In the course of writing "Then and Now" for Sudbury.com since September 2020, I have featured articles about many of the city’s landmarks and how they have been thoughtlessly discarded in the name of modernity.
Many of Sudbury's heritage buildings were lost because short-sighted decision-makers had no appreciation for history. In other cases, the cost of keeping an old building in a holding pattern while a new purpose could be found became too costly to the property owners. In some municipalities, there are tax breaks for owners so that they do not turn their properties into parking lots. Not Sudbury.
But our city is not alone in throwing away its history.
A new book, 305 Lost Buildings of Canada (Goose Lane, 2022), by architecture critic Alex Bozikovic and illustrator Raymond Biesinger tells a story of “paradise” lost in major cities across the country.
The book has been extremely popular, perhaps even surprising the authors, and has received a lot of good press. A second printing has been ordered. Copies are available at GooseLane.com, on Amazon and at Chapters. It retails for $22.95.
Some of the lost buildings mentioned in the book were important architectural gems while others, such as Honest Ed’s and Sam the Record Man buildings in Toronto, are lost iconic landmarks.
The author and illustrator present their point of view in the introduction to the book. They say when heritage buildings are torn down, “we lose things along the way: traces of how we used to live, and the art and craft of previous generations … This book uncovers some of those legacies. They’re buildings from across the country that are now gone but still have something to say.”
Bozikovic and Biesinger devote several pages to lost Sudbury's buildings: Cochrane Block (1893-1974); the Nickel Range Hotel (1914-1976) and the old post office at Elm and Durham (1915-1959).
Cochrane Block was built for entrepreneur Frank Cochrane (1852-1919) on the corner of Durham and Cedar. It was designed by North Bay architects Henry and Thomas Angus.
Historian Charles Dorian wrote, “When someone remarked that his new hardware store was too big for a small town, Cochrane replied, with positive assurance, he was afraid it was too small for the big city Sudbury was going to be.”
The original Cochrane-Dunlop Hardware store grew into a small chain, although Cochrane gave up controlling interest when he entered provincial politics.
Cochrane served as mayor of the city before becoming an MPP, then later headed to Ottawa where he held prominent federal cabinet posts.
He believed Northern Ontario, or Greater Ontario as he called it, had a bright future. And like future generations of northern politicians, he fought to ensure its contributions to the country‘s wealth were not taken for granted.
Cochrane Block is lost to history, but it was replaced with the beautiful modern Scotia Building.
On Nov. 18, 1915, Cochrane, who as Nipissing MP and a federal cabinet minister, attended the opening of the Dominion Government Building (aka post office).
The impressive grey stone Romanesque Revival structure cost $125,000 to build and was topped with a tower clock imported from England.
The post office on the corner of Elm and Durham streets was designed by David Ewart, Canada's leading architect before the First World War.
Ewart was responsible for the design and construction of more than 340 federal buildings, as well as substantial renovations.
Ewart retired in 1914, making Sudbury's post office one of the last he would have overseen as chief architect.
The landmark was replaced with an impressive multi-storey office building with Woolworths on the main level in 1959. It was later torn down and is now a privately owned parking lot.
The Nickel Range Hotel, located where the Shoppers Drug Mart is today, was also designed by Angus & Angus of North Bay. The hotel was demolished in 1976.
The Angus brothers designed the Moses Block (flatiron building), and Sudbury High School around the same time.
I suspect Bozikovic and Biesinger may be planning "Lost Buildings Part Two."
The writer reviewing 305 Lost Buildings of Canada for The Globe and Mail (April 9, 2022) wrote, “You can tell as much about a city by the buildings they tear down as the ones they put up.”
I wish I would have written that.
Vicki Gilhula is a Sudbury freelance writer. Then & Now is made possible by our Community Leaders Program.