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A 1960s Toronto photo extravaganza

Posted by Derek Flack / March 12, 2014

Toronto 1960sIn the later half of the 1960s, Toronto became a modern city. Yes, we managed to build a single-line subway a decade before, but it was the arrival of two buildings that dramatically transformed Toronto: New City Hall (1965) and the TD Centre (1967, first tower). Both structures were the work of accomplished international architects and both were unlike anything the city had seen before. An elevated photo of Viljo Revel's City Hall on opening night looks quite distinctly as though it announces the arrival of the future in Toronto.

At the outset of the decade, Toronto's skyline was a collection of sepia-toned banks, hotels and church steeples. It was a quiet place relative to today, and far more conservative. The restaurant scene was virtually non-existent and good luck finding booze on Sunday or anywhere in the Junction, for that matter. But for all the apparent dreariness, places like Yorkville and Yonge Street south of Gerrard were alive with activity, both day and night. The former was a hub of hippie culture and a musical incubator for the first half of the '60s before eventually giving way to the more retail-driven culture that defines the neighbourhood to this day.

Another major development in the 1960s, seen particularly in some of the aerial shots of the city outside the core, was the dawn of apartment block housing. Between 1959 and 1969, large-scale concrete apartments appear en masse to house the city's growing population, one which is less tied to the downtown core than ever before. The suburbs began their ascent in the '50s, but it's the following decade in which development kicked into high gear.

The Toronto of this period has been termed a "boom town" for all the changes that took place in such a short period of time. With a new subway and expressways, the city grew up a lot in the 1960s, a process that would, arguably, only increase in the decade that followed.

See also:

2011129-TO-Arial-1967.jpg2011915-aerial-late-1960s-s1465_fl0335_it0023.jpg2011815-city-hall-construction-1964-f1268_it0462.jpg2011815-city-hall-1964-f1268_it0446.jpg2013424-ppc-bloor-varsity.jpg20111026-uni-queen-night-1969-f1257_s1057_it6562.jpg20111026-city-hall-night-1965.jpg20111026-eglinton-1962-s0648_fl0118_id0003.jpg20111026-okeefe-wide-2-f1257_s1057_it0815.jpg2012724-edgewater-1960s-s0648_fl0220_id0002.jpg2011318-Entrance-bloor-danforth-1966-s0648_fl0186_id0001.jpg2011318-Bloor-1966-s0648_fl0201_id0035.jpg2011318-museum-1963-s0648_fl0127_id0006.jpg2011318-Entrance-Museum-1963-s0648_fl0133_id0021.jpg2011421-dom-ye-160s.jpg2012410-golden-mile-20-years.jpg2012410-401-400-1970.jpg2012410-yonge-stclair-20years.jpg2014312-yorkville-1960.jpg2013424-pcc-bloor-chuckman-60s.jpg20100225-CN-train.jpg2011221-broadwaythreatrebayqueen.jpg2011915-aerial-1960s-maple-leaf-stadium-s1465_fl0240_it0092.jpg2012724-qkr-north-1960s.jpg201191-TD-yonge-north-queen-60s-70s-f0124_fl0002_id0066.jpg201191-CIBC-yonge-north-queen-1960s-f0124_fl0002_id0067.jpg20100830-TD-Centre-skyline.jpg2011913-401-1967-f0217_s0249_fl0118_it0001.jpg2011326-gas-etobicoke-sunoco-1960s.jpg2011519-eatons-yorkdale-1965.jpg201197-suburbs-near-queensway-royal-york-1961-s1464_fl0017_id0009.jpg201197-yonge-finch-plaza-1972-f1257_s1057_it9008.jpg20100815-natgeo-1960s.jpg20100814-baywellington-60s.jpgPhotos from the Toronto Archives and the Wikimedia Commons



Scarboro / March 12, 2014 at 09:59 am
The city of white people.
Ed Ball / March 12, 2014 at 10:17 am
Wow they had cranes and rooftoppers back then to?
Amazing pics love City Hall.
empty / March 12, 2014 at 10:22 am
I don't know if they took these pics at off hours or what, but it always strikes me how totally and completely EMPTY Toronto looked from the 1970s and earlier compared to now. I completely get why Toronto was a liveable city back then compared to now. YOu can see in those pics we have not kept up with services and infrastructure, we just kept adding more and more population until we have the Toronto of today. I'd love a time machine....
shamz / March 12, 2014 at 10:39 am
So nice not to see any bearded Parkdale assholes.
Or Ford Na-shun replying to a comment from shamz / March 12, 2014 at 10:45 am
The 60s were smart---the majority of all asshats were kept well inside their pen, located on the west side of the Humber River
Astin / March 12, 2014 at 10:50 am
My favourite of the sets so far. Well before the Toronto I know, but I love these.
Malcolm replying to a comment from Scarboro / March 12, 2014 at 11:03 am
I'm glad you're here to point these things out.
Scarboro replying to a comment from Malcolm / March 12, 2014 at 11:07 am
You're welcome.
iSkyscraper / March 12, 2014 at 11:10 am
Not exactly the set of Mad Men is it? This was the pre-Montreal-exodus era, when Toronto was decidedly playing second fiddle to big, corporate, sexy, modern Montreal. And it shows.

Love the aerial shot of the island airport where you can still see the baseball diamond of Maple Leaf Stadium (demolished 1968). And no traffic at all on any of the highway shots.

Agree that the influence of TD Centre was huge. The complex looks positively anonymous today and is often overlooked but you forget how BIG those first towers were to everything around them. Very big impact.

Andrew - yes, that is looking east along Eglinton.
cosmosuave / March 12, 2014 at 11:28 am
Hardly any traffic on the highways back then... The B&W pics of the TD Centre make it look like the Death Star...
jameson / March 12, 2014 at 11:30 am
It's amazing how clean the city looks.

Pretty shocking after looking at the 70s and 80s pictures. wtf happened in those intermediary years? oh right, fiscal conservatism...
Travis / March 12, 2014 at 11:56 am
Are any of these available in higher resolution, or in print anywhere? Really love the one at night by the highway.
bravo replying to a comment from Captain Morgan / March 12, 2014 at 01:22 pm
Thank you. Well said.
Jay / March 12, 2014 at 01:28 pm
Actually the 70s and early 80s were the Trudeau years. Hardly a fiscal conservative. This was the era of expanding big government and socialization of all kinds of industries. Also the beginning of the national debt.
In a drunken stupor / March 12, 2014 at 01:31 pm
Where all the Steak Queens?
J / March 12, 2014 at 01:50 pm
Do the TD Towers shots from the 60s remind anyone else of the big black slab from 2001: A Space Odyssey?
MentalgasP replying to a comment from Andrew / March 12, 2014 at 01:58 pm
Yes, this is a shot of Yonge and Eglinton looking south east. To the right you can see the now closed, above-ground Eglinton bus terminal where there were 10 main bays and I believe at least one reserve. At this time, the Bank of Montreal glass atrium had not yet been built giving the intersection a much more 'open' look.
Fergus Flattery / March 12, 2014 at 02:08 pm
Awesome. I have taken some recent shots which are the counterpart to some in the various decades. Hopefully you don't mind the occasional before and after.
RCL / March 12, 2014 at 02:40 pm
"Hardly any traffic on the highways back then..." -- well, partly true. As a complete off the cuff response, in 1956 Toronto's highways were already clogged up and at their peak of congestion (one of my interests is in the history of Toronto's highway systems). The Ministry of Transportation never imagined in 1949 that their newly conceived highways would become clogged with the coming expansion into suburbia. They had to completely tear down all of their newly completed 1953-1957 highways (Hwy 27 + 401) and replace them with everything we know of today (which was only finished by 1972).

A comment which reflects my posting in the 1970's thread: the 1960's brought us all the infrastructure which we lovingly depend upon today. Toronto was indeed a quieter and nicer place to live in the 60's and nothing like today's New-York-City-like metropolis (the good and bad..). I just wish that someone would extend Kipling subway west to Dixie and relieve some congestion from those living in Mississauga. Also, since I was a kid it has been mentioned that the subway or LRT will be extended out to Renforth/Eglinton, yet Mr. Ford killed that off yet again.

Ummmm replying to a comment from Arturo / March 12, 2014 at 02:42 pm
They torn down The Ward to build New City Hall. Maybe you should google that.
Grampa / March 12, 2014 at 04:08 pm
To refer to Viljo Revell as an "accomplished international architect" isn't really accurate at the time he won the City Hall commission, or at all.

Toronto City Hall was the most significant commission of Revell's career by a long shot. Although a competent modernist, he didn't do anything especially noteworthy either before or after City Hall. It was his apex.

Mies Van der Rohe, on other hand, probably never thought about TD Centre after his work on the design was complete (he died shortly after anyway). Although the scale of the project was large, it is generally considered a late minor work in his ouevre. In any event, his aesthetic had ceased to be fresh by the time work started on TD. The international style was already the default architectural style for large corporate office projects in the US for many years prior. As usual, Toronto was late to the game.
Rick McGinnis (@rickmcginnis) / March 12, 2014 at 04:15 pm
I was six when this decade ended. I have only the barest memories of this Toronto. It looks nice. You had a hell of a time getting a decent meal here, though.
JayJay replying to a comment from Andrew / March 12, 2014 at 04:35 pm
Yes, it looks like it! Looking east along Eglinton.
Joe replying to a comment from J / March 12, 2014 at 05:45 pm
It's interesting. Especially cause TD Centre started construction in '67, and 2001 Space Odyssey came out in '68.
Guy / March 12, 2014 at 06:12 pm
On the topic of the TD Tower, these pictures are perfect to show the actual context which Mies wanted to place these buildings. It makes the vision so much more striking
ron replying to a comment from Andrew / March 12, 2014 at 09:57 pm
Yes, before the BOM was added to the building on the south west corner.
paul / March 12, 2014 at 10:48 pm
fascinating seeing the newly built cloverleaf of 27 hwy. Before it was built we'd pedal on our bicycles north on a country road getting fruit from the orchards
NativeTorontonianAl / March 13, 2014 at 02:04 pm
This is proof that in a sense, Toronto did plan for its city and what it was meant to handle. The planners of the past did that. From colonial days to the 60s/70s/early 80s, the planners knew what kind of place Toronto really was: A smaller or mid-sized city, and same with Southern Ontario. By the 80s, it was all about greed with politicizing of everything including city planning, and no more taking into account the natural nature of Toronto and what it can handle. This goes for the entire Golden Horseshoe and Southern Ontario as well. Complete greed and neglect/irresponsibility towards the nature of Toronto, the infrastructure and even the culture and social aspect.
A.H. JACKSON / March 16, 2014 at 09:52 am
The change from "people city" to "gridlock greedy" is all my fault. During the early 1970's, I was rudely awakened on a Sunday morning at 6:45 am by a next door neighbour pounding boards into a swimming pool fence. The fellow obviously lacked respect for traditional Canadian values and had I but jumped out of bed and put a stop to that nonsense we might have avoided the no respect for human values rat race called globalization.
Arturo replying to a comment from Ummmm / March 17, 2014 at 02:00 am
I am fully aware that they tore down Toronto's first Chinatown for Nathan Phillips Square. They also tore down the beautiful building beside Nathan Phillips Square as evidenced by the picture 3rd from top, get a brain buddy.
Rod replying to a comment from Scarboro / May 23, 2014 at 09:59 pm
AKA gold old days.
Da Foz replying to a comment from Ed Ball / May 31, 2014 at 10:29 pm
Are you a baka? Of course they had cranes back then, how else do you think they built buildings? And no there were no trespassing rooftoppers, the elevated pictures are taken from helicopters and planes.
Craig / October 24, 2014 at 11:33 pm
In the photo of the Island Airport it pains me so much to see what's left of Maple Leaf Stadium by the waterfront. With some renovations and added seats in the outfield it could have been our Fenway and likely would have spurred some more interesting development along that part of the lakeshore.
steve Wickens / October 25, 2014 at 08:08 am
How come floating on air mattresses isn't a thing anymore?
Dana / October 25, 2014 at 09:23 am
I was uh, kinda hoping for more fashion pics. Hahahah.

Thank you for your ongoing posts - I love them.
Jim J. / October 25, 2014 at 10:59 am
1960's Toronto = boring. Must have been a Sunday when these pictures were taken. Remember the city closed down on Sundays?
MeMe / October 28, 2014 at 09:48 am
Oh blogto, will you every actually caption your photos like regular folk?
Jeannie / December 26, 2014 at 12:34 pm
It may be duue to thee threat off a nuclear war that was so terrifying in the 1950s that their clothe looked to nicely created and
John / February 11, 2015 at 07:54 pm
Sure remember those days, when everyone got home for dinner at 6:00 sharp. Never did anyone go to restaurants, the family home was everything. Something we totally lost.
john kilby / February 20, 2016 at 07:24 pm
Good Evening-I arrived in Toronto in June of 1957 from England.I had flown from London to New York and onto Toronto in a DC-3>Malton airport was a small collection of Nissan huts,and I had a cousin waiting for me,immigration procedures were brief in those days,and I distinctly remember him pulling his Buick up to the immigration office to pick me up.I think the population of Toronto was about 900 000 at that time-a crime free,very pleasant town,parochial-not much employment available etc.I lived in Rosedale in a rooming house full of immigrants like myself-rent in a shared room was $10.00 per week-many of the men I shared the place with were very well qualified Europeans,British,Dutch,German etc all looking for a new start in life,I must say one felt very safe in Toronto at that time,and we made our own social life.I have'nt been back since 1961,but it appears to have changed-as usual some good some bad,
Janosik / March 11, 2016 at 08:54 pm
Wow. Amazing. I wish I have moved here 40 years ago. I would be very rich now :)
Alex G / March 12, 2016 at 07:59 am
The first tower of the TD Centre was well under construction in 1965. In the summer of 1965, I recall looking west from the free public observation area atop the Bank of Commerce building to the steel framework of the new TD tower.
Mike Popelyak / March 12, 2016 at 08:15 am
My Dad took a lot of photos in Toronto/Ottawa/Calgary in the 1960's.
I recently rescanned some of them.
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