CNE Flagpole – Once in Bandshell Park at Exhibition Place

August 12, 1930 – The Canadian National Exhibition flagpole raising with the former Transportation Building in the background
August 12, 1930 – The Canadian National Exhibition flagpole raising with the former Transportation Building in the background (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 631A)

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.

1963 – Sitting on the lawn in front of the Bandshell and the former Canadian National Exhibition flagpole. Raised in 1930, the British Columbia Fir flagpole stood 56 m or 184 ft tall and was cut from a tree 237 years old. It was replaced by a new flagpole in 1977 but was taken down in the late 2000s
1963 – Sitting on the lawn in front of the Bandshell and the former Canadian National Exhibition flagpole (CNE Archives)

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.
2022 – The cement base of the former CNE flagpole is located in Bandshell Park at Exhibition Place. The plaques are in the background
2022 – The cement base of the former CNE flagpole is located in Bandshell Park at Exhibition Place

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.

CNE Flagpole Photos

July 19, 1929 - Toronto Harbour Commission equipment and boats moving the 56 m or 184 ft pole to Exhibition grounds. The pole took a 13,679 km or 8,500-mile voyage from BC, through the Panama Canal, then to Montreal and onto Toronto
July 19, 1929 – Toronto Harbour Commission equipment and boats moving the 56 m or 184 ft pole to Exhibition grounds. The pole took a 13,679 km or 8,500-mile voyage from BC, through the Panama Canal, then to Montreal and onto Toronto (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266, Item 17324)
July 19, 1929 - Toronto Harbour Commission equipment and boats moving the pol from Lake Ontario to Exhibition grounds. The 18,143 kg or 40,000 lb pole sat for a year to season (dry) on a specially prepared platform
July 19, 1929 – Toronto Harbour Commission equipment and boats moving the pol from Lake Ontario to Exhibition grounds. The 18,143 kg or 40,000 lb pole sat for a year to season (dry) on a specially prepared platform (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266, Item 17325)
July 29, 1929 - Moving the CNE flagpole to Exhibition grounds. The view is looking east near Lake Shore Blvd W with the former Women’s Building in the background
July 29, 1929 – Moving the CNE flagpole to Exhibition grounds. The view is looking east near Lake Shore Blvd W with the former Women’s Building in the background (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266, Item 17482)
July 31, 1930 - Looking northwest towards the CNE flagpole about two weeks before it was raised. In the background, from left to right, the former Transportation Building, the Government Building (today home to Medieval Times) and the Horticulture Building (today home to Grand Bizarre)
July 31, 1930 – Looking northwest towards the CNE flagpole about two weeks before it was raised. In the background, from left to right, the former Transportation Building, the Government Building (today home to Medieval Times) and the Horticulture Building (today home to Grand Bizarre) (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266, Item 213224)
August 12, 1930 - Brothers Walter Stanley and Athol Gow present a 76 cm or 30-inch copper ball for the top of the CNE flagpole
August 12, 1930 – Brothers Walter Stanley and Athol Gow present a 76 cm or 30-inch copper ball for the top of the CNE flagpole (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 631C)
August 12, 1930 – The Canadian National Exhibition flagpole raising with the former Transportation Building in the background
August 12, 1930 – The Canadian National Exhibition flagpole raising with the former Transportation Building in the background (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 631A)
August 23, 1930 - The Silver Cross Chapter (Imperial Order of Daughters of the Empire) presenting a flag to the Canadian National Exhibition to fly from the new flagpole. Toronto Mayor Bert Wemp is on the left
August 23, 1930 – The Silver Cross Chapter (Imperial Order of Daughters of the Empire) presenting a flag to the Canadian National Exhibition to fly from the new flagpole. Toronto Mayor Bert Wemp is on the left (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266, Item 21657)
August 23, 1930 - The Union Jack being raised for the first time at the new CNE flagpole
August 23, 1930 – The Union Jack being raised for the first time at the new CNE flagpole (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266, Item 21658)
1936 - Looking southwest at Exhibition grounds towards the construction of the Bandshell, the former Bandstand and the CNE flagpole in what's known today as Bandshell Park
1936 – Looking southwest at Exhibition grounds towards the construction of the Bandshell, the former Bandstand and the CNE flagpole in what’s known today as Bandshell Park (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 1445)
1936 – The concrete base/bench and steel brackets of the CNE flagpole. Notice the Horticulture Building, today home to Grand Bizarre, in the background
1936 – The concrete base/bench and steel brackets of the CNE flagpole. Notice the Horticulture Building, today home to Grand Bizarre, in the background (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 1451)
1946 – People and scaffolding at the base of the CNE flagpole. Notice the Horticulture Building in the background
1946 – People and scaffolding at the base of the CNE flagpole. Notice the Horticulture Building in the background (City of Toronto Archives, Series 372, Sub Series 1, Item 1743)
1946 – Looking northeast to scaffolding around the Canadian National Exhibition flagpole and the Horticulture Building
1946 – Looking northeast to scaffolding around the Canadian National Exhibition flagpole and the Horticulture Building (City of Toronto Archives, Series 372, Sub Series 1, Item 1744)
1950 – Looking northeast in Bandshell Park towards the CNE flagpole and the Horticulture Building
1950 – Looking northeast in Bandshell Park towards the CNE flagpole and the Horticulture Building (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1128, Series 380, Item 141)
Between 1952 and 1953 - Looking southeast towards the base of the CNE flagpole under repair and the Bandshell at Exhibition grounds
Between 1952 and 1953 – Looking southeast towards the base of the CNE flagpole under repair and the Bandshell at Exhibition grounds (Toronto Public Library R-3462)
1963 – Sitting on the lawn in front of the Bandshell and the base of the former Canadian National Exhibition flagpole. Raised in 1930, the British Columbia fir flagpole stood 56 m or 184 ft tall and was cut from a tree 237 years old. It was replaced by a new flagpole in 1977 but was taken down in 2009
1963 – Sitting on the lawn in front of the Bandshell and the base of the former Canadian National Exhibition flagpole. Raised in 1930, the British Columbia fir flagpole stood 56 m or 184 ft tall and was cut from a tree 237 years old. It was replaced by a new flagpole in 1977 but was taken down in 2009 (CNE Archives)
1977 - The 1977-raised CNE flagpole was made of Douglas fir and cut from a tree approximately 350 years old. It was taken down in 2008 due to deterioration
1977 – The 1977-raised CNE flagpole was made of Douglas fir and cut from a tree approximately 350 years old. It was taken down in 2008 due to deterioration (Courtesy of the Canadian National Exhibition Association Archives)
2022 – The cement base of the former CNE flagpole is located in Bandshell Park at Exhibition Place. The plaques are in the background
2022 – The cement base of the former CNE flagpole is located in Bandshell Park at Exhibition Place. The plaques are in the background
2022 – Looking southeast towards the Bandshell located in Bandshell Park at Exhibition Place. Notice the cement base where the CNE flagpole once stood
2022 – Looking southeast towards the Bandshell located in Bandshell Park at Exhibition Place. Notice the cement base where the CNE flagpole once stood
2022 – CNE flagpole plaques
2022 – CNE flagpole plaques
2021 – The plaque about the 1977-raised flagpole reads "Canadian National Exhibition Flagpole - This flagpole is presented to the Canadian National Exhibition by Travel South, U.S.A. and the member states of Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Virginia as an expression of appreciation to the many Canadians who visit our states and for their friendships that have evolved over the years. Dedicated August 18, 1977, in the twenty-fifth year of the reign of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II by the Honourable Pauline M. McGibbon, Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario."
2021 – The plaque about the 1977-raised flagpole reads “Canadian National Exhibition Flagpole – This flagpole is presented to the Canadian National Exhibition by Travel South, U.S.A. and the member states of Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Virginia as an expression of appreciation to the many Canadians who visit our states and for their friendships that have evolved over the years. Dedicated August 18, 1977, in the twenty-fifth year of the reign of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II by the Honourable Pauline M. McGibbon, Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario.”
2021 – The upper plaque about the 1977-raised flagpole reads "Sir Douglas fir™ - From the Shawnigan Lake Region of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, this Douglas fir flagpole is 184 feet in height, has a tip diameter of 15 inches, a butt diameter of 33 inches, weighs 35,000 pounds and is approximately 350 years old. It was erected by the Canadian National Exhibition Association in 1977 to replace the original flagpole which is described below.” The lower plaque about the 1930-raised flagpole reads "British Columbia fir flagpole – Which was cut from a tree two hundred and thirty-seven years old and which is one hundred and eighty-four feet high. Donated by Timberland Lumber Co. Limited, New Westminster, B.C., October 22nd 1928. Transported free of charge from New Westminster, B.C. to Quebec by Canadian National Steamships Limited, from Quebec to Toronto by Canadian Steamships Limited, and from the dock to Exhibition grounds by the Toronto Harbour Commission.” Erected by the Canadian National Exhibition Ass’n. August 12th 1930"
2021 – The upper plaque about the 1977-raised flagpole reads “Sir Douglas Fir™ – From the Shawnigan Lake Region of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, this Douglas fir flagpole is 184 feet in height, has a tip diameter of 15 inches, a butt diameter of 33 inches, weighs 35,000 pounds and is approximately 350 years old. It was erected by the Canadian National Exhibition Association in 1977 to replace the original flagpole which is described below.”

The lower plaque about the 1930-raised flagpole reads “British Columbia fir flagpole – Which was cut from a tree two hundred and thirty-seven years old and which is one hundred and eighty-four feet high. Donated by Timberland Lumber Co. Limited, New Westminster, B.C., October 22nd 1928. Transported free of charge from New Westminster, B.C. to Quebec by Canadian National Steamships Limited, from Quebec to Toronto by Canadian Steamships Limited, and from the dock to Exhibition grounds by the Toronto Harbour Commission.” Erected by the Canadian National Exhibition Ass’n. August 12th 1930″
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