Sure the Sagrada Familia is a pretty cool building. The pyramids of Zoser in Egypt? They’re fine too, we suppose.
But what about Honest Ed’s Department store on the corner of Bloor and Bathurst?
A Toronto landmark, of course. But a building of global significance?
It’s always been a staple of the city, and with incredible pearls of wisdom like “There’s no place like this place….any place” emblazoned on its walls, we shouldn’t be surprised that the universe has deemed it culturally significant.
But of all the buildings in all the cities in all the world – is it really up there with some of the most historically important structures of all time?
Well, according to UK newspaper, The Guardian, it most certainly is, as the store which opened in 1948 has been featured in their ‘A history of cities in 50 buildings’.
The fifty structures chosen “tell unique stories of our urban history” and include other impressive buildings like the first semi-detached house in London, the Citadel in Syria and the Floating School in Lagos.
Originally called “Honest Ed’s Bargain House”, the store opened its doors in 1948 when Ed Mirvish and wife Anne overhauled their ladieswear outlet and bought salvaged stock from a Woolworth’s department store in Hamilton.
The store introduced random bulk items, employed in store “greeters” and according to the Guardian, “made the new-world consumer dream real for Canadians, and in the process helped turn Toronto into the powerhouse of immigrant-driven commerce it became”.
So is The Guardian saying that buildings are more than the sum of their parts? There are certainly some less expected entries on the list, but Honest Ed’s, a not-very-old institution, has to be one of the strangest.
Unless we choose to look to the symbolic nature of the building beyond the bricks and mortar.
Vincent Hui, an architectural science professor at Ryerson University, has leapt to its defence after speaking to The Toronto Star about the accolade.
“It has been a landmark insofar as everything from the notable discount store model to engaging with the community,” he said of the store which was opened by Canadian businessman and son of Jewish immigrants, Ed Mirvish.
He argues that the structure symbolises a rags to riches immigrant story that is true for many Torontonians.
“All the projects on the list epitomize a key point in a city’s narrative, and I think for the city of Toronto, Honest Ed’s really does that”.
Whatever your thoughts about the honour, it’s a fitting tribute to the junk emporium, which will be closing on New Year’s Eve 2016, when Honest Ed’s turns off its 23,000 lights forever.