toronto 1920s

A 1920s Toronto photo extravaganza

The 1920s were big years for Toronto. After finally emerging from the ravages of the first world war, in which Canadian soldiers had distinguished themselves at Vimy and Passchendaele, the city began to grow upward and outward. New technology changed the way the city worked. Automatic telephone dialling was introduced, "talkie" pictures were in the cinemas, and the city got its first set of traffic lights.

It was also the decade the Toronto Transit Commission was established, the Ontario Temperance Act was repealed after more than a decade of prohibition, and a giant dirigible blimp visited the city. On Front St., Union Station and the Royal York Hotel were completed, the latter briefly becoming the city's tallest building.

Here's a look back at the Toronto of the 1920s in photos.

toronto 1920s

The Cyclorama building on Front St. in 1922. The strange cylindrical building near the intersection with York St. was designed to host 360 degree works of art. From a platform in the centre of the building, paying guests viewed scenes from famous battles and biblical events with elaborate painted backdrop and costumed actors in the foreground. The building later became a parking lot and was demolished in 1976.

toronto 1920s

Aerial view of Queen and Bay in 1923.

toronto 1920s

Yonge and Eglinton looking west in 1922.

toronto 1920s

Store covered in advertisements at the northwest corner of Bay and Adelaide in 1925.

toronto 1920s

Ice delivery cart in Parkdale, 1924.

toronto 1920s

Baseball in High Park circa. 1922.

toronto 1920s

Bathers in the Humber River in 1925. Bloor St. bridge in the background.

toronto 1920s

The city ferry "Bluebell" en route to the Toronto Island.

toronto 1920s

Kids playing with wheels on Chestnut St. in 1922.

toronto 1920s

CNE fireworks over the Toronto Bay.

toronto 1920s

The water crowded with bathers at Sunnyside. The amusement park opened near King, Queen, and Roncesvalles in 1922 and quickly became one of the city's most popular seasonal attractions.

toronto 1920s

The Sunnyside pool. Nicknamed the "Tank," the heated, filtered, and chlorinated 3 million litre pool--possibly one of the largest in the world--opened in the summer of 1925. Today, it's the Gus Ryder Pool.

toronto 1920s

The finalists and winner of the first Miss Toronto contest in 1926. Mrs. Jean Ford Tolmie, middle, took the prize that year. Ben Kayfetz, writing in The Globe and Mail in 1956, recalled "the beauty contests, after fading in popularity following on Mrs. Tolmie's victory, were revived later under the sponsorship of the Toronto Police Association. Though they did attain success they never afterwards approached the mass hysteria of the 1926 competition."

toronto 1920s

An organ grinder takes a break on Bay St. in 1922.

toronto 1920s

After 11 years of prohibition, the Ontario Temperance Act was officially repealed in 1927. The Liquor Control Board of Ontario was established that year to regulate the sale of liquor, beer, and wine in the province. Though many were in favour of loosening the rules, temperance advocates campaigned hard against the reintroduction of alcohol.

toronto 1920s

Another temperance poster from the mid-1920s.

toronto 1920s

Promotional poster for a stage show at the Regent.

toronto 1920s

A muddy Queens Quay West, looking west from Bay St. in 1927.

toronto 1920storonto 1920s

Ships gathered in the Toronto Harbour some time in the 1920s.

toronto 1920s

The downtown rail corridor looking west towards old Union Station and downtown.

toronto 1920s

Passengers mug for a photo on the platform of "old" Union Station.

toronto 1920s

Toronto's third Union Station was completed in 1927, a block west of the "old" Union Station. The jewel of the classical Beaux-Arts structure, which was designed by Ross & Macdonald, Hugh G. Jones of Montreal and John M. Lyle of Toronto, is the cavernous ticket hall. Look carefully at the cities inscribed near the roof--Sault Ste. Marie is spelled incorrectly.

toronto 1920s

The 22 Doric limestone columns outside the main entrance to the station. The entire facade of the building was recently given a deep clean that brought back the original lustre of the stone.

toronto 1920s

The Royal York Hotel approaching completion on Front St. in the late 1920s. The building, built by the Canadian Pacific Railway, was briefly the tallest in the city.

toronto 1920s

The Royal York Hotel approaching its final height.

toronto 1920s

Streetcars on the Bathurst route, which once serviced parts of Front St.

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Images: City of Toronto Archives (as marked.) All others Toronto Public Library.


Join the conversation Load comments

Latest in City

Here's what you need to know about the mandatory face mask policy in Toronto

Toronto hospital has no COVID-19 patients in intensive care for the first time since March

Toronto cyclist nears end of 46-day ride for George Floyd

Uber takes swift action against driver after woman alleges racial slur in Toronto

Founder and CEO of the Drake Hotel in Toronto steps down amid racism controversy

Here's what the weather forecast looks like for the rest of summer in Toronto

Doug Ford says Ontario is close to Stage 3 reopening and here's what that would include

Toronto isn't going to do anything about overcrowding at city beaches