One of the most fascinating things about Toronto is how rapidly it changes.
Its evolution can be measured in a myriad of ways – population growth, employment, food and cultural scene – but one glimpse of its skyline makes the strongest impression.
We take a photographic look at how Toronto’s skyline has gone from one dominated by church spires to being among the most exciting in the world…
See that sailboat mast up there? That’s probably one of the city’s five tallest structures at the time. Within the next 30 years, Toronto’s population would more than double from around 100,000 in the mid-1870s to almost 240,000 in 1901.
At the beginning of the 20th century, churches were the most recognizable structures of Toronto’s skyline. Its downtown core became increasingly dense as more people moved to the city for to pursue economic opportunities, though construction remained vertically limited. The Temple Building, completed in 1896, was the city’s first “skyscraper” at 12 stories tall.
Toronto’s population swelled to around 800,000 by the end of the 1920s, which ushered in a building boom that saw the construction of many landmarks that still stand today – Casa Loma, Union Station, and the Royal York Hotel.
The Royal York Hotel, at the time the largest hotel in the British Commonwealth, dominated Toronto’s skyline throughout the 1930s. Two major additions included the Bank of Commerce Building and Canada Life Building, both completed in 1931.
The 1950s saw Toronto fill out its downtown core with dozens of mid-rise buildings, while the Royal York Hotel and Bank of Commerce Building (pictured above) remained its most dominant structures.
The Toronto-Dominion Bank Tower (pictured above) became the city’s first true skyscraper when it was completed in 1967, at 56 floors. The complex would eventually include six towers, the last of which was completed in 1991.
Commerce Court West became Toronto’s tallest building when it was completed in 1972 at a height of 287 metres. Four years later, it was eclipsed by the CN Tower and First Canadian Place, the two current tallest buildings in Toronto, respectively.
The CN Tower became the world’s tallest free-standing structure when it was completed in 1976, a title it held for more than 30 years.
The 1980s saw the construction of Scotia Plaza (275 metres, 68 floors), currently the third tallest building in Toronto.
Two more skyscrapers were constructed in the early 1990s – the TD Canada Trust Tower (261 metres, 53 floors) and the Bay Wellington Tower (208 metres, 49 floors). The next major addition to the skyline would come in 2009 with the completed of Bay-Adelaide West.
The 2000s were primetime for sky-high construction. The Trump Tower, Aura, Ice condos, Shangri-La, Ritz-Carlton, L Tower, Four Seasons, Bay Adelaide West and Bay Adelaide East, all rank among the top 20 tallest buildings.
The above illustration by Scott Dickson and Robert Koopmans, which was commissioned for a 2016 Toronto Life article, imagines what the Toronto skyline might look like in three years. It includes all buildings currently under construction, approved, or proposed to be constructed by 2020.