Old City Hall (Toronto)

[photograph of Old City Hall, Toronto]

Old City Hall, Toronto

Located at the corner of Queen and Bay Streets, Toronto’s Old City Hall is an island of Victorian architecture in a sea of modern buildings and is definitely worth a look. The building was used as Toronto’s city hall from 1899 to 1965, barely escaped demolition when the Eaton Centre was planned, and is now a provincial courthouse. It was designated a national historic site in 1989.

Designed by architect E. J. Lennox (who also designed Casa Loma and the King Edward Hotel) in the Romanesque Revival architectural style, the building was completed in 1899. The sandstone exterior is beautifully carved and offers a lot of surprises to those who look closely. One curiosity of the carving is the grotesque faces above the main (Queen Street) entrance. Lennox, who felt shortchanged by the Toronto city councillors of the day, got his revenge by having the distorted faces of the councillors carved above the main entrance. There is also a figure of Lennox to be found as well. Lennox’ own face is not deformed and can be recognised by the handlebar moustache. As well, letters spelling E.J. LENNOX ARCHITECT A.D. 1898 can be found in the corbels under the roof.

Inside the building, the main entrance is a grand space, lined with marble columns with plaster capitals, and you will find a mosaic floor beneath your feet. Beside and between the entrance doors are painted murals commemorating pioneer life. Exhibit cabinets can be found on the main floor, on your left as you enter. One display describes the “Friends of Old City Hall”; the other displays photographs and artifacts. When court is not in session, the former city council chamber is also open to the public.

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