Why I Love The Canadian Pacific Building: When Trains Dominated Canadian Transportation

The skyscraper on the southeast corner of Yonge Street was once home to the Canadian Pacific Railway Company (CPR), the country’s largest privately owned railway.

During the early 20th century the company had a period of success, which isn’t a surprise since trains were a popular mode of transportation. Due to its popularity, CPR operated numerous ticket windows across the downtown core for customer convenience, not to mention they had several head offices before consolidating to the Canadian Pacific Building.

Famed Toronto architects Pearson and Darling (Commerce Court North, Convocation Hall, ROM), designed this building which started construction in 1911 and was completed in 1913. Standing at 15 storeys, it was the tallest building in the British Empire – the title would eventually go to Pearson and Darling’s Commerce Court North down the street, which held the title for a quarter-century. According to various reports the highlight of building was the exterior of floors 3-15, which were decked out in a light coloured terra cotta. Sadly, in 1929 the terra cotta was replaced with limestone due to environmental factors – aka it couldn’t withstand the Canadian winter. However, there were other stunning elements including a two storey marble lobby and ticket office.

The Canadian Pacific Railway Company sold the building in 1988 to H&R development and the marble lobby was leased to Shoppers Drug Mart who stripped away the beauty in favour of its bland sterile styling.

The area in which the building is located, truly illustrates the importance of the Canadian Pacific Railway in this country, which is something we forget. To be in the same area, where eventually all the major Canadian banks would erect their towers and to be able to build one of the tallest structures in the British Empire, even for a limited time, says a lot about how much power this company had. Don’t forget it is this institution that connected our country together and made travel possible.

Unfortunately, the Canadian Pacific Railway’s prominence is disappearing, with the exception of a few train stations that have been restored (Summerhill Station and Union Station) its legacy is fading. The bridges that once showcased its name are rusted, the ticket offices that were as frequently found as a Starbucks have closed, many of the routes to Canadian cities are either gone or have significantly reduced schedules and the building at 69 Yonge Street no longer displays its name.

The once prominent mode of transportation for Canadian to take cross country is now fading. How long until it has completely disappeared.


Photo I and II courtesy of City of Toronto Archives

Photo III courtesy of Chapleau Public Library

Yonge and Dundas Harassment

I rarely post about my real life here, but this isn’t about me.

Yesterday, I saw signs being raised and a man screaming Islamophobic insults- particularly getting loud when women who wore a headscarf walked by. This was happening in downtown Toronto, at the busiest intersection (Yonge and Dundas) in front of our biggest shopping mall (Eaton’s Centre).

This has, from what I was told, been happening daily, and I ended up joining a friend in holding up signs that said “Canada welcomes everybody!” - we wanted to make people a bit safer walking by. Some kid spent fifteen minutes in my face, a few yelled against us, but a lot more supported in the end, and through a combination of all of that, the guy with the sign left.

The police explained that he was expressing free speech and they were unable to arrest him until he made any threats or movements. While I do understand the legal parts of this, I cannot see it as anything other than harassment.

But this isn’t about me. This is about the people who walk by that square every day and see the attacks on their religion or nationality. This is about the women wearing a headscarf who are made to feel unsafe by it, even the ones with children. This is about everybody who has recently immigrated in and has to see people get away with this.

Canada is supposed to be a country that benefits from diversity. It’s not supposed to be this. It’s not supposed to be this. The fact that people have to deal with harassment like this based on their religious and racial views is disgusting.

So, to anybody who has had to deal with feeling unsafe here in Toronto, or anywhere, I’m really sorry. I am so sorry that you had to deal with it. I don’t really know what else I can say.

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Waking up knowing there is a reason. What is your reason?

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