Toronto Lithographing Company – 461 King St. W. Photo by K Taylor.
High up on my list of favourite Toronto buildings is 461 King St. W. which sits on the south side of the street, just west of Spadina. It was built for the Toronto Lithographing Company in 1901 by architects Gouinlock and Baker.
That an industrial building could be so handsome is no surprise when you realize that George Wallace Gouinlock was the same man who gave us several of the grand and glorious buildings of the Canadian National Exhibition (C.N.E.) Grounds. Sadly, many have been demolished but some fine examples still stand including the Horticulture, Press, and Government (now Medieval Times) buildings.
But these were still just a twinkle in Gouinlock’s eye when he and his partner, Francis Baker, were hired on to build a new home for the Toronto Lithographing Company.
The Toronto Lithographing Company opened for business in 1878 and quickly became one of the largest firms in the city. Their services included lithographing, electrotyping and engraving and it seems they churned out every form of publication under the sun. They produced maps, political posters, books, postcards and pretty much anything else that could help a body generate some business.
Here is a lovely example of one of their own advertisements:
Before moving into their new digs at 461 King W., the Toronto Lithographing Company had bounced around quite a bit – first on Wellington, then York, King St. E., Jordan St. (where their building burned down) and then Bathurst and King. It was at this last location, in 1898, that the company was visited by photographers from the A. A. Gray firm and all the glamour of a lithographing business was documented:
Companies today think themselves so advanced for offering bike storage – these guys had it down pat well over a century ago.
The arrangement of old offices intrigues me – they never seem to be oriented right. But that does look like a lovely spittoon.
Lithographic artists at work.
Press operators and Typesetters.
Another fascinating office. Personally, I’d find it unnerving if someone sat just behind me. And unless the animal skin rug is covering a trap door, I don’t understand what purpose it serves there.
Three years after these photos were taken, the company moved into 461 King W. and issued a new advertisement to announce it:
In 1909, Toronto Lithographing changed its name to Stone Ltd (after its President William Stone and Vice President Frank Stone) before finally merging with another lithography company, Rolph and Clark. What effect this merger had on their business I can’t say, but it did result in their moving out of 461 King W and heading way out to the east end of the city, to Carlaw Ave.
The building sat vacant for a year, until the end of WW1, when it became an RAF repair depot. When the depot moved out, the Salada Tea Company moved in and issued this invitation to visit them for lunch sometime:
If there’s one thing I hope we can all agree on, it’s that striped awnings are always a good choice.
Happily, 461 King W. has been well cared for over the years and looks just as wonderful as the day Gouinlock and Baker took their final tour of the place and set off to dream up other great buildings. Now the home of The Firkin on King restaurant, you can even visit it whenever you like and ask vaguely amusing questions like “What the firkin is a Firkin anyway?”