C.P.R. North Toronto Station – The Grand & Iconic Landmark

1916 - Opening year of the C.P.R. North Toronto Station - its original address was 1127 Yonge St
1916 – Opening year of the C.P.R. North Toronto Station – its original address was 1127 Yonge St (Toronto Public Library R-3762)

Originally the C.P.R. North Toronto Station, today’s flagship Summerhill LCBO store is located at 10 Scrivener Sq (at Yonge St on the northeast corner) in the Rosedale/Summerhill neighbourhood of Toronto.

The Need for a New Station

A new railway station was needed in the northern part of Toronto to alleviate pressure at the Old Union Station and to replace the smaller station nearby on Cottingham St, just west of Yonge St. In 1915, construction began on the new Canadian Pacific Railway (C.P.R.) depot. The station had a projected cost of $750,000 and was going to be the new transportation hub of Toronto.

2021 - One of the four Coat of Arms on the south facade of the former C.P.R. North Toronto Station
2021 – One of the four Coat of Arms on the south facade of the former C.P.R. North Toronto Station

The Architecture of the C.P.R. North Toronto Station

Designed by Darling & Pearson in the neo-classical Beaux-Arts style, the station opened in 1916. The grand terminal is clad with Manitoba Tyndall limestone and attached to it is a 42.7 m or 140 ft clock tower inspired by the Campanile of St Mark’s in Venice. Protecting the station’s main south entrance and the west side is a wide steel canopy with an iron frieze-decorated edge. Over the entrance’s canopy are three arched windows modelled after those in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal. Adorning the upper levels of the south façade are four beautifully carved Coats of Arms.

Once inside, the 11.5 m or 38 ft walls of the Central Waiting Room are lined with marble. Its porcelain tile floors have a herringbone pattern, and the ceiling has detailed plasterwork. On the east side of the room was the Women’s Lavatory and Waiting Area, along with the Men’s Smoking Room. Each of these areas had its own unique flooring materials and ceilings. Flanking the west side of the great hall, ticket windows with brass pickets, marble sills and inside were cabinets made of oak.

Beyond the Concourse were the parcel, baggage and express rooms. The Concourse opened to the Midway, where passengers would walk by its glazed-brick ceramic walls to access stairs to the platform above.

There was a private driveway along the station’s west side for several years. Vehicles could drive up to the south main or tower vestibule entrance, pass under the tracks to the baggage and express rooms, and then exit to Yonge St on the building’s north side.

1916 - Passengers at the ticket windows in the Central Waiting Room of the C.P.R. North Toronto Station
1916 – Passengers at the ticket windows in the Central Waiting Room of the C.P.R. North Toronto Station (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 930)

Its 14-Year Life as a Train Station

When today’s Union Station opened in 1927, the North Toronto Station began to see fewer passengers. It was too expensive for C.P.R. to operate both Union Station and the North Station. Its last railway customers came through the short-lived North Station in 1930.

The Beer Store & LCBO

Shortly after closing, the Baggage Area in the northern portion of the building was leased to Brewers Warehouse/Brewers Retail, known as The Beer Store today.

In 1939, the building reopened briefly as a station for the arrival of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth to Toronto. Over 5,000 people lined the street around the old station for the royal visit.

In the early 1940s, the LCBO took a corner in the southern part of the building. The clock faces on the tower disappeared that same decade, and pigeons made the clock tower their home for over half a century.

Over the years, alterations were made throughout the grand building. Rubber tiles covered the beautiful floors, wood panelling hid the marble walls, and drop ceilings turned the three-storey hall into a dull, one-storey space. These alterations, both concealed and in some cases, protected the remarkable details behind them.

2021 - The former C.P.R. North Toronto Station at 10 Scrivener Sq, today the Summerhill LCBO
2021 – The former C.P.R. North Toronto Station at 10 Scrivener Sq, today the Summerhill LCBO

Restored to its Earlier Splendor

Plans for the station’s restoration began in 1987. After multiple community meetings and substantial hours of research, the building’s owners, development firm Woodcliffe Landmark Properties, started rehabilitation in 2000. Some significant factors that made the task complex were the multiple, three-dimensional property lines, the subway below, the active rail line above and the requirements of the building’s prime tenant, the LCBO, during the restoration process.

GBCA Architects were hired to complete heritage preservation and restoration work and design. It was an incredible surprise when the architectural firm discovered the elegant marble walls, untouched ticket wickets, a Doric Architrave ceiling, skylights and more hidden behind the alterations.

The exterior limestone was cleaned and repaired. The meandering Greek key pattern around the canopy’s edge was replicated using a small piece that remained as a guide. In the clock tower, the pigeons were removed along with their nine tons of droppings. It’s now bird-proof. While the original clock was synchronized using telegraph signals from C.P.R.’s Windsor Station in Montreal, a new clock mechanism was installed that communicates with G.P.S. satellites to keep accurate time.

Two new spaces were harmoniously integrated into the building. On the facade north of the rail line, a triangular section with an entrance was added, while on the east side another area was built for product displays.

In 2003, the restoration was unveiled. It’s an exquisite blend of the old station’s grandeur with a contemporary retail environment. Home to the LCBO’s flagship store, this piece of Toronto’s architecture attracts visitors worldwide. Along with high praise from the public and several awards, Woodcliffe Landmark Properties was bestowed with Heritage Canada’s first-ever Corporate Prize for the restoration and rehabilitation of the C.P.R. North Toronto Station.

The Five-Year Hunt for History

Reg Garner, the General Manager of the Summerhill LCBO, researched the landmark’s history. There were rumours that a time capsule was buried in 1915. He was intrigued and wanted to find it. Mr Garner approached the now late Paul Oberman, CEO and President of Woodcliffe Landmark Properties, about the time capsule.

They hired the firm Historic Restoration to find it by taking x-ray photographs, but nothing was detected because of its thick stone walls. Months later, a clue came from an old photo of then-mayor Tommy Church and dignitaries at the cornerstone ceremony. After a week of digging, a copper box was found under a 1.7-tonne cornerstone. Approximately 50 items were inside in near perfect condition, including blueprints, a Toronto map and municipal handbook, newspapers dated Sep 9, 1915 (Evening Telegram, Mail and Empire, The Globe and more), coins and stamps.

At the C.P.R. North Toronto Station’s 100th Anniversary celebration, the contents of the 1915 time capsule were revealed. A new one was put in its place included issues of Sep 15, 2015 newspapers (Toronto Sun, National Post, Globe and Mail and Toronto Star), a September issue of Toronto Life, an LCBO Food and Drink Guide, an iPhone, a Blackberry, a new map of Toronto and a few bottles of spirits from the LCBO.

2021 - The clock tower and a portion of the canopy's iron frieze-decorated edge (and a pigeon!) at the former C.P.R. North Toronto Station, today's Summerhill LCBO
2021 – The clock tower and a portion of the canopy’s iron frieze-decorated edge (and a pigeon!) at the former C.P.R. North Toronto Station, today’s Summerhill LCBO

Did You Know?

  • The C.P.R. North Toronto Station, was also known as the North Toronto C.P.R. Depot. Its address was listed as 1127 Yonge St.
  • For a time, a clock displaying the name “National Trust” was added to the tower. There’s a 1971 photo of it below.
  • In 1973, the C.P.R. North Toronto Station was one of the 490 buildings on Heritage Toronto’s initial induction list. Three years later, the landmark received designation from Ontario Heritage Trust.
  • Paul Oberman founded Woodcliffe Landmark Properties in 1996. The company restores heritage properties which include The Shops of Summerhill and the Gooderham “Flatiron” Building. After Mr Oberman passing in 2011, his wife, Eve Lewis took over management of the company.
  • During the restoration in 2002, workers found the ticket agents “cheat notes” in the drawers of the ticket wickets. It said “Adults 25 cents, kids 10 cents, priests 10 cents and politicians – free”.
  • The LCBO’s flagship store is rumoured to be home to two kinds of spirits – the liquor kind and the ghostly kind. There’s a stairway that once led passengers to the Track 2 train platform. The ground floor door to that now hidden and capped stairway is said to lock and unlock on its own. Click for more haunted tales.

C.P.R. North Toronto Station Photos

1916 - Opening year of the C.P.R. North Toronto Station - its original address was 1127 Yonge St
1916 – Opening year of the C.P.R. North Toronto Station – its original address was 1127 Yonge St (Toronto Public Library R-3762)
2021 - The former C.P.R. North Toronto Station, today's Summerhill LCBO, at Yonge St and Scrivener Sq, northeast corner
2021 – The former C.P.R. North Toronto Station, today’s Summerhill LCBO, at Yonge St and Scrivener Sq, northeast corner
2021 - The clock tower and a portion of the canopy's iron frieze-decorated edge (and a pigeon!) at the former C.P.R. North Toronto Station, today's Summerhill LCBO
2021 – The clock tower and a portion of the canopy’s iron frieze-decorated edge (and a pigeon!) at the former C.P.R. North Toronto Station, today’s Summerhill LCBO
2020 - The original marble walls, hanging light fixtures, arched window and the detailed plasterwork on the ceiling - today home to the Summerhill LCBO, this was the Central Waiting Room of the former C.P.R. North Toronto Station
2020 – The original marble walls, hanging light fixtures, arched window and the detailed plasterwork on the ceiling – today home to the Summerhill LCBO, this was the Central Waiting Room of the former C.P.R. North Toronto Station
1916 - Passengers at the ticket windows in the Central Waiting Room of the C.P.R. North Toronto Station
1916 – Passengers at the ticket windows in the Central Waiting Room of the C.P.R. North Toronto Station (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 930)
2020 - The ticket windows and brass pickets of the former C.P.R. North Toronto Station
2020 – The ticket windows and brass pickets of the former C.P.R. North Toronto Station
2021 - The former C.P.R. North Toronto Station at 10 Scrivener Sq, today the Summerhill LCBO
2021 – The former C.P.R. North Toronto Station at 10 Scrivener Sq, today the Summerhill LCBO
2021 - One of the four Coat of Arms on the south facade of the former C.P.R. North Toronto Station
2021 – One of the four Coat of Arms on the south facade of the former C.P.R. North Toronto Station
2020 - Clock Tower tasting room at the Summerhill LCBO
2020 – Clock Tower tasting room at the Summerhill LCBO
2020 - Skylights inside the Summerhill LCBO, the former C.P.R. North Toronto Station
2020 – Skylights inside the Summerhill LCBO, the former C.P.R. North Toronto Station
2020 - An original wooden bench inside the former C.P.R. North Toronto Station, today's Summerhill LBCO
2020 – An original wooden bench inside the former C.P.R. North Toronto Station, today’s Summerhill LBCO
2020 - Track 1 doorway of the former C.P.R. North Toronto Station, today's Summerhill LCBO
2020 – Track 1 doorway of the former C.P.R. North Toronto Station, today’s Summerhill LCBO
2020 - The Track 2 doors are rumoured to lock and unlock on their own - the now capped-off stairs once led to the platform
2020 – The Track 2 doors are rumoured to lock and unlock on their own – the now capped-off stairs once led to the platform
2020 - Track 3 doorway inside the Summerhill LCBO, the former C.P.R. North Toronto Station
2020 – Track 3 doorway inside the Summerhill LCBO, the former C.P.R. North Toronto Station
2020 - Track 4 doorway of the former C.P.R. North Toronto Station, today's Summerhill LCBO
2020 – Track 4 doorway of the former C.P.R. North Toronto Station, today’s Summerhill LCBO
2020 - Track 5 doorway inside the Summerhill LCBO, the former C.P.R. North Toronto Station
2020 – Track 5 doorway inside the Summerhill LCBO, the former C.P.R. North Toronto Station
2020 - One of the elegant hanging light fixtures and an arched window inside the Central Waiting Room of the former C.P.R. North Toronto Station
2020 – One of the elegant hanging light fixtures and an arched window inside the Central Waiting Room of the former C.P.R. North Toronto Station
1978/84 - The canopy of the former C.P.R. North Toronto Station with a piece of the iron Greek key patterned edge
1978/84 – The canopy of the former C.P.R. North Toronto Station with a piece of the iron Greek key patterned edge (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 439, Item 28)
2021 - Looking northwest towards the Summerhill LCBO in the former C.P.R. North Toronto Station
2021 – Looking northwest towards the Summerhill LCBO in the former C.P.R. North Toronto Station
1915 - Looking northeast towards the construction of the North Toronto C.P.R. Depot from Cottingham St, when it intersected at Yonge St
1915 – Looking northeast towards the construction of the North Toronto C.P.R. Depot from Cottingham St, when it intersected at Yonge St (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1548, Series 393, Item 3213)
2021 - Looking north towards the clock tower of the former C.P.R. North Toronto Station
2021 – Looking north towards the clock tower of the former C.P.R. North Toronto Station
Circa 1920 - Looking east from the old C.P.R. North Toronto station on Cottingham St towards the newer station
Circa 1920 – Looking east from the old C.P.R. North Toronto station on Cottingham St towards the newer station (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 1748)
Circa 1916 - A sign for the first North Toronto Station once on Cottingham St, just west of Yonge St
Circa 1916 – A sign for the first North Toronto Station once on Cottingham St, just west of Yonge St (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1568, Item 439)
1918 - Looking northeast from the tracks towards the C.P.R. North Toronto Station - a note on the photo says this is Canada's first shipment of whale meat
1918 – Looking northeast from the tracks towards the C.P.R. North Toronto Station – a note on the photo says this is Canada’s first shipment of whale meat (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 1939)
1916 - Looking south on Yonge St, south of Walker Ave towards the Rosedale Hotel and the clock tower of the C.P.R. North Toronto Station
1916 – Looking south on Yonge St, south of Walker Ave towards the Rosedale Hotel and the clock tower of the C.P.R. North Toronto Station (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 1544)
Circa 1920 - Looking south on Yonge St, just north of Birch Ave towards the C.P.R. North Toronto Station
Circa 1920 – Looking south on Yonge St, just north of Birch Ave towards the C.P.R. North Toronto Station (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 5002)
2021 - Looking south on Yonge St, just north of Birch Ave towards the former C.P.R. North Toronto Station and downtown Toronto
2021 – Looking south on Yonge St, just north of Birch Ave towards the former C.P.R. North Toronto Station and downtown Toronto
1971 - Looking northeast from Yonge St towards the Liquor Control Board store and the clocktower of the former C.P.R. North Toronto Station - notice the National Trust clock
1971 – Looking northeast from Yonge St towards the Liquor Control Board store and the clocktower of the former C.P.R. North Toronto Station – notice the National Trust clock (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 1, Item 100)
1950s - Looking northeast from Yonge St, north of Marlborough Ave towards the former the C.P.R. North Toronto Station
1950s – Looking northeast from Yonge St, north of Marlborough Ave towards the former the C.P.R. North Toronto Station (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1128, Series 380, Item 211)
1920 - Looking northeast towards the North Toronto C.P.R. Depot at 1127 Yonge St
1920 – Looking northeast towards the North Toronto C.P.R. Depot at 1127 Yonge St (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1488, Series 1230, Item 2118)
1985/98 - Looking northeast from the railway tracks towards the former C.P.R. North Toronto Station
1985/98 – Looking northeast from the railway tracks towards the former C.P.R. North Toronto Station (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 46, Item 11)
1979/84 - Looking east from the railway tracks towards the former C.P.R. North Toronto Station
1979/84 – Looking east from the railway tracks towards the former C.P.R. North Toronto Station (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 613, Item 7)
1948 - An aerial view looking north up Yonge St from today's Scrivener Sq
1948 – An aerial view looking north up Yonge St from today’s Scrivener Sq (Toronto Public Library TSPA_0108833F)
1910 - Goads Map showing the locations of the first C.P.R. North Toronto Station and the future site of C.P.R. North Toronto Station, today's Summerhill LCBO
1910 – Goads Map showing the locations of the first C.P.R. North Toronto Station and the future site of C.P.R. North Toronto Station, today’s Summerhill LCBO (Toronto Public Library)
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