Your City

March in Toronto

1834, Incorporation of Toronto as a city


Map of Toronto, 1834

Plan of the City of Toronto and Liberties, 1834
J.G. Chewett
City of Toronto Archives
MT 401

On March 6, 1834 "An act to extend the limits of the town of York, to erect the said town into a city and to incorporate it under the name of the City of Toronto" was given Royal Assent by William IV, thereby establishing the City of Toronto.

The Act of Incorporation extended boundaries of of York to Bathurst Street in the west, Parliament Street in the east, a line 400 yards north of Queen Street in the north and the lake in the south. At the time of incorporation Toronto had a population of just over 9,000. Today the city is home to over 2.5 million people.

As part of the City's celebration of the 175th anniversary, a web exhibit was developed exploring what the capital of Upper Canada was like in 1834.

1908, Sir Henry Pellatt dies


Sir Henry Pellatt lying in state, surrounded by soldiers in ceremonial uniform

Sir Henry Pellatt lying in state at the University Avenue Armouries
March 1939
City of Toronto Archives
Fonds 1244, Item 4001

On March 8, 1939, Major-General Sir Henry Pellatt, financier, soldier and builder of Casa Loma died, aged 80.

Pellat was born in Kingston, Ontario on January 6, 1859, and at the age of 17, joined the staff of his father's stockbroking business, later becoming a partner in the firm.

He amassed a large fortune through investments and business ventures, including the Toronto Electric Light Company, the Canadian Pacific Railroad and the North West Land Company. By 1901 Sir Henry was the chairman of 21 companies with interests in mining, insurance, land and electricity.

Throughout his life, Sir Henry took a keen interest in the military. He joined the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada as a rifleman, rising through the ranks to become Lieutenant Colonel and the Rifles' commanding officer in 1901. In 1910, at his own expense he took the regiment, and its horses, to England to take part in the annual manoeuvres of the British army at Aldershot.

From 1911 to 1914, Pellatt oversaw the construction of Casa Loma, his own private castle designed by Toronto architect E.J. Lennox. At a cost of $3.5 million, it was the most expensive private house in Canada at the time.

The above image shows Sir Henry lying in state at the University Avenue Armouries. Thousands of Torontonians lined the streets to witness the funeral procession. The Major-General was buried with full military honours.

1914, Opening of Royal Ontario Museum


West facade of Royal Ontario Museum

Royal Ontario Museum
Photographer: Arthur Goss
City of Toronto Archives
Fonds 1231, Item 134

On March 19, 1914, the new Royal Ontario Museum was officially opened by the Governor General, the Duke of Connaught.

Located at the south-west corner of Bloor Street and Queen's Park, the Museum has expanded several times over the last century.

The original building, designed by Toronto architects Darling and Pearson, forms today's west wing. It was followed in 1933 by Chapman and Oxley's famous East Wing, fronting onto Queen's Park.

In 1984, the Queen opened the new Terrace Galleries, and in 2007, Daniel Libeskind's Crystal returned the museum's main entrance to Bloor Street.

The above image, taken in 1922, shows the western facade of the original building, fronting onto Philosopher's Walk.

1954, Opening of Canada's first subway


Large crowd of people outside subway station

Crowd at Davisville Station during Official opening of the Yonge subway line, 1954
City of Toronto Archives
Series 381, File 298, Item 11847-19

On March 30, 1954, Ontario Premier Leslie Frost and Toronto Mayor Allan Lamport switched the signals at Davisville station to symbolically open Toronto subway.

Six hundred invited guests then boarded the first train to head north the one stop to the terminus at Eglinton. After a two minute wait, the train then headed to the southern terminus at Union station, taking just over twelve minutes to cover the four and a half miles. Later in the afternoon the line was open to the public, paying a ten cents fare for the privilege.

Construction of Canada's first subway line took over four and half years and cost $67 million. The tunnels were built using the 'cut and cover' technique, whereby a deep trench was dug, the tunnel constructed, and then re-covered.

Today, over three-quarters of a million people use the subway and Scarborough Rapid Transit every day, which has extended from four and half to over forty miles of track.

1965, Hockey on frozen lagoon, Toronto Islands


Hockey being played on frozen lake

Hockey on frozen lagoon, Toronto Islands
ca. 1965
City of Toronto Archives
Series 1825, Item 21

To most of us, Toronto Island is a summer place. We don't think of crunching though the ice on the ferry Ongiara on a wintery March day. But it's a daily trip for the residents who call the Island their home. Today, about 600 Torontonians live year-round on Algonquin and Ward's Islands.

Though people summered on the islands as early as the 1830's, the year-round community really grew during the 1940's and 50's. Faced with acute housing shortages precipitated by the Second World War, many Islanders winterized their cottages and began living there full time. Winter life on the islands included hockey matches, skating, and ice-boating regattas on frozen lagoons.

In 2011 the City of Toronto Archives was pleased to receive the records of the Toronto Island Archives. This collection covers the Island's history as a strategic, commercial, and recreational hub, the Islanders' very public battle with the Metro Government in the 1970s and 80s over the future of their community, and the development of the residential community up to 2008.

1972, Re-siting of Campbell House


Campbell House being transported across University Avenue, watched by crowds of people

Campbell House nearing its new site at Queen and University
March 31, 1972
City of Toronto Archives
Fonds 124, File 2

On March 31 (Good Friday), 1972, Campbell House began a mile-long journey from its original home at Adelaide and Frederick Streets, to its new location adjacent to the Canada Life Building on Queen Street, just west of University Avenue.

It took over six hours to tow the 272-tonne building to its new home. The journey required the removal of 82 street lamps and three-quarters of a mile of streetcar cable, in addition to the reinforcement of 65 manholes.

The house was built originally for Sir William Campbell, who was the Chief Justice of Upper Canada from 1825 to 1829. Campbell House remained a private residence until the twentieth century, when it was converted to commercial purposes, along with many other properties in its neighbourhood. Prior to its move, the building was used as a warehouse for the Coutts-Hallmark card company.

Coutts-Hallmark wanted to demolish the building to modernize their facilities. Fortunately, another option presented itself in 1969, when the deteriorating house was offered to the Advocates' Society for $1. The Society spent the next three years raising the funds required to save the house.

After two years of restoration work, Campbell House was officially re-opened in June 1974 by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. Today Campbell House serves as a clubhouse for the Toronto Advocates' Society and also is a museum open to the public.

1977, Royal Bank Plaza opened


Royal Bank Plaza, ca.1980

Royal Bank Plaza (left)
City of Toronto Archives
Fonds 1526, File 48, Item 64

On March 10, 1977, the north tower of Royal Bank Plaza at 200 Bay Street was officially opened.

Constructed to be the new headquarters of the Royal Bank of Canada, the 112 metre (367 feet) north tower contains 26 storeys of office space. Two years later, the taller 180 metre 40 storey south tower was completed.

Prominent additions to the Toronto skyline, the towers' most eye-catching features are their gold-covered exteriors. With over 14,000 windows, it could reasonably be expected that the buildings would suffer from extremely high heating and cooling bills. However, the 2,500 oz of gold incorporated into the window glass serves as a highly effective form of insulation, thus reducing those bills.

Although there is approximately $70 worth of gold in each window, reportedly none have been stolen. The chemical process that amalgamated the gold and the glass is irreversible and renders the gold worthless.

The two towers were designated as a Heritage property by Toronto City Council in 2006.

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