has used for a century?) If the building merits historic designation, then discuss significant parts of its history, not just its formation. If you’re going to discuss a recent sale, tell us what was actually recently sold.

So I got up at the meeting and I told councillors about the true history of the building (including a mention of the hotel upstairs, “in case you wanted to have a really good time on the weekend”). I objected, in the nicest possible way, to the erasure of gay history. (I also mentioned that the hotel is three doors down from the Hell’s Angels, a salient fact curiously absent from the report.)

To her credit, Councillor Paula Fletcher moved that future reports on this property accurately describe its recent history. The motion was carried, and later I went over to thank her. (“No problem.”)

Ms Inglis Baron, you are thus on notice.


(2005.07.15)  The resolution passed by the Toronto and East York Community Council read as follows (emphasis added, copy error corrected):

The Toronto and East York Community Council:

  1. adjourned its public meeting under the Planning Act until September 19, 2005 and determined that no further notice was required;
  2. deferred consideration of the report (May 16, 2005) from the Director, Policy and Research, City Planning Division, and the communication (June 10, 2005) from the Toronto Preservation Board to the September 19, 2005 meeting of the Toronto and East York Community Council; and
  3. requested the Director, Community Planning, South District to report to the September 19, 2005 meeting of the Toronto and East York Community Council with a further report on the shadow impact, the sale of the property surrounding the residential addresses on Eastern Avenue, and the history of the site as it relates to the Toolbox.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2005.07.09 20:28. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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