The Blair Flats

The first stop of the westbound Selby Avenue streetcar after emerging from the tunnel was at the corner of Selby and Western. It made that corner desirable as a business address. And there was a time in the late 19th century when prosperous people, sometimes after their children had grown, chose to live in residential hotels – the most famous of which was the Aberdeen, also at the Selby/Western intersection.

The italianate Blair Flats went up in 1887 at a cost of $300,000, about $5 million in today's money. It became a residential hotel, the Albion, in 1893. When streetcar magnate Thomas Lowry bought it in 1911, it became the Angus and kept that name till its closing in 1971.

The world changed in the meantime. The once-fashionable neighborhood developed pockets of decay; houses that had once been mansions could be had for a dollar. The Angus, once a symbol of prosperity, became a reproachful reminder of a seemingly irretrievable past. A visitor in the early 1970s would have seen a grimy hulk awaiting the wrecking ball.

But the success of W.A. Frost across the street, and the early stirrings of preservation and gentrification, brought a different destiny. The Angus reopened in 1985 as a mixed-use complex of apartments, offices, and retail and remains so today. The best place to get a sense of the original interior is in the basement, where you will find graceful brick arches and the foundation stones of Platteville limestone, St. Paul's original building material. The exterior has been beautifully restored. The Angus has done the full circle as a neighborhood symbol – first of growth, then decline, and now rebirth.