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Vintage photographs of Toronto at night

Posted by Derek Flack / October 26, 2011

Vintage Toronto Night PhotoVintage photographs of Toronto at night are a somewhat rare sight in the City's online archives. Despite the hundreds of historical photos we've shared over the last year or so, the number of night shots that have found their way into these posts could probably be counted on one hand. That's rather astonishing when you think about it for a second.

One of the reasons for this, no doubt, is that prior to the rise of the single-lens reflex camera and faster film in and around the 1950s, night photography wasn't that common in general. Sure, accomplished photographers did use their view cameras to take night shots prior to that period, but the excruciatingly long exposures made the prospect of crisp images quite challenging.

Nevertheless, when you set out to look for them, there's a hauntingly good little collection of night photographs that are available online. Photos like the one above — taken from the Canada Life Building in 1934 — testify to just how fantastic these images can be. Other captures of Old and New City Hall in Toronto featured below are equally stunning.

Credit for this admittedly belated discovery on my part should go to the Toronto Archives Flickr stream, which was recently populated with a number of the images that appear below. Although I've sourced numerous additional photos, the inspiration for this post sits squarely with the archivist who manages that page.


20111026-Night-1910-Auditorium_Theatre_in_Toronto.jpgThe Auditorium Theatre Toronto (382 Queen Street West), 1910

20111026-Night-1910-ComiqueTheatre.jpgThe Comique Theatre (Yonge south of Dundas), 1910

20111026-hydro-electric-1911-f1244_it0323l.jpgToronto celebrates Hydro Electricity at Old City Hall, 1911

20111026-old-city-hall-1919-s0372_ss0041_it0097.jpgWow. Old City Hall, 1919

20111026-376-dupont-1923.jpg376 Dupont, 1923

20111026-cne-ferris-1924-f1244_it2017a.jpgCNE Ferris wheels, 1924

20111026-sunnyside-night-1925-f1266_it5170.jpgSunnyside at night, 1925

20111026-Night-1928-Concession_stand_at_Hanlans_Point.jpgHanlan's Point concession stand, 1928

20111026-whitney-block-night-1929.jpgWhitney Block at night, 1929

20111026-stclair-christie-night-1933.jpgSt. Clair approaching Christie, 1933

20111026-davenport-garage-ttc-night-1934-s0071_it10486.jpgDavenport TTC garage, 1934

20111026-night-coach-terminal-1935.jpgToronto Coach Terminal, 1935

20111026-midtown-bloor-night-1941.jpgMidtown Theatre (now the Bloor Cinema), 1941

20111026-snow-blower-night-1943.jpgSnow blower, 1943

201110-university-night-lighting-1945.jpgUniversity Avenue gets streetlights, 1943

20111026-midway-cne-night-1952-f1257_s1057_it5687.jpgCNE midway at night, 1952

20111026-clubonetwo-night-1952.jpgClub One Two, 1952

20111026-night-bbq-1957.jpgYikes. Check out the apron. Barbecuing in 1957

20111026-arch-cne-night-1950s-f1257_s1057_it5686.jpgCNE arche, late 1950s

2011222-BloorSoYoungSoBad.jpgSo Young, So Bad at the Midtown (now the Bloor) in the late 1950s — image via Silent Toronto

20111026-glenholme-stclair-1958-s0372_ss0100_it0691.jpgGlenhome and St. Clair, 1958

20111026-okeefe-wide-2-f1257_s1057_it0815.jpgThe O'Keefe Centre opens, 1960


20111026-eglinton-1962-s0648_fl0118_id0003.jpgEglinton and Yonge from above, 1962

20111026-city-hall-night-1965.jpgStunning. Opening week at New City Hall, 1965

20111026-uni-queen-night-1969-f1257_s1057_it6562.jpgUniversity looking south to Queen, 1969

Photos from the Toronto Archives. To purchase prints of archival photographs from the City, check here.



Torontonian / October 26, 2011 at 09:34 am
Would it surprise you to learn that the old hyrdo
towers at Sunnyside were once in the water in
previous decades and that the landfilling that made
the Sunnyside area and the waterfront is what brought
them onto dry land?
- / October 26, 2011 at 10:20 am
I can't explain how much I love this post. Thank you!
Jake / October 26, 2011 at 10:31 am
actually the last photo had to be in the 70s, as the cinema was demolished in 1975
Andy / October 26, 2011 at 10:38 am
The last pic would have been 1969....That's when 2001 came out. And look at the car in the picture. But a great set of pics. Thanks for the post!
Susan / October 26, 2011 at 10:41 am
Amazing! My mother was a bookeeper at the Club One Two...
Hwan / October 26, 2011 at 10:56 am
These are great and, though they are from before my time, my heart is touched by them. Thanks for sharing this!
Christian Bobak / October 26, 2011 at 11:17 am
2001 was released in 1968.
tinder / October 26, 2011 at 11:48 am
these are fantastic, great find. there's something a bit surreal about them too, almost appearing as if staged movie sets, ie, the Shell station, Comique theatre. cheers!
Denise / October 26, 2011 at 11:54 am
The picture of University looking north from the SA war memorial is amazing and the beautiful Old City Hall shot is so crisp. Great post!
Mauricio / October 26, 2011 at 12:00 pm
Great post!
Thanks for sharing!
brendan / October 26, 2011 at 01:08 pm
Amazing post! We had and still have a beautiful city
Catharine replying to a comment from Susan / October 26, 2011 at 02:07 pm
Where was the Club One Two?
Kendall / October 26, 2011 at 02:57 pm
BLOWN away.
this is something to be truly treasured. wow.
Ken Seto / October 26, 2011 at 04:49 pm
LOVE THIS.. I wish time travel existed so I can visit :(
Fig / October 26, 2011 at 04:58 pm
Truly an awesome post Derek. These photos are beautiful.
Sean / October 26, 2011 at 05:03 pm
Wow, the Toronto skyline from the waterfront was so much nicer in the 70s. Now it's littered with highrise condos as far as the eye can see. Everytime I drive into Toronto I am horrified to see how much more built up the lakefront is. Toronto will never regain that beauty.
Marisa Torre / October 26, 2011 at 05:07 pm
LUVved this! Everything looks so young and so old at the same time!
Jason Bondy-Sawyer / October 26, 2011 at 05:53 pm
Wunnerful stuff. Wunnerful.
Steve / October 27, 2011 at 01:23 am
The top picture is Queen and Bay?
McRib / October 27, 2011 at 02:11 am
i think you'll find its Queen and University, looking south from the top of the Canada Life building.
charalique / October 27, 2011 at 06:55 pm
these pictures are lovely!
Ron Hunt / October 31, 2011 at 07:34 am
3rd last picture had Steele's Tavern in centre, where we used to have a beer after SCUBA Club on Tuesdays while attending Ryerson 1968 to 1971.
Ron Hunt / October 31, 2011 at 07:34 am
3rd last picture had Steele's Tavern in centre, where we used to have a beer after SCUBA Club on Tuesdays while attending Ryerson 1968 to 1971.
Harley / November 6, 2011 at 10:00 pm
fabulous post - thank you!
eug / November 9, 2011 at 08:03 pm
that was like a Guy Madden film!
An awesome collection!
Jeff / November 10, 2011 at 07:22 am
I sure remember the Glendale Theatre, it was at Brookdale and Avenue Rd. I lived a couple of blocks south of that, it was my favorite theatre along with the Fairlawn on Yonge. I went to see 2001 with my entire class at the theatre in the Summer of Love 1969! They tore the theatre down from what I recall to build a Ford dealership! It didn't last too long, it was a shame to tear that great theatre down for that. Of course the Fairlawn is long gone also as are many of the theatres in North Toronto.
James / November 24, 2011 at 11:26 am
The crazy part is, people will be commenting 50-100 yrs from now on our current skyline. Wonder what they're going to say?
Tori replying to a comment from Catharine / January 4, 2012 at 01:52 pm
14 Adelaide East.
David / February 10, 2012 at 11:44 am
Love the pictures! Thank you.
Annie replying to a comment from - / February 27, 2012 at 11:55 pm
I agree; This is SO PRECIOUS!
Parv / February 28, 2012 at 12:15 am
There's something to be said about old photographs! Thanks so much for bringing these to the spotlight. As a Toronto noob, it's wonderful to learn a little bit of my adopted home's past.
mike ez / February 28, 2012 at 02:58 am
In "University gets streetlights" 1943 Univerity has a bike lane omfg lmfao
Claudia Guajardo-Yeo / February 28, 2012 at 05:14 pm
What a great set of historic pictures!

Thanks a lot for the post. It was quite enjoyable!
JeffM / April 11, 2012 at 09:09 pm
Thanks a bunch for this. I grew up in Toronto, born in 1944 so I recall a great deal of the pics. In particular, we set up our office at Yonge & Eglinton in 1977 and stayed there until 2008, so the picture of that corner, although taken earlier, has real meaning to me. Great Stuff!!!
Freda Butler / April 12, 2012 at 03:19 pm
Born at Western Hospital in 1935 I grew up in Toronto's west end and swam at the exhibition and spent a lot of time at sunnyside. I haven't lived there for 46 years but my heart will always be in TO. thanks for the pictures - they are great.
moles / June 26, 2012 at 05:33 am
This post is pure magic. Thank you.
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E. Honda / December 22, 2012 at 12:17 pm
The good old days before Brad the D-Bag Lamb style buildings littered our skyline!
Karen / January 3, 2013 at 09:38 am
Wow ! So interesting. I was feeling pretty young until I got to the 1965 pics:)
Time marches on.
It feels so good to remember when.
Vern Johansson / September 23, 2013 at 10:50 pm
Thank you very much for these wondrous shots. I had to stop and dwell on several as they brought forth memories of my youth.
Gabe / September 24, 2013 at 09:00 am
What a lovely curation of our city's past. As I look out from my south facing window and witness the most common developments (condominiums) I wonder what kind of cityscapes we'll create for our kids to look back and say things about. Great collection, blogto.
stopitman replying to a comment from Steve / September 24, 2013 at 07:18 pm
@Steve the top picture is Queen and University looking southeast. You can see the squiggly paths that lead towards Osgoode Hall in the bottom left corner.
Dorothy / September 27, 2013 at 06:29 pm
Love, love these pictures!

Minor date correction.
"University Avenue gets streetlights, 1943" - in fact it says on the picture "University Avenue Lighting Looking North from South African Monument 10PM July 2nd 1945"
Uno Ramat / October 29, 2013 at 06:52 pm
Stunning images! Thank you for posting.
philippe borel replying to a comment from Susan / December 20, 2015 at 09:42 pm
Hello Suzan.
I don't think i ever came across your mum.
I worked at the Club One-Two as a kitchen apprentice between 1952 and 1955.
The french chef, Jean Viraud was a tough but decent guy. Chefs were tough then.
Tommy Holmes the owner was a man with a cold heart; his girls friend, Rosy, was young and sweet.
Did your mum share stories about this long, long gone time?
philippe borel
Other Cities: Montreal