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.
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.
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.
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.
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
- City of Toronto Heritage Register: 10 Scrivener Sq
- Ontario Heritage Trust: 10 Scrivener Sq
- The Globe Newspaper Archives: Jun 15, 1916, pg 8
- The Globe and Mail Newspaper Archives: May 23, 1939, pg 30
- Toronto Star Newspaper Archives: Jan 18, 1992, pg E1 & E12
- The Globe and Mail Newspaper Archives: Jan 12, 2002, pg A16
- The Globe and Mail Newspaper Archives: Mar 31, 2003, pg A15
- Heritage Canada Prize: A Landmark Renewed The Old North Toronto Station by Katherine McIntyre in Winter 2005
- Toronto City Directory 1918
- Woodcliffe Landmark Properties: North Toronto Station
- GBCA Architects: North Toronto Station
- Globe News: What you might not know about the Summerhill LCBO
- Toronto Star: Hunt is on for buried history…
- Toronto Star: North Toronto Railway Station celebrates 100…
- Photos: Denise Marie for TorontoJourney416
- Vintage Photos: City of Toronto Archives & Toronto Public Library
- Vintage Map: Atlas of the City of Toronto 1910 by Chas E Goad from the Toronto Public Library