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That time when the Toronto Star was the Daily Planet

Posted by Chris Bateman / November 13, 2012

toronto star buildingBefore it moved to 1 Yonge Street, an absolute monstrosity on the waterfront, the Toronto Star was headquartered in a stunning, 22-storey art deco tower at King and Bay. When it was opened in 1922, the Toronto Star Building was equipped with a state-of-the-art newsroom, printing press, and even its own power station.

The building had two plumbing systems: one for water, one for ink. The floors were connected by a conventional elevator and a set of fireman's poles that, among other things, allowed journalists to swoop between the newsroom and reel room in a flash, presumably to yell "stop the press!" or whatever the journalists of old used to do. It even inspired a key part of the world's most famous superhero.

toronto star buildingA commemorative booklet handed out when the granite and limestone tower was officially unveiled to the public describes the building as a "symphony of vertical lines" that "recede and fade into the sky ... like a mountain top." It's safe to say the newspaper took their new home very seriously.

And rightly so. The Star Building was a treasure trove of innovation we can only marvel at today. Thirty miles of pipes lined its walls, a special "one-man air lift," which sadly seems to be lost, "[shot] a man up to the press room almost as quickly as he [could] slide down (the fire pole)." Special "washed air" humidity controls forced treated air around the building."

toronto star buildingStarting in the basement, the Star Building had its own hydro-electric substation to feed power to the giant printing press located several floors above in the rear of the building. A tunnel led under the reel room to a coal bunker off Pearl Street. Here, a team of workers fed the building's heating system like a scene out of the movie Titanic. The ink storage room, the hub of the tower's ink plumbing system, sat just above.

The beating heart of the Star was located in the central core of the lower floors. Here, receivers feverishly typed up incoming rushes in the wire room, printer machines ("a combination of typewriter and telegraph") automatically tapped out dispatches from across the continent, and writers, editors, and copy-handlers processed and flushed the finished stories down special tubes to the printing room.

toronto star buildingThe souvenir pamphlet was also keen to sing the praises of the Star's bank of electric elevators. Set behind bronze doors, the operator-controlled lifts were among the first in Canada to use entirely electric signals to select the destination floor. It's not exactly clear why operators were needed at all — the system seems to be practically identical to what we expect to find in an elevator today — but this was the glory days of newspapers and there was plenty of money to spare.

The author even wonders if elevators controlled by mental telepathy are on the horizon.

toronto star newsroomSuperman co-creator Joe Shuster clearly saw the magic of the Star Building. He based the look of Clark Kent's Daily Planet building on 80 King Street West. As a youngster, Shuster worked as a paperboy for the company, delivering the Toronto Daily Star door-to-door.

The journalists huddled around their desks in the picture above are working on the Thursday 18th September 1930 edition of the paper. Thanks to the Toronto Public Library, you can view the finished product here. The big news of the day was the struggles of Sir Thomas Lipton's yacht, the "Shamrock V," in the America's Cup. Lipton founded the Lipton tea company and regular entered boats in the sailing competition.

The Shamrock V would be plagued by bad luck during Lipton's fifth and final attempt at the prize, and would ultimately lose out to the yacht Enterprise, captained by the ruthless Harold Vanderbilt. Lipton died a year later, never fulfilling his dream of winning the competition.

toronto star pressIn the days before television and radio became established sources for breaking news, the Star regularly used the street outside its headquarters to deliver public bulletins. During major stories, people crowded the street, which was also home to the Globe and Mail (the pointed tower in the background of the second image) to snatch a copy of the latest edition of the paper. The Star also regularly set up baseball and hockey scoreboards outside the main entrance, as seen below.

toronto star buildingThe paper abandoned the building in 1970 for its new waterfront headquarters and the tower lay vacant for several years. It was eventually torn down in 1972 to make way for First Canadian Place.

Portions of the stonework can still be found on the grounds of Guild Inn in Scarborough, a portion of land home to several recovered pieces of lost Toronto buildings. Chapman and Oxley, the building's architects, would go on to design The Bay building at Queen and Yonge and the Toronto Reference Library, now the Koffler Student Centre.


News-hungry Torontonians clamor for a copy of The Startoronto star buildingA paper salesman sells The Star on the streettoronto star buildingThe ornate lobby of the Star Buildingtoronto star lobbyThe ink pumps in the basement of the towertoronto star buildingA sketch of the granite and bronze facadetoronto star buildingThe new presses are started for the first time at 80 King Westtoronto star buildingSports journalists at worktoronto star buildingThe newsroom as it appeared shortly before the paper moved outtoronto star newsroomThe King West block before construction of the Star Buildingtoronto star building

Images: City of Toronto Archives



skeeter / November 13, 2012 at 12:57 pm
"Before it moved to One Yonge Street, an absolute monstrosity on the waterfront,"

Pk / November 13, 2012 at 12:58 pm
Great post. I can imagine Lois Lane dangling from a helicopter off the top floor...
Derek replying to a comment from skeeter / November 13, 2012 at 01:16 pm
What is your question?
Rian replying to a comment from Derek / November 13, 2012 at 01:25 pm
I think they're wondering about the wording of your sentence regarding the new Star building.
Grimmer replying to a comment from Rian / November 13, 2012 at 01:29 pm
Monstrosity is an accurate description regarding One Yonge Street.
Matt / November 13, 2012 at 01:33 pm
As someone who works in One Yonge Street, I can assure you all that it's a monstrosity inside AND out.
Big Fuckin Mega Boat replying to a comment from Grimmer / November 13, 2012 at 01:46 pm
Agreed. I had a prominent view of it from my last condo, I think "monstrosity" sums it up quite nicely.
cultureshot / November 13, 2012 at 01:55 pm
What a loss!
Me / November 13, 2012 at 02:16 pm
In a blog that is normally so against progress or technology of any kind, I must admit this article stands out. EXCELLENT and interesting. Kudos to the author!
Sean / November 13, 2012 at 02:22 pm
This is a really great writeup about a building that I never knew existed.
John / November 13, 2012 at 03:07 pm
One Yonge Street is nearly as ugly as its neighbor, Cpt. John's.

A bit more dead fish in the star, however.
alan / November 13, 2012 at 03:51 pm
i thought the star moved out of there to vaughan somewhere...
Dan / November 13, 2012 at 04:07 pm
A great loss among many in this city. What's that building east of the Star and across from the Scotia bank tower?
Mg replying to a comment from Dan / November 13, 2012 at 06:15 pm
If you're referring to the one on the left side of the photo, it's the old Bank of Commerce building, at one time the tallest building in the British Commonwealth. It's still there, but dwarfed by the towers around it.
tarprodguy / November 13, 2012 at 06:24 pm
To "Big Boat" the Star was was at One Yonge St. when your condo was still a cow pasture down by the lake. Ther hasn't beena decent multi-story building in Toronto since the 50s. the glass and concrete towers of today are soulles and unispired.
steve replying to a comment from alan / November 13, 2012 at 07:09 pm
They only moved the printing process to Vaughn. The parking lot has or is is for sale or sold, not sure about One Yonge except they plan on staying there.
Torontonian replying to a comment from Dan / November 13, 2012 at 08:55 pm
The building between the two that you mention
was the Bank of Montreal.
jimmy olson / November 13, 2012 at 09:10 pm
that pic captioned "News-hungry Torontonians clamor for a copy of The Star" ... clearly staged, but perhaps staged with Star staffers --- so what year was Hemingway at the Star ? it looks like him in the shot.
jimmy olson / November 13, 2012 at 09:13 pm
also .... Atkinson and Mayor McBride look like a barrel of laughs. McBride can't wait to get back to the booze can, Atkinson wants to see McBride's gin-soaked soul roasting in the fires of hell.
Ksenia replying to a comment from jimmy olson / November 13, 2012 at 09:28 pm
1919, so it's probably not him
Dan / November 14, 2012 at 10:19 am
The Bank of Montreal is that huge building? Can we see more of what it used to look like. I don't recall seeing anything about it.
norm / November 14, 2012 at 03:26 pm
OK Chris, now do the story of The Telegram on Melinda St. When I delivered this pink (colored) paper around College & Yonge my "friends" referred to it as the "smelly Telly" because of its right wing tendencies (compared to the Star). All I cared about was getting the weekly rates out of my customers: .35cents weekly or a dime on Sat. only.
Claire / November 16, 2012 at 04:01 pm
The Star story itself was more interesting than a comic book.
Isabel / November 16, 2012 at 04:04 pm
So was the Tely story.
Hemingway was long gone from the Star --re newsroom photo.
Big Grey City / October 27, 2014 at 10:38 am
I enjoy your articles about old Toronto. I realize this one was written a while ago but I think it may contain an error. I don't believe the Star's new building was occupied until later in the twenties.

This is from the Star's website...


The Star moved to its new building 80 King Street West. With 650 employees and a circulation of 175,000, it had become the largest circulation newspaper in Canada.
kevin boland / November 9, 2015 at 09:29 pm
...said ever so snootily that Theeee Star expected nothing less than junior matriculation from its least senior employees. Then hung up. The bitch. Ran into a few more like her 20 years later during my seven year hitch at the Yonge Street hive.
KevinB / November 9, 2015 at 09:55 pm
PS Biggest winner at 80 King W was the art dealer who leased the building's ground floor less than a year before it caught Mr Atkinson's eye. He was an art dealer named, oddly enough, Rob Roy -- odd since he was a Cuban refugee who fled during the chaos of the Spanish-American War. (He became a friend of my mother's family.) Atkinson HAD TO HAVE the space and paid the Cuban a king's ransom to tear up his ten year lease. Roy then bought a two-acre parcel of land a couple miles up the road. Corner of Bloor and Yonge. Guy made a few bucks, they say, when the subway dudes came knocking. True story.
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