Toronto 1867

What Toronto looked like 150 years ago

As Canada prepares to celebrate its 150th anniversary with celebrations across the country, it's a natural time to gaze back at what Toronto looked like in 1867.

The city was incorporated 33 years before Confederation, though it would take another century to become the biggest city in the country.

Yes, 150 years ago Toronto was a profoundly smaller place, though some of this early city remains in the buildings that survived our drive to tear down our municipal heritage in the 1960s and 70s.

Fortunately, we have plenty of photographs of the city during this time, even if the slow shutter speeds erased much of the action on the street. One set in particular is fascinating to look back on during all this Canada 150 hubbub.

Octavius Thompson, a photographer who opened a studio back in 1864, compiled a series of 40 photographs of the city under the title "Toronto in the Camera" that was published in 1868. It offers a stunning portrait of the fledging metropolis as it was when Canada was born.

Many of the buildings depicted here have not survived, but the ones that have seem all the more special for their endurance and link to the past.

Behold, the Toronto of 150 years ago.

Toronto 1867

Octavius Thompson, King St. looking east toward Victoria St., 1867

Toronto 1867Octavius Thompson, King St. looking east towards Jarvis, 1867.

Toronto 1867

Octavius Thompson, Wellington St. looking east from Leader Lane, 1867

Toronto 1867Octavius Thompson, Toronto Post Office (Toronto St.), 1867.

Toronto 1867

Octavius Thompson, St. Lawrence Hall at King and Jarvis streets, 1867

Toronto 1867

Octavius Thompson, Osgoode Hall, 1867.

Toronto 1867

Octavius Thompson, Trinity College, 1867.

Toronto 1867

Octavius Thompson, College Gates at Queen and University, 1867

Toronto 1867

Octavius Thompson, University Buildings, 1867.

toronto 1867Octavius Thompson, British Bank of North America (northeast corner of Yonge and Wellington streets), 1867.

Toronto 1867

Octavius Thompson, Provincial Lunatic Asylum at 999 Queen St. West, 1867.

Toronto 1867

Octavius Thompson, Richmond St. Methodist Church, 1867.

Toronto 1867

Octavius Thompson, St. Andrew's Presbytrian Church, 1867.

Lead photo by

Octavius Thompson via the Toronto Public Library


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