Facts You Didn't Know About Toronto's Oldest Buildings

The more you know.
Facts You Didn't Know About Toronto's Oldest Buildings

If you look hard enough between the skyscrapers and condominiums, you can find hidden gems that link us back to Toronto's historied past. This city's story is rich, but unfortunately for many of us it largely remains a mystery. Let’s take a good look at some of the places you walk by every day and actually take notice. There may be a whole lot more to them than meets the eye.

1. Yorkville

Yorkville has hidden skeletons EVERYWHERE. Now a complete mecca of fine dining, drinking, and shopping, it may be hard to believe it was once a small village with just a tollbooth and a cemetery back in 1810. Yup, Yorkville as we know it was actually built over a shanty graveyard. The superstition of the townsfolk was so bad that the land – albeit lucrative – did not develop for decades.


2. St. Lawrence Market

92-95 Front Street East, Toronto

The St. Lawrence Market is a great place to buy local and get the freshest food in town. Clearly not much has changed since 1803, when it was a de facto market block where citizens could sell and buy food. What’s more intriguing is the first mayor of Toronto, William Lyon Mackenzie, built the first city hall at the market. Notice how the bricks are a different colour at the corner of Jarvis and Front Street? You’re looking at facade of the origin old city hall.


3. The Bay On Queen Street

, Toronto, Ontario

The Bays’ flagship store is at the corner of Yonge and Queen Street, in the middle of Toronto's famous hub. The building itself was erected over a hundred years ago. Beyond that, the Hudson’s Bay Company is older than Canada and the U.S. Established in 1670, the Hudson’s Bay Company was one of the front-runners of colonial expansion into the west coast. Battles were fought over that. By the way, you know those fancy striped blankets? Colonials traded those point blankets for fur pelts with Aboriginals. Keep that in mind the next time you buy some lipstick.


4. Hogtown and the William Davies Company

145 Front Street East, Toronto, Ontario

Toronto has several nick names. Hogtown being one of them. Back in the late 19th century, 145 Front Street East, a building still in use today, was the biggest slaughterhouse in Toronto exporting pork to England. It was run by William Davies, the founder of Peameal Bacon. The moniker “Hogtown” attached to itself to the city as pigs and their stench overwhelmed the area. Somewhat ironically, Mr. Davies sustained fatal injuries later on in life after being kicked by a billy goat.

5. The King Edward Hotel

37 King Street East, Toronto, Ontario

Many of us have walked by and ogled the luxurious King Edward Hotel, but believe it or not, before this high end institution was established, it used to be a jail. It was called the King Street Gaol and operated between 1798 and 1827. Makes you think twice about whether the King Edward Hotel is really haunted or not when you know that it was the site of many executions.


Photo Cred - libapps

6. The Abandoned Queen Street Station

When you sleepily board the subway on Monday morning, it doesn't normally occur to you that there’s something underneath the subway lines. In 1946, plans were in effect for an underground streetcar tunnel set below Queen Street Station. Plans were in limbo right until the 60’s when they finally gave up on the project. All that remains is an eerie, half-built, and abandoned station that lies beneath our feet everyday.

7. Casa Loma

1 Austin Terrace, Toronto, Ontario

Casa Loma rests on the crest of a beautiful hill, adding some class to our unique skyline. Many people enjoy the view over a picnic, some baseball or a game of Frisbee. Originally it was the largest private residence in Canada, belonging to Sir Henry Pellatt, taking over three years to build and costing over $3 million, quite the pretty penny back in 1903. It was then converted to a hotel and finally a museum in 1937. Casa Lomawas also used as a secret base for developing sonar against U-Boats during World War 2.