The Marine Building

In terms of financial supervision, it may not have helped that the owners, G A Stimson and Co, were based in Toronto when the Marine Building was being built in the extraordinary time of only 16 months from start to finish. The design was local, McCarter and Nairne letting their imaginations run riot on this Mayan influenced deep-sea fantasy, with seahorses, pufferfish (and the odd zeppelin for contemporary reference) in the details. But the budget was blown wide open – the cost was over $2.3 million, fifty percent over the original estimate, and if the economy was looking shaky in 1929 when building started it looked positively terrible in 1930 when it opened. So despite the lavish gala when it opened and the beautiful uniformed young women in front of the handmade solid brass elevator doors, nobody was heading upstairs.

By 1931 the owners were willing to let the building go at less than half price as a new City Hall. In 1933 it was knocked down to British Pacific Building Co for $900,000. Fred Taylor, the prime mover of the deal, moved into the penthouse at the top of the building and persuaded the Guinness family to back the investment. Taylor didn’t live there much as the elevators closed in the evening, stranding Taylor and his wife on the 19th floor. In the 1940s it became another office space in a consistently popular building for tenants, and the most significant Art Deco masterpiece in the city, and among the best in North America.

When it opened it stood alone on the escarpment, away from the city (which may have contributed to the difficult of leasing it initially). Now its surrounded on all sides by commercial towers, and an even taller one is just being built immediately behind it by Oxford Properties, who own the Marine Building today.

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Posted January 10, 2012 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

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