Yonge St. remained closed yesterday afternoon when crews broke through the fire-destroyed building and revealed a tangled mess of wood and brick that made it clear how long it was at this location.
The local smoking institute had left space last year but given the decades it has spent at the address, it is difficult to see the building in a different context. For so long Freeman brought a touch of class to this part of the street, both before and after the seedy 1970s .
At one point the entire Freeman operation was housed in this building. Suits were cleaned and pressed in the basement and a dizzying number of sizes were cataloged on the second and third floor, where there was also a small office area at the front.
It was a return to the roots of Yonge Street, when family businesses were the backbone of what was the busiest shopping street in the city. Prior to the company’s departure last year, you could still follow the slow transformation of men’s fashion through the front display window.
When I was working in the shop during my school days, it was surrounded by and records stores used by sex shops and labyrinthine discount retailers that added the general mishmash of Lower Yonge.
At the time the showroom was decorated with plush red carpeting, tinted mirrors and gold finishing on the showcases. The front door seemed to be a gateway to another time and place. There are few shops on the strip that today offer a unique shopping experience.
Now the area looks more like a gigantic construction zone while a lot of condo towers steadily transform the streets. There is little doubt that the building would eventually have been swallowed by a development, given the proximity of Yonge and Wellesley, but it is still sad to see how this works out.
And yet there is something completely fitting to the obvious hole that it will leave on the block. For the visually-minded people it can only be a metaphor for the way the old heart of Yonge has been snatched away by the incessant wave of progress – in a positive or negative sense.