Queen's Quay History Toronto

What Queen's Quay looked like before the condos

Queen's Quay, like so many areas around downtown Toronto, has undergone massive change over the last 30 years or so. Once a street that serviced waterfront industry and passengers about to embark on ferries headed to the Toronto Islands, our city's most southerly street (at least in terms of the downtown core) is now something of a neighbourhood unto itself, complete with condos galore, tourist attractions (Harbourfront Centre), and office space in the York Quay Centre.

And more change is on the way. Waterfront Toronto has big plans for the section of Queen's Quay to the east of Yonge, where the future is only hinted at in developments like Sugar Beach, Sherbourne Common and the Corus Building. There's even a snazzy new video that'll show you what it's all supposed to look like when the construction is finally complete. But what did the street look like before all this development? Although it's probably not a place to get particularly nostalgic about, it's always intriguing to situate the city within the context of its industrial past.


Queen's Quay was born, as it were, at the turn to the 20th century when various efforts were made to expand the city southward by filling in the harbour. Up until the early 1970s, the street bore an almost exclusively industrial character save for the ferry docks. Streetcar service arrived in the late 1920s, only to disappear some 50 years years later before its eventual return in 1989. Throughout this period, Queen's Quay was a mostly tired stretch of road, home to various silos and warehouses, and, of course, the Toronto Terminal Warehouse.

If you weren't going to work here or destined for a ferry boat, chances are you skipped Queen's Quay altogether. Things would slowly change in the 1970s when the Toronto Terminal was converted to the York Quay Centre and the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel was built. In the years that followed, condos slowly sprouted up between these two anchors, before the street was officially extended west from Rees Street to Stadium Road in the mid 1980s.

By that time, the a real estate boom was starting to to gear up, and the prime waterfront property would quickly be bought up by developers. It's not all about condos here, however. Although they tend to dominate the north side of the street — creating, some will say, a barrier to the waterfront — the southern tip has seen promising developments like HTO park and the revitalized Power Plant art gallery.

And that's not to mention what's taking place east of Yonge. It remains to be seen just what the character of the street will be when development pushes beyond Sherbourne, but if recent projects are any indication, there's reason to be optimistic about the future.



Queen's Quay near, 1910


Looking west from Bay Street, 1927


Looking south near York Street, 1927


Looking northwest from York Street, 1927


Looking west from Bay Street, 1927


Queen's Quay and York Street, 1930


Taxis at the ferry docks, 1931


Royal Trust Building, 1960s


Looking east at Bonnycastle, 1960s


Looking west at Bonnycastle


Queen's Quay, 1970s


Canada Malting, 1970s


Pier 6 (now demolished), mid 1970s


Redpath Sugar, 1970s


Aerial view, 1970s


Captain Johns, 1980s


Aerial view York Quay, 1980s


Aerial view, early 1980s (future site of ACC at bottom left)


Queen's Quay and skyline, 1980s


Queen's Quay skyline, 1980s


Photo by ettml


Photo by Richard Braeken

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