ERA Architects

The Broadview Hotel’s terracotta panels have a story to tell

Much has been spoken and written of the Broadview Hotel over the past few years. Having opened last spring, the updated landmark at the corner of Queen and Broadview has already established itself as the new go-to site for entertainment in the Riverdale neighbourhood. With all the positive attention, comes increased interest in the building’s history and the stories that continue to be revealed.

One such story can be found in the features that adorn the exterior of the Richardsonian Romanesque-style architecture, the semi-circular terracotta panels that sit atop the third-floor arched windows, and those interspersed amoungst the rich surface textures of the brick enhancements, and the moulded profiles of the arches. Twenty-one modeled reliefs provide a decorative element, featuring faces and personifications that may allude to a narrative that is not understood and could be open to interpretation.

Though the artisans are not known, the reliefs were supplied by the Toronto Pressed Brick and Terracotta Company, started in 1888 and based 2 miles west of Milton, ON. The factory was situated on a slope near the Credit River, where Medina shale was available. The main product was pressed brick. Moulded and ornamental bricks, roofing tiles and terra cotta were considered a specialty. In 1906 the company was bought by Charles Lewis. He and his brothers focused on fine terra cotta works, the only large company in Canada to do so. Many office buildings and private residences were adorned with their product, such as the 1890’s Confederation Life Building, and the Gooderham Building in Toronto.

The typical production process involved taking ground shale, kneading into a soft condition and casting it in Plaster of Paris moulds made from design drawings. The Broadview Hotel reliefs however were completed only by hand and they have a variety of textures and finishes that reveal the energy of the work and the skill of the author. Finished pieces were set to dry prior to being fired in a down-draft kiln.

The reliefs have multiple personifications of the wind, sun and moon. As companion panels these are interspersed with a series of faces; a canine, a bearded man, an Indigenous man, an owl and a boar. The collective meaning of these panels is open for interpretation.

Photography courtesy of Steven Evans

A once-popular historic Mackinac Island retreat is in the process of being restored to its former glory

ERA is highly anticipating the completion of their latest project in Michigan, Silver Birches Resort. Built between 1906-1912, it is a well-loved landmark on the remote north shore of Mackinac Island. The Lodge is a rare example of a rustic log hotel and is included on the State Register of Historic Sites.

This helped spread a uniquely North American architectural vernacular that was ideally suited to rustic summer structures.

This vernacular has been embraced and highlighted. The client’s family are heavily-invested in the region and its prosperity. Possessing a deep desire to understand the property and to restore it in a way that honoured the architecture and its surrounds, they became intimately engaged with the site during the early renovations. Mackinac Island, ‘the crown jewel of Michigan’, is regaining its lustre.

The project team have spent the last four years managing the site as design lead in support of the local architecture firm and project manager, and coordinated the work of the various consultants. The scope included the complete restoration of the site’s “Yellow Cottage”, and the extension and refinishing of its “Blue Cottage”. Also included was the preservation and restoration of the lodge’s ground floor log assembly, the rebuilding of its wrap around log veranda with code-compliant replacements, and the complete re-build of the upper two storeys to match the appearance, form and materiality of the original.

The project team includes:
Scott Weir – Principal
Brendan Stewart – Associate
Sandford Riley – Project Manager
Rui Felix – Landscape Designer

Links to related articles:
https://mynorth.com/2016/08/historic-mackinac-island-lodge-silver-birches-undergoing-renovations/
https://www.freep.com/story/travel/2016/07/09/grand-hotel-resort-hotel-mackinac/86716566/
https://savingplaces.org/stories/silver-birches-polishing-a-jewel-at-michigans-mackinac-island#.WirAvbQ-dUN

Link to related blog post:
https://www.eraarch.ca/2016/mission-point-resort/