Front Street Toronto History

What Front Street used to look like in Toronto

As Toronto's southernmost east/west thoroughfare prior to major infill efforts in the early part of the 20th century, it's not surprising that Front Street has been home to some of the city's most important buildings, at least a few of which remain to this day. Front has, at point or another, housed the province's early parliament buildings, Toronto's first city hall, the St. Lawrence Market, the Flatiron Building, multiple Union Stations and some of the city's finest hotels, to provide only a brief sample of its most important tenants.

Going back a couple of centuries, what we now call Front Street was referred to as Palace Street thanks to presence of the province's second parliamentary buildings. These were located at Front and, you guessed it, Parliament streets (etymology is fun!) before being rebuilt further west (near Simcoe) in 1832.

In addition to this important bit of provincial history, the street played a major role in the development of the city itself. Located on the current site of the St. Lawrence Market, Toronto's first city hall could be found at the corner of Front and Jarvis streets between 1845 and 1899, when it relocated to Queen and Bay Streets (what we now refer to as Old City Hall). The remains of this building have been preserved at the entrance to current the market, though the bulk of the structure was demolished long ago.

There are too many other iconic structures that have called Front Street their home to devote much time to each of them, but it'd be silly not to draw attention to the gem that was Old Union Station. Technically the city's second hub train station (there was apparently a first, far less dramatic Union prior to this one's construction), it sat on Front between York and Simcoe streets until it was demolished in 1931. Perhaps it's a stretch to say that the loss of this building was equivalent to that of the original Penn Station in New York, but not by much.

Speaking of Front Street structures lost to demolition, it still irks me that the Board of Trade Building was knocked down in 1958 only to exist as a parking lot prior to the construction of the EDS Building, which wrapped up in 1982. Toronto! What were you thinking?

Also, noteworthy, of course are the Royal York Hotel, The Cyclorama Building, and current day Union Station, but we've already written about them, so I'll stop blathering in favour of presenting the photos.

MAP

Front Street Goad's Atlas

Goad's Atlas, 1910

PHOTOS

201182-Third_Parliament_Buildings_1834.jpg

Third Parliament Buildings (Front & Simcoe), 1834

2011117-Front_Street_1876.jpg

Front Street, 1876

2013430-coffin-block-1888.jpg

Coffin Block, 1888

2013430-coffinblock.jpg

Coffin Block, 1880s

20110103-1890sGooderhamBuilding1890s.jpg

Gooderham Building (Flatiron), 1890s

20110103-1890-Victoria_Row_1890_Toronto.jpg

Victoria Row, 1890s

201191-BMO-HHF-1900-f1568_it0224-1.jpg

Bank of Montreal at Yonge and Front (now the Hockey Hall of Fame), 1900

20101227-1900-Board_of_Trade_Building_Front_Street.jpg

Board of Trade Building (NE corner Yonge & Front), 1900

2013430-front-1904-fire.jpg

Aftermath of the 1904 fire, looking west across Front

20101227-1907-Flagpole_painter_with_view_looking_west_on_Front_Street_from_Yonge_Street.jpg

Flagpole painter (view of Front looking west from Yonge), 1907

2011128-DPC-old_union.jpg

Old Union Station (a.k.a. Union Station II), 1910s

20101220-1915-XQueensHotel.jpg

Queen's Hotel (Front & York), 1915

201216-Cyclorama-Building-1922.jpg

Cyclorama building, 1922

2011614-union-ext-ca1926-f1244_it5045.jpg

Union Station, 1926

20100822-Front_of_Royal_York_Hotel.jpg

Royal York Hotel (Front & York), 1929

2011614-union-front-st-1931-s0071_it8454.jpg

Union Station, 1931

2011614-union-streetcar-1932.jpg

Streetcar in front of Union Station, 1932

2013430-barclay-hotel-1955-simcoe.jpg

Barclay Hotel (Front and Simcoe), 1955

2013430-okeefe-centre-construction-f0124_fl0001_id0051.jpg

O'Keefe Centre under construction, late 1950s

20111026-okeefe-wide-2-f1257_s1057_it0815.jpg

Opening night O'Keefe Centre, 1960

201191-bank-montreal-HHF-1960s-.jpg

Yonge and Front, 1960s

2011121-Stlawrenceext1965.jpg

St. Lawrence Market, 1965 (York University Archives)

2011221-canopy.jpg

St. Lawrence Market (canopy between north and south buildings), 1960s

2013430-front-east-yonge-1960s-f0124_fl0001_id0094.jpg

Front east of Yonge, 1960s

2013430-front-east-yonge-1970s-f0124_fl0002_id0086.jpg

Front east of Yonge 1970s

2013430-walker-house-hotel-1975-york.jpg

Walker House Hotel (Front and York), 1975

201216-Cyclorama-1970s.jpg

Cyclorama building, 1970s

2013430-union-station-1970s-f0124_fl0002_id0117.jpg

Union Station, 1970s

2011225-flatiron-f0124_fl0002_id0065.jpg

Gooderham Building (Flatiron), 1970s

20111020-dominion-public-early-80s-front-dirtyf0124_fl0003_id0095.jpg

Dominion Public Building, 1970s

2011121-St.-Lawrence-and-Area.jpg

Bird's eye view of the St. Lawrence Market area, early 1980s

2013430-front-street-cbc-construction-f0124_fl0003_id0173.jpg

CBC Headquarters construction, 1988


Join the conversation Load comments

Latest in City

The remote allure of Toronto streets in the 1990s

Here's what Toronto's newest Christmas market looks like

TTC delays full PRESTO rollout until 2018

Hamilton now has a hotter real estate market than Toronto

No Frills store suddenly shuts down in Toronto

What kind of house does $6 million get you in Toronto?

The earliest sunsets of the year happen this week in Toronto

12 photos of Casa Loma brilliantly lit up for the holidays