The Administration Building, also known as the Press Building, is located at 210 Princes’ Blvd (and Manitoba Dr) at Exhibition Place in Toronto.
One of the First Permanent Exhibition Buildings
In 1903, Exhibition officials and City Council discussed adding new buildings to advance Canada’s great fair. One such building was the Industrial Exhibition Association offices, or what we know today as the Administration/Press Building. The cost was estimated at $25,000, with the city contributing $19,000 and the remainder by the Exhibition.
Built in 1904, architect George Wallace Gouinlock designed the Beaux-Arts-style building. The jewel is positioned at the top of what was known as the “Grand Plaza,” which had the former Gooderham Fountain as the centrepiece. The Administration Building was an early permanent structure and was considered an encouraging sign of the Exhibition’s progress, stability, elegance, and promise.
Its Elaborate Architecture
The two-storey, rectangular building is clad with yellow brick. It features classical with highly decorative and delightfully theatrical Baroque elements. A few architectural highlights include a portico entrance, an imitation rusticated appearance, window openings of various shapes (flat, arched and round), oversized keystones, elaborate metalwork, and a semi-circular pediment featuring an ornate clock topped with a flagpole. The building’s cornices, mouldings, and pediments are all painted metal.
Inside, the front half of the first floor initially featured public areas with reception counters. The rear portion contained offices for the President, Manager, and Treasury department, a board room, and a post office. The second floor served as a banquet hall with a kitchen, offices and more.
When the 1904 Exhibition opened, the interior of the Administration Building was not quite finished. While Fair officers had moved into the building and business was conducted, painters and plasterers were still busy at work inside. Shortly into the Exhibition, the grand building was ready to welcome the public and was visited by thousands in its inaugural year.
The final cost of construction was just over $30,000.
By the mid-1940s, the building’s south-facing entrance needed repair. The portico was removed and replaced with a flat, semi-circular canopy.
The Press Building
In 1957, the CNE Association moved their offices into the newly built Queen Elizabeth Building. The Administration Building was renamed the Press Building when it became the media headquarters during the annual CNE. Communications regarding Canadian National Exhibition events and activities were sent by telephone and via teletype to newspapers and press services nationwide. What is teletype? It’s a communications device that allows an operator to send and receive a text message using a keyboard and printed paper output.
The building has played host to notable guests, including royalty, celebrities and government officials.
In 1985, the entrance canopy was replaced, and a portico similar to the original once again adorned the grand structure. After a renovation completed in 1991, CNE staff returned to the building the following year; however, it continued to be called the Press Building.
In 2022, the “PRESS” sign was removed to uncover the “ADMINISTRATION” nameplate.
Did You Know?
A CIBC branch was located in the southwest corner of the building from approximately 1910 until the early 1960s. It’s thought that the branch was only open during the CNE.
During World War II, the Administration Building was used by the military.
The building received heritage status from the City of Toronto in 1973.
Only five remain today out of over 20 early Exhibition buildings designed by George Wallace Gouinlock between 1902 and 1917. They include the Administrative, Music, Horticulture and Government (Medieval Times) buildings, along with the Fire Hall/Police Station. They represented the country’s finest and most extensive group of early 20th-century exhibition buildings and were designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1988.
The Administration Building is the oldest structure on the grounds, built specifically for the Exhibition.
The vibrant “Unity Pole” in front of the Administration Building was designed by Ojibway artist Kris Nahrgang. The 8.5 m or 28 ft totem pole is made from a white cedar tree; carved into it are animals and symbols representing unity, emotion and strength. It was first unveiled in Heritage Court during the 2017 CNE and later found a permanent location in front of the Administration/Press Building.