I love stories of peculiar structures that once were in vogue, housed and catered to regular human traffic, and since their virtual abandonment, lay dormant or in a state of steady decay until the wrecker’s ball finally swung one too many times and flattened the last of its superstructure, making it easier for the ground to crew to shovel, pile up, and truck away the rubbish.
Torontoist just posted a piece on the demolition of the Regal Constellation Hotel that formerly resided close to the airport, and functioned as a conference centre and 'in-place' during the 60s & 70s.
Built in 1962, it indeed has a weird Vegas quality that’s atypical for T.O., if not because its design doesn’t fit with the current banal structures in and around the GTA.
It's not exactly pretty, but there’s something fascinating about the contrast in its geometric windows with blue and red curtains, and the bleached white cement of its original tower prior to later structural additions. Can’t help thinking of James Bond (Sean Connery) riding the elevator to The Whyte House in Diamonds Are Forever (1971).
Whereas Torontoist features before / after smackdown images, Jonathan Castellino’s 2008 piece for BlogTO offers images and thoughts on the vacant structure whose parking garage was being torn to bits in small or repetitive stages.
The idea of a construction crew moving one pile of rubble back & forth until the building’s U.S. owners re-emerge from financial straits is fascinating and absurd. Can’t imagine what a day in the life of a worker would be like, not going crazy from the monotony (assuming it was literally a series of a few rubble piles being reshaped into a new sand castle day in and day out).
Castellino's Flickr gallery features an extensive series of images covering the (then) two remaining towers from various distant and close angles, and it’s a great example of how to cover urban decay – not through hastily shot blurry images or video that reek of amateurism, but artfully composed shots that convey a location’s eerie ambiance, and the alluring quality that attracts the wandering eyes of drivers, passersby, or in the photographer’s case, interest after gazing at the structure from a nearby functional hotel.
Before checking out the full gallery, read the Comments section in the BlogTO piece, some of whom add bits of ephemera (such as the contents of the penthouse level).
Google Search also reveals a few entries, plus a YouTube video, during which its creator offers a rich portrait of the building’s interior as its contents were being arranged (circa 2001) according to functional objects (a floor of light stands, chairs packed into a corner, generic rubbish), dead plants that once greened up skylit pools, and former restaurants cleared of furniture, but whose names (The Banyon Tree, Okinawa Japanese Restaurant) and seating alerts are still posted.
Perhaps the most eerie aspect is dimly lit corridors and brick-flanked escalators leading into blackness - glimpses of a structure that housed thousands during its nearly 40 year history, probably employed under a hundred at one time, and is now gone.
Mark R. Hasan, Editor
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