Toronto’s architectural gems—the Union Building on King St.


The Union Building at 212 King Street West is one of the true architectural treasures of the city. Situated on the northwest corner of Simcoe and King Streets, it is on the site that was at one time owned by Upper Canada College, before the school relocated to the top of Avenue Road. Today, a plaque (shown below) on the east facade of the Union Building commemorates the early history of the site.


The Union Building was constructed in 1908, as the head office of the Canadian General Electric Company, a manufacturer of various electrical products and appliances. The architectural firm of Darling and Pearson designed the building in the Beaux-Arts style. Frank Darling was one of the architects who designed the old Bank of Montreal building on the northwest corner of Front and Yonge Streets, which today houses the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The Union Building contains numerous ornamentations, including classical designs. Its  large rectangular windows are surrounded by white, moulded terra cotta tiles, which are glazed. The tiles remain in excellent condition today. The entrance has a magnificent stone portico, supported by two Doric columns on either side. Against the wall, beneath the porch roof, double sets of Doric pilasters assist in supporting the structure. The cornice contains pressed metal designs and terra cotta ornamentations. The six-storey building has a Mansard roof, which was added in the 1980s. It does not detract from the original appearance of the building, as it appears as if it had always been a part of the structure.

When the Union Building was built, King Street was considered a highly prestigious location. Directly across from the Union Building, on the southwest corner, was the residence of the vice-regal representatives in the Dominion—the Lieutenant Governor of the Province of Ontario. Perhaps this explain the rich decorations and the impressive porch on the Union Building.

Today, the structure contains various offices, including the subscription office of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the Toronto Argonaut Football Club. 

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The large portico on the Union Building and the decorations above the Doric pillars.

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(left) the terra cotta tiles surrounding the windows, and (right) the cornice showing the pressed metal ornamentations and terra cotta tiles with classical designs, including the Greek “egg and dart” as well as “dentils.”


This photo depicts the 12th York Rangers marching south on Simcoe Street in 1912. The Union Building is visible in the background, on the northwest corner of Simcoe and King Streets. In this year, it does not have the Mansard roof above the sixth floor. The buildings to the south of the Union Building belong to the residence of the governor general. In this year, the buildings were empty, since the vice-regal representative and his family had relocated to a house on St. George St.

To view the Home Page for this blog:

To view other posts about the history of Toronto and its buildings:

The historic intersection at King and Simcoe Streets, where the Union Building is located

St. Stanislaus Koska RC Church on Denison Avenue, north of Queen West

The historical St. Mary’s Church at Adelaide and Bathurst Streets

The Bishop’s (St, Michael’s) Palace on Church Street, Toronto

The Ed Mirvish (Pantages, Imperial, Canon) Theatre, a true architectural gem on Toronto’s Yonge Street

The Waverly Hotel on Spadina near College Street.

The Art Deco Bank of Commerce building on King Street West.

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

The Bellevue Fire Station on College Street

The Bank of Nova Scotia at King and Bay Streets

Toronto’s old Sunnyside Beach

Toronto’s architectural gems—the Runnymede Library

Spadina Avenue – sinful, spicy and diverse

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.

To view other posts about Toronto’s past and its historic buildings:

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

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