Using the Archives

Metropolitan Toronto Records

The regional government of the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto (Metro) encompassed the geographical area we know today as simply Toronto. It coexisted with the area municipalities (thirteen in 1953, reduced to six in 1967) and was responsible for issues of regional significance and scope, such as water supply and sewage disposal, solid waste management, social services, police and ambulance services, arterial roads, and public transit.

Construction of Yorkdale subway station, February 18, 1977

Construction of Yorkdale subway station
February 18, 1977
TTC photograph files, "Spadina Subway Project"

Important dates

  • April 15, 1953: The Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto Act establishes the regional government (Metro), made up of the thirteen municipalities of East York, Etobicoke, Forest Hill, Leaside, Long Branch, Mimico, New Toronto, North York, Scarborough, Swansea, Toronto, Weston, and York
  • January 1, 1954: Metro assumes jurisdiction over its geographical area
  • January 1, 1967: Forest Hill and Swansea amalgamate with Toronto; Long Branch, Mimico, and New Toronto amalgamate with Etobicoke; Weston amalgamates with York; and Leaside amalgamates with East York. These changes reduce the thirteen municipalities to six (East York, Etobicoke, North York, Scarborough, Toronto, and York)
  • January 1, 1998: The Metro government ceases to exist as a result of the amalgamation of the six area municipalities to form the new City of Toronto

Types of records

Council proceedings

The Archives has the proceedings of Metro Council from 1953 to 1997. They are available in the Research Hall Library. Also available are videotapes of Council meetings from 1992 to 1997. To see these, please speak to Reference Desk staff.

Other municipal records

The Archives has records from Metro's departments and many of its agencies, boards and commissions. To find these records, search on your research topic in the Gencat database, or speak to Reference Desk staff.

Fire Insurance Maps

The Archives has fire insurance maps on microfilm from a variety of years. The earliest is the Boulton Atlas of 1858. Most of the maps cover various years from 1880 to the 1920s, although there are a few covering mostly industrial and commercial areas of the city up to the 1940s. Not all areas of the city are covered for all years.

The Boulton Atlas of 1858 is available in hard copy in the Research Hall. Fire insurance maps from 1880 to 1924 are online. After 1924, they are available on microfilm in the Research Hall.


To find maps showing Metro, use the Gencat database. Reference Desk staff can show you how to use the database. Of particular interest are the TTC Planning Maps (Series 260) and Maps and Plans of the Planning Department (Series 210), both of which include maps showing transit routes, roads, population, land use, and other information.

The Archives also has several atlases that may be useful. They are found on shelves at the back of the Research Hall.

Aerial photographs

The aerial photographs cover the Toronto area from 1947 to 1992. A selection of years are available online. A smaller group of photographs of valley lands from 1937 to 1942 are also available. A more complete run of years is available on computers in the Research Hall.


The Archives holds many published reports regarding Metro, including those on topics such as public transit, water treatment, the environment, social services, and policing, as well as official plans and two Royal Commissions on Metropolitan Toronto. Search the Gencat database for these titles or your topics. Of particularly wide scope are the Clerk's Official Reports (Series 10), the Annual Reports of the Commissioner of Finance (Series 185) and, for public works subjects, the Works Library Reports (Series 235).


These general reference books are a good place to start your research:

Timothy J. Colton, Big Daddy: Frederick G. Gardiner
and the Building of Metropolitan Toronto
(Toronto: University of Toronto Press 1980) 351.713541 C72 1980

Gera Dillon and Michael McMahon, Metro Perspectives (videotape)
(Toronto: Metropolitan Toronto Archives 1991)
971.3541 D58 1991 (closed reference)

Don R. Richmond, History of Metropolitan Toronto
(draft) (Toronto 1978)
971.3541 R41 1978

Boomtown, Metropolitan Toronto: A Photographic Record of Two Decades of Growth
(Toronto: Donald Boyce Kirkup and Lockwood Survey Corp., Ltd. 1969)
917.13541 K63 1969

Metropolitan Toronto: The Changing Context, 1953-1993
(Toronto: Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto 1993)
351.713541 M56 1993

Metropolitan Toronto: Past and Present: Aerial Photos From the Collection of Gordon H. Jarrett
(Toronto: Donald Boyce Kirkup 1974)
917.1354 K63 1974

Central Pumping Control Supervisory: High Level Pumping Station
Series 4, Sub-series 1, Item 723


To find photographs of places and events throughout Metro, search on your research topic in the Gencat database. Particularly wide-ranging in subject matter is the Metropolitan Toronto Planning Board Brochure Photographs Series (Series 35), which includes images of police, parks, and cultural activities as well as the development of suburbs and infrastructure from 1948 to 1978.

Other large collections include the Road Construction Photographs (Series 3), showing roads and streetscapes throughout Metro from 1949 to the 1980s; the Works Library Photographs (Series 4), showing construction and maintenance of water, sewer, and solid waste management facilities from 1874 to 1986; and the Parks and Property Photographs (Series 316), showing parks and recreation facilities from 1924 to 1982.

For photographs of public transportation, see the Central Photography of the Toronto Transit Commission (Series 71), as well as the Strathy Smith Fonds (Fonds 1128, subway series), which shows construction of the Yonge Street subway, and the Eric Trussler Fonds (Fonds 1567), which shows construction of the University Avenue subway.

Other information

For general information, see the information files whose titles begin with "Metro" or "Metropolitan." You may also find other information files about more specific topics, including people (such as Mel Lastman, Fred Gardiner, and Tommy Thompson), places and landmarks (such as the Gardiner Expressway and the Martin Goodman Trail), and issues of both local and regional significance (such as housing, water quality, economic development, and GO Transit). For a list of information file titles, please consult Reference Desk staff.

For a list of Metro politicians and other municipal information, please ask Reference Desk staff for the binder entitled "Metro Reference Highlights." Other useful sources for general information are the Metro Planning Board Brochures, the Metro Key Facts, and the Metro Briefing Notes, all findable in the Gencat database.


As well as the photographic collections mentioned above, highlights include the Eli Comay Fonds (Fonds 39) of planning records; the papers and drawings of architect Howard Chapman (Fonds 7); correspondence, subject files, and publications of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations (Fonds 40); administrative and promotional records of the Toronto Area Industrial Development Board (Fonds 42); police records (Fonds 38 and 15); and the photographs, diaries, and other papers of conservationist Charles Sauriol (Fonds 4).



East York Records Former City of Toronto Records Etobicoke Records
Metropolitan Toronto Records North York Records Scarborough Records York Records