Abandoned Spaces: Whitney Block Tower

I had the opportunity through a United Way fundraiser (way cooler than a bake sale) to tour the abandoned central tower of the Whitney Block next door to my office.  According to Wikipedia, Whitney Block was built in 1926 by F.R. Heakes, and the tower was added in 1932.  Apparently the tower was designed to be in the centre of the building, with another six story wing stretching south to Grosvenor, but the depression put the kibosh on those plans.

Our tour was led by a volunteer who had been hosting these as a fundraiser for a number of years, and she was able to impart some fun facts about the tower:

  • Apparently, for reasons undetermined by anyone in our group, a freight elevator was used to shuttle livestock up to the 7th floor of the tower, where they were housed.  All jokes about politicians aside, I can’t think of what practical purpose this served.  And it couldn’t have smelled very good.  The closest guess I have is for use in a restaurant for MPP’s at the time?
  • The intricate statues that adorn the four sides of the tower represent different government ministries (lumberjack for Forestry, lawyer for Justice, doctor for Health, etc.) and all, at one time, had faced their relevant ministries.  Now not all of them match the current ministry locations.
  • The building was cooled by placing ice in an enormous wooden tub (see below) at the peak of the tower.  The cool air would then be gravity fed to the different floors.
  • The tower was last used in the late 1960s before it was deemed unsafe due to updated fire codes.  There is only a single staircase leading out of the building, and trust me, I wouldn’t want to be caught in a mad rush down them.
  • There are also apparently some ghost stories, but those bore me so I wandered off to look at the old washrooms.  Much more exciting.

Anyway, have a look at the pictures.  Sorry for the crappy quality, but I’d forgotten my normal camera and was forced to use my cell phone.  Some people on the tour had better cameras,  so I’ll add more pictures when I can get them.  Enjoy! (Click for larger images)

[UPDATED March 28, 2012: It appears that due to some changes in Picasa/Google+ the picture links all went kaput.]

Check out the album here:

Whitney Block Tower – Toronto, ON





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8 responses to “Abandoned Spaces: Whitney Block Tower”

  1. Lachlan says :

    Abandoned buildings are awesome. They’re basically movie sets waiting to happen. I know you’re just dying to dress up like a stormtrooper and play star wars in there, ben.

    • Ben says :

      You read my mind! Typically when I’m checking out an abandoned building I scope out the best place for the villan to be a) kicked off of, b) exploded off of or c) Bruce Willis to swing on a fire hose off of.

  2. 40 Year Old Atheist says :

    Such a shame for it to sit. It must be cheaper to retro-fit than build new at the same scale? I dunno.

    If I was single, I’d get a kerosene space heater and live in there. Then, I’d make spooky sounds whenever people came in the building. That’d teach ’em for invading my space.

    • pwingert says :

      There was an estimate on renovating just the tower in 2010 or something. They would lose half the floor space to new elevators and new exit stairs. As well the floors aren’t thick enough or have enough structural rebar to meet current building codes when you account for HVAC ducts, electrical, water, and life safety systems.. The total cost to renovate for 1/3 of the floor space came out at about 750 million (The other 2/3 gets eaten up with HVAC, electrical water, sewer, and structural and sprinklers). It really would be more effective to remove $750 million

  3. Alan says :

    The pictures don’t seem to work anymore. It would be nice to see them! Perhaps this can be fixed? Thanks.

  4. Mike says :

    I was just in the tower, there is an abandoned construction site office on the 8th floor now, and an abandoned lunch room on the 9th. Story goes someone saw a ladder move and everyone ran away. Don’t believe it but why else leave behind a fax machine/printer, file cabinets, tables and chairs?

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