Toronto’s architectural gems—the Concourse Building on Adelaide St.

17 Jun

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There are occasions when I place a post on this blog about buildings that have questionable status as “architectural gems.” However, the 16-storey Concourse Building at 100 Adelaide Street West is not one of them. It is truly one of the city’s best examples of Art Deco structures from the 1920s. Even though it is designated a Heritage Site, the building is soon to be demolished, except for two of its facades—the south facade on Adelaide Street and the east facade facing  Sheppard Street. They are to be dismantled, cleaned, and reconstructed. It is small consolation that these two facades will remain. The Concourse Building as it presently stands, adds texture to a street that is increasingly becoming an environment of smooth glass, concrete, and steel. The interior of the Concourse Building will be lost to future generations. A 40-storey modern tower of glass will replace it.

The Concourse Building was designed by the architects Martin Baldwin and Greene in 1928, the year prior to the great stock market crash. Its rich decorative detailing was created by J. E. H. MacDonald (1873-1932). A plaque on the Concourse Building states that “MacDonald was best known as a painter and was a moving spirit in the Group of Seven.”

The entranceway on Adelaide Street is two storeys in height, topped by an impressive Roman arch. Inserted into the arch is a mosaic panel that displays a large planet, symbolically depicting the elements of air, fire, earth and water. MacDonald said that he felt this was appropriate as the name Concourse suggested a gathering together. He extended this theme to the smaller panels on the underside of the arch, placing designs that represented Canada’s industries (steam shovels, plough, wheat sheaf, airplane, furnaces, sailing ships, electric power, plough), as well as the wild life of Canada. All the designs possess brilliant colours against solid backgrounds. They are truly a part of Canada’s rich artistic heritage. Destroying the Concourse Building, which provides the context for these mosaics is a true loss. 

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                                 Entrance to the Concourse Building


MacDonald’s panel above the doors, which contains the mosaic depicting a fiery planet and the elements of earth, air, fire, and water

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Close-up view of the decorative tile panel above the door. On the the right-hand photo, in the bottom left-hand corner, MacDonald placed his initials and year—1928. 


The smaller mosaic panels under the archway above the entranceway. In these panels(left to right), we see a sailing ship, an angel, wheat sheaf and a plough, deer, and a steam shovel. The carvings surrounding the arch have classical symbols, typical of the Art Deco style.

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The tiled panels in the archway—left to right—a sailing ship, wheat sheaf and plough, and a steam shovel

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                  Designs on the sides of the entranceway


The west facade of the Concourse Building, the designs in the brickwork at the top of the building portraying the Thunderbird and the sun rising above the ocean with seagulls in flight. This facade will be demolished to create the modern glass tower. 


View of the the Thunderbird, the pinnacles, and cornice on the southwest corner of the building. 


The detailing on the cornice is colourful with interesting pinnacles.


The lobby in June of 2013. In the 1920s, it possessed Canadian verse chiselled on its walls. They were removed when the lobby was modernized. 


The south facade (left-hand side) and the east facade (right) of the Concourse Building. These two facades will be be incorporated into the new structure.

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This is the proposed tower that will be built around and atop the concourse building. The new tower of glass is not without its merits, but the historic Concourse building appears lost within the massive structure, depriving it of any prominence on the streetscape. 

To view the Home Page for this blog:

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

The old Bank of Commerce at 197 Yonge Street

The Traders Bank on Yonge Street—the city’s second skyscraper

Toronto’s old Union Station on Front Street, built in 1884

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church at King and Simcoe Streets.

The row houses on Glasgow Street, near Spadina and College Streets

The bank at Queen and Simcoe that resembles a Greek temple

The cenotaph at Toronto’s Old City Hall

The magnificent Metropolitan Cathedral at King East and Church Streets

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 Union Building at Simcoe and King Street West

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

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Posted by on June 17, 2013 in Toronto


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