Toronto Through My Lens

38 Dundas Street East

On an oddly-angled section of Dundas Street East, just east of Yonge Street, sits a heritage building which recently has become nothing more than a hole in the ground.

Many will remember this building as the old Hakim Optical store from several years ago:

Photo: Adam Wynne

In June 2023, Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU, formerly Ryerson University) announced the acquisition of two new properties, including 38-40 Dundas Street East. Prior to the sale closing, the City of Toronto deemed 38-40 Dundas Street East in a state of disrepair and required it to be demolished in order to protect public safety. The building has sat vacant since 2010 after its most recent tenant – Hakim Optical — vacated the property.

Despite its history tracing back at least 113 years, the building at 38-40 Dundas Street East lacks heritage protections, and, in its current condition, has been deemed non-salvageable.

Street Murals Found a Home

Despite the building being unsafe on the inside, the south exterior side was in good shape, providing a wide canvas for several murals over the years.

Here’s how the building appeared in October 2021:

In August 2022 we were treated to this new Made In Canada mural:

Then, in October 2022 we were greeted by Harry Styles, gazing down at us:

So Long, Harry…

And now – in June 2024 – we say goodbye to Harry and 38 Dundas Street East, as the demolition proceeds in earnest. When I passed the building last week, Harry was quickly disappearing:

A Bit of Building History

The construction date of 38-40 Dundas Street East has been identified as 1913 in several sources. However, there is the possibility that the extant building may have incorporated parts of an older structure predating the 1910s. Notably, 38-40 Dundas Street East is situated directly on the site of the former, long-time residence of Rev. Dr. Egerton Ryerson and family. Several historical resources indicate the former residence of the Ryerson family may have been heavily renovated and incorporated into the design of the existing building at 38-40 Dundas Street East instead of being outright demolished.

38-40 Dundas Street East appears to have been painted since at least the mid-1920s and it is possible the paint was obscuring details, such as evidence of an older underlying structure and/or alterations over time. Peeling paint on the rear elevation had revealed yellow brick (likely from the mid-19th century) on the lower levels with red brick (likely from the early 20th century) on the upper levels.

The property is one of two buildings sold by the City of Toronto to Metropolitan University (TMU) in 2023, along with the adjacent Toronto Public Health building at 277 Victoria Street, topped by the iconic Sam the Record Man sign:

The iconic ‘Sam the Record Man’ sign, mounted on top of 277 Victoria Street.

Reference: ACO Toronto

3 Comments

  1. Bob K

    Always sad to see an older building go, but I think thus one can be lost. What is TMU putting there?

  2. David

    I noticed it coming down the other day. Always liked it but it sure was in bad shape. It will be interesting to see what goes in there.

    • Marvin Job

      I guess it could be looked at as a “win-win”. The City has really been into unloading many of its real estate assets lately, so this was a big opportunity for them. TMU/Ryerson has been pretty vague about their plans for the space other than it “…will enhance campus entryway and support the university’s growth”. We shall have to wait and see what happens, I guess.

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