toronto 1980s

The confident beauty of Toronto streets in the 1980s

Toronto streets cleaned up a lot in the 1980s. At the outset of the decade, the seediness and soot that defined the 1960s and '70s was still readily apparent, but by its end the city seemed a whole lot more modern, thanks in no small part to the shiny new baseball stadium that appeared under the CN Tower.

In terms of visual icons, the 1980s marked the end of the line for the original red Gloucester subway cars (retired 1990) and the rise of the ALRV streetcars, which somehow remain a fixture on our streets today. The majority of cars were still as big as boats, but dimunitive models like the Chevy Citation and Toyota Tercel started to gain in popularity.  

One thing you'll notice about photos of Toronto during this period is that there are still large areas of industrial buildings and surface parking lots in areas that have now become densely populated areas.

It's almost shocking to see King Street West bereft of traffic until you realize that Liberty Village had yet to be developed and Massey Ferguson's factories still lined the street on either side of Shaw. When you add thousands upon thousands of people to these areas, it's not just the shape of the city that changes, but also the way it functions. 

The Toronto of the 1980s was an orderly place. Despite an early recession, it was a town where people were confident that they could buy a home. This was "the city that works" — a slogan that had a lot of truth to it.

It's as though Toronto had found a sweetspot in the 1980s. While it was a big city, it didn't face many of the growing pains we deal with today. The optimism and contentedness of the decade peeks through these photos.

Behold, the confident beauty of Toronto streets in the 1980s.

toronto 1980s

Yonge and Dundas. Avard Woolaver.

Toronto 1980s

Queen and Shaw streets looking west. Unknown photographer. 

Toronto 1980s

Looking toward Queen and Bay streets. Unknown photographer. 

Toronto 1980s

World's Biggest Bookstore. Toronto Archives.

toronto 1980s

Kensington Market. Toronto Archives.

Toronto 1980s

King and Spadina. Chuckman's Nostalgia

Dundas and Victoria streets. Avard Woolaver.

Toronto 1980s

King near Shaw Street. Toronto Archives.

toronto 1980s

Looking across the Massey Ferguson lands on King West. Toronto Archives.

toronto 1980s

Liberty Village. Toronto Archives.

toronto 1980s

King looking west from Berkeley Street. Toronto Archives.

Toronto 1980s

Dundas and Mavety streets. Avard Woolaver.

toronto 1980s

Traffic Jam on King west near Portland. Toronto Archives.

toronto 1980s

Looking east across King from Duncan St. Toronto Archives.

toronto 1980s

Keele just south of Dundas St. Avard Woolaver.

toronto 1980s

King and Simcoe streets. Toronto Archives.

Toronto 1980s

Yonge and Temperance streets. Toronto Archives.

Lead photo by

Toronto Archives


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