toronto waterfront

This is what Toronto's waterfront looked like in the 1970s

Toronto's waterfront might still be years away from being transformed into whatever comes next after the Sidewalk Lab's fiasco but a look back in time reveals just what a mess the area was back in the 1970s when its period as an industrial hub came to a close.

While opinions are mixed about the continued build-up of condos along the lakeside, these images serve as a reminder that development along the water served as a catalyst for much of the improvement we've witnessed since it was one giant brown field.

During the 1970s, industrial sites were expropriated to give way to art galleries, recreational space, and performance venues. It was also in 1976 that the federally funded Harbourfront project got underway - a key element in our waterfront's revitalization.

Behold, the Toronto waterfront of the 1970s.

toronto waterfront 1970s

View of the central harbour and burgeoning skyline in 1970. Photo via the Toronto Archives.

toronto waterfront 1970sLooking west across an empty Queens Quay in the early 1970s. Photo via the Toronto Archives.

toronto waterfront 1970s

The Queens Quay Terminal and harbourfront pre-revitalization in 1974. Photo via Harbourfront Centre.

toronto waterfront 1970sThe Queens Quay Terminal in its last days as an industrial site in 1974. Photo via the Toronto Archives.

toronto waterfront 1970sLooking towards the Eastern Gap and the young-looking Leslie Street Spit in 1974. Photo by Tom.

toronto waterfront 1970s

The Toronto Star Building and a rising Harbour Castle Hotel in 1976. Photo by Robert Taylor.

toronto waterfront 1970s

Looking west across Queens Quay towards the Maple Leaf Mills at Spadina Quay. Photo via the Toronto Archives.

toronto waterfront 1970s

Ship delivery at Maple Leaf Mills in the mid 1970s. Photo by Dan.

toronto waterfront 1970s

Looking east across the Ontario Place grounds in the mid 1970s. This is roughly where the new Trillium Park is now located. Photo via the Toronto Archives.

toronto waterfront 1970s

HMCS Haida docked near Ontario Place in the 1970s. Photo via the Toronto Archives.

toronto waterfront 1970s

Harbour area south of Tip Top Tailors Building near Bathurst and Queens Quay. Photo via the Toronto Archives.

toronto waterfront 1970s

The CN Tower rises over the sprawling Railway Lands in 1974. Photo via the Toronto Archives.

toronto waterfront 1970s

For a bit more perspective, this is how disconnected Toronto was from its waterfront in the 1970s. Photo via the Toronto Archives.

toronto waterfront 1970s

The roadway to the right in this photo from 1976 leads to what is now Trillium Park. This exact view doesn't actually look wildly different today, save for the development of the skyline. Photo via the Toronto Archives.

toronto waterfront 1970s

The eastern end of Queens Quay approaching Parliament St. Photo via the Toronto Archives.

toronto waterfront 1970s

Back in the 1970s, there was no fancy Humber Bay Arch Bridge. These were the options for cyclists crossing the river. Photo via the Toronto Archives.

toronto waterfront 1970s

Someone checks out the massive hull of the Meaford cargo ship. Photo via the Toronto Archives.

toronto waterfront 1970s

Looking southeast across the Port Lands in the late 1970s. Photo via the Toronto Archives.

Lead photo by

Toronto Archives.


Join the conversation Load comments

Latest in City

Craigleigh Gardens park and Milkman's Lane are gateways to Toronto's natural wonders

The history of City Dairy in Toronto

The history of the squirrel statues in Toronto

The ghosts of Exhibition Place in Toronto

A miniature version of Canada opens in Toronto next year

The history of Highway 2 when it was the gateway to Toronto

This is why a TTC subway station has a secret attic above its platform

This is what Wellington Street used to look like in Toronto