Neglect, Demolition - and Unanswered Questions

By Ben Bull
Published May 22, 2007

(this blog entry has been updated)

Memories of The Lister and the Tiv arose this weekend in Toronto. Walnut Hall, a beautiful Georgian Row House just up the road from my house, has been demolished due to neglect.

Walnut Hall (Image Credit: Flickr)
Walnut Hall (Image Credit: Flickr)

Owned - and ignored - by the RCMP for 20 years and subsequently by two Toronto developers, this downtown landmark was recently designated a heritage site in an effort to prevent its anticipated demise.

It was too little, too late.

I remember when I first discovered this little gem on a walkabout I took with my wife and kids about three months ago. Shuter street is in a pretty rough part of town - not far from what remains of Regents Park estate - and we were delighted to round the corner and find these majestic turn-of-the-century dwellings in our midst.

As we examined the intricate architectural details, so typical of any era but ours, we could almost feel the history come alive.

Local residents are questioning the curious timing of the collapse, which comes just two months after the lot was purchased by another developer:

"The place sold a couple of months ago," noted local resident Bill Colvin. "Workers were going in and out for the past several weeks."

As with the Tiv and the Lister block, it' s hard to tell if the truth will ever come out when it comes to understanding what went wrong here.

What is clear is that, apart from a modest demolition bill for the current landlord, there are unlikely to be any sanctions against the long list of delinquent owners who are ultimately to blame for this landmark's demise.

Update: The Toronto Star's architecture columnist Chris Hume (wouldn't it be wonderful to have an architecture columnist in our daily paper?) waxed indignant on the Walnut Hall scandal in today's paper. -Ed.

Ben Bull lives in downtown Toronto. He's been working on a book of short stories for about 10 years now and hopes to be finished tomorrow. He also has a movie blog.


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