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A visual history of Bloor Street

Posted by Derek Flack / May 2, 2012

Bloor Street History TorontoA comment containing a great photo of the old sign at Duffy's Tavern on our post yesterday inspired me to fill in yet another gap in our series of historical posts about Toronto: Bloor Street. Although we've devoted some attention to the intersection of Yonge & Bloor, the rest of the street hasn't received its well-deserved time in the spotlight. That's a bit of an oversight when you consider just how important an artery it is for this city.

I suspect, however, that Bloor gets somewhat overlooked when talking about Toronto's grand streets because north/south corridors like Yonge and Spadina played a more important role in the early development of the city. When Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe created Toronto's Park Lots in the 1790s, Bloor was the northern terminus of the long narrow estates that would eventually determine the general shape of the downtown streetscape.

Looking at photos of Bloor in the early 20th century, one realizes that the street didn't become the busy thoroughfare we know today until around the 1920s — and even then, the density was limited to the central stretch between Sherbourne and Bathurst or so.

Further to the west near High Park, the area around Bloor was downright bucolic. But you'd have to pass the industrial hub around Lansdowne on your way to the tranquil looking Mineral Baths, which are sadly long gone. On the other side of the city, the street actually terminated at Sherbourne prior to the construction of the Bloor Viaduct, at which time a section of the Rosedale ravine was filled in connecting taking the street southeast to Parliament and then across the two valleys to the Danforth.

Along with the completion of the viaduct, the other watershed moment in the street's history was surely the arrival of the subway in 1966 (subsequently to be extended further east and west in 1968 and 1980). Although Bloor was already an important street at the time, the presence of the subway still brought about profound intensification. Take a look at the Ellis Wiley photo looking west at Bay in 1970. The scene is almost unrecognizable.

Other parts of the street retain a more obvious link with the past, like the dominance of Honest Ed's at Bloor and Bathurst (though the current sign dates back to the 1970s) or the newly restored Bloor (Hot Docs) Cinema. Bloor may not reveal much connection with the past along the unfortunately named Mink Mile, but further to the east and west, there's lots of the old character of the street still on display.

PHOTOS

201252-st-george-bloor-gooderham.jpgGooderham Residence (pre-fence) at St. George & Bloor, 1892

201252-bloor-sherbourne-end-1907.jpgBloor and Sherbourne, 1907

201252-bloor-ravine-sherbourne-1908.jpgBuilding up Bloor East toward Sherbourne, 1908

201252-bloor-avenue-fence-1908.jpgBloor & Avenue Road, 1908

201252-meteorological-office-bloor-1908.jpgMeteorological office at Bloor & Devonshire, 1908

201252-ossingto-bloor-1911.jpgOssington & Bloor, 1911

201252-bloor-btw-yonge-avenue-1912.jpgBloor between Yonge and Avenue Road, 1912

201252-bloor-west-high-park-1914.jpgAcross from High Park, 1914

201252-bloor-west-to-keele-1915.jpgLooking west on Bloor to Keele, 1915

201252-bloor-fill-1915-s0372_ss0010_it3012.jpgFilling in Bloor East to connect with the Viaduct, 1915

201252-bloor-east-from-keele-1915.jpgLooking east from Keeke, 1915

20111119-PEV6.jpgBloor Viaduct construction, 1916

20111119-PEV1.jpgBloor Viaduct construction, 1917

201252-High-park-mineral-baths-1917.jpgHigh Park Mineral Baths, 1917

201252-madison-theatre-1919.jpgMadison Theatre (later rebuilt as the Bloor Cinema)

201252-old-house-btw-bay-yonge-1920.jpgOld house on Bloor between Yonge and Bay streets, 1920

20111119-PEV9.jpgBloor Viaduct, 1920

201252-UTS-bloor-huron-1922.jpgUTS, Bloor & Huron 1922

201252-bloor-west-to-lansdowne-1923.jpgLooking west on Bloor at Lansdowne, 1923

201252-nw-corner-bloor-bathurst-1922.jpgNorthwest corner Bloor & Bathurst, 1922

201252-dundas-bloor-1923.jpgDundas & Bloor, 1923

201252-bloor-parliament-east-1923.jpgBloor & Parliament looking east, 1923

201252-bloor-lansdowne-1923.jpgBloor & Lansdowne, 1923

201252-bloor-west-to-dundas-1925.jpgBloor looking west to Dundas, 1925

201252-yonge-bloor-se-1926.jpgSoutheast corner Yonge & Bloor, 1926

201252-bloor-balmuto-1927.jpgBloor & Balmuto, 1927

201252-bloor-yonge-1929.jpgLooking east on Bloor at Yonge, 1929

201252-bloor-bay-1929.jpgBloor & Bay, 1929

201252-bloor-west-humber-bridge-1930s.jpgLooking west at the Humber Bridge, 1930s

201252-better-varsity-shot-1930.jpgVarsity Stadium, 1930

201252-bloor-west-to-sherborne-1931.jpgLooking west on Bloor toward Sherbourne, 1931

201252-bloor-subway-west-lansdowne-1931.jpgBloor Subway near Lansdowne looking west, 1931 (you can get a similar view today from the West Toronto Rail Path)

201252-ave-bloor-gates-1932.jpgGates at Bloor and Avenue, 1932

201252-yonge-bloor-1938.jpgYonge & Bloor, 1938

201252-bloor-jane-1943.jpgBloor & Jane, 1943

201252-bedford-bloor-1947.jpgBloor & Bedford, 1947

201252-dufferin-bloor-1949.jpgDufferin & Bloor looking north, 1949

201252-yonge-bloor-1950s.jpgLooking west to Yonge & Bloor, 1950s

201252-yonge-bloor-1960.jpgSubway entrance at Yonge & Bloor, 1960

201252-bloor-1960-s0372_ss0100_it0263.jpgBloor just west of Bathurst, 1960

2011527-streetcars-bloor-early60s.jpgStreetcars on Bloor, early 1960s (note the brand new Colonnade Building)

201252-POSTCARD-1960s.jpgLooking east across Holt Renfrew and the so-called Mink Mile, 1960s

201252-honest-eds-1960s.jpgHonest Ed's previous sign, 1960s

201252-christie-pits-aerial-1965.jpgChristie Pits aerial, 1965

201252-ave-bloor-aerial-1965.jpgAerial view of Bloor & Avenue Road, 1965

201252-bloor-viaduct-aerial-1965.jpgBloor Viaduct, Rosedale section 1965

201252-bloor-bay-1970.jpgBloor & Bay, 1970

201252-bay-bloor-1970s-f0124_fl0002_id0039.jpgBay & Bloor, 1970

201252-tandem-streetcar-bloor-chuckman.jpgTandem streetcar, 1970s (via Chuckman's blog)

201191-Royal-Bank-yonge-bloor-1970s-f0124_fl0002_id0112.jpgRoyal Bank at Yonge & Bloor 1970s

201191-CIBC-yonge-bloor-1960s-f0124_fl0002_id0110.jpgCIBC (and Pilot Tavern) at Yonge & Bloor, 1960s

201252-bloor-spadina-east-of-1976.jpgShops on Bloor, just east of Spadina 1976

2011221-university-thetre.jpgUniversity Theatre (now a Pottery Barn), 1980s

Photos from the Toronto Archives unless otherwise noted

Discussion

43 Comments

matts / May 2, 2012 at 03:46 pm
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Isn't the meteorological office still standing at Bloor and Devonshire? It's been recently beautifully restored and I think it forms part of the Global Affairs school at U of T
Derek / May 2, 2012 at 04:02 pm
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Yup. Pesky trees!
scin / May 2, 2012 at 04:09 pm
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for sure. you can even see it from a different angle in the later photo of varsity stadium.
Graham / May 2, 2012 at 04:13 pm
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I like the look of the old Honest Ed's sign.
Franco / May 2, 2012 at 04:28 pm
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I had no idea that the Bloor Viaduct was that old. Great photos.
Paul / May 2, 2012 at 04:30 pm
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The Bloor Viaduct was so majestic before the hideous suicide barrier went up.

Btw, Derek, any chance of a Visual History of Cabbagetown?
Brodie / May 2, 2012 at 04:32 pm
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Is it just me or does Bloor & Lansdowne look the same now as in the 1930s?

I love these old shots! Thanks!
Kristen S / May 2, 2012 at 04:53 pm
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Bloor and Lansdowne DOES look the same!
Nick / May 2, 2012 at 05:04 pm
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Ah, so that's how you do it, RoFo: first an LRT to build demand...then a subway when the demand's there!
jracken / May 2, 2012 at 06:16 pm
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>Ah, so that's how you do it, RoFo: first an LRT to build demand...then a subway when the demand's there!

You are talking about streetcars when parts of Bloor still had dirt roads- yeah it was amazing then but times change and Toronto has exploded in size. Totally doubtless that the Bloor line helped build that growth and population density through the strip of the city it services, and then all the shops, services and businesses that follow areas of density. There is no way more streetcars could ever handle the sort of city Toronto should want to become, instead of being a stunted suburban sprawl.
foo replying to a comment from jracken / May 2, 2012 at 07:49 pm
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Why can't we have both? Crazy, I know. Bring LRT back to Bloor St.!
iSkyscraper / May 2, 2012 at 08:52 pm
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I had something to do with the design of the suicide barrier but was never in favour of the project -- it was forced on the bridge by political desire. We did the best we could given the mandate. It's a Soldier Field situation at best.

I think far more aesthetic damage was done by the loss of the cobblestone ROW down the length of Bloor. This would have slowed traffic and beautified the street. Just visit the Meatpacking District in Manhattan today to see how cobblestone streets and high-end retail work beautifully together. (And being only the median, bikes in the right lanes would have been unaffected.) Although I understand the removal of the streetcar tracks (perhaps unnecessarily, see Market St in San Francisco) the cobblestones should have stayed.
Nick replying to a comment from jracken / May 2, 2012 at 09:11 pm
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The density is not there in Scarborough, @jracken, to justify the huge expense (with no idea of how to pay for it) of a subway. In 50 years, maybe. But until then, LRT is the way to go, as many other cities with suburbs and LRTs to service them have shown. And if you look at these nice historical pictures you'll see that the areas of Bloor that ultimately got a subway were already far denser with the streetcar there than any area of Scarborough.
luke / May 2, 2012 at 10:31 pm
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return of the jedi was playing at the university. i was there opening day. damn!
hamish wilson / May 2, 2012 at 10:47 pm
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A very nice compilation - thanks!
My father had said that Bloor in the central core c. Sherbourne to Spadina was widened from the 66 feet to its present width in the 1930s, parts of which remain nearly 6 lanes wide with no bike lanes. And he grew up nearby and used Bloor, and is there confirmation of this widening around?
Pea / May 2, 2012 at 10:52 pm
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Photo 14 from the bottom is Bloor and Bathurst looking west towards Markham St.
handfed / May 3, 2012 at 12:05 am
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The Gooderham Residence at St. George is majestic!
Torontonian / May 3, 2012 at 06:36 am
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I remember the High Park Mineral Baths and swam there several times in the '50s or early '60s. It wasn't visible from Bloor Street and was tucked behind the Puddicombe Ford dealership.

The footprint of the baths became a subway train storage area just south of the subway train tracks between Dundas and Keele stations. That was the area where the old Gloucester Cars were stored.
Biff / May 3, 2012 at 06:59 am
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Wow! Many beautiful buildings were torn down in favour of dullness around Yonge and Bloor. That CIBC building there was a big loss--what an interesting structure. And many oldtimers have told me about the Pilot previously being on Yonge St. Thanks for the education.
Dennis Papaluca / May 3, 2012 at 10:10 am
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I lived on Bloor Street from 1963 until 1980, just a stone's throw from Christie Pits. What great photos, especially the aerial view of the pits, and the others of Bloor and Ossington. My grade school is located on the north hill of the Pits, on Barton Ave, and in 1965,I was in the first grade! Great memories
Fig / May 3, 2012 at 10:40 am
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Thanks Derek - you know I think BlogTo kills these posts.
Andrew replying to a comment from iSkyscraper / May 3, 2012 at 10:54 am
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Awesome stuff. Gotta agree with you iSkyscraper on every count. The whole suicide/bridge thing was an unfortunate expenditure. And yes, the cobblestones were cool. The old streets is Soho are rad! Derek, it might be cool to have a photo essay on cobblesone/brick streets that still exist in Toronto. There are a few...
Paul / May 3, 2012 at 09:17 pm
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I grew up in the west-end of Toronto from the early 50's through the early 70's. My family mostly lived centered around 2 intersections - Boor & Lansdowne and Bloor & Dovercourt, but my range of activity extended roughly from Keele to Bathurst. My maternal grandparents first met at the old mineral baths in the early 1920's and I recall discovering the place myself in the summer of 1959 during one of my many adventures in exploring the city. My Dad once worked for the TTC and I remember getting on the Bloor streetcar in 1952 at the age of 3 and discovering that my "daddy" was driving it...which I of course loudly announced to everyone aboard. The first time I was allowed to ride a streetcar by myself was at the age of 10 on the Bloor car. The fare was 10 cents. That picture of the old Alhambra theater brings back a lot of memories of many Saturday afternoon matinees that my buddies and I saw there. Also the Midtown theater that was right across the street near Bathurst was one of our haunts. I have memories of the people and places along that street that are far too numerous to mention here. Suffice it to say that Bloor St. is inextricably a major part of my early life in this great city. Thanks for this Derek.
t.o.eastwest / May 3, 2012 at 10:06 pm
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Great pictures and a very informative post! Thanks for sharing!
junctionist / May 4, 2012 at 11:09 am
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The stone block paving around the streetcar tracks makes the road look much more interesting than just asphalt and concrete alon3. It's not that comfortable for drivers and may increase road noise, but the city should look at some prominent areas in the city and consider using granite blocks around the streetcar tracks again. It'll beautify the street and make it feel more historical.

Historical forms of street paving is a topic that I'm interested in and researching right now. There are some great resources out there, but it doesn't seem to have been a topic that was on anyone's radar for a long time, so it takes some digging to find materials which show paving inadvertently. Paving entire streets that way can transform their atmosphere and sense of place. In Toronto, we had many brick streets at the turn of the 20th century, and even a few streets paved entirely with stone blocks, not just the streetcar tracks. Sometimes our history is sadly denigrated because of a lack of preservation and even in a bid to justify not preserving, but Toronto was a substantial city at the turn of the 20th century; these beautiful ways of paving streets are testament to our city's character at an important point in time and ought to be preserved and restored.
Chad / May 9, 2012 at 10:54 am
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This is awesome. Please please do a visual history of UofT!
Skip replying to a comment from luke / June 13, 2012 at 03:14 pm
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LOL!! Good Catch!
mar-g / August 27, 2012 at 12:45 pm
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Have old portraits taken at Barefoot Studios 1996 Bloor W early 1900s. Nothing seen online about this.
H. Ozel / October 9, 2012 at 09:12 am
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Wow! These are great pictures and some of them bring back good memories of living in Toronto. I have a better perspective and appreciation for the Bloor Street Viaduct with the historical background and the beauty of the actual structure... The intersection of Bloor and Dundas in Etobicoke also brings back some memories. There used to be a great tavern with great food in the area. They would also bring in bands and the food, drink and music would make for great evenings out. The name of the tavern has since left my memory, but I do remember the fun times. If anyone out there remembers the name, please post.... Again, these are great pictures. Thanks for sharing.
www.theiphonereviews.com / October 20, 2012 at 07:06 am
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“Story time” might not be famous as “Yellow Submarine” but still this is another highly influential film that reflected the explosion of creativity in Animation. Terry Gillian is a genius and his works are amazing.
Eugene Dinnall replying to a comment from Dennis Papaluca / September 2, 2013 at 01:43 am
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Great shots and capture of Bloor street in the 20th century. I lived in the Christine Pits area from 1965 to 1974. Like Dennis mentioned before me, loved the aerial shots of the Pits. Learned how to skate, and swim there. Also played all kind of sports and toboggened in that old grand park.
So many childhood memories!
Spencer kalbasjaska / January 27, 2014 at 04:31 pm
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A remarkable amount of inaccuracies evident of slovenly research, a notable characteristic in writing today.
Having resided in several of the areas listed, most notably my years in the service 1897 through 1910, when the root vegetable was a more prominent sight on the food carts than it is today. The author mentions transportation links for which simply were not mentioned back then under anything deeper than a whisper in fear of being labeled a wealth monger and having ones food allowance card revoked. Trams and turnips were rarely an option to pair, it was one or the other, I imagine the decrease in root vegetables popularity and the increase in public transportation commuting stemmed from this fascinating chapter in our shared local history.
Goldielover / January 27, 2014 at 04:51 pm
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Pretty sure that photo with the tandem streetcars isn't 1970s. Those two cars in the background look distinctly 1940s to me.
Gus / January 27, 2014 at 05:41 pm
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"Tandem streetcar, 1970s (via Chuckman's blog)"

Can't be right. Look at the cars. And of course there were no Bloor streetcars in the 70s after the BD subway opened.
d / January 27, 2014 at 05:54 pm
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Thanks Derek ... great series of photos. Would love to see more of the Bloor-West Village in the 50s, 60s and 70s
Martin / January 29, 2014 at 12:02 pm
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Re:
"Bloor Subway near Lansdowne looking west, 1931 (you can get a similar view today from the West Toronto Rail Path)"
The info in brackets is entirely wrong. The railpath runs across the next subway to the west of this pic, West of Symington. The building on the right (North side with the 'Meredith..." sign and the door to the new sidewalk) is the most obvious feature still in existence.
But great post anyway, thanks!
New York family attorney / February 1, 2014 at 05:28 am
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There used to be a great tavern with great food in the area. They would also bring in bands and the food, drink and music would make for great evenings out.
console generations / February 6, 2014 at 05:55 am
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A lot of companies have chosen to downsize, and maybe that was the right thing for them.
trouver un mot de passe facebook / March 5, 2014 at 04:02 am
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Rosedale ravine was filled in connecting taking the street southeast to Parliament and then across the two valleys to the Danforth.
diy solar panels / March 11, 2014 at 09:51 am
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Getting a used auto offers numerous advantages around buying brand-new, most of which are related with price tag
redang package / March 13, 2014 at 06:12 am
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Bloor was the northern terminus of the long narrow estates that would eventually determine the general shape of the downtown streetscape.
Tim / March 24, 2014 at 06:07 pm
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These photos are amazing! Thank you so very much for sharing them with us. They bring back millions of memories. I especially like looking at the old cars. They were beautiful as were the many majestic buildings with the fine architecture.
Today we are stuck with plain Jane slabs of concrete and glass soaring to great heights in the name of corporate arrogance.
This trip down memory lane was refreshing and most enjoyable.
Thank you again for sharing.
Alan Nanders / March 28, 2014 at 06:11 pm
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What a great selection of photos with so many memories attached.
The very first one of Duufy's Tavern ( north side of Blloor , one or two blocks west of Pauline Ave. but east of Lansdowne, reminds me of 1967-68 when I started teaching at Pauline School, and drop in at
Dufffy's during my 75 minute lunch on Fridays to have a hot beef sandwich ($1.50) and a couple of drafts at 25 cents each, followed by a strong mouthwash to get ready for an afternoon of teaching.(as a rookie teacher I earned under $5000 a year, which was less than a caretaker made! But I only paid $135 a month for a. 1 bedroom apt. In Etobicoke . Like most young teachers, I drove a Volkswagen beetle.

My only quibble with the pictures is that of the PCC tandem streetcars headed for Jane and Bllorr in the 1970's supposedly. does not jive with the Bloor subway dates in the 1960's, as I recall!?

Cheers,

Alan Nanders

(Kitchener, Ontario)

Comments welcomed at: alan.nanders@utoronto.ca

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