The Concourse Building, part of the EY Tower, is located at 100 Adelaide St W (at Sheppard St on the northwest corner) in the Financial District of downtown Toronto. While today’s Concourse Building is a replica of the 1928 structure, it features several elements from the original gem.
The 1928 Concourse Building
Henry Falk commissioned architects Baldwin and Greene to design the initial 16-storey structure. Concourse, which means “a gathering together,” was an elegant Art Deco-style office building.
J.E.H. MacDonald’s artwork depicted Canadian wildlife, and industry created the building’s decorations. This included the stunning Romanesque entryway.
Over the arched entrance is a mosaic representing the gathering of the elements, including air, earth, fire, and water. The symbolism is continued in the soffit panels and includes an airplane, ship, dove, plough with wheatsheaf, deer with birds, steam shovel and electric power. The archway also features detailed stonework.
A founding member of The Group of Seven, J.E.H. MacDonald, adorned the exterior of the building with Art Deco decorations. The building’s clean lines drew the eye upward to the gleaming parapets on the south and east sides. They were crowned with brightly hued shades of gold, scarlet, blue, green and white patterned tiles in geometric forms alongside decorative stone details. And, soaring high on the west side were two eagles and a sunburst made of glazed masonry.
The Canadian motifs were extended into the lobby. The ceilings featured beautiful murals with geese, ducks and deer.
Quotes by Canadian Poets
While businesspeople waited for an elevator in the main lobby, they could read eight quotes by eight Canadian poets inscribed into the upper portion of the marble walls. The verses were meant to relieve stress. Some of the quotes included:
Charles GD Roberts wrote, “Life is good, and love is eager. In the playground of the Sun.”
Katherine Hale wrote, “I wish that some quaint miracle Might happen even today, Whereby the universe should speak And men kneel down and pray.”
Duncan Campbell Scott wrote, “Peoples are reaped and garnered as the grain, And that alone prevails which is the truth.”
Theodore H Rand wrote, “The years are wise though the days are foolish.”
Bliss Carman wrote, “The eternal slaves of beauty Are masters of the world.”
1929 Concourse Building Newspaper Ads
“Here, at the hub of the “new skyline” zone, the CONCOURSE is close to all downtown business but dodges traffic congestion. Ultra-modern offices in luxurious surroundings. Daylight suites, 400 to 5,300 sq ft on a floor, now renting at terms representing exceptional values.”
“The austerity of eternal gray which pervades our streets is relieved in this building with a lovely warmth of gold. An office in this building will be more than an office.”
Throughout the Decades
The Concourse Building underwent renovations over the years. Pieces, including the inscribed verses in the elevator lobby, were removed, and the decorative ceilings were covered for decades. The Concourse Building received heritage status in 1973.
In the late 1990s, Oxford Properties Group purchased the heritage site. After talk of demolishing the building, much discussion and a heritage study, in 2013, the ageing Concourse Building was dismantled. J.E.H. MacDonald’s original mosaics, stonework, ceilings, patterned tiles and brick art were retained, as well as the building’s three-storey base and green spandrels.
Construction on the Concourse Building’s replica facades and the EY Tower soon began. WZMH Architects designed the tower in association with the New York City-based architectural firm of Kohn Pederson Fox. ERA Architects and GBCA Architects, heritage perseveration companies, oversaw various restoration stages.
The Rise of EY Tower
In 2017, the EY Tower (Ernst & Young), a 40-storey glass and steel structure that stands behind and over the replica facades of the Concourse Building, was completed. Also known as “facadism,” the new Concourse Building’s south and east facades were reconstructed to match Baldwin and Greene’s original design and building height; however, it has 13 floors instead of 16 to increase the floor-to-ceiling heights.
Conserved off-site, J.E.H. MacDonald’s historical elements were restored and then reassembled into the new Concourse Building. Many pieces were replaced in their original location except for the eagles and sunset brickwork and the interior ceilings. Now on the north side exterior of the EY Tower, the eagles and sunburst were relocated to the ground floor. The ceilings are on display as art installations inside the limestone-clad lobby, while one featuring ducks winging their way across the sky adorns the vestibule ceiling.
Did You Know?
In 1929, the sophisticated Concourse Building had its grand opening. That same year, the stock market crashed, and The Great Depression was soon to begin.
Facadism or facadomy is the process of preserving the façade of an older building while constructing a new building behind, above or inside it.