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October 17th, 2017
Beaches Living Guide Fall/Winter 2016

Toronto Union Stations

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

Fun Fact:
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.

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