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LAST UPDATE: October 1 2021
In 2013, there was an application for a 19-storey building at 26 Alexander Street. This proposal would have seen the demolition of the existing building. It is unclear if this application is still active as of 2021.
26 Alexander Street is a 2 storey house form building - potentially originally of a Georgian or Italianate style - located on the north side of Alexander Street between Church Street and Yonge Street in the Church-Wellesley Village neighbourhood of Toronto. 26 Alexander Street was constructed in 1863/1864; although has later additions and alterations, including the Tudoresque exterior cladding, interior restaurant-related modifications, the rear addition, and a reconstructed east wall.
26 Alexander Street has formerly been known as both 20 Alexander Street and 22 Alexander Street. Its present-day address has been used since 1890.
26 Alexander Street is situated on former Park Lot 8. Park Lot 8 was granted to George Playter on 4 September 1793. The Playters sold sections of the Park Lot off over time, including the southern 40 acres to John McGill - who owned neighbouring Park Lot 7 - in June 1797. In the early-to-mid 19th century, Alexander Wood (1772-1844) - a regional merchant - purchased a parcel of land that bisected sections of Park Lots 6, 7, and 8. This parcel of land - bounded by present-day Jarvis Street to the east; Maitland Street to the north; Carlton Street to the south; and Yonge Street to the west - became known as the Alexander Wood Estate / Molly's Wood. 26 Alexander Street is situated within the boundaries of the former Alexander Wood Estate / Molly's Wood.
Following the death of Alexander Wood in 1844, his lands were subdivided and sold off for redevelopment. Church Street north of Carlton Street to Bloor Street East was opened to the public in May 1847. Other neighbourhood streets - such as Alexander Strete and Wood Street, named after the eponymic Alexander Wood - appear in an 1851 subdivision plan for the Alexander Wood Estate, although were then undeveloped. By 1853-1854, Wakefield & Coate were advertising building lots on the former Alexander Wood Estate - including sites on present day Alexander Street, Church Street, Maitland Street, Wood Street, and Yonge Street – as “the best site within the City Limits for first-class residences." City of Toronto Directories indicate that by 1856, Alexander Street had 7 residences. By 1861, this number had increased to 14 residences. Constructed in 1863/1864, 26 Alexander Street is representative of the early development of Alexander Street, the Alexander Wood Estate, and the broader Church-Wellesley Village neighbourhood. 26 Alexander Street is also - at present - the oldest surviving building on Alexander Street.
26 Alexander Street appears to have originally been a detached house, but later became the westmost of a row of houses at 28-38 Alexander Street that were constructed in the 1870s. The rest of the row was demolished during the 20th century and 26 Alexander Street is once again a detached house.
26 Alexander Street is a rare surviving 19th century property within the Wood-Wellesley Redevelopment Area.
In 1910, Eaton's purchased approximately 75% of the properties in the area bounded by Alexander Street, Carlton Street, Church Street, and Yonge Street as part of their shift northwards (which saw their flagship store built at the southwest corner of College Street and Yonge Street in 1928-1930). By the Great Depression and World War 2, Eaton's was looking to offload their surplus property holdings in the area.
Subsequently, in 1952 the City of Toronto declared the Wood-Wellesley neighbourhood as a "Redevelopment Area" via Bylaw 18746. This allowed municipal authorities to expropriate properties in the area and sell them to private developers at a nominal cost in the name of tackling urban blight, urban deterioration, and slum conditions; providing increased housing opportunities; and increasing property values and tax assessments. Significant debate arose as to whether this was an inappropriate application of municipal legislation to a neighbourhood which was reportedly in good repair and upkeep, as well as in regards to the postwar business-political relations in this decision.
While this bylaw was repealed due to multi-year challenges and community opposition in 1957, much of the Wood-Wellesley area underwent drastic redevelopment in the 1950s-1970s, which saw the mass demolition of 19th and early 20th century streetscapes and the construction of numerous high-rise apartment towers - including Canada's first high-rise apartment complex at City Park Apartments.
26 Alexander Street appears to have been a hold-out property and is now one of only a few surviving properties on Alexander Street which predate World War 2.
The Alexander Street Parkette is located immediately west of 26 Alexander Street.
The first occupants of 26 Alexander Street were Thomas Roddy (c. 1829-1878) and Robert Roddy (c. 1835/1837-1885) who lived here from 1864 until 1885. Thomas and Robert Roddy were brothers and the sons of Charles Roddy and Jane Thompson. The Roddy family were a large Irish-Canadian family (Charles and Jane Roddy had 10 children).
During the 1820s, the Roddy family ran Roddy's Tavern on Church Street just south of King Street East. During the late 1820s, the tavern housed Toronto's resident circus, which was under the management of Besnard and Black. Several members of the Roddy family later entered the printing industry with their operations based on Lombard Street.
Thomas Roddy started his career as a printer, but later became a bailiff. Comparatively, Robert Roddy entered municipal service in 1852 and served as the City Clerk between 1876 and his death in 1884.
Another of the Roddy brothers - William Roddy, a printer - lived next door to the immediate west during the 1860s. To the immediate east of 26 Alexander Street was the Plymouth Brethren Meeting House. This small church (meeting house) went through several iterations of congregations during the 1860s prior to its demolition for residential development in the 1870s. Of note is that one of the Church-Wellesley Village's first Black residents - Charles Congo - lived at the rear of the church in the early-to-mid 1860s.
26 Alexander Street remained the Roddy residence until Robert Roddy's death in early 1885.
Later Occupants and Uses:
In 1885, 26 Alexander Street became home to James Murray and William L. Murray - who were hardware merchants and tinsmiths with a business (W. L. Murray) at 313 Yonge Street.
Between the late 1890s and the 1950s, 26 Alexander Street was home to several generations of the Hartwell family. During the 1930s, William Hartwell was a Department Manager at Ryrie-Birks (jewelers and silversmiths). He later operated a gift shop at 1504 Yonge Street during the 1940s.
In 1959, Carman's Steakhouse opened at 26 Alexander Street. Carman's Steakhouse was established by restaurateur Athanasios Karamanos (Arthur Carman) (c. 1926-2010). Reportedly, Karamanos faced challenges when first opening the restaurant as the building was zoned for residential use as of 1959. Carman's Steakhouse was one of several steakhouses which operated in the Church-Wellesley Village during the mid-to-late 20th century. Carman's Steakhouse had several dining rooms named after historical figures from Toronto, including the Alexander Wood Room. Carman's Steakhouse remained in operation at 26 Alexander Street until 2009. Mr. Karamanos was also a philanthropist who founded CARAVAN - a multi-cultural annual festival; and also donated the Garden of the Greek Gods at the CNE/Exhibition Place.
26 Alexander Street is presently home to La Nuit Shanghai - a French-Chinese fusion restaurant. However, the restaurant appears to be shuttered, potentially due to the COVID-19 pandemic and/or renovations.
Heritage Status and Redevelopment:
On 4 October 2011, Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam's (Toronto-Centre Ward) office submitted a "Request to Designate 26 Alexander Street under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act" to the Toronto and East York Community Council.
Subsequently, the North Downtown Yonge: Toronto Urban Design Guidelines - OPA 183 (September 2013) identify 26 Alexander Street as a Heritage Listed Property. However, there is no corresponding entry in the City of Toronto Heritage Registry. Instead, 26 Alexander Street (Etobicoke) appears in the City of Toronto Heritage Register as a Heritage Listed property. Further research is required to determine the current heritage status of 26 Alexander Street, Toronto.
Furthermore, in 2013 there was an application for a 19-storey building at 26 Alexander Street. This proposal would have seen the demolition of the existing building. It is unclear if this application is still active as of 2021.
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