Saturday, November 29, 2014Cloudy -5°C
City

Toronto in photos from the 1850s to the 1990s

Posted by Derek Flack / February 15, 2011

Toronto History photos 1850s 1990sAlthough anything but comprehensive, the point of the decade-by-decade historical Toronto photo posts we've run over the last few months was to offer a glimpse of the various developments and transformations of a city that's often accused of having a troubled relationship with its past.

As easy as it is to navigate from one decade to another, it thus seemed to make sense to gather some of the best images from the series into one big post that illustrates Toronto's growth over the time period in question. As far a selection criteria goes, I've been anything but scientific. Limited to photos that appeared in the original posts (with a few exceptions), I've selected three to six images from each decade that either mark the arrival of significant buildings/structures, establish what Toronto looked like in general at the time (survey style skyline shots), or that are particularly compelling on a visual level.

So that's it for these particular posts. But we'll continue to feature our Nostalgia Tripping articles and to examine Toronto's past via more specific offerings like visual histories of important intersections and buildings.

1850s

From the 1856 Armstrong, Beere and Hime panorama
2011112-panorama1856.jpg

The city in 1854
2011131-Toronto,-Canada-West-1854.jpg

House of Providence (lost to the DVP's Richmond off-ramp)
2011131-House_of_Providence_Toronto.jpg

1860s

Provincial Lunatic Asylum (999 Queen West)
2011125-Asylum_Right_Wing_Toronto.jpg

The view from St. Lawrence Market
2011125-Looking_north_from_St_Lawrence_Market_in_1860s.jpg

Toronto City Hall 1868
2011125-Toronto_City_Hall_1868.jpg

1870s

Front and Wellington streets (Coffin Block)
2011117-FrontandWellington.jpg

The Crystal Palace (lost to fire)
2011117-Crystal_Palace_1871.jpg

King and Yonge streets looking east
2011117-King_Street_at_Yonge_Street,_looking_east1870s.jpg

1880s

Grand Opera House
20111-Grand_Opera_House_on_Adelaide_Street1880s.jpg

Toronto Harbour
20111-Toronto_harbour.jpg

Horse-drawn streetcar
201111-Horse_drawn_streetcar_Toronto_1885.jpg

The Yonge Street Arcade
201111-Yonge_Street_South_Arcase_Looking_East.jpg

1890s

Old Union Station (a.k.a Union Station II)
2011128-DPC-old_union1890.jpg

Queen's Park (provincial Legislature)
2011128-DPC-QP-photo1890.jpg

Knox College
20110103-1890-Knox_College_by_Notman.jpg

Track work for electric streetcars
20110103-1892-Special_track_work_installation_for_electric_cars,_King_and_Yonge_Streets,_looking_north,_August_1892.jpg

1900s

Board of Trade Building (lost to demolition)
20101227-1900-Board_of_Trade_Building_Front_Street.jpg

Celebrating the end of the Boer War (Yonge Street)
20101227-1900-Yonge_Street_crowd_celebrating_the_end_of_the_Boer_War.jpg

The Fire of 1904
20101227-1904-FireToronto19042.jpg

Diving Horse at Hanlan's Point
20101227-1907-The_diving_horse_at_Hanlan's_Point.jpg

City Hall and Terauley Street (now Bay Street)
20101227-1907-Old_City_Hall_and_Terauley_Street.jpg

Looking West along Front Street (Old Union Station in the background)
20101227-1907-Flagpole_painter_with_view_looking_west_on_Front_Street_from_Yonge_Street.jpg

1910s

Arrival of Immigrants at (Old) Union Station
20101220-1910_Arrival_of_immigrants_at_Union_Station.jpg

Looking southeast from Richmond and Bay streets
20101220-1912-Looking_southeast_from_Richmond_and_Bay_streets.jpg

Soldiers leave for war at (Old) Union Station 1914
20101220-1914-Crowds_as_soldiers_leave_Union_Station_1914.jpg

Excavating the site for New Union Station (Queen's Hotel in the background)
20101220-1915-Excavating_new_Union_Station_site_1915.jpg

Bloor Viaduct nearing completion
20101220-1916-Bloor_Street_Viaduct,_complete_view.jpg

299 Queen Street West in 1919
20101220-1919-299_Queen_Street_West_in_1919.jpg

1920s

Muddy Mount Pleasant Road
20100822-1920-Muddy_Mount_Pleasant_Road_Toronto.jpg

Queen and Bay streets
20100822-1923_Toronto_QueenSt_and_Bay_NW.jpg

Brand new Royal York Hotel 1929
20100822-1929-Front_of_Royal_York_Hotel.jpg

TTC Bus
20100822-TTC_Bus_in_1923.jpg

Yonge and Lawrence
20100822-YongeLawrence1922.jpg

1930s

Yonge Street Mission during the Great Depression
20101022-yonge-mission-1930s.jpg

South of City Hall
20101022-bay1930s.jpg

Carlton and Yonge (prior to re-routing)
20101129-1930-CarltonViewofCollegeStreetStoreUnderConstruction.jpg

Air Ship and Canadian Bank of Commerce Building
20101129-Airship_Toronto.jpg

Canada Life Building and Osgoode Hall
20101129-Canada_Life_Building_and_Osgoode_Hall_1934.jpg

Looking up Bay Street (City Hall in background)
20101129-Looking_north_down_Bay_Street_1930.jpg

Maple Leaf Gardens 1934
20101129-MapleLeafGardens1934.jpg

1940s

Christie's Wartime ad
20101214-christies1942.jpg

Imperial Bank of Canada Building
20101214-Imperial_Bank_of_Canada_Building1945.jpg

Streetcars in front of Union Station
20101214-Street_railway_cars_in_front_of_Union_Station1943.jpg

Sunnyside Pool and Beach
20101214-Sunnyside_Pool_and_Beach1940.jpg

Wartime factory work
20101214-VeronicaFoster-RonnieBrenGunGirl-smoke1941.jpg

Subway construction begins 1949
20101214-1949_Toronto_YongeSubwayConstruction3.jpg

1950s

Subways arrive at Toronto Harbour 1953
20101121-subwaycarship1953.jpg

Dundas Station
20101121-Dundasstation1954.jpg

Interior of a subway car
20101121-Interiorsubwaycar1952.jpg

Skyine in 1959
20101121-skyline1959.jpg

1960s

Letros Building
20101121-letros1965.jpg

Bay and Wellington
20100814-baywellington.jpg

Nathan Phillips Square
20100814-cityhall19662.jpg

Steinbergs
Steinbergs

Skyline
20100815-natgeo.jpg

1970s

Approching Yonge and Bloor
20100926-70sapproachingYB.jpg

CN Tower construction
20100926-70sCN.jpg

The Gooderham/Flatiron Building
20100926-70sflatiron.jpg

Carlton Line
20100225-Carlton-line-1970s.jpg

City Hall 1973
20100225-City-Hall 1973.jpg

Toronto Star Building 1976
20100225-water-torstar1976.jpg

1980s

Skyline and bus
20100225-skyline-bus1980.jpg

The Manulife Centre
20101011-80smanulife.jpg

The Monorail (Toronto Zoo)
20101011-80smonorail.jpg

Ontario Place
20101011-80sOP.jpg

Bellair Street
20101011-1980sbellair.jpg

Exhibition Stadium
20101011-exhibition-stadium1980s.jpg

1990s

Skydome
2011114-90s_dome.jpg

Skyline
2011114-90s_skyline.jpg

Yonge and Dundas
2011114-90s-Yonge-Dundas.jpg

Chinatown
2011114-90sChinatown2.jpg

Queen West
2011114-90sQueen.jpg

The Royal York
2011114-90sroyalyork.jpg

See additional photos from each decade here:

Images up to the 1980s were sourced from the Wikimedia Commons and the Toronto Archives, with the exception of the lead image, which was originally published in Time Magazine and the skyline shot from the early 1960, which appeared in National Geographic. Credits for photos from the 1990s are as follows: billcummins, cliffordstead, Olga S, CanadaGood, nothingtoseehere, and also nothingtoseehere.

Discussion

46 Comments

Andrew / February 15, 2011 at 12:43 pm
user-pic
Some great photos!!
scoots / February 15, 2011 at 12:47 pm
user-pic
diving horse! amazing.
skeeter / February 15, 2011 at 12:49 pm
user-pic
the ttc bus driver in the b/w photo is totally reading a letter while driving.
Snowman / February 15, 2011 at 12:50 pm
user-pic
The Board of Trade building inspired an abrupt stop. What a shame to lose it. I love a modern city, but the best cities also reflect on their past. You really don't get too much of a sense of our fascinating history in day-to-day life.
Langford / February 15, 2011 at 01:15 pm
user-pic
I wonder how Toronto would look today without the fire of 1849 and 1904. Awesome photos.
Ryan / February 15, 2011 at 01:19 pm
user-pic
Those aren't PCCs in the 30's. I believe they're called Peter Witt cars.
Jonathan / February 15, 2011 at 01:25 pm
user-pic
Where did you find the first photograph with the worker on the support beam? I love that shot.
Fig / February 15, 2011 at 01:26 pm
user-pic
Great recap Derek. In the photo marked "Toronto Star Building 1976", is that the Harbour Castle Westin under construction to the left of the Star building?
Enrico Pallazzo replying to a comment from Jonathan / February 15, 2011 at 01:33 pm
user-pic
I got queasy just looking at that!
Derek replying to a comment from Ryan / February 15, 2011 at 01:41 pm
user-pic
Yup, those definitely aren't PCC cars (that was a brain cramp).
Sean / February 15, 2011 at 02:06 pm
user-pic
Is Uma Thurman a time traveler? Check out the 1940s Christie's Wartime ad, for crackers billboard above.

Look for her here in the b&w photo driving a car.
http://cinemaromantico.blogspot.com/2010_08_01_archive.html
ronnie / February 15, 2011 at 02:09 pm
user-pic
did tomms take that first photo? looks like a fisheye.
Mandy / February 15, 2011 at 06:36 pm
user-pic
I wonder if the horse drawn streetcar was faster than our current version . . .
Kevo / February 15, 2011 at 06:41 pm
user-pic
lol I love the sign in one of the last pictures that says: "Worlds biggest jean store. Jeans? Tons of Jeans".

Thanks for the photo series :)
Justin / February 15, 2011 at 08:10 pm
user-pic
Love the wartime factory chick... effortlessly iconic.
McHoser / February 15, 2011 at 08:51 pm
user-pic
Absolutely brilliant series of photos. A collection that wonderfully, through depth and view, show one of the most quickly urbanized cities in Canada.

This should be shared at schools. It is what next generation needs to see to appreciate what the future has in store.
zappa / February 15, 2011 at 10:34 pm
user-pic
I hope Mr Donut Ford look at these pictures and realize himself the size of the history is supposedly administrating.
j-rock / February 16, 2011 at 11:31 am
user-pic
I never get tired of these collections. I used to love the monorail at the zoo. I also really liked the picture of the immigrants arriving at Union Station. Sadly, many people whose ancestors arrived in the same fashion now scream the loudest about current newcomers seeking to make a better life for themselves.
d / February 16, 2011 at 01:31 pm
user-pic
these pics never get old.
get it? slow clap.
norm / February 16, 2011 at 03:16 pm
user-pic
Re: City Hall and Terauley St. (now Bay St.) Sorry Derek but Terauley St. ran E - W above Albert St. between Bay & Yonge and held Eaton's Warehouses until all demolished to make way for Eaton's Center. Thanks for this grand finale!
Derek replying to a comment from norm / February 16, 2011 at 04:22 pm
user-pic
I'd have to check an old fire atlas to be sure, but the label on this and other photographs lead me to believe that the section of what is now Bay that ran north of Queen was called Terauley.

http://bit.ly/gWOxQD
Fantomex / July 25, 2011 at 04:27 pm
user-pic
I can't ever believe that there were buses on Front from looking at that picture of the Flatiron, but there were-amazing.

Wonder if they can be brought back?
Tom / July 30, 2011 at 04:54 pm
user-pic
Amazing pictures - such a shame to see so many beautiful buildings have been demolished instead of preserved.
Brennan / August 26, 2011 at 12:57 am
user-pic
I don't know about you, but Chinatown looks exactly the same to me...even the cars. lol
Ron / December 28, 2011 at 07:21 pm
user-pic
The Steinberg's store was at the north-west corner of Bathurst and Sheppard. I used to work there after school.
Ronald / January 20, 2012 at 02:40 pm
user-pic
and life goes on.
daryl T / February 18, 2012 at 07:05 pm
user-pic
You display a drawing of "Crystal Palace" under your Toronto pictures. Crystal Palace was an Exhibition Hall In London, UK, not in Toronto.
the lemur replying to a comment from daryl T / February 18, 2012 at 08:39 pm
user-pic
Toronto had a Crystal Palace of its own, built 37 years after London's and which also burned down, 30 years before London's:

http://www.blogto.com/city/2012/01/top_10_buildings_lost_to_fire_in_toronto/

Buildings of cast iron and plate glass were quite popular in several countries during the mid to late 1800s.
the lemur replying to a comment from norm / February 18, 2012 at 08:53 pm
user-pic
Terauley was the current stretch of Bay between Queen and College. The east-west streets north of Albert there were Louisa (Hagerman St, W of Bay is the only part of that left) and Alice, just south of Wilton (now Dundas Sq).
Hamish Grant / June 21, 2012 at 12:10 pm
user-pic
omg! 4D's Diner... used to love that place, really good black bean soup there back in the day.
Jamie / July 9, 2013 at 09:56 pm
user-pic
The old Union Station looks nicer than the present one.
Arthur / September 11, 2013 at 09:02 am
user-pic
Looking at this pictures makes me sad—just imagine the sheer amount of beautiful old buildings that have been demolished. And look at the city now with all its cranes.
Claude / September 11, 2013 at 09:23 am
user-pic
Thank you! So much fun, at 83, to go through my past in pictures. I have lived here since 1957. Lots of interesting changes, and many sad losses!
Fiona Williams / September 11, 2013 at 12:32 pm
user-pic
There's a picture of the old General Accident building at 357 Bay on one of those pictures from the 1930s. I used to work there in the mid 1970s, and it hadn't changed too much. Pretty sure the old cigar store across the road was still there in the 1970s too. Great old pictures.
Michelle / September 11, 2013 at 02:45 pm
user-pic
Is there a way I can buy prints of these?
Fiona Williams replying to a comment from daryl T / September 11, 2013 at 06:46 pm
user-pic
There used to be a Crystal Palace in the CNE grounds. It burnt down in 1906, and was replaced by the Horticultural Building, which still stands to this day. It was named after the original Crystal Palace in London.
stopitman replying to a comment from Jonathan / September 11, 2013 at 07:42 pm
user-pic
@Jonathon - there are a couple of pretty crazy ones like that, like a guy climing the outside of the metal framing to light a flare to mark the topping out of the tower.

Interestingly, when the Edge Walk opened they had that guy who was sitting on the beam (I believe it was him) go out before it opened to the public. The Toronto Star had a thing on it.
stopitman replying to a comment from Michelle / September 11, 2013 at 07:44 pm
user-pic
@Michelle - if you find them on the Toronto Archives, they're usually old enough that any copyright is gone. Just make sure the size is good enough and send it off to the same place you get your digital prints done. I've done that with some archival photos and they turn out well (just make sure you crop out the white information band the archives puts at the bottom sometimes).
Oksana Gurnenko / September 14, 2013 at 11:10 pm
user-pic
Hello..I am looking for pics of 362 Bathurst Street, just North of Queen Street. It was the location of "Vilne Slovo" or "The Free Word" Ukrainian ethnic press. The building had an unusual handle on the front door and two large glass windows. Thank you.
Alex replying to a comment from daryl T / November 27, 2013 at 10:45 pm
user-pic
The Crystal Palace illustration that Derek included here was at the CNE grounds.
Alex / November 27, 2013 at 10:47 pm
user-pic
I love the photo of the factory girl blowing smoke on her brand new Bren gun.
throwback nhl jerseys / February 18, 2014 at 06:15 pm
user-pic
Keep functioning ,great job!
throwback nhl jerseys http://www.liffl.com/cms/jerseys.cfm?p=throwback-nhl-jerseys.html
Mike / February 19, 2014 at 01:47 pm
user-pic
Scrolling, scrolling, scrolling.... and Diving Horses! What the who now?
RCL / February 20, 2014 at 02:46 am
user-pic
As a complement to the "CN Tower construction" photo, please visit the ever expanding 'CN Tower construction historical project' (this links to a set of social media collages, set at 40 year intervals from their 1972 to 1976 anniversary dates):

http://www.flickr.com/photos/40744368@N04/sets/72157632200955200
Jean Weiland (nee Rigby) / April 21, 2014 at 09:12 pm
user-pic
My GRANDAUGHTER linked me to this site. Spent the last hour reading. Could add so much more. Loved growing up there. I might be the first parkdalian to respond. Free trips to Sunnyside pool. Still have things won at Sunnyside amusement. Free school tickets for children's day at the Ex. As a member of the Leslie Bell Singers, being on stage when Marilyn swam the lake, getting her car, etc. etc. the area beauty contests every spring. Miss Toronto at Woodbine race track, I walked everywhere, no funds for streetcars. Got a bike for 16th birthday and rode EVERYWHERE. getting "cracklings" from the fish and chip store in newspaper, for nothing! Roller skating at mutual arena. Dancing Saturday nights at Masonic Temple. It was a wonderful time and place to grow up.
Mona / November 11, 2014 at 11:25 pm
user-pic
I found it interesting and disturbing in the pic of the Yonge Street Mission the sign that reads "free breakfast for men". Am hoping the smaller print gives something to the women and children as well.

Add a Comment

Other Cities: Montreal