Almost 125 years ago, 2 Queen played a large role in defining Queen and Yonge as the famous retail junction it is today. While a modernization was always in the cards, maintaining the building’s rich history has remained priority number one. Now, after recently achieving 2 Queen’s structural topping off milestone, PCL is halfway to making it a reality.

The Philip Jamieson Clothing Company was the first owner of the monumental building, which was built in 1895. Predating the famous Eaton Centre, the clothier held on to the prime location for almost 15 years before it was taken over by S.H Knox and Company, an American five-and-dime retailer, followed by the building’s longest tenant, F.W. Woolworth.

F.W. Woolworth’s 40-year tenancy left the heritage structure with dramatic changes to its exterior. By the late ’60s, the architecture was hidden by newer cladding. Since then, the building has housed various tenants.

Cadillac Fairview appointed PCL and Zeidler Architecture to preserve the building’s history while giving it a much-needed facelift. Sure enough, the revitalization of 2 Queen proved to be full of surprises.

This complex project entails a heritage restoration of the exterior façade of the original five-storey building with a three-storey superstructure. PCL’s original intent was to salvage as much of the existing building as possible and put it back in place in-situ. This included the brick façade, wooden window frames and the building’s unique sign band. Unfortunately, the wear and tear of the last century forced the team to consider different options. 

“The building experienced many renovations that impacted the quality of the structure. When F.W. Woolsworth took over the building in 1913, the renovations were destructive to the brick,” explains Jon Ridge, superintendent at PCL Toronto. “They had sandblasted the brick, which took the glaze off and allowed for water infiltration. We were not able to salvage it for reinstallation.”

In true solution-provider fashion, PCL and partners set out to recreate the façade using the limited elements of the building that were able to be preserved. They recruited the expert help of Clifford Masonry to model replicas of the original brick down to the colour and mortar.

“Using good old-fashioned hand measuring and sketches, the drafting team spent an entire month climbing around the scaffolding on the exterior of the building to ensure all the historic details were accurately captured,” details Jon.

Similarly, the team was keen on recreating the wooden window frames to match the original design. PCL was able to preserve some of the original curved glass for reinstallation. The sign band is one of the only remaining aspects of the building that PCL was able to completely restore. To this day, it occupies its original place, still adorned with its beautiful gold gilding. 

In order to construct a new building behind the existing façade, facilitating the appropriate support structure was paramount. With an always-active intersection and a unique wood structure, completing this heritage restoration became more complicated.

Since the Queen and Yonge intersection was an obstacle, the team opted out of the usual exoskeletal framing system and instead built the structure’s support system inside. To execute that, a square hold was created in the middle of the building to construct the structural steel shoring tower that would keep the façade in place.

Eventually, the shoring tower became the preliminary basis for the new structure.

“On a project of this nature, we can only expect the unexpected. An aspect of building revitalization is expecting to encounter the unknowns of a building’s history,” says Mark Henderson, PCL Toronto’s building revitalization manager. “The most important thing is that we do our best to preserve it for our client and our city. The goal is to keep its legacy alive for generations to come.”