The Confederation Life Building is located at 20 Richmond St E (between Yonge St and Victoria St on the north side) in downtown Toronto.
Confederation Life Insurance Company was founded in Toronto in 1871 by John Kay Macdonald and a group of high-profile business people. In 1889, the company held an international competition to design their prestigious head office, the Confederation Life Building. The architect team of Knox, Elliot & Jarvis (of Chicago and Toronto) were awarded the top prize. Construction began in 1890 and was completed in 1892. When it was built, the structure was considered one of the city’s grandest and most state-of-the-art office buildings.
Majestic Romanesque & Gothic Elements in the Confederation Life Building
The design style includes both Romanesque Revival and French Gothic elements. The heavy structure features elaborate stone carvings on the façade that are both classical and Medieval. They include faces, dragons, lions, elegant leaves and more. The building had several pinnacles at one time, and the central tower was taller with intricate stone tracery.
The seven-storey red stone building was once the tallest in Toronto and was home to the Confederation Life Association until 1955. The company went out of business in 1994; however, the liquidation process took several years to complete.
A Fire at the Heritage Building
The City of Toronto gave the majestic Confederation Life Building heritage status in 1973. In 1981, while the landmark was being renovated, a fire roared through the historic building. It suffered a lot of damage, but it was a heritage property and was saved from demolition. Most of the building was restored.
Today, the building is home to many shops, restaurants, businesses and medical offices.
Confederation Life Building Photos
- City of Toronto Heritage Register: 20 Richmond St E
- Heritage Toronto
- Dictionary of Canadian Biography: John Kay Macdonald
- Toronto, No Mean City by Eric Arthur, revised by Stephen A Otto
- Vintage Photos: City of Toronto Archives & Toronto Public Library