Old gas station Toronto

What gas stations used to look like in Toronto

Old Toronto gas stations are my latest archival discovery. In the course of digging around for other stuff over the last little while, I've come across a number of images of these throwbacks that remind me of the aesthetic that Mad Men's creators have worked so diligently to recreate. Fascinated, they led me to do a bit more searching, through which I uncovered a host of other photographs of service stations over the years.

It's tough to pin down exactly what it is about this particular part of the urban fabric that so marks the difference between contemporary culture and that of past — but these images certainly seem to illustrate a different value system at work, if only architecturally. Although corporate giants like Esso, BP and Shell are represented here, it's interesting to note that stations themselves are anything but homogeneous. Not only that, most of them appear to be better integrated into the milieu in which they exist, rather than the beacons of branding that one finds on select street corners today.

Also interesting are the prices. Although not visible in the majority of what's below, one particular image of an Esso pump from the early 60s shows the price of gas starting as low as 42 cents a gallon. Assuming that's a Canadian rather than an American gallon, that would put the price at about 10 cents a litre.

Check out the photos, organized by decade.











All images from the Toronto Archives, series and fonds information contained at bottom.

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