Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Toronto's Second Union Station

When the first Union Station was built in 1858, there were about 40,000 people living in Toronto. By 1911, that many people were using the station every single day. By then we'd had to build a second, bigger Union Station. That's the one in the photo above, pictured here in 1873. It opened on Canada Day of that year, on the land just to the west of the current station (between York and Simcoe). As Wikipedia points out, "The main entrance and fa├žade faced the harbour rather than the city, underscoring the continued importance of boat travel on Lake Ontario." For 50 years, as the population of our metropolis boomed, it was one of the main points of arrival for new Torontonians. One of the exits was a bridge out of the station at the corner of Front & Simcoe. It became known as the Bridge of Sighs. One of Toronto's most important early photographers, William James, took many shots of new immigrants as they arrived. Kevin Plummer wrote about it for Torontoist here.

By the early 1900s, it was already clear that Toronto would need to build an even bigger train station. When the Great Fire of 1904 destroyed many of the neighbouring buildings, the Grand Trunk Railroad seize the opportunity to grab the land. Construction of a new building was delayed by the First World War — as well as the usual arguments — but the third Union Station finally opened in 1927. It's the one we're still using now. And in 2014, more than a quarter of a million people use it every day. 

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