Then and Now #4: Mutilated in Mile End

5635 Park Avenue

When it was built in 1929, Reding Apartments was a building both beautiful and modest. Clad in greystone, its façade was embellished with playful etchings that depicted seashells, flowers and lots of swirly things. It was perfectly proportioned, a brilliant example of the solid Main Street architecture that was common on Montreal’s commercial streets in the first half of the twentieth century. Judging by the top photo, found by the brothers J.D. and Kristian Gravenor and posted on Coolopolis, Park Avenue was lined by such quietly elegant buildings.

Something went wrong after the war. The Reding Apartments’ façade was stripped and replaced with plain, ugly orange brick. All of the decoration was lost. Perhaps worst of all, new horizontal windows were installed that make the building appear squat, its ambitions crushed. The symmetry of the building’s original storefront was scrapped in favour of mismatched retail spaces topped by awful aluminum siding. The new restaurant on the right deserves credit for replacing the siding with a new stainless steel sign, but the wood terrace recently constructed out front looks like it belongs in a suburban backyard.

The buildings on either side of the Reding Apartments weren’t spared the devastation: both saw their ornamentation ripped off, presumably to give them a more “modern” appearance. The irony, of course, is that the buildings now look terribly cheap and dated. Nothing symbolizes the neglect of traditional main streets in the postwar era more than these misguided renovations.

This entry was written by Christopher DeWolf , posted on Friday April 20 2007at 12:04 am , filed under Architecture, Canada, History and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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