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Ode to Joy – The last Joy Gas Station restored to its former glory

August 2019

On Toronto’s waterfront, at Sir Casimir Gzowski Park on Lakeshore Blvd West, sits a small red-roofed building, done in a French château-style of architecture. This building was once one of the iconic buildings that made up the Joy Gas Station chain of service centres in the Greater Toronto Area of southern Ontario.

Designed in the 1930s for the Joy Oil Company, formerly known as the Detroit-based Sunny Service Oil Company until entering the Toronto market in 1936, the 16 miniature château buildings that were built made Joy a unique feature on the Toronto landscape and a uniquely Canadian architectural design.

Joy Gas Stations were also known for selling gas a few cents cheaper than other gas stations, due to the fact that they purchased cheaper gas from Texas and Romania. This put Joy Oil in conflict with the bigger oil companies and in court fighting lawsuits.

The Joy Oil Company disappeared from the petroleum landscape in the 1950s, but its iconic stations remained for many years afterwards; all but one eventually being demolished for re-development.

The last station, built in 1973, remained at the northwest corner of Lake Shore Boulevard and Windermere Avenue, abandoned and in disrepair, until the City of Toronto bought in and moved it across the street to Sir Casimir Gzowski Park in 2007. Over the next two years, the building across the road, and restored it to its original glory, at a cost of $400,000.

Various proposals were put forth for what to do with the restored station, including a restaurant, a tourist information kiosk, a bike repair shop or a roller blade rental store.

Unfortunately, the restored former Joy Gas Station is still vacant in 2019. The City of Toronto has declined to sink any more money into the building and other proposed uses are caught in a contractual issue with Grenadier Group, the food and beverage company that has the exclusive right to food concessions in the Western beach area.

Grenadier bargained for and received an extension on their exclusive contract in 2016 for an additional 15 years, on the condition they be allowed to fix up the castle and incorporate it into a new restaurant centre in the area, at their expense. While this was approved by the city, features that would expand the footprint of the building, like a summer patio, were disallowed.

Until these issues are resolved, or a non-restaurant option for the building is approved, the former Joy Gas Station will remain locked behind fencing to keep the building from being vandalized.

Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joy_Gas_Stations, http://www.citiesintime.ca/toronto/story/whimsical-fi, https://www.thestar.com/life/2015/03/12/even-gas-stations-in-mississauga-have-historic-value-micallef.html, https://torontosun.com/news/local-news/braun-former-gas-station-a-small-castle-but-has-big-cost

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/ode-to-joy-the-last-joy-gas-station-restored-to-its-former-glory/

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