Toronto's Old City Hall was one of the largest buildings in Toronto and the largest civic building in North America upon completion in 1899. It was the burgeoning city's third city hall. It housed Toronto's municipal government and courts for York County and Toronto, taking over from the Adelaide Street Court House. York County offices were also located in Old City Hall from 1900 to 1953. With the establishment of Metropolitan Toronto, the county seat moved to Newmarket, Ontario (and to the Old Newmarket Town Hall and Courthouse)
Designed by prominent Toronto architect Edward James Lennox, the building took more than a decade to build and cost more than $2.5 million (equals close to 53 million today). Work on the building began in 1889 and was built on the site of old York buildings including the Lennox hotel.
It was constructed of sandstone from the Credit River valley, grey stone from the Orangeville, Ontario area, and brown stone from New Brunswick.
Angry councillors, due to cost overruns and construction delays, refused E.J. Lennox a plaque proclaiming him as architect for the completed building in 1899. Not to be denied, Lennox had stonemasons "sign" his name in corbels beneath the upper floor eaves around the entire building: "EJ LENNOX ARCHITECT AD 1898".
An annex to this building, Manning Chambers, was built by Lennox at the northwest corner of Bay and Queen Street. Completed in 1900, the 5 storey building was later demolished to make way for the current Toronto City Hall. Manning Chambers was built for and named after former mayor Alexander Manning.
Four gargoyles were placed on the corners of the Clock Tower in 1899, but they were removed to the effects of the weather on the sandstone carvings in 1938. In 2002, bronze casts of the gargoyles were reinstalled. The replicas are not duplicates as the original designs were lost. The gargoyles are similar to those on the Peace Tower in Ottawa.
Two grotesques and antique lampposts at the base of the grand staircase inside were removed in 1947 and sold. They were reclaimed by the City and reinstalled in the 1980s.
In architecture, a gargoyle is a carved or formed grotesque with a spout designed to convey water from a roof and away from the side of a building, thereby preventing rainwater from running down masonry walls and eroding the mortar between. Architects often used multiple gargoyles on buildings to divide the flow of rainwater off the roof to minimize the potential damage from a rainstorm.
this is the old gargoyle now lost
entrance Column expressing the politicians of Toronto
When the building was complete, it became evident that Lennox had taken his revenge, in a notorious bit of Toronto design. There are a number of faces carved into the pillars at the top of the main stairs of the building, which lead up from Queen Street.
They are all, save one, comically grotesque figures, with exaggerated features, bulging eyes, and protruding tongues. It's said that Lennox had each one of these designed to represent one of the municipal officials who gave him a hard time.
The one exception was a “self portrait” of Edward James Lennox, and was put in place to make him seem like the only respectable or intelligent figure when set amongst those who governed over us more than a century ago.
Referring to the building as “Old City Hall” is actually something of a misnomer. When Toronto was incorporated as a city in 1834, the early city council met in rented facilities on top of a former St. Lawrence Market building, on the southwest corner of King and Jarvis streets. In 1845, a new addition to the market was completed on the south side of Front Street, and the first purpose built City Hall was constructed on top of it.
When the Queen Street City Hall opened up in 1899, this area above the market was abandoned, and left closed to the public for more than seventy years, until it reopened as a museum and gallery space. Known today as the Market Gallery, it holds about three different exhibitions each year, on the various cultural, historical and artistic artifacts that are held within Toronto's archives.
The Market Gallery is open from Tuesday to Saturday, from 10 o'clock in the morning to 4 o'clock in the afternoon, and admission is free, though donations to the work of the gallery are kindly accepted.
The architect Edward James Lennox,
He had slaved for years to deliver what was undisputedly a magnificent City Hall, an ornate sandstone edifice on Queen St. W. with a 103-metre clock towering over Bay St.
But years later he was still fighting for tens of thousands owed for services rendered.
Let’s see, there were the three years of design work, 520 meetings at $10 a pop, photos for progress reports, supervision of “gangs of workmen,” and on and on, meticulously annotated in the final tally of $242,870.82.
Published on the front page of the Evening Star (later renamed the Toronto Daily Star) on Sept. 6, 1907, the statement was submitted eight years after the stout oak doors opened for business — a delay Lennox blamed on disputes with contractors.
Civic officials, who had already paid him $61,000, were “agog” at the outstanding amount, according to the Star.
They refused to pay, Lennox sued and the case went to court. More than four years later, he abruptly accepted the city’s offer of $60,000. Tainted by acrimony and scandal, the birth of Toronto’s third City Hall was finally concluded.
New gargoyle at a lower quality of representation replaced on the building
this is the old gargoyle now lost
Project Toronto Old City Hall Restoration
Materials Red Sandstone
Team Architect: +VG Architects( hard to identify)
Installer Clifford Restoration
In October 1965 a delegation from Eaton’s department store proposed to buy the building for $8 million from Metro Toronto, who had purchased it from the city four years earlier. Eaton’s, encouraged by city planners, intended to transform the mega-block of Bay, Dundas, Yonge, and Queen into the Eaton Centre a complex of office towers, a hotel, shopping mall, and new flagship store.
Officials on the project claimed that Old City Hall was “an insuperable barrier” which, no matter how much they tried, was a square peg in the plan. Their solution was to demolish all but the clock tower, as well as getting rid of nearby Church of the Holy Trinity because of the march of progress.
While many politicians were dazzled by the plans—Swansea Reeve Lucien Kurata said it was “so gorgeous, it’s almost sexy”—public outcry arose. When revised plans called for the full demolition of Old City Hall to make room for the podium of the closest office tower, questions were raised. A lobby group, Friends of Old City Hall, formed, performing actions such as cleaning off a portion of soot to show the beauty of the original walls.
Eaton’s suddenly cancelled the project in May 1967, blaming unreasonable municipal demands. John David Eaton, head of the retail empire, bitterly remarked to an associate “let’s walk across the street and tell [Mayor William] Dennison he can shove the Old City Hall up his ass.”
Although it originally housed the Council Chamber, courtrooms, municipal and legal offices, the building now operates solely as a courthouse. The old city Council Chamber is now courtroom 110 and retains much of its turn-of-the-century decoration.