Robert Barron Building – Built in 1889 & Designed by GW Gouinlock

1908 - Robert Barron Groceries at Yonge & Charles Sts, southwest corner (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1268, Series 1317, Item 0967)
1908 – Robert Barron Groceries at Yonge & Charles Sts, southwest corner (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1268, Series 1317, Item 0967)

Did you know that Shoppers Drug Mart at 728 Yonge St was once Coles and before that, Dominion Food Market?

Barron Groceries

The building at the southwest corner of Yonge and Charles St W was built in 1889 for Scottish-born grocer, Robert Barron and designed by architect G.W. Gouinlock. At the time it was constructed, the building was worth an estimated $7,000. Mr Barron continued to purchase properties near his original building. One was the property just south at 726 Yonge St which became his fish store.

Architecture of the Robert Barron Building

1930's - Dominion Food Market at Yonge & Charles Sts, southwest corner
1930’s – Dominion Food Market at Yonge & Charles Sts, southwest corner

Some of the heritage attributes include:

  • The round-arched design together with the complex brick detailing are influenced by Romanesque Revival style architecture.
  • The cast iron columns on the storefront.
  • On the building’s northeast corner, there’s an angled edge along with an oriel window with a rounded arch opening on the second floor and a single window with a blind arch and decorative brickwork on the third floor.
  • On the third floor of the Yonge St side, there are two sets of three flat-head windows that also feature the blind arches and ornamental brickwork.
  • The building is topped with an ornate parapet.

The Stable Complex

Mr Barron also bought 81 St Nicholas St, to the rear of the grocery store. In 1911, he again hired G.W. Gouinlock to design the store’s stable complex. Classical in style, the two-storey stable building is clad with red brick and has metal, brick and stone trim. Along the top of the west facade, there’s a yellow brick diamond and cross pattern. Another architectural relic of that time is a piece of wood from the former pulley system over the hayloft door.

Mr Gouinlock was the architect behind some of the beautiful heritage buildings at the Canadian National Exhibition grounds. They include the Horticultural Building and the Ontario Government Building. He also designed the North Wing of the Legislative Building at Queen’s Park.

When Robert Barron passed away in 1912, his son George and other family members continued to operate the grocery store. In the 1930s, the grocery store became a Dominion Food Market.

1973 – Coles once at 728 Yonge St (at Charles St W) - now Shoppers Drug Mart
1973 – Coles once at 728 Yonge St (at Charles St W) – now Shoppers Drug Mart

Coles Books

In 1947, Carl Cole purchased Mr Barron’s original building. Along with his brother Jack, they opened a second-hand book shop which later became Coles Books. In late 1978, the company was sold to Southam Press.

The Robert Barron Building Today

The 3-storey, red brick Robert Barron Building received heritage status from the City in 1974. Since the mid-1990s, the historic building has been home to Shopper Drug Mart.

Robert Barron Building Photos

2020 - Shoppers Drug Mart at Yonge & Charles Sts, southwest corner
2020 – Shoppers Drug Mart at Yonge & Charles Sts, southwest corner
1930's - Dominion Food Market at Yonge & Charles Sts, southwest corner
1930’s – Dominion Food Market at Yonge & Charles Sts, southwest corner
1973 - Coles Book Store at Yonge & Charles Sts, southwest corner
1973 – Coles Book Store at Yonge & Charles Sts, southwest corner
1908 - Robert Barron Groceries at Yonge & Charles Sts, southwest corner (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1268, Series 1317, Item 0967)
1908 – Robert Barron Groceries at Yonge & Charles Sts, southwest corner (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1268, Series 1317, Item 0967)
1971 - A view of the former Robert Barron Stables complex on St Nicholas St, just south of Charles St W
1971 – A view of the former Robert Barron Stables complex on St Nicholas St, just south of Charles St W
2020 - The former Robert Barron Stables complex on St Nicholas St, just south of Charles St W
2020 – The former Robert Barron Stables complex on St Nicholas St, just south of Charles St W
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