panorama 1907 Toronto

Toronto panorama of 1910 reveals massive change

The most famous panorama of Toronto was taken in 1856 by civil engineering firm Armstrong, Beere and Hime from atop the Rossin House hotel at King and York streets, but it's not the only image that offers a detailed snapshot of what the city was was like in the past.

In 1910, the photography firm known as the Panoramic View Company of Toronto ascended to the roof of the Trader's Bank Building at Yonge and Colborne streets, then the tallest building in the British Commonwealth, to capture the city's harbour. The resulting image is a wonderful visual document of Toronto just after the turn of the 20th century.

The Trader's Bank Building is visible in the far background of an earlier panorama from 1907 (top photo), which faces northeast and covers some of the same territory, though the view is not quite as wide.

1910 panorama TorontoYou could spend hours carefully identifying the various elements and buildings documented in the panorama (click the photo for a larger version), but a few things are particularly noteworthy. The first is where the inner harbour is located. There's not much land south of Front Street and the railway tracks. It will be another 15 years before the city does major work to fill in the harbour.

Speaking of the railway, the huge vacant lot at the centre-right of the photo awaits the construction of Toronto's third Union Station, the one we still use today. You can see Union Station II at the far right of the panorama with its distinctive domed towers. It would eventually be demolished when its replacement opened for business.

1910 panorama Toronto

Panning over to the far left of the image, you can actually see the distinctive roof of the Trader's Bank Building. To the south of it are the Gooderham and Worts Distillery buildings, which are located right along the water. A bit further west, you can see the sprawling south building of the St. Lawrence Market, which had been rebuilt a few years earlier in 1904.

1910 panorama Toronto

The row buildings of Front Street then lead us to the centre of the image, where you can see the gorgeous roof of the Board of Trade Building, which used to serve as the TTC's headquarters, among other things. The steamships at the foot of the city are not ferries to Toronto Island, but rather ships destined to travel across Lake Ontario.

1910 panorama Toronto

On the right of the image, you can see some evidence of new buildings, which would have been erected following the Great Fire of 1904. Note the water towers above them, which were designed to be a fire prevention measure in the wake of the destruction just a few years earlier.

If you compare this panorama to the one taken in 1856, the amount of change is remarkable, to say nothing of how much the city has transformed since then. It would be amazing to have images like these from each decade of the city's past, but unfortunately they are few and far between. We should appreciate the ones that remain all the more based on this scarcity.

Panorama from the Library of Congress. Lead photo from the Toronto Public Library.


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