Toronto Fire Great 1904

A visual history of the great Toronto fire of 1904

Toronto has lost many iconic buildings over the years. But, nothing in the realm of city planning or development has been as destructive as the Great Fire of 1904.  

At 8:04 p.m. on April 19, 1904 a police constable on patrol in downtown Toronto reported the sight of flames shooting skyward from the Currie Building, which was located at 58 Wellington (near where the current TD Centre now sits).

Spreading rapidly, by 4 a.m. an area of approximately 20 acres was destroyed by flames. To put that into some perspective, Ground Zero, the site of the former World Trade Centre in New York City, is about 16 acres.

It could have been much worse, however. Because the fire started after regular work hours, the affected area was virtually empty. In fact, though it's hard to believe, there were no fatalities associated with the blaze. It's also somewhat remarkable, given the inferno it was reported to be at its height, that the blaze didn't spread further north and and east.

Credit goes to the over 250 firefighters—some of whom travelled from Hamilton and Buffalo to help—for saving other areas along King and Yonge streets from being engulfed by the flames.

Here are some statistics about the fire:

  • $10 million in property damages (in 1904 dollars!)
  • 5,000 jobs lost
  • 20 acres destroyed
  • Over 250 firefighters fought the blaze
  • 9.5 and 11 million litres of water were used to douse the flames
  • 5 injuries (the most serious of which was a broken leg)
  • 9hrs total duration

However, nothing captures the destruction like a visual history. Here are some photos of the Great Toronto Fire of 1904. 

Toronto Fire 1904

Bay Street looking north before the fire (1903)

Toronto Fire 1904

Bay Street looking north after the fire (1904)

Toronto Fire 1904

Bay Street looking north at Wellington

Toronto Fire 1904

Bay Street looking southwest (Old Union Station in the background)

Toronto Fire 1904

The aftermath as seen from the roof of the Queen's Hotel

Toronto Fire 1904

Front and Bay streets

Toronto Fire 1904

Front looking west from near Yonge Street

Toronto Fire 1904

Location unknown

Toronto Fire 1904

The City Engineers album

toronto fireEast side of Bay Street at Melinda

Photos by

The Ontario Archives and the Toronto Archives. Written by Derek Flack. 


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