The Canadian National Exhibition flagpole was once located in Bandshell Park at Exhibition Place in Toronto.
The 1930 British Columbia Fir Flagpole
The British Columbia fir was donated to the CNE by Timberland Lumber Co Ltd of New Westminister, British Columbia. In 1929, the giant pole was too large to be transported by railway, so it was shipped. It took a 13,679 km or 8,500-mile voyage from BC down the Pacific coast, through the Panama Canal, and up the Eastern seaboard. From there, it travelled down the St Lawrence to Montreal, then onto Toronto, arriving here just before the opening of the 1929 CNE. Equipment and boats supplied by the Toronto Harbour Commission moved it from ship to land at Exhibition grounds. The pole sat for a year to season (dry) on a specially prepared platform.
To support the flagpole, a large hole was excavated. In it, a poured concrete block was set on an iron base. The pole was bracketed at the base with steel. The above-ground portion of the concrete base was fashioned into a bench. A wide bronze band attached to a lighting conductor was near the flagpole’s tip. It was topped with a copper ball donated by two former BC residents, the Gow brothers.
When the CNE flagpole was raised on August 12, 1930, it was the highest one-piece flagpole in North America and the second tallest in the world. There was no formal ceremony for the raising of the new park ornament; however, CNE officials, Mayor Bert Wemp and sightseers were in attendance.
On August 23, 1930, members of the Silver Cross Chapter (Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire) presented a large Union Jack to the Canadian National Exhibition at a flag-raising ceremony. Closing ceremonies for the 1930 CNE were held at the flagpole.
1930-Raised Flagpole Stats
It was cut from a British Columbia fir over 235 years old and stood 56 m or 184 ft tall.
The pole weighed about 18,100 kgs or 40,000 lbs.
The diameter of the butt was 86 cm or 34 inches, and the tip was 25 cm or 10 inches.
The pole was transported free of charge from British Columbia to Quebec by Canadian National Steamships Limited, from Montreal to Toronto by Canadian Steamships Limited, and from the dock to Exhibition grounds by the Toronto Harbour Commission.
A 16 ft deep by 14 ft wide hole was excavated, and over 200 tons of concrete was poured for the base.
Sunk into the concrete were eight bolts, each weighing 816 kg or 1,800 lbs.
Each of the four steel brackets weighed 907 kg or 2,000 lbs.
The flagpole was painted white.
The flag it carried was 9 m or 30 ft.
The diameter of the copper ball topper was 76 cm or 30 inches.
The 1977 Douglas Fir Flagpole
The Exhibition needed a new flagpole as the 1930 flagpole had been reduced to 36 m or 119 ft due to deterioration. In 1976, the CNE received word from Wickenheim Lumber Co of Shawnigan Lake, British Columbia, that a Douglas fir tree had fallen in a windstorm.
For this flagpole, it began its 4,184 km or 2,600-mile journey across Canada carefully balanced on two massive lumber trucks. It was then ferried through the Strait of Georgia, BC and was loaded onto three specially rigged CN flat railway cars for its trip to Toronto. It took 78 days, and when the pole arrived, it was debarked, shaped and painted.
The flagpole was a gift to the CNE by Travel South, USA and its member states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia, to express their appreciation to the Canadians who visit their states.
The 1977 CNE was honouring Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee. The Honourable Pauline M McGibbon, Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario, presided over the flagpole’s opening and dedication on August 18, 1977.
1977-Raised Flagpole Stats
It was a Douglas fir approximately 350 years old and stood 56 m or 184 ft tall.
The pole weighed about 15,876 kgs or 35,000 lbs.
The diameter of the butt was 84 cm or 33 inches, and the tip was 38 cm or 15 inches.
Flagpole Removal & the Site Today
In 1999, several areas of dry rot began to appear on the flagpole. Two years later, it underwent major repair work to remove the damaged areas and, at the same time, was reduced to 31 m or 103 ft.
On August 12, 2008, the CNE flagpole was taken down due to decay. It was exactly 78 years to the day that the previous flagpole was raised. Today, only the cement base remains however, there are plaques commemorating it on the site. It’s approximately 62 m or 200 ft southwest of The Bandstand.