Toronto's tallest buildings since 1900

Wednesday Sep 30th, 2020


Considered as the economic powerhouse of Canada, Toronto is home to some of the most beautiful buildings in the world. From modern skyscrapers to smaller buildings featuring classical architecture, you can find all kinds of buildings in Toronto. In this article, we’ll review the tallest building of every decade in Toronto since 1900.

Trader's Bank Building, 60m (1906)

Built in 1906, the Trader's Bank Building was the tallest building of the decade in Toronto, and the tallest in the entire British Empire. The Neo-Classical architecture of the 55.39-meter-high office building was common at the beginning of the skyscraper period. The building still stands at 67 Yonge, the Yonge, and Colborne intersection.

Royal Bank Building, 89m (1915)

Throughout the years that followed, heights would rise dramatically in major cities around the world, but Toronto buildings remained shorter than 100 meters. After its completion in 1915, the Royal Bank Building almost reached to the 100-meter mark, standing at 89 meters tall. In the 1920s, the 20-story tower was the tallest building in Toronto.

Royal York Hotel, 124m (1929)

After the opening of Front Street's Union Station in 1927, there was a boom in the development of a national array of grand hotels, including the Royal York Hotel in Toronto. At the height of 124 meters, the 28-storey Royal York Hotel in 1929 was the tallest building of Toronto and secured its place as the tallest building in the British Commonwealth.

Commerce Court North, 145m (1931)

The 34-story headquarters of CIBC or the Canadian Bank of Commerce shifted the Toronto’s highest buildings’ location from Yonge towards Bay Street. Like the Royal York Hotel, Commerce Court North became the tallest British Commonwealth building, and it held that title for more than 30 years.

Hospital for Sick Children, 42m (1949)

For most of the 1940s, due to World War II, Toronto saw a decline in the development of high rise buildings. That’s why the original wing of the Hospital for Sick Children's on University Avenue the tallest building built of the decade at the height of just 42 meters.

Bank of Nova Scotia Building, 115m (1951)

The construction of the tallest Toronto building of the 1950s began in 1946 and completed in 1951. The Beaux-Arts-architecture tower has 27-storey, and it is 115 meters tall in the north-eastern corner of King and Bay. Mathers and Haldenby, with Beck and Eadie, designed the building, which was later integrated into a complex with another building.

Toronto-Dominion Bank Tower, 223m (1967)

The Toronto-Dominion Bank Tower, a 56-storey skyscraper, was the city’s first truly modern skyscraper. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, a visionary modern architect, was the architecture consultant for and John B. Parkin Associates and Bregman and Hamann Architects. Over the following decades, more towers in the complex were added, often following the rigid design language provided by the two original towers and the banking hall.

First Canadian Place, 298m (1975)

The tallest building in Canada, First Canadian Place, has held its title since it opened at the northwest corner of King and Bay in 1975. With Edward Durell Stone as the architecture consultant, the building was designed by B and H Architects. The Olympia and York tower, the 72-storey skyscraper had Carrara marble cladding until a significant revamp in 2011. Around the time, restoration architects Moed de Armas and Shannon Architects incorporated dark bronze to highlight the inset corners of the structure. This building took back the record of the tallest in the British Commonwealth in 1975.

Scotia Plaza, 275m, (1988)

The Scotia Plaza complex located across Bay Street includes both the Bank of Nova Scotia Building from the 1950s and the 68-storey tower constructed by WZMH Architects, Scotia Plaza, which was completed in 1988. It features a fairly conservative postmodern style with its red granite and reddish reflective glass exterior, this tower stands out in the skyline of the Financial District today.

TD Canada Trust Tower, 261m (1990)

Another icon of Postmodernism, the Brookfield Place TD Canada Trust Tower, was completed in the early 90s. The tiered tower completed in 1992, the renowned galleria, was designed by Owings and Merrill with Santiago Calatrava, and Bregman and Hamann Architects and Skidmore designed the building. It was the last big office tower constructed in the Financial District before the economic crisis.

Bay Adelaide Centre West Tower, 218m (2009)

The turbulent economy of the late 80s and early 90s culminated in the notorious "stump" of Bay Adelaide, the partially completed concrete center which later became a postmodern office complex. The construction was stopped in 1993 due to the recession. Still, the project continued later on by Brookfield Property Partners in the early 2000s as a response to increasing demand, with minimalist design by WZMH Architects. Since then, another tower to the east has followed the 218-meter West Tower built by Adamson Associates Architects, and KPMB Architects, and a third tower is now being constructed to the north by the Adamson-KPMB team.

Aura at College Park, 272m (2014)

With the completion of Canderel Residential's 272-meter Aura at College Park designed by Graziani + Corazza Architects at Yonge and Gerrard in 2010; the skyscraper established its place in the tallest buildings of Toronto’s list. Built a few kilometers north of the Financial District, the building has contributed to the rise in the demand of skyscrapers in the area.

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