Runnymede Healthcare Centre starts hoarding of old building


Runnymede Healthcare Centre recently opened a new building which sets down into the community street really well, looking at he new building from the two flanking residential streets and the two commercial arterial road.

Recently hoarding has appeared along the St Johns Road face of the old building, for what reason?


The old building is due to come down some time near the end of this month. By the looks of things, some of the boards are up to protect tree trunks on the property – I believe that the site of the old building will primarily be turned into gardenspace and/or parking, so it's nice that there will be some older trees worked into the new plan.

Also, last I heard, there was going to be a second, enclosed gardenspace on site so that patients would have an outdoor area which was isolated from the public (many patients there have mental conditions which makes this a difficult problem to address). It's hoped that in the demolition of the old building, some architectural features can be salvaged and incorporated into the new garden. This includes the portico on the SW corner from an early addition to the structure, as well as the plaque on honouring the former students who died in the two world wars (before it became a hospital in the 1940s, the building was built and used as an elementary school, explaining its exterior resemblance to Runnymede P.S.).

The building never really impressed me in terms of architecture and there are several old schoolhouses which are still standing from the same period (a relevant detail because this was originally a school) and was very cramped.

But a surface parking seems unfortunate as a new "hole" in the streetscape. Buried parking would have at least allowed for continuous parkland/community space and avoided the noise issues associated with parking lots.

The old hospital building was the old Strathcona School. Designed by the Junctions most famous architects Ellis & Connery. They also designed the Annette Street Library, the Masonic temple beside it, the synagogue on Maria St., and the facade of the BMO bank building at Keele and Dundas. We recently lost the church they designed on Humberside and Indian Rd., and a house on Clendenan south of Annette. Very few Ellis & Connery buildings left. I think it would be a shame to loose another. The building could have been used in the scheme of the new hospital.

Ordinarily I'd agree with you TS – I'm usually a staunch advocate for adaptive re-use and heritage preservation. But at this point, while I'm sad to see the building go, I believe that what they're doing is for the best.

First, the new building is a purpose-built medical facility. Despite the very good work that's gone on at the Runnymede over the years (it's won several awards), they've had to be extremely creative when working with a building intended as a school, and medical care would be greatly improved if administered in a building designed for that purpose. Old rooms intended to be classrooms were converted into medical wards which sometime saw as many 10 patients in them at a time. I don't know where dining facilities in the old room were – I'm guessing they either modified some old classrooms or else re-used the school's basement cafeteria; in the new facility, the dining room appears to be elevated and graced with an incredible amount of natural light.

In fact, the design of the new building looks like it will provide a lot of natural light. For its time (1909), people said the same thing of Strathcona School, but anybody who attended school in a similar building knows that there's no comparison between that style and the big glass style of Eb Zeidler in buildings like the Eaton Centre or the SickKids atrium.

On the heritage side of things, despite the fact that they were evidently designed by different architects, Strathcona School is remarkably similar to the south end of Runnymede PS. So even if you're unimpressed with the architecture (as AR is), you can still see a very similar version of it 7 or 8 blocks south.

However, I agree entirely about James Ellis' work needing some much needed recognition. An incredible amount of development happened in the Junction between 1890 and 1910, and as such, that's when the Junction really forged its identity and got its distinctive look. Ellis designed key buildings of many types, and was thus instrumental in shaping the community. He also has some houses on the city's heritage inventory, including the Hall house on the hill across from HCI, one on the NW corner of High Park & Humberside (later a priory), and a beautiful one on the eastern portion of Woodside, on the north side. He also did the original designs of Humberside CI and Annette PS (although traces of his work on both buildings barely exist anymore). The building at Clendenan & Jennings is a particular loss, as that wasn't just any house – it was Ellis' home.

I do hope his remaining buildings are with the Junction for a long time, but in the case of Runnymede HC, the new building is something they've dreamed of for years. Hopefully they will be able to salvage some elements of the old design and incorporate them into the new building's open space. Much of the hospital's staff and patient base comes from the Junction, and I know there are people at RHC who hope the new RHC remains entwined with the community.

In terms of the new building, there's one aesthetic flaw which I find regrettable. There's a big mechanical structure on the roof, clad with grey panels. When you're on Dundas, the key street of the Junction, you see the mechanical structure looming over the streetscape in an ugly way, include over the John Lyle bank on the corner of Dundas and Runnymede.

David says that "anybody who attended school in a similar building knows that there’s no comparison between that style and the big glass style of Eb Zeidler in buildings like the Eaton Centre or the SickKids atrium."

But the new building doesn't have that dramatically larger windows comparable to Zeidler's Modern buildings, being in a kind of neo-eclectic style though they may be appropriately sized. Runnymede Public School's original wing has large windows, as does High Park Alternative School and the older Carlton Village school destined to be a police station, the three more impressive pieces of pre-Modern school architecture in this era than this one. (Interestingly enough all three have also Modern additions).

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