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Restoring 20 Richmond Street, Toronto, Ontario

Initial plans for a localized stone repair led to the $1M restoration of an important Toronto heritage building.


Client: OPB Realty Inc. 

Our client’s challenge

The monumental brick and sandstone building at 20 Richmond Street East is an important reminder of Toronto’s late 19th century commercial boom. Constructed between 1890 and 1892 as the headquarters for the Confederation Life Insurance Company, the building reflected not only Confederation Life’s corporate stature but also Toronto’s growing status as Canada’s financial centre.

In 2005, a team of heritage specialists from WSP was engaged to conduct a thorough, hands-on review of the heritage facades to assess safety risks posed by loose/detached stone fragments. The immediate safety risks were addressed, but in early 2009, when the owners faced further repairs to the stone, they elected to implement the general restoration program. This was a monumental, year-long project with an overall cost of over $1 million.

Our approach

The scope included local masonry repairs, as well as replacing aged caulking, repainting the original wood windows, and installing new or repairing existing flashings to reduce exposure of the stone to wetting and freeze/thaw cycles.    

Throughout the project, the contractors and craftsmen were guided by the key heritage principles: repairing existing materials instead of replacement; matching repairs (colour, texture, etc.) to original material; and choosing repair products and techniques compatible with existing materials and “sympathetic” to the heritage nature of the building.


This careful and extensive rehabilitation program met the owner’s objectives by mitigating the immediate safety risks posed by the loose stone, maintaining the warm and power of the heritage façade, extending by 10-20 years the time before another major intervention will be required, and most importantly, breathing new life into one of Toronto’s historically important heritage buildings.