Although built a decade or two too late to be considered avant-garde, the former showroom, offices and warehouse of the Pease Foundry Company, completed in 1950 at 211 Laird Drive, is a stylish and increasingly rare remnant of Leaside’s once-thriving industrial era.
For the Pease Foundry Company, a manufacturer of heating and plumbing equipment, architect Earle C. Morgan blended Art Moderne with elements of the International Style. Morgan established a striking visual presence on the busy thoroughfare by wrapping a broad, curving showroom around the two principal elevations, showcasing the firm’s products behind floor-to-ceiling glass. A cantilevered concrete canopy provides sun screening and draws the eye around the corner, the cornice above further emphasizing the horizontal lines and forming a background for the freestanding metal letters. The fluid, transparent sweep of the showroom is in turn anchored by the more solid, rectilinear volumes of the office and warehouse blocks. Traditional brick and limestone exterior materials reflect the lingering conservatism of Toronto architecture at the time. Original interiors were similarly cautious, with smooth, rounded surfaces and minimal detailing rendered in pale blonde woods. The building was added to the City of Toronto’s list of heritage properties last year as part of its adaptive reuse as office and retail space.
Earle C. Morgan (1903-1972) was a quintessential gentleman architect. Educated according to a traditional curriculum at the University of Toronto, he worked with leading New York City firms for several years before returning to Toronto and opening his own office in 1934. Morgan’s early commissions were largely residences in historical styles, but following World War Two he began to tentatively explore the International Style in industrial buildings for Bromo-Selzer Ltd. (1266 Queen Street West, 1946, demolished) and Standard Chemical Co. (99 Vanderhoof Avenue, 1947, demolished). His relationship with business tycoon E.P. Taylor (Morgan was married to his sister) and their shared love of horses and horse racing led to Morgan designing numerous horse-racing tracks, stables, clubhouses and grandstands during the 1950s and 60s, including Greenwood (Old Woodbine) Racetrack, Toronto (demolished); New Woodbine Racetrack, Toronto; Fort Erie Racetrack, Fort Erie; Mohawk Racetrack, Campbellville; and Garden City Racetrack, St. Catharines. Additionally, Morgan designed buildings for Taylor’s Windfield stud farm in Toronto, his farm and stables in Maryland, USA and the National Stud Farm in Oshawa. From O’Keefe Brewing Company, one of Taylor’s many business holdings, Morgan received commissions for the firm’s offices and main retail store (250-260 Dundas Street West, 1952, demolished) and a retail store at Dundas Square (1952, demolished). He was also named the architect of record (but not of fact) for the landmark O’Keefe Centre for the Performing Arts (1 Front Street East, 1960). Morgan’s own modest residence, built in 1954, still stands at 9 Dale Avenue, Rosedale.