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Toronto of the 1990s

Posted by Derek Flack / January 14, 2011

Toronto 1990sThe Toronto of the 1990s is just distant enough to make a nostalgic exercise like this one worthwhile. I had originally planned on starting this series of photo tours of Toronto history in the 1980s and heading backwards, but after some determined searching, I was able to come up with a selection of 1990s images that give a decent representation of what the decade looked like in Toronto.

Perhaps surprisingly, photographs from the 1990s aren't the easiest to come by. One becomes accustomed to the digitization of the present day and almost forgets that something like Flickr is a relatively recent invention (2004) and that loads and loads of images shot on film still sit in boxes out there never to be scanned and uploaded online. That's a bit of a shame, but it also helps to establish just how much has changed.

For some reason, when I hear references to '90s culture, none of it seems rooted so far in the past, despite the 20 some odd years that have passed since the beginning of the decade. No doubt a function of my age -- these were my high school years -- I still have relatively crisp memories of the Jays World Series wins, U2 bringing the ZooTV tour to Maple Leaf Gardens, what Yonge and Dundas looked like before the square, watching movies at the Uptown theatre, the snowfall of 1999, and a whole host of other things.

But, as the photos below show, Toronto was a very different place in the 1990s. For the better part of the decade, the megacity didn't exist, the so-called cultural renaissance had yet to arrive, and most LCBOs and Brewers Retail locations were closed on Sundays.

Here's what it all looked like. Lead photo by billcummins (subsequent captions above each photo).


Um, is that Jack Layton? (photo by scott3eh)
Jack Layton Star Trek

Near Avenue and Davenport (photo by skaliwag66)
Toronto 1990s

Toronto Life Fashion (photo by the MagazineShop)

Now Magazine

The Skyline (photo by gaymay)
Toronto skyline 1990s


Skyline again (photo by cliffordstead)
Toronto 1990s

Honest Ed's (photo by Sgeulachdan)
Honest Ed's 1990s

El Mocambo (from Sgeulachdan)
90s El Mocambo

PCC streetcar were on the tracks until 1996 (from Sgeulachdan)

Lichtmans (from Sgeulachdan)
Toronto 1990s

MLG was still home to the Leafs (from Sgeulachdan)
Maple Leaf Gardens 1992

Kensington Market (from Sgeulachdan)
Toronto 1990s

Eaton Centre (photo by Neal1960)
Eaton Centre 1990s


New Terminal (photo by CanadaGood)
Toronto 1990s

Chinatown (from CanadaGood)
Toronto 1990s

Ditto (from CanadaGood)

Doug Gilmour (from

The winning home run (photo from the Philadelphia Inquirer)


Certainly not as dense in the core (photo by Court_Jester_Creative)

From the CN Tower (photo by anver44)
1990s Toronto

Inside Maple Leaf Gardens

Yonge and Dundas (photo by Olga S)


Pride Parade (photo by hypersapiens)


Dundas West (Photo by Travelawyer)

Queen looking east (Photo by nothingtoseehere)

Royal York (from nothingtoseehere)

Metropolitan Toronto (from the Wikimedia Commons)


Canary Restaurant (photo by collations)

Lastman wins the megacity mayoralty

Check out the rest of the series:



Peter / January 14, 2011 at 09:41 am
lol at Jack Layton! Also, I find it sad Eaton's Centre decided to remove those trees within the mall.
Jake @ SeenTV Canada / January 14, 2011 at 09:41 am
I still call it the skydome
jeebies / January 14, 2011 at 09:45 am
That Jack Layton picture is kind of sexy. I'd roleplay with that moustache.
AmH / January 14, 2011 at 09:49 am
Ha! Skaface at the ElMo!
Anthony / January 14, 2011 at 09:51 am
Wow those make me feel my age (and yes, I was at the Zoo TV MLG show). 'Nevermind' turns 20 this year. Feel old now?
skeeter / January 14, 2011 at 09:51 am
Doug Glimour? i think you mean Doug Gilmour :)
je / January 14, 2011 at 09:54 am
wonderful post, thank you.
Stra / January 14, 2011 at 10:01 am
Derek now getting all nostalgic about his teen years in the 90's... man, I'm getting old.
qwerty replying to a comment from Peter / January 14, 2011 at 10:03 am
They had to remove the trees because they weren't spending any money.
Cbab / January 14, 2011 at 10:07 am
As much as I love the photos of the city from the 1880s, these are equally poignant as they were taken JUST before I started spending increased amounts of time in the core. Chicago's: Fantastic little joint. Sad to see that strip overrun with the major fashion logos now.
Alison / January 14, 2011 at 10:29 am
For the '97 Dundas one I was like "oh haha look how old that cab is!.. oh look at that streetcar that looks the same as the ones now..."
Jason / January 14, 2011 at 10:31 am
Wow, Lichtman's books! My grandfather used to take me there (before Indigo & Chapters destroyed them).
Cynthia / January 14, 2011 at 10:44 am
What, no pic of the old Albert Britnell bookstore? In high school, I won writing prizes two years in a row and bought my prize there. I still go to the Starbucks that has since taken its place. A for Lichtman's, the last existing one was at Bayview and York Mills. I think it's a spa now.
memmmmories / January 14, 2011 at 10:57 am
Lowest of the Low + Skydiggers + fanny packs + Upper Canada Brewery golden days + Squeeze Club + Horseshoe + Morrissey + Shark Club + Swatow + Eating Counter = my 90's
AJS / January 14, 2011 at 11:07 am
Loving the brown suede vest
Gloria replying to a comment from AJS / January 14, 2011 at 11:19 am
Yes! That was going to be my comment too.
m / January 14, 2011 at 11:29 am
Now that were in the next decade, can you do a "Toronto of the 2000's"?
corinacorona / January 14, 2011 at 11:40 am
that pic of queen west pains my heart. Chicago's diner!
Anyone have any pics of what we used to call "Graffiti Alley" above the second cup at queen and john?
Torontonian replying to a comment from Cynthia / January 14, 2011 at 11:47 am
It would be interesting to see photos of the
businesses that were killed of by the big box
stores. Lichtmann's, Children's Book Store,
Uptown Nut Shop, Bassel's are suggestions
for starters.
Sean / January 14, 2011 at 11:58 am
I still call it the Skydome too.
Nick / January 14, 2011 at 12:21 pm
Jeans? Tons of jeans.
Myron / January 14, 2011 at 12:42 pm
I like the interior shot of Maple Leaf Gardens, showing the Player's cigarette banner on the scoreboard. Also, nice to see the late, lamented trolley bus. But for Carter's home run shot, you actually had to get it from the Philadelphia Inquirer??
Rob H / January 14, 2011 at 01:06 pm
I believe that picture listed as "Near Avenue and Davenport (photo by skaliwag66)" is actually the intersection of Dupont and Davenport if you want a more specific location. The Davenport Garden Centre is next to the TTC bus in the picture.
Malcolm replying to a comment from Cbab / January 14, 2011 at 01:12 pm
Seconded. You don't think of the 90s as being so long ago, but it only takes a few photos to make you realize just how much a city can change in 10-20 years.
Kate / January 14, 2011 at 01:13 pm
Woah, wait, people DON'T wear jeans now?
Marcus Camby / January 14, 2011 at 01:52 pm
No photospread of Toronto in the 90s is complete without one of Damon Stoudemire in that hideous purple <a href="";>uniform</a>

Ian / January 14, 2011 at 01:56 pm
Ska's not dead!!!
Oleg / January 14, 2011 at 02:56 pm
I can't believe how full SkyDome is in taht pic. I don't think half of the 500s seats have felt warmth since then.
paolo borsellino / January 14, 2011 at 03:51 pm
splendide foto
Lindsay / January 14, 2011 at 04:39 pm
Aw man, the sign for Chicago's gave me a major nostalgia wave.
lister / January 14, 2011 at 04:39 pm
Larry replying to a comment from Rob H / January 14, 2011 at 06:24 pm
You're right, the bus is on Dupont.
Larry replying to a comment from Alison / January 14, 2011 at 06:26 pm
And the cab is the same model as the police car in the Kensington pic - it's been a long time since cops drove Chevys here.
Dan McGrady / January 14, 2011 at 06:43 pm
Notice the cars parked horizontally on Spadina:
bob / January 14, 2011 at 07:22 pm
Eaton's!!! How tragic. (ditto for Queen W)

Now the mall is an ugly hellhole.
Andrew Jeanes / January 14, 2011 at 07:54 pm
1995 was my first summer in Toronto, 1997 my second and by May of 1998 I had moved down (semi) permanently. It feels like barely any time has passed, but so much has changed. I miss Forkchops, the Uptown, the moving sidewalk at Spadina Station, the old coal silos on Mount Pleasant near Davisville, George's Trains on Mount Pleasant, Gypsy Co-op, the old Music Gallery on Richmond...and on and on and on.
andrewS replying to a comment from Rob H / January 14, 2011 at 08:56 pm
Yeah, it is dupont and davenport (Not Ave and Dav). On Dupont looking west towards Davenport. The picture is taken in front of the very recently dead rug shop. The weird box on the garden centre house gives it away. The sign suggests that the barbershop on the corner was there at the time too, right behind the back of the trolleybus.

This series is interesting. I only came to Toronto about 5 years ago and so this sort of thing isn't really nostalgic for me; the city hasn't changed much in my time here, but it's kind of interesting to see the almost-familiar like that.
Jeremy / January 14, 2011 at 09:14 pm
Man, I didn't even know Dundas Square was that, er, yonge. I've only lived here for 4 years. I'm sort of looking forward to 10 years from now when I can look back and be nostalgic about how things were in the 00's.
Keshava / January 14, 2011 at 09:17 pm
The Yonge and Dundas (photo by Olga S) shows a few Hare Krishnas making their way across the street. You can see the shaven heads with tufts of hair at the back, and at least one woman in a sari! See? We were (and are) still kicking around from the 1960-70s! :o)
Michael / January 14, 2011 at 11:07 pm
In the 90's the party went on 24 hours a day.
Michael / January 14, 2011 at 11:07 pm
In my 90s, the party went on 24 hours a day.
henry / January 14, 2011 at 11:15 pm
I know nostalgia lovers of Toronto have strong feelings for the Rogers Centre, but from a baseball perspective it is a terrible stadium. The concrete facade is so dull and uninspiring and inside it feel cavernous, even on the odd days when the Yankees and Red Sox are in town to fill it up. It's outdated and needs a serious facelift.
Ming / January 15, 2011 at 11:12 am
Leafs sucked in the 90's, Leafs suck now
Keith / January 15, 2011 at 12:57 pm
I think this is one of the best series blogTO ever came up with. And so many possibilities to dive into a more specific topics. So I hope you find the way to continue this series!
Darcy McGee / January 15, 2011 at 11:50 pm
I'm pretty sure I was at that Skaface gig.
iSkyscraper / January 17, 2011 at 11:07 am
Ugh, Toronto's worst decade ever. Recession, Bay-Adelaide stump, amalgamation, Lastman, parking lots all over downtown instead of condos, the City That Works suddenly seeming dirty and grey, the TTC going from the best transit system in North America to something that was falling behind and costing too much, homeless and squeegee kids all over the streets. Other than some diversionary success with the Leafs and Jays it really was a bleak time for the city. It took all of the 2000's to undo the damage of the 90s (and perhaps then some, given that we just elected a very 90s mayor). A decade best forgotten.
Chris Charabaruk / January 17, 2011 at 08:28 pm
Link for Toronto of the 1900s is wrong, you're linking to the 1910s article.
Rachel / January 25, 2011 at 04:45 pm
The only thing I miss about Toronto in the 90's was the amazingly non-pretentious nightclub scene. Industry anyone?
Trent / August 9, 2012 at 04:53 am
Thank you, man! I was feeling nostalgic for my youths and started Googling 'Toronto 1990's' after watching La Femme Nikita Series, oh the TO landmark references made to look like NYC! We love you Toronto for who you really are!!!
joe blow replying to a comment from Michael / September 27, 2012 at 07:16 am
That certainly is the truth. Unfortunately, I got old, sort of.
Diane Ferguson replying to a comment from Cbab / October 6, 2012 at 07:55 am
I miss Chicago's! I was recently back in town and was looking to see if it was still there. Sad to see all the little blues joints closed. :-(
Libor / September 11, 2013 at 01:47 pm
This is funny, I am on one of the pictures taken by Olga s in Oct. 1995 on Yonge & Dundas.
Shaun / January 14, 2014 at 06:21 pm
U2 zoo tv tour actually took place at the exhibition stadium not mlg, at least the show I went to was at the former stadium.
Jay / January 14, 2014 at 06:24 pm
The other day, I noticed that the the frosted logo is still on glass on the door of that Lichtman's.
Chester Pape / January 14, 2014 at 07:33 pm
I saw Skaface a couple months ago, they play every once and a while at The Sister, still great fun...
Garden Variety / January 14, 2014 at 09:00 pm
Unlike the present day folks, the Steve Stavros owned Leafs of the Gilmour era were easy to love. As the voice of that greedy myth making operation, announcer Andy Frost is embarrassing; he's better suited to do voiceovers for crappy movie trailers than the brutally overdone public address at the ACC. Paul Morris at the Gardens sounded a bit nasally and weird, but he too was easy to love. The new Leafs culture is awful. Really, really awful and we should be ashamed of what that uniform has become.
Meh / January 14, 2014 at 09:17 pm
Have the north and south always been so divided politically? Maybe a blog post on that to expand...
Bumpy / January 14, 2014 at 11:13 pm
Too bad you didn't include the might Toronto Argonuasts who won 3 championship that decade and filled the Skydome in 1991 and was the first Champions of the '90's.
wayne / February 23, 2014 at 02:21 pm
Can anyone remember the name of a bar in downtown Toronto that had 3 levels...Each level played a different era of music? I believe it is shut down now...This is driving me nuts not being able to remember
Ari / September 1, 2014 at 01:17 pm
Wayne, I think you're talking about Whiskey Saigon, at the corner of Richmond & Duncan. The Edge broadcasted their Sunday night 80s show from that location throughout most of the 90s, with Martin Streek hosting live from the main dance floor on the third floor. They had 80s retro (lots of New Wave) on the top floor, grunge & alternative on the second, and dance/trance in he lounge on he first floor.
Gonzo / September 1, 2014 at 01:35 pm
Still miss maple leaf gardens. It could have been the Fenway park of hockey. But instead we moved to the banker filled law library.

As for joe carter, if any other team than a canadian team hit that HR, it would have gone down as the greatest modern finale to a World Series. But we all know how special that moment was. Ps Yankees suck.
Olivia B. / September 1, 2014 at 01:54 pm
Those old streetcar and buses really take me back when I lived in the junction area.
Courtney / July 23, 2015 at 11:12 pm
The only thing that hasn't changed appears to be NOW magazine
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