NEW Download a PDF about 401 Richmond created for Doors Open
In 1994, 401 Richmond was purchased by the Zeidler Family and the building underwent a transformation that restored the century-old building to it's former glory. Many of the fetaures that were discovered as part of the gradual renovation project were surprises. Most of the building suffered from some unattractive renovations that covered the original features of the building in an attempt to make it appear more like an office building. 100 year old wood floors were covered with industrial carpeting, the interior brick was covered with drywall, the corridors were long and dark, and most of the over 800 original double-hung wood and metal frame windows were sealed shut. The owners began peeling away the layers and were pleased to discover something beautiful (and quite well-preserved) underneath.
The lobby underwent a serious overhaul in 1995. The front stairwell, the old valences, carpeted flooring, and stair enclosures were removed, and in their place steel handrails and aluminum checkerplate treads were installed. In addition, the complete area was sandblasted to expose beautiful century-old brick and a Douglas Fir ceiling. On every floor walls were repainted, hallways opened up, clerestory windows built (small windows placed high on the wall allowing sunlight to come into the hallway from studio spaces), many steel doors were replaced with more individual, and often historic wood doors, and floors were refinished. An attempt has been made to create a clear sight line along every hallway, not only for safety, but to enhance a sense of "openness" in the building.
Some special discoveries were made like the original iron door that led to a one storey tin vault on the ground floor and ceilings covered with sheets of tin that were used as proofs, the pieces that were run through the lithography machines as a test before the final printing was done. In some cases, the artwork is still visible on the tin remnants.
The FOURTH FLOOR (all 30,000 square feet) was completely empty - save for rows of majestic wood columns - when the building was purchased. Studios were parceled out as tenants signed on, and extra wide halls were created to promote a feeling of spaciousness.
The original ELEVATOR was closed down in 1997, primarily because it had great difficulty reaching the fourth floor. In its place, a new passenger elevator, complete with steel and wood interior was installed. Its most remarkable feature are windows overlooking the courtyard that provide a glimpse of each floor on the way to the top.
In the COURTYARD, two small brick structures were removed (the tin vault being one of them) to provide space for an inner courtyard. Details include cedar benches, a beautiful birch tree, several flower beds, and a sandbox for the children. An open steel sprial staircase makes the courtyard accessible to tenants from all four levels.
When the restoration team removed rusted corrugated siding from the BRIDGE, a beautiful cross-hatch wood structure was revealed beneath. Painstaking work followed: glazing the existing framework, insuring that the glazing wouldn't leak, and created new hinged windows that matched the old style present elsewhere in the building. Then glass was added and the finished product presents a fantastic view to the east and west sides of the building.
The key feature of the building's design is its fenestration or grand WINDOWS. When the new owners took over the windows had been neglected for decades. A conscious decision was made to restore them, a mammoth job and major committment for our restoration team. There are two basic window types; the metal ones (in the 1923, or east portion of the building) have had opaque glass stripped out with propane torches, then were repainted and glazed. The others, made of white pine around the turn of the 20th century, involved the removal of the old glass, heat stripping to remove the putty and several layers of paint, and then replacement of broken and rotted parts (where possible the old glass was retained). Then they're primed with paint, reglazed, puttied on the outside, weather-stripped and rehung with new sash cords. This restoration project has been headed by Property Manager Mike Moody and to his knowledge, there has been little done like the work on these windows in the city of Toronto.
Last, but certainly not least, a gorgeous ROOF GARDEN was constructed on the south side of the building. This garden has become such a vast and rewarding project that it has it's very own page. You can have a look by visiting the Roof Garden.
second floor bridge "skywalk"
second floor landing with original double-hung wood windows
glass window looking into the courtyard
passenger observatory elevator
exterior courtyard staircase