Di­a­monds are for­ever, but ad may not sur­vive an­niver­sary

Her­itage lovers bid to pre­serve 60-year-old sign How­ever, owner doesn’t see point in sav­ing mu­ral

Toronto Star - - Gta - TIM LAI STAFF RE­PORTER

There’s no bling in th­ese wed­ding rings any­more.

The paint has faded, chipped away by the el­e­ments and time. It’s a throw­back to the days when wed­ding rings cost $125 in an area where the word “dis­count” sprawls across nu­mer­ous signs.

On We­ston Rd., just north of Lawrence Ave. W., this mu­ral, or ad, for We­ston Credit Jew­ellers rests on a brick wall on the side of Chris­tine’s Fash­ions. A red “clear­ance” ban­ner from the store hangs di­ag­o­nally be­low the paint­ing that ad­ver­tises a $12 down pay­ment and weekly in­stal­ments of $2 for a “10 di­a­mond duet.”

Over­look­ing a park­ing lot, it’s a can’t-miss point when head­ing south on We­ston.

But it’s also a point of con­tention be­tween res­i­dents and busi­ness own­ers.

Just up the road from the mu­ral, Suri Wein­berg-Lin­sky, owner of Squibb’s Sta­tion­ers, has been push­ing to pro­tect the paint­ing and ap­ply a her­itage des­ig­na­tion to it.

“It’s a talk­ing point and a fea­ture to the com­mu­nity whether you’re a new­comer to the com­mu­nity or not,” said Wein­bergLin­sky, who is also the chair of the streetscape com­mit­tee for We­ston Busi­ness Im­prove­ment Area. “It’s a hap­pier at­mos­phere when there’s some­thing that looks dif­fer­ent, some­thing out of a by­gone era.” Com­mu­nity mem­bers re­mem­ber how an armed rob­bery and sub­se­quent shoot­ing of the owner of the We­ston Credit Jew­ellers in the 1980s changed the dy­namic of the neigh­bour­hood, which had seen very lit­tle crime be­fore the in­ci­dent.

About four years ago, the mu­ral was re­dis­cov­ered when the Kresge Build­ing was torn down to build the park­ing lot. Erected in the mid-1950s, the build­ing squat­ted next to the mu­ral. That shel­tered and pre­served the paint­ing, which many in the com­mu­nity be­lieve went up some­where around World War II. But with­out the build­ing, there’s been no pro­tec­tion.

“The peo­ple run­ning the busi­ness in that store have been sys­tem­at­i­cally tap­ping into the wall with nails and bolts,” said Wein­berg-Lin­sky. “You can cre­ate a mu­ral on a wall, but to find some­thing that’s so well-pre­served from 60 years ago is a trea­sure. It’s a find and it’s some­thing worth pro­tect­ing and main­tain­ing as part of the her­itage of the com­mu­nity.”

But the build­ing owner dis­agrees, say­ing no one no­tices the ag­ing mu­ral.

Tony Pri­eto, who also owns the Bud­get Shoe Ware­house across the street, has fre­quently been ap­proached to sign an agree­ment to re­store the mu­ral or sup­port hav­ing it de­clared of her­itage sta­tus. A city grant pro­gram There was a city grant pro­gram avail­able in which the city would have paid to re­store the mu­ral.

But Pri­eto, who has op­er­ated his store and lived in the area 23 years, said he doesn’t want a locked-in agree­ment that would re­strict ten­ants from putting sig­nage or ob­jects on the wall.

Wein­berg-Lin­sky says prop­erty own­ers should link his­toric legacy with healthy com­mu­nity. Mary Louise Ash­bourne, pres­i­dent of the We­ston His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety, also trea­sures the mu­ral’s sig­nif­i­cance.

“It was run as an ad but has be­come folk art,” said the 73-yearold, a life-long We­ston res­i­dent. “Ev­ery time I walk by, I re­gret that it is wash­ing away.”

PETER POWER/TORONTO STAR

This ad out of his­tory has spurred con­tro­versy on We­ston Rd. Suri Wein­berg-Lin­sky would like to see it re­main. The build­ing owner is not as at­tached to its sur­vival.

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