The February 21 front page of the Toronto Star had some arresting images of the fire that all but razed a full quarter of the 600 block of Queen West between Bathurst and Spadina this past Wednesday. I think what got me even more though, was the language in a sidebar describing the damage sustained by each affected business: from “water damage,” to “gutted,” to “collapsed”. There’s something about the word “gutted” that’s especially heartwrenching.
Made a point of passing by the scene of the fire yesterday afternoon. Four and a half days after it broke out, the flames have been extinguished and demolition has begun. The area remains blocked to traffic and yellow “Fire Line — Do Not Cross” tape still sections off a vast portion of the street. My curiosity and need to see these ruins in person turned out to be far from unique: dozens of people and their cameras took a moment this weekend to gape at what remains of the strip of Queen West framed by Pizzaiolio and Organized by Design.
Gutted really is the right word for the state of many of these structures. What’s left of them is just a shell, if that. The former buildings’ insides and outsides are spewed on the sidewalk and street in chunks and shards.
The most incongruous thing in all this mess is the presence of a small rack of relatively undisturbed clothing in what used to be the back of preloved. About ten ‘nouveau vintage’ sweaters are just hanging there in a tidy row. Lightly sprinkled with ash, perhaps; maybe a few frozen threads, but essentially fine— probably still with the price tags on. There’s something ostentatious about the intactness of the stuff. If those sweaters were people, they’d be naive, oblivious, blissfully unaware of everything that has crumbled around them.
But there’s beauty here too (well captured by the Star and countless citizen photographers). Elegant icicles hang from charred bits of structure; what used to be walls or doors and are now pieces of brick, wood and glass fall into interesting arrangements… the odd office chair is visible under the rubble, turned on its side. The scene, moved indoors, could be an installation at the Power Plant. Only it’s a lost slice of T dot (not to mention a few homes and livelihoods). It will be interesting to see what pops up in the next couple of years in this spot, and to follow the displaced businesses to their new homes.