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Globe and Mail: Junction Destructor lives again
Dave LeBlanc | November 8, 2017

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Industrial art deco repurposed

From Issue No. 263 | November 20, 2017

The Symes at 150 Symes Rd., after renovations.

The renovated building at 150 Symes Rd. retains much of its original rough charm.

 Although 99 per cent of guests will never see it, there's a wonderful "tell" in the catering kitchen of Toronto's newest event space, the Symes, at 150 Symes Rd. in Toronto's ascending, former meat-packing district near St. Clair Avenue West and Weston Road.

There, partly obscured by gleaming stainless-steel sinks and snaking PVC pipes, stenciled directly onto the buff brick wall is: "NO FIREARMS BEYOND THIS POINT."

The Symes, you see, had an industrial – and somewhat dangerous – past. Opened in 1934, the handsome, striped, porthole-windowed building was once known as the Symes Road Destructor. Until it became simply a waste-transfer station in 1977, it destroyed garbage via intense heat. Of course, dangerous flames aside, this still raises the question: Were there so many garbage thieves in the 1930s and 40s that city workers were required to arm themselves?

The Symes Road Destructor, c. 1936.

The Symes Road Destructor, c. 1936. CITY OF TORONTO ARCHIVES 

"I have no clue," chirps Viviana Kohon, her excitement palpable. "We left it for the chefs because we thought they would get a kick out of it."

Chefs, and guests alike, will also get a kick out of the fact Ms. Kohon and her partners, Namita Tandon-Walsh and Caitie Yue, have allowed the grand, old art-deco dame to show off even more of her rough charm. The massive steel beams that hold up the roof are mottled with age; the thick, concrete columns are chipped away near their bases; in hallways and bridal ready-rooms alike, there are walls of intermittent metal strapping and pockmarked plaster.

"We're all about restoration and respecting the bones of the building," says Ms. Kohon, who once produced television shows until she began Blast Events, which organized everything from Dîner en Blanc in Niagara to hosting Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. "We tried to keep as much original as we could."

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