The recent completion of the exterior repair and restoration of the Ryrie Building on Yonge Street in Toronto by Everest Restoration represents the first large tangible result of the City of Toronto’s Yonge Street Improvement Program to encourage the upgrade of a seedy and declining downtown section of Ontario’s longest street. Robert and Chi Cheung, the building’s owners, worked closely with Everest and with heritage architects, E.R.A . Architect Inc., to achieve a sound and economical result. Completion of the project in early December was timed to meet the opening of the first new tenant, a branch of Urban Outfitters, a trendy American clothing chain.
Built in two phases, in 1899 and 1912, by well-known architects Burke and Horwood the Ryrie Building is listed of heritage interest by the Toronto Historical Board. Heavy soot and inappropriate later alterations had long disguised the handsome design and high quality materials of this fine Victorian commercial building. Above an omate, two-storey arcade of Manitoba red sandstone, the building is constructed of finely-jointed buff and red brickwork with red terra-cotta sills and window trim, glazed decorative medallions and ornate wood windows.
The restoration work by Everest Restoration began with a chemical cleaning which revealed the rich colours of the building material, but also the extent of masonry repairs needed. The upper walls needed extensive brick replacement, but lower down the work was mainly selective repointing. The Architect and Contractor worked very closely together to limit the amount of cutting out done to avoid damaging the edges of the masonry units, with joints typically less than 1/4″ wide, while ensuring sound overall repair. Mortar colours and jointing profiles were made to match the surviving original joints. The wood windows were repaired and repainted in a terra-cotta colour, found through microscopic paint analysis to be the original colour on the older building. Damage to the sandstone at street level by later storefront alterations, required extensive patching and installation of new stones in the first six feet.
The restored building makes a strong and rich contribution to the street once more, and the efforts of the building owners have already been recognized by the City of Toronto. The change is not, however, merely decorative. The work was specified to the highest heritage standards and carried out by Everest Restoration in a skilled and careful manner to make good use of a tight budget in achieving lasting and economical repairs.
Edwin Rowse, E. R .A. Architect Inc
10 St Mary Street, Suite 801, Toronto, Ontario M4Y IP9, (416) 963-4497.