Monday, April 6, 2009

Down, Down, Down

There's been a burst of demolitions in Centretown lately. Some are more promising than others.

Tommy & Lefebre Fire

As mentioned in the previous post, Tommy & Lefebvre's flagship store suffered a fire last week. The North extension of the building, the part which was most damaged, was taken down. T&L have opened up a temporary location in the Glebe, in the former home of the Olympic Sport Shop, more recently known as Le Pannier.

The firewall between the sections of the building kept this fire from destroying the whole block. It's singed, but intact.

The more southerly part of the building is somewhat intact, though it's boarded up. It'll definitely need some renovations before reopening. But do you see what the demolition has revealed?

On the side of the wall are some old advertisements painted onto the brick. There are two of them: the black one that seems to read "[AU]CTION ROOMS", and it is partly painted over by a red advert for auto accessories.

This is really fascinating, because the wall tells its own history. The black ad was painted, then a building was put up next door, partially covering the black ad (you can clearly see the outline of the building, including where it juts out a bit at the top edge). Then the red ad was painted. And, probably when the T&L building was constructed, the front part of the building was sliced off, taking part of the red ad with it, and the new facade installed in its place. I guess Bank Street was widened around this time.

Congress Centre

The 20-year-old Congress Centre continues to be slowly eaten away by yellow gremlins. Here's how it looked last October:

Demolition began in the late fall and by March the front had been removed and most of the insides gutted:

By last week, they had gotten further, and the roof was coming off as well.

You can see some of the new condo buildings in the Market and Lowertown in the background, and the skate chalet in the foreground. Right at the very bottom, you can see some work the NCC is doing on the part alongside the canal. It looks like they're extending the pathway along this section. A lot of activity in one view!

150 Slater: O'Connor Smoke Shop/Café Deluxe

The quaint building containing the O'Connor Smoke Shop and Café Deluxe were demolished this past weekend. Here's a shot of the building while still in use:

And after it was vacated:

The machines made quick work of it, as they will do on the other buildings on the site, as they make way for the new 19-storey EDC building. I believe a couple buildings on Laurier were also taken down. Unfortunately, I didn't get before shots of those.

The parking lot, by the way, is closed.

Mekong Grocery:

I thought I had a shot of the former Mekong Grocery from when it was still boarded up, but I can't find any. The closest I have is a shot of it through the rubble at the Booth & Somerset building from Augsut 2007:

The reason I bring it up is that it was demolished recently. The site owners don't seem very keen on removing the rubble:

There's an old Japanese proverb, "Fall seven times, stand up eight."

In that line of thought, each of these demolition sites has a different story. The T&L owners vow to rebuild on the site where their building was taken by fire. The former Mekong site, however, looks like it will be a vacant lot for the foreseeable future (as will the Booth and Somerset building). The Congress Centre replaces one of the newest of all the buildings (though also the ugliest) with something bigger for Ottawa's business community to play in. And the O'Connor Smoke Shop, while a building of quite character and history, will allow in its passing a better use of a large lot in the central business district.


  1. I was so stunned to see the O'Connor Smoke Shop gone... glad you got a shot. I saw you going down Albert last week... but I couldn't yell across the roar of the buses to get your attention.

  2. Do you know if the Café Deluxed was the same place as the old Hobby House (corner of Slater and O'Connor)?

    You might be able to find some old Bank St pics that could show the Auction Rooms on the original building.

  3. Woodsy - maybe we'll see each other next time!

    Anonymous - I believe it was the same building. The location matches up. The Hobby House was the coolest store ever, I miss it.