City Hall

Toronto City Hall is a striking landmark that towers over the downtown core with its modern spaceship-shaped design. Located on Queen Street between Bay Street and University Avenue, the structure often referred to as “New City Hall” sits opposite one of the city’s other most notable architectural structures - “Old City Hall.” The contrast in design between these two buildings is remarkable and reflects the various styles in Toronto’s architecture.

Old City Hall - A Toronto Landmark

Situated on the northeast corner of Queen and Bay Streets, this castle-like building opened its doors in September of 1899, with construction beginning over a decade earlier in 1888. The stately structure reflects the Romanesque Revival architectural style which was very popular in Toronto in the late 19th century. Toronto architect Edward James Lennox was the designer behind what is considered to be one of city’s most noteworthy architectural landmarks, with its remarkable red stonework, striking gargoyles and soaring 300-foot clock tower. Lennox went on to design projects such as the King Edward Hotel and Toronto’s renowned castle Casa Loma.

In 1965 the building was threatened with demolition after the opening of the city’s present City Hall across Bay Street. A group of citizens convinced the city otherwise, and the grand structure, now used as a courthouse, is preserved as a National Historic Site. The interior of the building features a two-storey entrance hall, a sweeping staircase, murals and collections of artifacts and photographs. Remembrance Day ceremonies are held each November at the War Memorial located outside the Queen Street entrance.

“New” City Hall - A Modern Vision

In the sixties, an international competition was held to pick the designer of Toronto’s current City Hall. Finnish architect Viljo Revell’s design won and the new building opened in 1965. The modern design of the building stands in marked contrast to its predecessor. Two curved office towers rise above the council chamber building, the shape of which resembles a flying saucer. The east tower soars 27 storeys high and the west 20 storeys. The curved shaped of the towers create the visual effect of cradling the chamber. There was a lot of controversy over Revell’s extremely futuristic design when the building was completed.

The first floor of City Hall features a dramatic entrance with a large rotunda and massive column in the center. Located at the base of the column are the Hall of Memory and the Golden Book of Remembrance which bears the names of 3500 Torontonians who died during World War II. The offices of the Toronto city councillors and the Mayor of Toronto are located on the second floor overlooking the rotunda below.

Nathan Phillips Square

Located right in front of City Hall on the northwest corner of Queen and Bay Streets is Nathan Phillips Square. This public outdoor space, named for the Mayor of Toronto from 1955 to 1962, is an outdoor area with exciting events taking place year-round. In the summertime, Nathan Phillips Square houses a reflecting pool that is a lively gathering place for tourists and natives alike. In the winter, the pool becomes a popular outdoor skating rink where visitors can rent skates and spin around the ice day and night. There are also outdoor chess tables at the southeast corner of the Square.

Other highlights of Nathan Phillips Square include the picturesque Peace Garden, where British sculptor Henry Moore’s masterpiece known as “The Archer” is installed, and the “Freedom Arches” which stretch over the pond and feature a piece of the Berlin Wall at the base of the center arch on the south side. Just some of the many events held at the Square include art exhibitions, the Toronto Jazz Festival, and the annual Cavalcade of Lights with fireworks, free musical performances and the official lighting of Toronto’s Christmas tree. Nathan Phillips Square is also home to Toronto’s annual New Year’s Eve bash.

Before the Old and New City Halls

Old City Hall was actually the city’s third City Hall, and the present City Hall the fourth. After Toronto’s incorporation in 1834, the city’s first council meetings were held at a simple Georgian style building at the corner of King and Jarvis Streets. This was Toronto’s first City Hall until 1845. Destroyed by fire in 1849, it is now the site of St. Lawrence Hall. Toronto’s second City Hall was situated at Front and Jarvis Streets between 1845 and 1899, in what is now the south St. Lawrence Market, a popular Toronto attraction.

City Hall

Toronto City Hall is located at 100 Queen Street West between Bay Street and University Avenue.

Click here to visit Toronto City Hall official website

Old City Hall is located at the corner of Queen and Bay Streets at 60 Queen Street West.

Click here to visit Old City Hall official website

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