toronto 1930s

A 1930s Toronto photo extravaganza

The Toronto of the 1930s was a city mired in the Great Depression. Though high-profile construction projects like Commerce Court and Canada Life Building were brought to fruition, numerous others were nixed or heavily revised. There were plans to extensively alter the downtown street grid, adding multiple grand avenues between Spadina, Dundas, and Sherbourne, and a proposal by the Eaton's department store for what would have been the largest retail and office complex in the world, but the economy didn't co-operate.

The 1930s also brought unrest in the form of the Christie Pits riot, the opening of Maple Leaf Gardens and the Island airport, the first visit by a reigning monarch and a manned dirigible balloon, and the city's centennial celebration.

Here's a look back at 1930s Toronto in photos.

toronto 1930s

The R100 dirigible glides past Commerce Court in 1930. The British-built hydrogen balloon crossed the Atlantic to Canada that year as part of the country's fledgling Imperial Airship Scheme. The R100's sister ship, the R101, crashed in France en route to British India in 1930, killing 48 and ending the scheme.

toronto 1930s

Inside of Bedford Park Lunch and Ice Cream Parlour on Yonge St. 1930.

toronto 1930s

A near-finished Canada Life Building from the Osgoode Hall grounds.

toronto 1930s

One of the last bricks is maneuvered into position atop the Canada Life Building in 1930.

toronto 1930s

The Cherry Street Strauss Trunnion Bascule Bridge, which opened in 1930.

toronto 1930s

Looking toward the site of present day City Hall from the roof of the Canada Life Building, in 1930.

toronto 1930s

A view of downtown, also from the Canada Life Building.

toronto 1930s

Exiting a downtown streetcar in 1930.

toronto 1930s

Boarding a TTC streetcar.

toronto 1930s

Streetcar #1774 being wrecked on George St. Note the Christie's Biscuits factory in the background.

toronto 1930s

Streetcars in storage.

toronto 1930s

An open-topped TTC bus.

toronto 1930s

John David Eaton and Lady Eaton, his mother, arrive at the opening ceremony for the company's College St. store.

toronto 1930s

What the Eaton's College St. was supposed to look like.

toronto 1930s

And how it was built.

toronto 1930s

Bathers enjoy a dip in the High Park mineral baths in 1931.

toronto 1930s

The opening ceremony at Maple Leaf Gardens, November 1931.

toronto 1930s

The view from College and Yonge to Maple Leaf Gardens shortly after the hockey stadium was completed.

toronto 1930s

Commerce Court, the tallest building in the British Empire, shortly before it was completed in 1931.

toronto 1930s

The only known photo of the Christie Pits riot in August 1933. Acts of aggression and intimidation against the city's Jewish population were on the rise in the Depression years of the early 1930s, and the riot at Christie Pits represented the depressing nadir.

toronto 1930s

Beaches residents in swastika shirts.

toronto 1930s

Display celebrating Toronto's centennial in 1934 outside City Hall.

toronto 1930s

Sunnyside amusement park looking northwest from the waterfront.

toronto 1930s

Bathers at Leslie Beach in 1935. The area is now home to the Leslie St. Spit.

toronto 1930s

Tip Top Tailors Building.

toronto 1930s

Inside the Toronto Stock Exchange, 1935.

toronto 1930s

Aerial view of the Queen and Bay area.

toronto 1930s

View south from Fort York toward Maple Leaf Stadium (baseball) and Tip Top Tailors on Lake Shore.

toronto 1930s

Looking west on Front St. past Union Station and the Royal York Hotel.

toronto 1930s

In this staged photo, two women in shorts cause a car accident.

toronto 1930s

The Toronto Harbour Commission Building in the 1930s. Infilling of the Toronto Harbour effectively shifted the waterfront building inland.

toronto 1930s

Malton Airport when it was still the Toronto Flying Club.

toronto 1930s

Malton Airport (now Pearson) in 1939.

toronto 1930s

The island airport from waterfront grain elevators shortly after its opening in 1939.

toronto 1930s

The Midway at the CNE in 1939.

toronto 1930s

Simpson's department store at Queen and Yonge decorated for the visit of George VI in May 1939.

toronto 1930s

George VI and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, in the royal carriage at Woodbine (later Greenwood) racetrack, 1939. The visit was the first by a reigning British monarch to Canada. The Queen Elizabeth Way, Ontario's first highway, was named in honour of the visit.

toronto 1930s

"Join the Canadian Army Active Force" poster, 1939.

toronto 1930s

"Somebody talked" war poster, 1939.

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


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