Toronto Fire Great 1904

The great Toronto fire of 1904

Much is made of the structures that have been lost to demolition over the years in Toronto, but poor planning and a lack of respect for historical buildings isn't the only culprit to contribute to this city's diminished heritage standing. As much as such factors may have implicitly played a role in the recent lost of the former Empress Hotel at Yonge & Gould, the vehicle of that building's destruction - namely fire - has its own history of destruction.

At 8:04 p.m. on April 19th, 1904 a police constable on patrol in downtown Toronto reported the sight of flames shooting skyward from the Currie Building, which was located at 58 Wellington (near where the current TD Centre now sits).

Spreading rapidly, by 4:00 a.m. an area of approximately 20 acres was destroyed by flames. To put that into some perspective, Ground Zero, the site of the former World Trade Centre in New York City, is about 16 acres.

It could have been much worse. Because the fire started after regular work hours, the affected area was virtually empty. In fact, though it's hard to believe, there were no fatalities associated with the blaze. It's also somewhat remarkable, given the inferno it was reported to be at its height, that the blaze didn't spread further north and and east.

Credit goes to the over 250 firefighters — some of whom travelled from Hamilton and Buffalo to help - for saving other areas along King and Yonge streets from being engulfed by the flames.

Some statistics

  • $10 million in property damages (in 1904 dollars!)
  • 5000 jobs lost
  • 20 acres destroyed
  • Over 250 firefighters fought the blaze
  • 9.5 and 11 million litres of water were used to douse the flames
  • 5 injuries (the most serious of which was a broken leg)
  • 9hrs total duration

Photos

Bay Street looking north before the fire (1903)

Toronto Fire 1904


Bay Street looking north after the fire (1904)

Toronto Fire 1904


Bay Street looking north at Wellington

Toronto Fire 1904


Bay Street looking southwest (Old Union Station in the background)

Toronto Fire 1904


The aftermath as seen from the roof of the Queen's Hotel

Toronto Fire 1904


Front and Bay streets

Toronto Fire 1904


Front looking west from near Yonge Street

Toronto Fire 1904


Location unknown

Toronto Fire 1904


The City Engineers album

Toronto Fire 1904


Additional resources

Lead photo from the Ontario Archives. All subsequent images from the Toronto Archives.


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