Thursday, October 27, 2016Mostly Cloudy 3°C

The Eaton Centre turns 35 years old

Posted by Derek Flack / February 10, 2012

Eaton Centre 35 anniversaryThe Eaton Centre, everyone's favourite urban eyesore, has reached the ripe old age of 35. That might be a harsh way to start off an anniversary toast — particularly given all the efforts to make our monumental downtown shopping mall more friendly to the street — but it comes from an affectionate place. Even if the idea to plop down a massive, inward-oriented shopping mall in the heart of the city seems strange today, back in the 1970s this type of planning was all the rage — and that gives the place a certain historical quality that's survived the numerous changes to its facade.

Beyond that, the Eaton Centre has always been a rather fabulous building on the inside. With its vaulted glass ceiling and multiple levels, it's always struck me as a futuristic version of the long-lost Yonge Street Arcade, which was located down the street at Temperance until its demolition in the mid 1950s. In this regard the building has in fact aged quite well. Scrolling through photos of the galleria, only the retail signage distinguishes between the contemporary and vintage images. Well, that and the fact that Eaton's itself no longer exists.

We've already written about how the mall came to be, what it might have looked like if the Eaton family's original plans came to be and about the snazzy new food court, so today let's keep it light and celebratory. Unlike Ontario place, Eberhard Zeidler's downtown shopping mall is still going strong at 35. Here's a little collection of photos and videos of the Eaton Centre over the years. Suffice it to say, the building has aged more gracefully than its representation in television commercials.


20120210-PreEatonCentre.jpgYonge Street before the Eaton Centre

20101127-yongeDundasNight.jpgAt night, late 1970s (via Damon Schreiber)

2011519-EatonCentre1970s.jpegPostcard 1970s (via Chuckman's blog)

20120210-EatonCentre-PostcardPostcard 1970s (via Chuckman's blog)

2011211-Eaton_centre-queen80s.jpegYonge & Queen 1980s (via Canada Good)

Eaton's1990s (via the Toronto Archives)

VIDEOS (via Retronatrio)

Eaton Centre 1983

Food Court commercial 1984

Fashion in 1984

More fashion, this time in 1986

The Centre of it all 1989

Lead image from the Ontario Archives



blurg / February 10, 2012 at 05:12 pm
I work at Atrium on Bay, by Yonge/Dundas...what a shithole this intersection is.
W. K. Lis / February 10, 2012 at 05:19 pm
I miss the old Christmas display windows of the old Eaton's department store. They didn't do that with the newer store.
steve / February 10, 2012 at 05:30 pm
Shame they destroyed one of its best features for a suburban mall big box feel. The Dundas entrance.
Toronto Todd / February 10, 2012 at 06:20 pm
Well, how 'bout that. I wondered what they replaced that ugly Woolworths with, but of course, the building at Yonge and Queen is quite old.

Turns out, they put that ugly cladding in front of a nice old Toronto building. That it's been reclaimed is so un-Torontolike.

As for the Eaton Centre, the question is, would Yonge Street be better or worse if it were not there? It's still pretty dumpy from Bloor to Front.
Rmund / February 10, 2012 at 06:49 pm
My father designed the Sam The Record Man store in the Eaton Centre way back. He also did another music store called Discus. Quite the mall back then.

Ah, how times have changed.
Anonymous / February 10, 2012 at 06:53 pm
I remember going to the movies at the Eaton Centre in high school. There were so many theatres - 16 or 17 of them! I'm turning 35 this year as well. Happy birthday to US!
Teena / February 10, 2012 at 07:02 pm
Remember Lime Rickey's Restaurant?
d / February 10, 2012 at 07:30 pm
Rmund - who was your dad? My dad was the Tenant Liaison Officer that was responsible for who used what space and what services they needed in the way of electrical, plumbing, lighting, signage etc. Maybe my dad knew your dad :)

ife / February 10, 2012 at 07:34 pm
Eaton Centre was once a beautiful example of 70's post-modern futurism.

margarets / February 10, 2012 at 08:35 pm
What happened to the statue of Timothy Eaton? That everybody used to rub the toe of? Where did that go?
d / February 10, 2012 at 08:51 pm
Wikipedia says: "Shortly after Sears' acquisition of Eaton's, the Timothy Eaton statue was moved from the Dundas Street entrance to the Royal Ontario Museum."
margarets / February 10, 2012 at 08:58 pm
answer replying to a comment from margarets / February 10, 2012 at 08:59 pm
Its somewhere at Yorkdale Mall
hendrix / February 10, 2012 at 09:03 pm
The Eaton Centre was a really big deal for me when I was a kid. I lived in Mississauga and only got down there twice a year. But the multiple levels made it look nothing like any mall I had seen. It was a special occasion for me.
sean / February 10, 2012 at 09:29 pm
Is it sad that I remember those commercials?
Rmund replying to a comment from d / February 10, 2012 at 09:33 pm
I don't like giving up too much info on here, but his first name was Norbert. At the time he worked for a company called Trizec.
Green Eyes replying to a comment from Toronto Todd / February 10, 2012 at 09:52 pm
I disagree Toronto Todd - it's dumpy (including poorly lit and a bit scary at night) going north along Yonge from College up to Bloor. South of College is quite nice all the way along Yonge. For anyone who has never been outside to Trinity Square it's a lovely mix of old and new, even including a labyrinth:
Errked replying to a comment from Toronto Todd / February 11, 2012 at 04:31 am
What are you comparing the dumpiness of Yonge & Dundas to? Times Square? That's an easy cop-out. It's an intersection. With buildings and lights. I don't know what kind of expectations you're expecting to have of a highly trafficked tourist area but you should be more realistic. Not to mention modern (that building design would have looked very dated if it still stood).

And I agree with Green Eyes Yonge from College to Bloor is the sketchiest walk ever at night.

And Sanjay this is not a career centre if you're looking for a job go to the eaton centre website.
Kevin / February 12, 2012 at 10:08 am
I was 15 when the Eaton Centre opened and attended the opening ceremonies. It opened in two phases; from Dundas down to where the fountain is and then later to the south, connecting to Simpson's. It was a spectacular shopping experience!. Back then, Eaton's had 3 floors below ground and 6 (later 7 floors) above. "Three Below" focused exclusively on teens. There were several quality restaurants including a nautical themed cafeteria on the 6th floor and another cafeteria at one below called Sir John's. Eaton's even had event space where they had the "Eaton's Uncrates the Sun" promotion. They offered a simulated flight to California and other exotic ports of call. This always happend during January and February when we were all craving sunshine.

Unfortunately,today Eaton's is gone, replaced with a vastly downsized Sears store. Three Below is gone, as are all the retail space including half of the 4th floor and everything above. No more comfortable, reasonably priced cafeterias - replaced with messy food courts dominated by fast-food chains found at all the other shopping malls.

I rarely go down to the Eaton Centre anymore because it's depressing to see what it has become.

The last time I went down to the Bay, formerly Simpson's it was sad to see that they closed the City Grill. It was a cafeteria on the 7th Floor near the Arcadian Court. I used to like to have lunch there and it had a great view of the "new" and "old" city halls. They replaced it with an upscale food court in a windowless basement area.
Damon Schreiber / February 12, 2012 at 03:25 pm
The photo above that links to my site was taken by Shige Sakamoto, who was here on business from Japan in 1977 (and should have been credited). You can see his other photos compared with their modern counterparts here:
Sandra / February 14, 2012 at 08:05 pm
Are there any original tenants left in the Eaton Centre today. Most notably gone are: Eaton's, Simpsons, Marks &Spencer, Bata, all Dylex stores Fairweather, Town & Country, Braemar, Big Steel Man, Tip Top Tailors, Jean Machine, Pantorama, Lime Rickeys, Stitches, Pegabo shoes, Elks, Dalmys, Benetton, Coles, Jack Fraser, Papaya Hut, Clarks, BH Emporium, Maher, Kinney Shoes, Cultures, WH Smith, United Cigar Store, Collacut, Sam the Record Man, The Tie Rack, Calderone shoes, East side Marios, ???
Remaining are: The Bay, Suzy Shier, Reitmans, Town Shoes, Le Chateau, Mr. Greenjeans?
Wired / February 15, 2012 at 02:55 pm
I think there was also a Music World, Grand & Toy, Magic Pan and I am fairly certain TD bank has a branch inside the mall.
Chester Karol Sobotka / February 15, 2012 at 10:27 pm
Wow interesting question. From the looks of the mall now I would say there are no original tenants...except maybe the ones you mentioned and McDonalds? The old Simpson's store had a great hot dog place which I think was in the basement...and count me among those who still miss Lime Rickeys.
Dez / February 16, 2012 at 09:53 am
Mr. Greenjeans has been at Eaton Centre as long as I can remember. Though not an original tenant I do miss the chinese food place that was near Eatons I cannot remember the name for the life of me but it was all you can take out in a Styrofoam container for $5.00.
Karen replying to a comment from Dez / February 17, 2012 at 09:36 am
@DEZ the Chinese restaurant was called Abacus.
Tiffany / February 17, 2012 at 10:06 am
Who remembers Swenson's? God that place was sticky and gross but where else could you go with your girls and gorge on ice cream like that?
Sandra replying to a comment from Tiffany / February 17, 2012 at 10:26 am
Swenson's!!!!! they had great milkshakes. What store occupies the space where they used to be now?
Tiffany replying to a comment from Sandra / February 17, 2012 at 11:02 am
I believe they were on the same level as Le Chateau? Maybe even where Abacus moved in.

I also remember the Magic Pan. and the smoky old food court where the Body Shop is today?
Ergo / February 20, 2012 at 07:46 pm
Cineplex Odeon at Eaton Centre circa 1988 used to be a destination for us High School kids.
Corinne replying to a comment from Teena / February 21, 2012 at 09:34 am
Lime Rickey's is memorable to me because it was the first place I got served underage at 17. I ordered a drink called a "Popsicle" and didn't get asked by the server for ID. Didn't work the next time I tried it though :(
J.R. replying to a comment from Sandra / February 22, 2012 at 11:03 pm
@Sandra Remaining are: The Bay, Suzy Shier, Reitmans, Town Shoes, Le Chateau, Mr. Greenjeans?

your close but...Suzy closed 2010 along with Carlton cards. Collacut is alive and well located at the south end near Queen St entrance
Gabe / February 23, 2012 at 12:14 am
Compucentre right by the south foodcourt -1.
Josh / February 23, 2012 at 12:17 am
Tower Records!!!! Eaton Centre! East Side Mario's was amazing at the Eaton Centre!!
Josh replying to a comment from Ergo / February 23, 2012 at 09:06 am
its easy to forget there was a Cineplex at Eaton Centre it probably had upwards of 8-10 screens..I think the place it used to be is part of Ryerson now or at least that is where I think it used to be--I remember the doors and then a set of stairs. I also remember there was a long corridor of little shops that led to where the theatre was from inside the mall..they were little low end type stores. That part of the mall is totally unrecognizable now.
Duty1 replying to a comment from Josh / February 23, 2012 at 11:17 am
Cineplex Odeon was founded in 1979 with the opening of its first theatre, a 21-screen megaplex at Toronto's Eaton Centre.
Wendy replying to a comment from Sandra / February 24, 2012 at 09:19 am
Here is a bit of retail history..Dylex sold most of its stores(Thriftys, Braemar et al) to American Eagle back in the early 2000's as far as original stores at Eaton Centre goes I would bet that Le Chateau is the last original. It would be interesting to see a store directory from the grand opening in 77.
BUZZER replying to a comment from Wendy / February 24, 2012 at 09:41 am

Thrifty's went to YM Group and operates as Stitches now.
Wendy replying to a comment from BUZZER / February 24, 2012 at 11:03 am
Ahhh yes you are correct AE sold off Thriftys to YM Group in mid 2000's. Thanks for the correction.
billygurl replying to a comment from J.R. / February 25, 2012 at 12:25 pm
Many weekends were spent in my youth at the EC shopping with the family. Back in the early 80's we would drive from Mississauga to spend Saturdays there it was always EC or Yorkdale. It was also where we would go every August for back to school shopping. Mom would shop in Braemar or Kristy Allan and I remember getting (and I am dating myself) Jordache jeans from Jean Machine remember the neon lights! We would get ice cream cones and watch the fountain.
Should be interesting once all the renos are complete. I think the only thing that has been constant at EC is the fountain.
gerry / February 27, 2012 at 08:19 pm
Nags Head tavern!
fn / March 1, 2012 at 03:32 pm
Prime should resurrect the Lime Rickeys chain again with original menu and jukeboxes at the table. You can't tell me it wouldn't be as popular or even more than Caseys, Marios, Moxies..
Barb Allen / May 11, 2012 at 12:53 pm
We have the Afghan statue that was the focus of The Eatons ladies wear Department in the 1970/80's. We are down sizing and unfortunatly have to part with it. It has been in our home since 1979. So if anyone is interested please E-Mail.
Carla / July 27, 2012 at 10:03 am
Gone: Addition elle, Athlete's world, Eddie Bauer, Esprit, Fairweather,Grafton & Co,International Clothiers,Stitches,Talbots,Tie Rack,Timberland,Tristian & America,Stonewear,Benetton,Coles, Grand & Toy, Disney store,Compucentre,Radio Shack,Music World, K. Jamson,Bombay Company,La Swiss,Randy River, Thriftys,City Grill,JJ Muggs,Bata, Feet First, Pegabo,Transit, Tuxedo Royale,Cotton Ginny,Shirley K. maternity,Dalmys, Tip Top Tailors, Steel, I am sure I am missing a bunch more and duplicated answers by earlier posters.
wildpitch replying to a comment from Rmund / October 4, 2012 at 06:25 am
OMG! Discus was the store I bout my first Cassette Album at! It was downstairs on the lower level.
NostalgicMan replying to a comment from blurg / October 19, 2012 at 04:34 am
Laughin my damn ass off at this comment! Priceless
NostalgicMan replying to a comment from blurg / October 19, 2012 at 04:42 am
Good and bad as I remember: Scum of the earth loitering in the front entrance way at Yonge and Dundas. Security constantly having to kick people out of that area. I remember all of the denim stores back in the 80's to early 90's. The Haircutting Place in the Bay. Lime Ricky's was always a treat. Thank God Green Jeans is still there. I remember the ton of TD Green Machines in the front (Before it was TD Canada Trust). All of the indoor trees were kinda cool. Back in the good old days, before losers walked in and shot people in broad day light. Back then, the losers just loitered.
sanantha replying to a comment from Carla / December 20, 2012 at 09:17 pm
Eddie Bauer store is still alive and kicking at Eaton Centre.
Andrew L. / October 29, 2013 at 11:19 am
Disney Store has now re-opened at the other end of the mall, now it's on the same level as Mr. Greenjeans just north of the Indigo.
Tarin replying to a comment from Andrew L. / October 29, 2013 at 01:39 pm
Disney Store is not on the same level as Mr. Greenjeans but is closer to the middle of the mall. It's on level 2 right after the escalator hub on the other side of Sears and where you come up from the basement...near People's!
Mike / October 29, 2013 at 03:04 pm
Karen J. Pottruff replying to a comment from blurg / October 29, 2013 at 03:19 pm
I used to like to have coffee at Van Houtte's coffee shop at the Atrium & Bay & Dundas. Delicious almond croissants!
mike n / February 12, 2014 at 08:46 pm
Does anyone remember taking the subway to the old eatons store and there was one escalator that went from the platform to a kind of head shop in the lower levels of eatons. I remember the heavy smell of incense and when you stepped off there was beaded curtains and black light posters 70s music in the background.
Heather / March 21, 2014 at 06:42 pm
does anyone remember the large poster of the "lady" that hung from the ceiling. It was a picture of an "old" lady and if you concentrated the "old" lady turned into a "young" lady. The necklace on the young lady became the old ladies teeth. remember???
Barb / April 2, 2014 at 07:05 pm
Does anyone remember a bakery down in the bottom level of eatons made great cookies almost like carmel oatmeal ?
William / April 15, 2014 at 11:50 am
Lime Rickey's was THE BEST place to eat. And was always busy, at least the Eaton's Centre one was. Food was awesome, Chopped Steak dinner with unique beef gravy and Crispy Onion Straws, I have yet to find a place in Toronto with a chopped steak dinner as good as this one. And of course the signature drink...the frosty Lime Rickey, with or without gin it was the best. The dinners were so big that I often had to finish my companion's plates for them, and then there was no room for desserts, and their desserts were outstanding!

How about Apple Annie's on the lowest level (in the space behind where it's now Sportschek & RichTree) I have yet to find a restaurant that makes Omelette's or Crepes quite like Apple Annie's. They said they were 3 egg omelette's but they were puffed up and appeared like they were 5 or 6 eggs at least, STUFFED to the breaking point with real cheddar cheese and ham, or whatever. The Steak and Mushroom crepe was a favourite of mine on shopping trips with my came with a thimble full of red wine to pour over the crepe and they would always ask my Gram if it was OK for me to have it (probably 9 or 10 years old at the time)

Eaton's Centre used to be the hub of shopping in Toronto, nestled between two of the biggest Rival department stores in Canada, Simpson's and Eaton's may they R.I.P.!

When we didn't visit Lime Rickeys or Apple Annies, we'd hit the City Grill at Simpson's or "The Boat" cafeteria on the 6th floor of Eaton's (I think it was the 6th, with the 7th floor serving as Eaton's Annex outlet)

MAN I miss those days, and my Grandmother!
Matt / December 15, 2014 at 11:22 am
I don't know how many people remember this, but across the path from the Eatons store there was a parking garage. And at the top level there was an immense round pit with a concrete barrier to chest level. Around the pit was the road on which cars would drive to get to the different parking levels. I was always amazed that it was never fenced off. Kids would dare each other to sit on the edge.
Allison replying to a comment from mike n / January 30, 2015 at 02:56 pm
Yes I remember it well, as a pre-teen I always visited it.
Mark / June 2, 2015 at 07:15 pm
Does anyone remember a store called Stereo Den? At least that's what I think it was called. It was on the lower level by the Queen Street entrance. I knew one of the salesmen there (Jack) and bought my first TV there (which they had delivered to my Scarborough home for a few dollars more). Anyway, that was where I first listened to a Sony Walkman around March of 1981. Jack motioned me over with his hand and said, "Mark, come over here. You got to listen to this." A short sample cassette tape with classical music came with the original Walkmans. He put the tape in, hit play, then handed me a set of headphones with bright orange foam. The sound was out of this world, clearly superior to anything I had ever listened to before. Jack saw me grinning and said, "Amazing, eh? The sound quality in these things is unbelievable." Anyway, I haven't had time to read every single comment on here but I've been skimming through a few and haven't seen anyone commenting on this store so it's my contribution.

On another note, reflecting an observation someone made wondering what Yonge Street would have been like if the Eaton Centre had never been built, I remember a co-worker and I talking about this years ago. She mentioned that there used to be some really nice shops on Yonge Street but with the creation of the Eaton Centre, what that did was pull all the nice shops off Yonge, marshaling them all together in one complex. She was quick to point out that the shops that moved into the vacated stores were typically of the lower end or tackier variety, not exactly enhancing the image of Yonge Street. A bit of irony might be found here. I've no doubt that when the Eaton Centre was first designed it was thought to be a step forward in building up Yonge Street. In reality it did seem to do that for a few city blocks but look at how dismal the rest of Yonge Street now looks here in the year 2015. It's also a sign of the times we live in. Folks, if the internet didn't exist, there'd be more bookstores in the city, and on Yonge Street, too. And you can cite that example for a lot of other shops as well. It's not all the Eaton Centre's fault, I know, but even if the Eaton Centre hadn't been built the toll the internet took/takes would have meant that Yonge street was probably destined for a downward spiral at some point in time. It used to be fun walking down Yonge Street on a Friday or Saturday night. All the different shops, A & A Records and Sam The Record Man, the pinball arcades, all of it. And people then weren't as hostile as they are now. It was more of a party mentality. I really miss Yonge Street from around 1981. It was fun being young then.
Canon Jack / August 20, 2015 at 03:04 pm
Great write up - for an old aging mall it is surprisingly photogenic
Other Cities: Montreal