The 10 most iconic signs in Toronto
Iconic signs in Toronto don’t just brighten up our city streets, they’re a crucial part of our urban fabric.
While they’re no longer as popular as they once were—the cost of maintenance and upkeep have led most businesses to ditch them entirely—the few neon beacons that do remain are a throwback to a different time (pre-condo culture) when businesses had a little more permanence than they do now (we miss you, Honest Ed’s).
Here are some of Toronto’s most iconic signs.
The bright pink marquee sign of this grimey historic hotel-turned-strip club has long lit up the corner of Dundas and George with its giant cocktail and catchy tag lines. ‘Come in and have the worst lap dance that one guy on Yelp ever had in his life’ is a personal fave.
It doesn’t really get more iconic or obvious than this multi-colour sign in Nathan Phillips Square. The first version, which first went up in 2015, was meant to be a short-term thing, but will soon be replaced by a more durable, permanent version in 2020.
It may technically be known as the Mattamy Athletic Centre since the Loblaws and Ryerson University takeover, but this historic ice rink still has its famous black-and-white marquee facing Carlton Street, albeit restored, marking the stadium where iconic concerts took place.
Re-erected in early 2019 is the new and improved cascading sign of this old Bloor Street theatre. It’s a replica based off the original, which first went up in 1937, based off of archival photos and drawings. Thirteen years since it closed, the theatre’s officially back in action, as is this glimmering sign that can be seen from down the block.
Several iterations of this giant sign have graced the upper floors of the Royal York Hotel since the 1940s. More recently, the Fairmont name, spelled out in glowing cursive, has stood atop this landmark on Front Street since the company’s takeover of the hotel in 1999.
The shining palms have risen once more outside (although the actual El Mo has yet to open its doors). Unveiled in mint condition in late 2018, the return of the sign got us all very excited for the re-opening of the music hall where the Rolling Stones played in 1977, but as in usual El Mo style, looks like we’ll have to wait a bit before music strikes again.
It may be closed for a massive and much-needed revitalization, but this music venue’s electric red sign is still glowing bright above its Shuter Street entrance—for now anyway—where many Torontonians entered to experience the sweet, sweet acoustics of their first live show ever.
It’s not owned by Louie anymore, but this Parkdale diner has somehow managed to maintain the loyalty and devotion of regulars by keeping a certain retro-ness on the inside and on the outside. Keeping the blinking sign while giving it a slight refresh has certainly helped to keep its old school diner vibes strong.
The city’s most beloved record store is long gone (and our hearts are still broken) but this pair of massive vinyl discs still shines bright in the city atop Yonge-Dundas Square. Of course, the sign’s lost much of its charm, given it’s completely dwarfed by the gargantuan 24-hour LED ads next to it, but hey—better than the scrap yard.
Standing untouched amidst the cluster of construction plaguing this area of Yonge is the eclectic, and frankly, beautiful multi-colour signage of one of Toronto’s oldest clubs. It might be the only building left on Yonge with any personality in a few years, what with its star-bedazzled facade and the top-hatted lady and her cane, watching over us all.
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