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Vintage colour photographs of Toronto at night

Posted by Derek Flack / January 10, 2014

Toronto at night colourOne of my favourite posts in our archive of vintage Toronto topics is one of the most simple: photographs of the city at night. Spanning a range between 1910 and 1969, the collection is a stunning look at a growing city that gets progressively brighter as the decades go by. It's also black and white, which has always made me think it would nice to do a colour follow-up.

Given the time period (1970s and prior), there aren't a huge number of colour images available in the Toronto Archives, much less those taken at night. But, there are some. Many of these are postcards, which surely depict Toronto at night to communicate what a bustling and cosmopolitan city it was back then, even if this wasn't entirely true. Predictably you get a lot of touristy locations from these documents, places like downtown Yonge Street, the skyline and the CNE.

Earlier colour-tinted postcards from the the first decade of the 20th century function in much the same way, though they depict different locations. Taken as a whole, this set of images shows Toronto proudly pronouncing its status as bonafide destination, a city that comes to life at night.


201419-spadina_postcard_night_large-1900s.jpgLooking north on Spadina from Queen, 1900s

201419-queen_night_1900s.jpgQueen Street at night, 1900s

201419-Toronto-From-the-Bay-1907.jpgToronto from the Bay, 1907

201419-waterfront-night-c1960.jpgModest skyline, 1960

201419-airport-new-terminal-one-1960s.jpgNew Terminal at Malton Airport, 1960s

201419-long-branch-queen-streetcar-1964.jpgQueen streetcar at Long Branch, 1964

201419-bloor-at-dundas-puddicombe-motors-1965.jpgBloor at Dundas, 1965

2011222-NIGHT-Glendale_cinema.jpgGlendale Cinema (avenue Road north of Lawrence), Ca. 1969

201419-new-city-hall-looking-n-from-queen-aerial-night-1970.jpgNew City Hall, 1970

201419-exhibition-night-aerial-midway-skyline-background-c1970.jpgThe CNE at night, 1970

20100926-NIGHT-70spcskylinet.jpgToronto skyline, 1970s

20100926-night-70sSamsNIGHT.jpgYonge Street north of Dundas, 1970s

20100926-NIGHT-1970spostcard1.jpgYonge and Gerrard streets, 1970s

201419-skyline-1970s.jpgToronto skyline, 1970s

201419-night-traffic-blur-1976.jpgGardiner Expressway downtown core, 1976

201419-city-hall-night-looking-nw-1978.jpgCity Hall at night, 1978

201419-ontario-place-night-1979.jpgOntario Place, 1979

Most of the postcards above derive from Chuckman's collection, though others have been sourced from the Toronto Archives.



Borte / January 10, 2014 at 09:38 am
Those postcards from the early 1900's featuring the moon are noteworthy.
E. Toby Coke replying to a comment from Borte / January 10, 2014 at 09:45 am
"Those postcards from the early 1900's featuring the moon are noteworthy"

Indeed. I had no idea that the moon rose in the far northern sky back then!
kioch / January 10, 2014 at 09:49 am
These are so magical and beautiful!
Chuck U. Farley / January 10, 2014 at 10:33 am
Wow, the CNE looked a lot more fun and lively back then.
Todd Toronto / January 10, 2014 at 10:40 am
Trying to be nostalgic for a time I don't remember, but downtown in the 1970s sure looked scuzzy.

Victor / January 10, 2014 at 11:04 am
The postcards from the early 1900's were actually daytime shots coloured in ( of course the moon was drawn in ). I have the exact same postcards but showing a daytime scene.
BH replying to a comment from Chuck U. Farley / January 10, 2014 at 11:29 am
I have that same CNE postcard except its a daytime shot. Yes, the CNE was a lot more fun back then because it was about the rides, games, cheap food, bandshell and animal shows and not just about junky flea markets and overpriced food like it is today. Only the games are more or less the same as the past.
Jacob replying to a comment from BH / January 10, 2014 at 12:01 pm
The CNE's always been about showcasing merchandise, that's why it's called an "Exhibition", but back then it was more important merchandise because department and big box store showrooms weren't as widespread.
Brent / January 10, 2014 at 01:18 pm
I count two moons in the 1907 "Toronto from the Bay" postcard. That's pretty remarkable.
Borte replying to a comment from Brent / January 10, 2014 at 02:17 pm
Sean / January 10, 2014 at 02:39 pm
OPntario Place and the CNE pictures look inviting. Not anymore.
Jacob replying to a comment from Brent / January 10, 2014 at 02:40 pm
Didn't you know that the Americans blew up our second moon in the '60s as a show of strength to intimidate the Soviets?
CaligulaJones replying to a comment from E. Toby Coke / January 10, 2014 at 03:40 pm
And people complain about Photoshop these days...
CaligulaJones / January 10, 2014 at 03:42 pm
Bring back the Bulova Tower!
Robbo / January 10, 2014 at 04:53 pm
I LOVE that CNE picture, its how I always picture it in my mind's eye
Adam Sobolak / January 10, 2014 at 08:10 pm
That "Queen streetcar at Long Branch" looks like it'd more likely be at King/Queen/Roncy to me (was there once a giant CIBC sign there? I though I'd remembered Esso)
Toronto My Way replying to a comment from E. Toby Coke / January 11, 2014 at 10:13 pm
Yeah, that shot at Spadina and Queen looks like it's looking southward. I'm not familiar with looking north to see the moon at all. / January 11, 2014 at 10:20 pm
These are awesome. Miss the old Toronto :(
Jeff C / January 12, 2014 at 09:32 am
It would be an interesting series to determine where (and how) the photos were taken and return to the same spots now and do updated photos.
BettieLuv / June 14, 2014 at 07:41 am
Great collection. It's frightening how much of that I remember.
David Keays / June 26, 2014 at 12:43 pm
I enjoy these visual trips down memory lane ... does anyone else remember or have a street photo of The Moorings located on west side of Yonge just north of Gerrard?
d / December 20, 2014 at 12:50 am
Thanks ... loved the 1900s postcards!
Justin replying to a comment from Chuck U. Farley / April 18, 2015 at 11:31 pm
Yea that's because back in the day when people smoked indoors, no one used safety harnesses, and things were easier.... now look at all the rules and bylaws and jazz..
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