toronto night 1980s

Dazzling colour photographs of 1970s and 80s Toronto at night

If there's a decade that calls to mind the pure glory of urban night photography, it's the 1970s. For its part, Toronto brimmed with just enough sleaze during this period to get the heart racing when walking down Yonge St. after hours.

By the time the 1980s rolled around, things were starting to clean up, but the proliferation of cameras and high speed colour film meant that more and more people were able to capture the city at night.

When Toronto made good on the description "bright lights, big city," photographers were creeping all over our streets capturing the mood of a messy city that finally liked to stay up late.

Here's what Toronto looked like at night during the 1970s and 80s.

toronto 1970s

Queen and Spadina before the McDonald's took residence on the northwest corner. Photo by Leroy W. Demery Jr.

toronto 1970s

Recently built Ontario Place looking good at dusk.

toronto 1970s

Looking west on the 401 towards Weston Rd. Note the distance is marked in imperial units on the sign to the right. Photo via The King's Highway.

toronto 1970s

The Eaton Centre under construction.

toronto 1970s

Eaton Centre construction further south.

toronto 1970s

Biltmore's Theatre looking absolutely majestic in the late 1970s.

toronto 1970s

The Rio and Sam the Chinese Food Man on a much seedy Yonge St. strip.

toronto 1970s

A&A Records and Peter Dunn's Vinyl Museum in 1982 (the year Dire Straits released "Love over Gold."

toronto 1970s

The Wintergarden Theatre and Diana Sweets further south on Yonge St.

toronto 1970s

Elm St. just west of Yonge. You can bet the interior of Barberian's Steakhouse (left side) looked pretty much the same back then.

toronto 1970s

A wide shot of Yonge St. looking south to Gould in the early 1980s.

toronto 1970s

A lost Toronto tradition. Chess games outside Sam the Record Man on Gould St.

toronto 1980s

Looking down on Yonge and Dundas from the roof of the Eaton Centre. Note the Howard Johnson to the far right of the photo.

toronto 1980s

King St. looking west from Simcoe across Ed Mirvish's empire. 

toronto 1980s

The marquee at the Royal Alex Theatre.

toronto 1980s

A perfectly moody looking Dundas West between Beverley and Spadina in the early 1980s.

toronto 1980s

Now looking the other way, still on Dundas West.

toronto 1980s

A jumbled group of signs on Yonge St. near Gerrard.

toronto 1980s

The quintessential, hand-held 1980s skyline shot from the CN Tower. 

toronto 1980s

Now zooming out and looking at the skyline from Broadview Ave. 

toronto 1980s

Quiet King St. looking east towards St. Lawrence Hall.

toronto 1980s

Record shops, strip clubs, and fast food: Yonge St. in the 1980s.toronto 1980sTypical Junction scene in 1984. Photo by Avard Woolaver.

Kicking it at Vesuvio's in when it was still clad with neon. Photo by Avard Woolaver.

toronto 1980sDundas and Mavety in 1984. Photo by Avard Woolaver.

toronto 1980s

Looking up Yonge St. from Gould after the first of Sam's spinning discs went up. Photo by Avard Woolaver.

toronto 1980s

That, folks, is what "South Core" looked like in the mid 1980s. The prominent building you see to the centre-left is the Canada Post Delivery Building, which is where the Air Canada Centre is located now.

toronto 1980s

The Bellair Cafe lighting up Yorkville in the late 1980s.

toronto 1980s

The Toronto skyline in 1987. Photo by Robert Naylor.

Lead photo by

Toronto Archives


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