Beaches Living Guide Fall/Winter 2016
65 Front Street West
• Completed 1920 (Opened 1927)
Builder: Grand Trunk Railway, Great Western Railway and the Northern Railway
250 feet long and 84 feet wide, with an arched ceiling 88 feet above the floor
Over the years, Union Station has served as a backdrop for many popular TV shows like “Sue T homas FBI”, Hollywood movies such as “Cinderella Man”,
“Silver Streak” and more recently, “Suicide Squad”.
The Big Apple (New York City) has Grand Central Station
and Toronto has Union Station. For almost 90 years, Union
Station has been a gateway into Toronto not only for people
coming to work from the suburbs but also visitors from cities
across Canada and North America. It is Canada’s busiest and
most important passenger transportation hub and a designated
National Historic Site.
Union Station is now, and has always been, an icon of a social,
cultural and vibrant public life, bringing the community and
visitors of the city together.
There are many Union Stations in North
America, but only one Toronto Union!
The name “union” means that more than
one railway company has trains arriving and
departing from the station.
It is, in fact, our third such station.
Toronto’s Great Railway Era
The first passenger train to leave from Toronto
for Aurora was a small steam engine named
“Toronto” on May 16, 1853. But our first
official “Toronto Union” station opened five
years later by the Grand Trunk Railway, which
invited the Great Western Railway and the
Northern Railway to join. The building was
located between Simcoe and York streets along
Station Street, east-west just south of Front
Street, is still there but the building long gone.
With the rapid expansion of railways in the late 1800s, there
soon were various stations, but each owned by a specific rail
line. In 1896, our second Union Station opened on Front Street.
Plans were well underway for expansion and renovations until
the great fire of 1904 destroyed virtually all of the buildings in
the area – including the station.
Our third (and current) Union Station was officially opened by
visiting Prince Edward who purchased the first ticket, one-way
to Alberta, for $71.
Designed to Be A Beauty
The station’s construction was designed in the Ecole des Beaux-
Arts. The centrepiece of Union Station is the Great Hall, 250
feet long and 84 feet wide, with an arched ceiling 88 feet above
the floor. Three quarters of the way up the wall, you see the
names of various Canadian cities carved in stone – assumed
to be destinations of passengers at the time. The very best
materials were used. The Great Hall was built with Zumbro
stone from Missouri for the walls, Tennessee marble on the
floors and Guastavino terracotta tiles for the arches, known for
their beauty as well as their strength.
Saving and Restoring Union Station
In 1968, the railways had planned a massive Metro Centre
project, which would have required the demolition of the
station. With the fear of the loss of one of our most distinguished
architectural treasures, the plan did not move ahead.
By the year 2000, Toronto’s Union Station was a protected
landmark (owned by both the city and GO Transit) and a vital
component of the city’s transportation network. Its historic
and architectural significance was now revered.
Revitalization – Kicks-off June 4, 2010
The revitalization of Union Station is to create a more spacious
and attractive concourse; the work includes painstaking
restoration and preservation of the station’s heritage elements.
Summer 2015, Torontonians got their first glimpse of what’s
been going on behind all the construction. The station’s Beaux-
Arts exterior façade was revealed, meticulously cleaned and
restored, complemented by the restored heritage clock, and a
newly-repaved Front Street with a widened and more seamless
public plaza and a train to Toronto’s Lester B. Pearson Airport.