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Toronto - Sep 11, 2015

The top 10 Art Deco buildings in Toronto

During the 1920s and 30s, Toronto experienced an Art Deco building boom. Luckily for us, several prime examples from this period are still standing, and in many cases have also benefited from respectful renovations.

Here's a roujnd-up of some of the most prominent Art Deco buildings in Toronto.

Eglinton cinema
There are numerous glorious Art Deco movie houses in Toronto but none stand out as much as the luxurious former home of the Eglinton cinema. The grand 775-seater single-screen movie palace opened in 1936 and survived until 2002 when Famous Players balked at the cost of making the building wheelchair accessible.

Toronto Stock Exchange
For more than 50 years, the TSX called this imposing building home. Completed in 1937 to designs by architect Samuel Maw, the limestone facade features an intricate frieze by Canadian sculptor Charles Comfort that depicts muscular men of various industries hard at work. In 1992 the building was incorporated into the base of the west tower of TD Centre. It's now the Design Exchange.

Hydro Electric Power Commission of Ontario
It's hard to spot among the tangle of medical buildings on the west side of University south of College, but the Hydro Electric Power Commission of Ontario is certainly worthy of close inspection. A pair of waterfalls are carved either side of the main entrance, hinting at the source of our power. Interestingly, the upper 12 floors were added five years after the structure opened in 1935.

Tip Top Tailors
The Tip Top Tailors building on Lake Shore still looks, well, tip top. Colourful decorative tile above the upper windows, giant concrete piers with pyramidical roofs, and some seriously elaborate carvings of people and mythological animals around the main entrance are what make this 1925 Art Deco masterpiece special.

Maple Leaf Gardens
It took builders in 1931 just five and a half months to construct Toronto Maple Leafs owner Conn Smythe's shrine to hockey. Despite their haste, the stadium that rose from the ground at the corner of Carlton and Church is an Art Deco delight. Decorative stonework around the massive vertical rows of windows and fancy brickwork prove that the Gardens was meant to be a source of pride.

Tower/Balfour buildings
Architect Benjamin Brown's pair of downtown warehouses--the Balfour and Tower buildings--face each other across Spadina at Adelaide and feature some of the same defining elements: large rooftop spaces designed to house water towers, stone ground floors, and big windows.

Toronto Postal Delivery Building (Air Canada Centre)
It wasn't built for hockey, but the Toronto Postal Delivery Building at Lake Shore and Bay would up becoming the third home of the Maple Leafs in 1999. Many of the features that made the former Canada Post facility an architectural gem survived the transition to hockey. Enter off of Bay St. for the best view of the old building.

Eaton's College Street
It's hard to look at Eaton's College Street store (now known as College Park) and not wonder what might have been. The first phase in what was meant to be a massive shopping, office, and entertainment complex, the Eaton family's grand plans were nixed when the Great Depression began to bite in Canada. It is still, however, one of Toronto's best examples of Deco architecture.

Automotive Building
The Automotive Building on the CNE grounds was designed to be shrine to the private automobile. Finished in 1929, the two-floor Queenston limestone structure is peppered with ornamental mouldings depicting flowers and other designs common to Art Deco buildings, but there are elements of neoclassical architecture, too.

Lawren Harris House
Private Art Deco residences are rare in Toronto, and that's what makes the former home of Group of Seven painter Lawren Harris especially important. Completed in 1930 to designs by architect Alexandra Biriukova, the two-winged structure with its large central window is a little piece of sun-soaked Miami transplanted into the leafy streets of Forest Hill.

For more information on this topic, it's well worth diving into Tim Morawetz's book Art Deco Architecture in Toronto, which supplied the bulk of the information for this post.

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Images: City of Toronto Archives (as marked;) Maple Leaf Gardens: Toronto Public Library, 979-38-1 Cab; Balfour Building: ira t/blogTO Flickr pool.

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