Baldwin Steps – A Monumental Staircase Leading up the Escarpment

2020 - The Baldwin Steps
2020 – The Baldwin Steps

The Baldwin Steps are located at Spadina and Davenport Rds in the Casa Loma neighbourhood of Toronto.

The Baldwin Family, The Staircase & Spadina Houses

William Warren Baldwin was born in Ireland in 1775. He was educated as a doctor and emigrated to Canada in 1799. In 1818, Baldwin built a home on the land near the top of today’s Baldwin Steps and called it Spadina House. When the house was named, it was pronounced “Spadeena” which comes from the Ojibwe word “ishpadinaa”. It means high hill or ridge.

1913 - Looking north up staircase from Davenport Rd
1913 – Looking north up staircase from Davenport Rd

When the Baldwin family’s first house was destroyed by fire in 1835, they built a house in the city (at Front and Bay Sts, northwest corner) which became their permanent home. In 1836, Spadina House was rebuilt and his son Robert lived there. That same year, Dr William Baldwin who was also an architect, lawyer and politician, laid out Spadina as a grand boulevard from Queen St W to Davenport Rd (the portion of Spadina Ave, south of Queen St W was called Brock St until 1884). To accommodate the steep slope of the escarpment, wooden steps were built from the base at Davenport Rd up to the top of the ridge.

William Baldwin passed away in 1844 however when his son Robert died in 1858, the Spadina House and land were sold to the Austin family. While they demolished most of the house in 1866, they did use the foundation to build what is the present-day Spadina Museum.

In 1913, the original steps were replaced.

Spadina Expressway

In the 1960s, the Ontario government planned to build the Spadina Expressway through the area. In 1971, after much opposition from citizens, plans for the highway fell through but not before the land surrounding the steps and a number of homes had already been expropriated.

Today’s Baldwin Steps

In 1984, the City of Toronto leased the land from the Government of Ontario. The Baldwin Steps we know today officially opened in 1988. Made of concrete, they rise to a circular landing that is flanked by retaining walls and pillars and contain a small amphitheatre. With metal railings, the 110-steps zigzag from landing to landing up the steep hill all surrounded by beautiful trees, plants and flowers.

Baldwin Steps Photos

2020 - The Baldwin Steps, looking north at Spadina & Davenport Rds
2020 – The Baldwin Steps, looking north at Spadina & Davenport Rds
1913 - Looking north up staircase from Davenport Rd
1913 – Looking north up a staircase from Davenport Rd
2020 - From the Baldwin Steps, looking south on Spadina Rd at Davenport Rd
2020 – From the Baldwin Steps, looking south on Spadina Rd at Davenport Rd
1907 - Looking south from north of Davenport Rd at Spadina Rd (Toronto Public Library r-1462)
1907 – Looking south from north of Davenport Rd at Spadina Rd (Toronto Public Library r-1462)
2020 - The Baldwin Steps
2020 – The Baldwin Steps
1990 - From the Baldwin Steps, looking south on Spadina Rd at Davenport Rd
1990 – From the Baldwin Steps, looking south on Spadina Rd at Davenport Rd
1980's - The Baldwin Steps
1980’s – The Baldwin Steps
1980's - The Baldwin Steps under construction with Casa Loma in background
1980’s – The Baldwin Steps under construction with Casa Loma in background
1912 - New steps (on left) and old steps (on right) to Casa Loma from Davenport Rd
1912 – New steps (on left) and old steps (on right) to Casa Loma from Davenport Rd
1907 - Looking north from railway tracks near Walmer Rd with steps in background (Toronto Public Library r-6783)
1907 – Looking north from railway tracks near Walmer Rd with steps in background (Toronto Public Library r-6783)
2020 - The Baldwin Family Plaque at The Baldwin Steps
2020 – The Baldwin Family Plaque at The Baldwin Steps
1886 - Baldwin family's home at Front & Bay Sts, northeast corner (Toronto Public Library r-6754)
1886 – Baldwin family’s home at Front & Bay Sts, northeast corner (Toronto Public Library r-6754)
2020 - The Spadina Museum
2020 – The Spadina Museum
Illustration of the Baldwin Family's second Spadina House 1836 to 1866 (Toronto Public Library r-5254)
Illustration of the Baldwin Family’s second Spadina House 1836 to 1866 (Toronto Public Library r-5254)
Illustration of the Baldwin Family's first Spadina House 1818 to 1835 (Toronto Public Library r-5257)
Illustration of the Baldwin Family’s first Spadina House 1818 to 1835 (Toronto Public Library r-5257)
1830's - The Honourable William Warren Baldwin (Toronto Public Library jrr268)
1830’s – The Honourable William Warren Baldwin (Toronto Public Library jrr268)
1913/2020 - Baldwin Steps are located at Spadina & Davenport Rds (City of Toronto Archives)
1913/2020 – Baldwin Steps are located at Spadina & Davenport Rds (City of Toronto Archives)
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