toronto rooftop

Rooftopping in Toronto, vintage edition

Toronto's hardiest photographers have been hauling tripods, lenses, and film stock on to the city's rooftops for centuries. Though it's certainly been taken to new heights recently by local photographers and others, there's always been something edifying in taking a step back and observing the city from a distance.

The first rooftop images of Toronto were taken in 1856 by the firm of Armstrong, Beere & Hime as part of a bid by the city to become the capital of the Province of Canada. It worked, too. Toronto was the designated capital - as it had been previously from 1849 to 1852 - until 1858 when Quebec City and finally Ottawa nabbed the title.

Since then, there have been countless images taken of the city from the tops of buildings, each one capturing our metropolis in a constant state of flux. Toronto's landmarks are being built in the background, streetcar tracks are appearing, and sidewalks and roads are growing ever busier.

Later, parking lots, weaving train lines, and endless concrete dominate the landscape as the city's first skyscrapers and the CN Tower claim the skyline.

Look closely and spot the differences to today.

toronto rooftop

Osgoode Hall and York Street from the roof of the Rossin House Hotel

toronto rooftop

Northwest from the Rossin House Hotel

toronto rooftop

North up Bay Street to Old City Hall

toronto rooftop

The lost University Avenue Armouries, home of the Toronto Regiments of the Canadian Army. Eaton's and the Ford Hotel are in the background.

toronto rooftop

Island airpot and original terminal building

toronto rooftop

The dirigible R-100

toronto rooftop

over the Canadian Bank of Commerce

toronto rooftop

Front and Wellington and the Gooderham Building (Flatiron)

toronto rooftop

Old City Hall, likely from the

toronto rooftop

roof of the Temple Building

toronto rooftop

Looking west from the roof of Old Union Station

toronto rooftop

The Royal York Hotel under construction opposite new Union Station

toronto rooftop

Spadina Avenue and One Spadina Crescent

toronto rooftop

The Toronto Star building

toronto rooftop

and next to the former offices of the Globe on King West

toronto rooftop

Looking east on Front Street past the Queen's Hotel, a precursor to the Royal York

toronto rooftop

A dizzying look down at King and Yonge

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A view up a tree-lined University Avenue from the Canada Life building

toronto rooftop

The site of current City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square from the Canada Life building

toronto rooftop

Yonge Street at night

toronto rooftop

A bleak scene on Front Street East featuring the old north market building

toronto rooftop

King and Simcoe before the rail sidings were removed for Roy Thompson Hall and Metro Hall

toronto rooftop

A similar view, slightly later, showing the site of Metro Hall and the Princess of Wales Theatre

toronto rooftop

The cars are the most colourful things in this dreary shot of the Sony Centre, then the O'Keefe Centre

toronto rooftop

King and Bay streets before TD Centre and First Canadian Place

toronto rooftop

Yonge and College/Carlton from the roof of the College Park

toronto rooftop

Yonge and Dundas and beyond before the square arrivedThe Bathurst Street bridge squeezes multiple rail corridors before the condos arrivedCity Hall before the Sheraton and Eaton Centre - the Simpson Tower is still under constructionThe Metro Toronto Convention Centre and the SkydomeChris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Images: City of Toronto Archives


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