By Dylan Freeman- Grist
On the weekend of Jan. 17, a menswear store named Stollery’s just north of campus was demolished suddenly. Well, not completely demolished – yet – but a work crew took crowbars to the storefront, which dates back to the ’20s.
The store was the creation of Montreal defector Frank Stollery, who went off on his own in 1901 after finding himself fed up with the lack of care and quality at his old job.
When the shop opened its doors, the intersection of Yonge and Bloor was suburban, and Frank’s was the first shop to find success in the now-ritzy Yorkville.
Now to be clear, I never went into Stollery’s. It had zero impact on my life. Yet I can’t help but feel a bit sick seeing a work crew literally crowbar a piece of history onto the sidewalk below.
In a few weeks our new Student Learning Centre, the crown jewel of Sheldon Levy’s presidency, is going to open up. The great city builder that he’s known to be gets to cut one more ribbon before going off to lead a new school or to be the prime minister or wherever his path leads him.
As excited as I am to maybe have a place to study in the claustrophobic confine that is our campus, I can’t help but feel a sort of bittersweetness as our impressive new cathedral is unveiled.
When Ryerson purchased the lot that the SLC now occupies, they bought a bit of history in Sam the Record Man, a record shop with long standing ties to our neighbourhood.
The flagship store that roared to 347 Yonge in 1961 became a Toronto landmark and served as square one for almost two generations of music lovers.
When Rye bought it they promised to somehow preserve and display the iconic Sam the Record Man sign, a neon artifact that served as the trademark of Yonge Street for decades.
But alas, Ryerson managed to pull a fast one, submitting architectural plans to City Hall that would end up breaking the promise and then somehow having those plans approved.
The shit show made the news for a few days.
People got offended. Councillor Josh Matlow busted out his Sam the Record Man Shirt. It was all very emotional.
Then we all just forgot, because really at the end of the day no one gives a shit about history.
But as I watch Stollery’s slowly get grinded down to a foundation for a massive condo no one can afford, it hit me.
Maybe history is worth keeping around.
I imagined what it would be like if someone was to build million dollar condos over Pitman Hall, a place where I met some of my closest friends, or the Student Campus Centre, home of
The Eyeopener’s office, where I learned and grew with a group of writers who I’ll admire forever.
How shitty would that be? Sam the Record Man meant something to a lot of people. Stollery’s meant something to a lot of people.
So yeah, I’m going to step into our new castle and brag to no end about it to all the dweebs from my high school who went to U of T.
But maybe city building doesn’t have to mean erasing history.
After all, if we’re a generation that doesn’t give a shit about the history we inherited, who’s going to give a shit about the legacy we leave behind?