Phase 1 involved the careful removal of paint layers from the south façade to reveal and assess the condition of the cast and natural stone in order to determine the most effective restoration approach. Many techniques were tested, including various peel-and-stick paint strippers, JOS low-pressure abrasive cleaning and low-pressure water cleaning. In the summer of 2005, the front façade was fully enclosed in scaffold and the paint layers were stripped, employing techniques suited to the existing material conditions.
Care was taken to remove only the paint layers – not the soot and atmospheric soiling beneath. This revealed a mottled, blackened façade as it would have appeared earlier in the 20th century when Toronto's atmosphere was polluted by coal burning. A close inspection of this soiling revealed a series of slash marks near the entrance doors and along the street level that bear witness to the early 20th-century use of sulphur-tipped matches, struck against the rough surfaces of the building to light cigars before entering the building to conduct business.
The cast stone and natural stone had weathered differently, the former turning a warm brown and the latter a charcoal grey. The condition of the upper two floors was poor. The lower two floors were in better condition. This variety of conditions presented a number of interesting architectural conservation issues. Should replacement units be made of natural or cast stone? To what extent should patina be preserved? Is a unified appearance desirable? The completion of Phase 1 raised as many questions as it answered.