Digging near Harbour Commission Building uncovers city’s ancient past

29 Jul

                        What does this excavation site reveal?


Construction for a condo tower on Queen’s Quay on Toronto’s Harbourfront has revealed a little of the city’s long-forgotten past. The photo below was taken in July of 2012, looking north from Queen’s Quay. Almost lost from view in the centre-background of the picture is a building with columns across its facade.  It is behind at the top-front corner of the streetcar. It is the old Harbour Commission Building. As the condo rises, this building will no longer be visible from the Queen’s Quay. However, at one time, the building was beside the waters of the lake. All the land to the south of the Harbour Commission Building was created by landfill. 



     The harbour Commission Building with the construction site in front of it.


This picture shows the Harbour Commission Building in 1918. In that year, it was located beside the waters of the lake. Plans for the building were approved in 1916, and the architectural firm of Chapman and McGiffin hired. Because it was located at the water’s edge, a protective iron railing was installed in front of it, as well as the public docking facilities near the building. Harbour Commission engineers built the foundations for the Harbour Commission Building, but the masonry work was assigned to the firm of Archibald and Holmes. 


The Harbour Commission Building after the landfill project was completed. The Royal York Hotel dominated the skyline, and the tower of the Old City Hall is visible at the top of Bay Street. The top two pictures are from the Toronto Archives.


The excavation for the modern high-rise condo has dug into the area of landfill to the south of the Harbour Commission Building. Water has seeped into the site, as the digging is now below the level of the lake.


A close-up view reveals the layers of sedimentary rock that in ancient times was beneath the water of Lake Iroquois. The lake at one time covered Toronto as far north as Davenport Road, which was the shoreline of this ancient lake. Above the layers of rock is the landfill that was dumped to reclaim the land from the harbour. 


The excavation site for the condo, and the Harbour Commission Building to the south of it.

To view the Home Page for this blog:

To view other posts about Toronto’s architectural gems:

The Waverly Hotel at Spadina and College

The Bellevue Fire Station on College Street

The Postal Delivery Building, now a part of the Air Canada Centre (ACC)

The Art Deco bus terminal at Bay and Dundas Streets.

Photos of the surroundings of the CN Tower and and the St. Lawrence Market in 1977

The old Dominion Bank Building at King and Yonge Street

The Canada Life Building on University and Queen Street West.

Campbell House at the corner of Queen Street West and University Avenue

A study of Osgoode Hall

Toronto’s first City Hall, now a part of the St. Lawrence Market

Toronto’s Draper Street, a time-tunnel into the 19th century

The Black Bull Tavern at Queen and Soho Streets, established in 1822

History of the 1867 fence around Osgoode Hall on Queen Street West at York Street

Gathering around the radio as a child in the 1940s

The opening of the University Theatre on Bloor Street, west of Bay St.

122 persons perish in the Noronic Disaster on Toronto’s waterfront in 1949

Historic Victoria Memorial Square where Toronto’s first cemetery was located, now hidden amid the Entertainment District

Visiting one of Toronto’s best preserved 19th-century streets-Willcocks Avenue

The 1930s Water Maintenance Building on Brant Street, north of St. Andrew’s Park

Toronto’s architectural gems-photos of the Old City from a book published by the city in 1912

Toronto’s architectural gems in 1912

Toronto’s architectural gems – the bank on the northeast corner of Queen West and Spadina

Photos of the surroundings of the CN Tower and and the St. Lawrence Market in 1977

The St. Lawrence Hall on King Street

Toronto’s streetcars through the past decades

History of Trinity Bellwoods Park

A history of Toronto’s famous ferry boats to the Toronto Islands

Toronto’s Old City Hall at Bay and Queen Streets

The Reading Building, a warehouse loft on Spadina Avenue

The Darling Building on Spadina Avenue

The amazing Fashion Building on Spadina Avenue

Toronto’s architectural gems – the Tower Building at Spadina and Adelaide Street

The Balfour Building at 119 Spadina Avenue

The Robertson Building at 215 Spadina that houses the Dark Horse Espresso Bar

An architectural gem – Grossman’s Tavern at Spadina and Cecil Streets

History of the house that contains the Paul Magder Fur Shop at 202 Spadina

An important historic building that disappeared from the northeast corner of Spadina and College

Historic bank building on northeast corner of Spadina and Queen West

History of the Backpackers’ Hotel at King and Spadina

Hamburger corner – Spadina and Queen Streets

Lord Lansdowne Public School on Spadina Crescent

The Victory Burlesque Theatre at Dundas and Spadina

The Dragon City Mall on the southwest corner of Dundas and Spadina

Buildings on the west side of Spadina a short distance north of Queen Street.

History of the site of the Mcdonalds on northwest corner of Queen and Spadina

A former mansion at 235 Spadina that is now almost hidden from view.


Military hero of the War of 1812 lived near corner of Spadina and Queen West.

Leave a comment

Posted by on July 29, 2012 in Toronto


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: