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

What Yonge Street looked like in the 1970s

Posted by Derek Flack / August 9, 2011

Yonge Street 1970sOver the last year or so, I've posted quite a few collections of historical photos of Toronto — which is why it's so exciting to stumble upon images that I've yet to encounter in my various searches through the City's Archives. Such was the case earlier today when I was directed to the Toronto History Flickr page via a tweet from Matt Elliott. I had actually been on the the very same page the night before working on something else, but the subject of that post immediately seemed less enticing after being treated to a "fresh" batch of photos depicting old Yonge Street.

Originally used by the City of Toronto Planning and Development Department, the Flickr set spans a period between the early 1970s and 1990s, but I've highlighted only those that I've yet to post in the past. They depict a Yonge Street that's less corporate, a little seedier, and presumably more exciting than the strip that we know today.

Sam the Record Man, the former Empress Hotel, and old Dundas Square all make appearances — as do the Eaton's at College Park, the Hard Rock Cafe and some pretty slick looking automobiles. In short, this little collection represents everything I love about digging through archival photos.

PHOTOS

Yonge Street 1970s

Yonge Street 1970s

Yonge Street 1970s

Yonge Street 1970s

Yonge Street 1970s

Yonge Street 1970s

Yonge Street 1970s

Yonge Street 1970s

Yonge Street 1970s

ADDITIONAL PHOTOS / SLIDESHOW

SEE ALSO

All photos from the City of Toronto Archives

Discussion

48 Comments

raymi / August 9, 2011 at 03:50 pm
user-pic
Fabulous. Sending to my dad!
qwerty / August 9, 2011 at 03:55 pm
user-pic
One of the longest streets in the world and you manage to cover half a kilometre.
Will / August 9, 2011 at 03:59 pm
user-pic
Related: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3c2vLFJZCs
Hammer / August 9, 2011 at 04:00 pm
user-pic
qwerty, you should ask for a refund.
Lioness / August 9, 2011 at 04:03 pm
user-pic
Odd. I don't even remember the Dundas Square building although I certainly went into the Coles bookstore there. And The Pinball alley pictured was one of the best in that whole area - and there were a lot of them.
Guy / August 9, 2011 at 04:04 pm
user-pic
Did _everyone_ tuck their shirts in back then?
Ratpick replying to a comment from qwerty / August 9, 2011 at 04:05 pm
user-pic
It's the most interesting part of Yonge Street, at one of its most colourful (scuzzy) periods. I was a kid then, and I'll never forget how rock and roll this stretch of Yonge was on a Saturday night.

There's more packed into just ONE of these photos than in 20 photos of, oh I dunno, Yonge and Steeles.
hendrix / August 9, 2011 at 04:10 pm
user-pic
I didn't realize there was a building called Dundas Square.. and that Hard Rock Cafe existed back then.
Paul K S / August 9, 2011 at 04:11 pm
user-pic
OMG, yes.... I was there. First visiting, now living. I was also in the opening Fashion Shows for the Eaton Centre, where has the time gone?!
the lemur / August 9, 2011 at 04:12 pm
user-pic
The sixth photo in the slideshow was not taken in the '70s, since the red car is a 1980s Pontiac.
The Real Johnson replying to a comment from Guy / August 9, 2011 at 04:15 pm
user-pic
It used to be the law.
Paulette Frost / August 9, 2011 at 04:15 pm
user-pic
Thank you! This made my day! I'm living on the Westcoast and miss Toronto very much because that was my 'playground' growing up! Those photos just brought back so many memories!
Justin / August 9, 2011 at 04:20 pm
user-pic
3rd to last photo in slideshow:

Not enough people wear capes these days...
Derek replying to a comment from the lemur / August 9, 2011 at 04:42 pm
user-pic
There are a number of post-70s photos in the slideshow. The photos highlighted in the post, on the other hand, are all from that period.
rick mcginnis / August 9, 2011 at 04:57 pm
user-pic
Picture #5 features the Imperial Cinema(now the Canon) before its Imperial Six makeover with the big circle cut out of the entrance facade by the ticket booths - I don't have any memory of all that neon and signage. It's gaudy but fun; for some reason the minimalist makeover looked worn out really quickly, and by the '80s it looked beat.
s replying to a comment from qwerty / August 9, 2011 at 05:07 pm
user-pic
Qwerty -- are you from the 905?

because that 95% of Yonge doesnt matter.
rick mcginnis replying to a comment from Justin / August 9, 2011 at 05:07 pm
user-pic
'70s fashion was gaudy and grim at the same time - a rare accomplishment that I hope we never repeat. You could wear some pretty outlandish stuff provided there was an accepted context for it - like capes, and big fur coats on men. At the same time, if you transgressed you drew pretty severe attention - I got spat at crossing Bloor at Bay for dressing "punk" in '78 - or my poor, watered-down suburban kid version of the same. Drag queens would get chased down Yonge street by greasers from the Gasworks well into the '80s.
Ugh St. / August 9, 2011 at 05:15 pm
user-pic
How was that considered the scuzzy era?
Have you seen it today?
Yonge St is beyond foul.
Stevenator / August 9, 2011 at 06:03 pm
user-pic
Beyond foul?

Yonge Street may be no Champs Elysees, but it is a far cry from beyond foul.

If you think Yonge Street is "beyond foul" I can't imagine what you'd think of some of the main streets I've seen in the States.
Fantomex replying to a comment from hendrix / August 9, 2011 at 06:20 pm
user-pic
The Had Rock Cafe first started back in the early 1970s in London, England, and then spread out all over the world.

@Ugh St.: You don't really know what 'beyond foul' truly is; I suggest that you go to the United States, or some other poverty-stricken parts of the world, and then tell me and the rest of us what 'beyond foul' is.
Neil / August 9, 2011 at 06:21 pm
user-pic
It's clear that Ugh St. doesn't get out much aside from taking his/her purse dog for a walk in Yorkville. Anyone who calls Yonge St. foul probably has never been outside of Canada, and if so, not without armed guards.
Bubba / August 9, 2011 at 06:33 pm
user-pic
Love that dundasquare sign.

It's amazing how less congested it looks, there's actually room to stretch your legs.

B / August 9, 2011 at 06:48 pm
user-pic
Anyone know of where to find photos of the college park area of Yonge ST. in the 70's and 80's? I've been trying to find some photos of my families store from the street from that period.
Old Timer / August 9, 2011 at 07:41 pm
user-pic
Just cool to see the old Nickleoldeon many of us had many fun nights there. The 70's may have had a lack of fashionable people by todays standards but Yonge Street was much more fun and cooler street then it is now. We got away with things that they just would not let you get away with these days.
nofatpeople / August 9, 2011 at 08:54 pm
user-pic
There are no obese people!
Tigu replying to a comment from the lemur / August 9, 2011 at 09:06 pm
user-pic
As has been happening for decades now, next years model is sold in the late summer/fall - so the car is obviously new and the photo taken in late 79. Dork.
Deb / August 9, 2011 at 09:44 pm
user-pic
Have you notice there are no people camped out on the sidewalks? Have you noticed how clean the roads were? And yes, everybody tucked their shirts in, Guy. It was a fun place, but still had a seedy side too ...
Adam Sobolak / August 9, 2011 at 10:15 pm
user-pic
The Canadian Tire shot is definitely well into the 80s, at the very least, maybe even verging on 90s--the new store's already there, the old store reduced to a facade...
Damon / August 10, 2011 at 12:05 am
user-pic
Not to be a blogwhore again (oh fine...) But for those interested, you can supplement these delicious photos with some beauties from a week in 1977 - series starts here:
http://electro.aminus3.com/image/2007-07-28.html.
Derek replying to a comment from Adam Sobolak / August 10, 2011 at 12:58 am
user-pic
The Canadian Tire shot is definitely the early 90s, which is when the Flickr set comes to a close. Only the photos above the slideshow are limited to the 1970s.
andrew hall / August 10, 2011 at 01:51 am
user-pic
OMG, my mom and dad are going to freak out when they see these pictures.
the lemur replying to a comment from Tigu / August 10, 2011 at 02:23 am
user-pic
I said a <b>1980s</b> Pontiac, not a 1980 model that would have been sold in late '79. The Grand Am didn't look like that until about 1985. And then there's Derek's explanation for the slideshow. Dork, yourself.
Ugh St replying to a comment from Fantomex / August 10, 2011 at 09:29 am
user-pic
We aren't talking about any other streets in Toronto, let alone the States.
This post is about Yonge St. More directly, due to the nature of the pics, Yonge and Dundas.

The stretch of Yonge from, heck even Queen to Gerrard, is possibly the crappiest stretch of street in Toronto. And this is coming from someone who lives in the east end. So I know all about crappy streets. But also works at the Atrium.

Immense traffic, not a speck of green space, garbage everywhere, homeless crazies at every turn, smells people cant even describe, punks and thugs hanging out front of the Eaton Centre, grown men spray tanned in silver pretending to be robots, and on and on.

Unfortunately its Toronto's tourist epicentre, i get it. But we should make it so that people want to come there. If im a tourist, and I see that's the best Toronto has to offer...Wow!
Ferenc Szabo replying to a comment from Deb / August 11, 2011 at 04:29 pm
user-pic
What do you mean the streets were clean? Check out the 8th photo down (dude on motorcycle). There's a piece of trash on the grate, beside the guy in the pink shirt. Disgusting!
tom / August 15, 2011 at 12:59 am
user-pic
It looked beter
Fantomex replying to a comment from Ugh St / August 15, 2011 at 03:09 am
user-pic
I guess that for snobs like you, <i>NOTING</i> is amazing unless it looks ritzy, huh? What Stevenator, Nell, and I said about you is still right, and a lot more than that, too. All you want is a cleaned up, sanitized, Disneyfied place similar to the other Disneyfied place Times Square. Hopefully, your wish won't be granted.
Diana / October 14, 2011 at 04:31 pm
user-pic
Hey, this yanked me right back there. I was 16 in 1970 and my girlfriends and I used to hitchhike down to Yonge and Bloor, Yonge and Wellesley and hang out. Far out, man.

I seem to have turned out okay anyway. LOL.
Nathalie / February 8, 2012 at 10:48 pm
user-pic
Thank you for posting this. I needed to see where my two brothers were killed (ages 9 & 11)by a drunk driver who ploughed through the crowd in a Carabana Festival in 1971. Maybe one day I will visit in person to located the actual spot and gain closure.
mark / October 23, 2013 at 08:45 am
user-pic
I was in a band from rochester,ny that played at the yonge station tavern, few blocks from gasworks and circus-circus back in the late 70's /early 80's. I was trying to find anything on the bar and grill today. Probably new name I would imagine if not tore down?
Heather Beaton / January 2, 2014 at 02:53 pm
user-pic
JUST THAT THE '70's REALLY ROCKED.....
Goldielover / January 11, 2014 at 02:58 pm
user-pic
It was pretty rough back then. Remember it well.
Goldielover replying to a comment from Ugh St. / January 11, 2014 at 03:00 pm
user-pic
These days it is just run down. Back then it was dangerous. Lots of drugs. Lots of adult stores and body rub parlours. The police moved in and cleaned it up after a young boy was murdered.
Todd replying to a comment from Guy / January 11, 2014 at 07:44 pm
user-pic
Yep, of course it helped that everyone was skinny.
Rob / January 11, 2014 at 09:55 pm
user-pic
Actually, What was really amazing was that during the summer a large part of Yonge St was shut down to all vehicular traffic and became a pedestrian zone. There were sidewalk cafes and it was an amazing experience to wander around. Yes, there were lots of drugs and body rub parlors and all kinds of sleezy establishments. But there were also tons of very interesting people wandering around, being friendly, meeting one another, exchanging information and so on. Yonge St was definitely where it was at.
Jim replying to a comment from Guy / January 12, 2014 at 03:48 pm
user-pic
Yes.
mark / June 23, 2014 at 07:01 pm
user-pic
I played in a band from rochester / windjammer, And we always played the yonge street station? Does anybody know of this bar from the mid 70's? would love to chat with someone from that club. Had a great time. played the garage in london also, oshua clubs were fun too.
MARK replying to a comment from Goldielover / June 23, 2014 at 07:05 pm
user-pic
do you remember a bar called the yonge street station ? it had bands everyday and twice on saturdays.was wondering what it could be called now. long time ago. I played in bands around canada . Bands were from rochester ny. area

Add a Comment

Other Cities: Montreal