Now and Then: Queen and Parliament, Southwest Corner

Queen & Parliament
The southwest corner of Queen Street East and Parliament Street in 1972. (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 2032, Series 841, File 16, Item 16.)

Toronto has come a long way in the last two centuries.

From the Town of York to Drake’s 6ix, a lot has changed in the city of neighbourhoods – which is why we think it’s important to take a look every once in a while at what was, what is, and what will be. And there’s no better way to do that than by looking at the buildings, architecture, and development that has helped shape Toronto into the world-class city it is today.

So let’s get to an east-end mainstay – Queen and Parliament.

Past

Queen and Parliament
The southwest corner of Queen Street East and Parliament Street in 1972. (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 2032, Series 841, File 16, Item 16.)

This corner sold furniture for a long, long time.

In 1907, American-born John Francis Brown purchased the properties on the southwest corner of Queen and Parliament and was granted permission to build a three-storey brick store – the Home Furniture Carpet Co. Roughly 20 years later, according to Toronto’s Heritage Preservation Services, The Home Bowling Club occupied the second floor.

READ: Now and Then: King and Spadina, Northeast Corner

The big store on the corner survived a market crash and two World Wars and wasn’t sold until 1978 – six years after this archives photo. Marty Millionaire Ltd. purchased the property and continued to sell furniture, closing the bowling alley on the second floor.

Not until 2015 did the corner take a dramatic turn.

Present

Queen & Parliament
The WE Global Learning Centre in 2017. (Philip Castleton Photography)

WE Charity purchased 339 Queen St. E. in 2015 and hired Kohn Partnership Architects and k2 designworks for a dramatic restoration of the heritage property.

Its new purpose? The WE Global Learning Centre, headquarters for one of the world’s largest organizations serving youth, founded by Canadian brothers Craig and Marc Kielburger. In case the name sounds familiar: Craig was the 12-year-old who read a story in the newspaper about a murdered child labourer in Pakistan, prompting him to start the charity with his Grade 7 classmates.

The building’s stunning restoration and modernization is a credit to the architects and designers, as the 1900s structure is both recognizable and completely transformed. The interiors by k2 designworks span 45,000 sq. ft. of hyper-connected working spaces and environmentally conscious materials.

Future

Corktown is hot with developers right now.

This corner is walking distance from three pre-construction projects: 301 Queen Street East to the west (25 storeys), Parliament & Co (11 storeys) just north, and 351 Queen East (29 storeys) right on the corner. Expect pricing and details to trickle out in the next few years.

Compared to other vertical neighbourhoods in Toronto, Corktown has had a relatively dormant century. The next decade around Queen & Parliament could render it almost unrecognizable to locals — just as recently as 2015.

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