Crystal Palace – The Beautiful & Ornate Building Once at the Exhibition

1884 - The Crystal Palace was once located at Exhibition grounds. The beautiful building faced Lake Ontario and stood where the Horticulture Building stands today
1884 – The Crystal Palace was once located at Exhibition grounds. The beautiful building faced Lake Ontario and stood where the Horticulture Building stands today (Toronto Public Library R-4107)

Crystal Palace was once located where the Horticulture Building stands today on Saskatchewan Rd (between Dufferin St and Princes’ Blvd) at Exhibition Place in Toronto.

Provincial Agricultural Exhibition

The forerunner to the Canadian National Exhibition was the Provincial Agricultural Exhibition of Upper Canada. The first was held in 1846 on the grounds of the Government House, once located at King St W and Simcoe St. In its early years, the Fair travelled in rotation to other Ontario cities, including Hamilton, Kingston, London, Niagara and Ottawa, never intending to be permanently in Toronto.

Between 1858 and 1878 - The Palace of Industry, also known as the Crystal Palace, was once located near King St W and Shaw St. Built in 1858, the Crystal Palace was designed by architects Sir Sandford Fleming and Sir Collingwood Schreiber. In 1878, the structure was dismantled and moved to Exhibition grounds, where it was enlarged and stood until 1906, when it was destroyed by fire
Between 1858 and 1878 – The Palace of Industry, also known as the Crystal Palace, was once located near King St W and Shaw St (Toronto Public Library R-2883)

The Palace of Industry

The City of Toronto granted 30 acres of Garrison Reserve land for Exhibition grounds and a public park near King St W, west of Strachan Ave. A design competition was held to create a permanent exhibition building for the upcoming 1858 Exhibition and future events. The winning entry was that of Sir Collingwood Schreiber and Sir Sandford Fleming, based on the Cyrstal Palace in London but on a smaller scale.

Toronto’s first Crystal Palace, officially known as the Palace of Industry, was built north of King St W, west of Shaw St. The two-storey cruciform-shaped building was 78 m or 256 ft long, 29 m or 96 ft wide, and 17 m or 55 ft tall. It took just 90 days to construct. Its walls were made of cast iron and opaque glass that extended into the roof and semi-circular window in the transept. The remainder of the roof was wood covered in tin, making the building glisten in the sunlight. The building was supported on cast iron columns and girders. It had four entrances.

There were 47,000 sq ft of space between the main floor and gallery. The building was said to hold up to 8,000 people.

Even though the structure was named the Palace of Industry, it was more so agriculture that was exhibited inside. Outside the building were pens for cattle, sheep and poultry.

Toronto’s turn to host the annual Provincial Agricultural Fair came around every four years. In 1878, exhibition officials told the city a new building would be needed if the Fair was to be held in Toronto. Not only was the Palace of Industry too small, but there were lighting issues, and due to poor ventilation, the floor had rotted. Outside of this, the remainder of the building was fine.

1885 - The Crystal Palace and lighting tower on the front cover of the Industrial Exhibition Toronto prize list
1885 – The Crystal Palace and lighting tower on the front cover of the Industrial Exhibition Toronto prize list (CNE Archives)

The Crystal Palace

To entice the Provincial Agricultural Fair organizers, and in hopes that Toronto would be selected to host the Exhibition permanently, City Councillors chose a 52-acre site just west of the Stanley Barracks as the new fairground. It was close to the streetcar line, Lake Ontario, rail and accommodations.

The Palace of Industry was dismantled, its pieces were marked and numbered, and it was moved from King St W to the new site. The second version of Toronto’s Crystal Palace was reconstructed using much of the ironwork and salvageable material from the original building. It was enlarged, and a third storey was added. To create new sections, the original pieces were copied. The building had semi-circular windows, a slate roof, over 100 patented ventilators for air circulation, raised skylights and was topped with a large cupola easily seen from Toronto harbour. The height of the Crystal Palace was 56 m or 185 ft to the top of its flagpole.

The primary exhibit building was the Crystal Palace, and it was the pride of the Exhibition. The building had a main floor and two tiers of galleries that could be reached by eight oak staircases. At the level of the second gallery was a bandstand. Below it, in a pavilion-style area, was an artificial rockwork foundation with cast iron fountains and drinking fountains. The building also featured an Art Gallery.

Along with the reconstruction of the Crystal Palace, architects Stewart & Strictland also designed several wooden display buildings at Exhibition grounds, including the first Administration Building, the Dairy Building, the first Horticulture Building and Machinery Hall.

When the Provincial Agricultural Fair decided to continue to rotate the Exhibition to other cities, City Council established the Industrial Exhibition Association of Toronto. The first Toronto Industrial Exhibition, today’s CNE, was held on September 5, 1879.

A Fire & The Site Today

On Thanksgiving night in 1906, a blaze started in the Grandstand. Embers carried by strong winds quickly spread the fire to other buildings, including the Crystal Palace, which had become known as the Transportation Building. The jewel of the Exhibition was destroyed.

The following year, the present-day Horticulture Building was built on the same site.

Crystal Palace Photos

Between 1858 and 1878 - The Palace of Industry, also known as the Crystal Palace, was once located near King St W and Shaw St. Built in 1858, the Crystal Palace was designed by architects Sir Sandford Fleming and Sir Collingwood Schreiber. In 1878, the structure was dismantled and moved to Exhibition grounds, where it was enlarged and stood until 1906, when it was destroyed by fire
Between 1858 and 1878 – The Palace of Industry, also known as the Crystal Palace, was once located near King St W and Shaw St. Built in 1858, the Crystal Palace was designed by architects Sir Sandford Fleming and Sir Collingwood Schreiber. In 1878, the structure was dismantled and moved to Exhibition grounds, where it was enlarged and stood until 1906, when it was destroyed by fire (Toronto Public Library R-2883)
1858 to 1866 - Sketch of the first Crystal Palace, also known as the Palace of Industry, once located at King St W, west of Shaw St. The building was dismantled and moved to Exhibition grounds
1858 to 1866 – Sketch of the first Crystal Palace, also known as the Palace of Industry, once located at King St W, west of Shaw St. The building was dismantled and moved to Exhibition grounds (Landmarks of Toronto Volume 5 by J Ross Robertson – 1908)
Late 1870s – The Crystal Palace after it had been moved to Exhibition grounds from King St W, west of Shaw St in 1878. It was rebuilt and enlarged but later destroyed by fire in 1906. The Crystal Palace was once located where the Horticulture Building stands today
Late 1870s – The Crystal Palace after it had been moved to Exhibition grounds from King St W, west of Shaw St in 1878. It was rebuilt and enlarged but later destroyed by fire in 1906. The Crystal Palace was once located where the Horticulture Building stands today (CNE Archives)
1878 - Crystal Palace was once located on Exhibition grounds. The building was made of cast iron, glass and wood. Its cupola could be easily seen from Toronto harbour
1878 – Crystal Palace was once located on Exhibition grounds. The building was made of cast iron, glass and wood. Its cupola could be easily seen from Toronto harbour (CNE Archives)
Circa 1880 - Looking north from the Dufferin St wharf towards the Crystal Palace once at Exhibition grounds. The jewel was built in 1858 and originally located at King St W, west of Shaw St. It was moved to Exhibition grounds and enlarged in 1878 but destroyed by fire in 1906. It stood where the Horticulture Building stands today
Circa 1880 – Looking north from the Dufferin St wharf towards the Crystal Palace once at Exhibition grounds. The jewel was built in 1858 and originally located at King St W, west of Shaw St. It was moved to Exhibition grounds and enlarged in 1878 but destroyed by fire in 1906. It stood where the Horticulture Building stands today (Toronto Public Library R-4111)
Circa 1881 - Looking north from Lake Ontario towards the Dufferin St wharf, the Crystal Palace and Exhibition grounds. The Crystal Palace was the main exhibition building and once stood where the Horticulture Building is located today
Circa 1881 – Looking north from Lake Ontario towards the Dufferin St wharf, the Crystal Palace and Exhibition grounds. The Crystal Palace was the main exhibition building and once stood where the Horticulture Building is located today (Toronto Public Library R-3954)
1884 - The Crystal Palace was once located at Exhibition grounds. The beautiful building faced Lake Ontario and stood where the Horticulture Building stands today
1884 – The Crystal Palace was once located at Exhibition grounds. The beautiful building faced Lake Ontario and stood where the Horticulture Building stands today (Toronto Public Library R-4107)
1885 - The Crystal Palace and lighting tower on the front cover of the Industrial Exhibition Toronto prize list
1885 – The Crystal Palace and lighting tower on the front cover of the Industrial Exhibition Toronto prize list (CNE Archives)
Between 1891 and 1894 – The Grand Trunk Railway crossing Dufferin St at the CNE western limit. Notice the Crystal Palace cupola hidden behind the trees
Between 1891 and 1894 – The Grand Trunk Railway crossing Dufferin St at the CNE western limit. Notice the Crystal Palace cupola hidden behind the trees (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 376, File 1A, Item 6)
Circa 1890 - The south entrance of the Crystal Palace once at Exhibition grounds. The building stood from 1878 until 1906, when it was destroyed by fire. Today, the Horticulture Building is on the site
Circa 1890 – The south entrance of the Crystal Palace once at Exhibition grounds. The building stood from 1878 until 1906, when it was destroyed by fire. Today, the Horticulture Building is on the site (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1441, Item 16)
1895 - Crowds near the lightning tower and the east side of the Crystal Palace once located at Exhibition grounds
1895 – Crowds near the lightning tower and the east side of the Crystal Palace once located at Exhibition grounds (CNE Archives)
1890s - The Crystal Palace was once located where the Horticulture Building stands today at Exhibition Place
1890s – The Crystal Palace was once located where the Horticulture Building stands today at Exhibition Place (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266, Item 14656)
1890s - The Crystal Palace was the main building at the Exhibition, and its south entrance faced Lake Ontario. Notice the building still has its 1878-constructed cupola
1890s – The Crystal Palace was the main building at the Exhibition, and its south entrance faced Lake Ontario. Notice the building still has its 1878-constructed cupola (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1548, Series 393, Item 17926-1)
1890s - Looking west towards the Crystal Palace at Exhibition grounds. Notice the cupola had been reduced. The Crystal Palace was the main exhibit building and was once located where the Horticulture Building stands today
1890s – Looking west towards the Crystal Palace at Exhibition grounds. Notice the cupola had been reduced. The Crystal Palace was the main exhibit building and was once located where the Horticulture Building stands today (CNE Archives)
Circa 1900 - The interior of the Crystal Palace featured two tiers of galleries. The building once stood where the Horticulture Building at Exhibition Place stands today
Circa 1900 – The interior of the Crystal Palace featured two tiers of galleries. The building once stood where the Horticulture Building at Exhibition Place stands today (Library and Archives Canada a048841)
Circa 1900 - Looking west towards the Crystal Palace once located at Exhibition grounds. The three-storey building featured two tiers of galleries, semi-circular windows in the transepts, raised skylights and a slate roof
Circa 1900 – Looking west towards the Crystal Palace once located at Exhibition grounds. The three-storey building featured two tiers of galleries, semi-circular windows in the transepts, raised skylights and a slate roof (Toronto Public Library R-4100)
Circa 1905 - Looking northwest towards the former Bandstand and the Crystal Palace once located at Exhibition grounds. The Crystal Palace was built in 1858 and originally located at King St W, west of Shaw St. It was moved to Exhibition grounds and enlarged in 1878 but destroyed by fire in 1906
Circa 1905 – Looking northwest towards the former Bandstand and the Crystal Palace once located at Exhibition grounds. The Crystal Palace was built in 1858 and originally located at King St W, west of Shaw St. It was moved to Exhibition grounds and enlarged in 1878 but destroyed by fire in 1906 (Toronto Public Library PC33)
1906 - Crowds around the Bandshell and the Crystal Palace once located at Exhibition grounds. The structure had been renamed the Transportation Building. Notice the new name in the semi-circular transept window. On Thanksgiving Day of this same year, the Crystal Palace was destroyed by fire
1906 – Crowds around the Bandshell and the Crystal Palace once located at Exhibition grounds. The structure had been renamed the Transportation Building. Notice the new name in the semi-circular transept window. On Thanksgiving Day of this same year, the Crystal Palace was destroyed by fire (CNE Archives)
2022 – The granite bench commemorating the Crystal Palace is located on the east side of BMO Field. It's one of 18 benches at Exhibition Place that were designed by Toronto-based artist Stephen Cruise and installed in 2007
2022 – The granite bench commemorating the Crystal Palace is located on the east side of BMO Field. It’s one of 18 benches at Exhibition Place that were designed by Toronto-based artist Stephen Cruise and installed in 2007
2021 - The Horticulture Building, today home to the Toronto Event Centre, is located at 15 Saskatchewan Rd and Princes' Blvd at Exhibition Place. Built in 1907, architect George Wallace Gouinlock designed the E-shaped Beaux-Arts structure to display flowers, fruits, plants and vegetables. It was once the site of the Crystal Palace
2021 – The Horticulture Building, today home to the Toronto Event Centre, is located at 15 Saskatchewan Rd and Princes’ Blvd at Exhibition Place. Built in 1907, architect George Wallace Gouinlock designed the E-shaped Beaux-Arts structure to display flowers, fruits, plants and vegetables. It was once the site of the Crystal Palace
SOURCE
  • CNE Heritage
  • The Globe Newspaper Archives: Sep 21, 1858, pg 2
  • The Globe Newspaper Archives: Sep 29, 1858, pg 2
  • The Globe Newspaper Archives: Jun 14, 1878, pg 2
  • The Globe Newspaper Archives: Sep 23, 1878, pg 1
  • The Globe Newspaper Archives: Mar 14, 1879, pg 2
  • The Globe Newspaper Archives: Sep 1, 1879, pg 4
  • The Globe Newspaper Archives: Sep 5, 1879, pg 2
  • The Globe Newspaper Archives: Aug 22, 1924, pg 6
  • The Globe Newspaper Archives: Oct 19, 1906, pg 1
  • Landmarks of Toronto: Volume 5 by J Ross Robertson (1908), pgs 58-61 & 501-504
  • Lost Toronto by William Dendy (1978), pgs 42-45
  • Photos: Denise Marie for TorontoJourney416
  • Vintage Photos: City of Toronto Archives, Toronto Public Library, CNE Heritage & Library and Archives Canada