Dominion Public Building – On Canada’s Grand Beaux-Arts Streetscape

1955 - Looking southeast from Front St W and Bay St towards the Dominion Public Building
1955 – Looking southeast from Front St W and Bay St towards the Dominion Public Building (Toronto Public Library R-3688)

The Dominion Public Building is located at ‪1 Front St W‬ (between Bay St and Yonge St) in Toronto’s Financial District.

The Architecture of the Iconic Landmark

Built in two phases, the centre and east pavilions were constructed between 1929 and 1931, while the west pavilion was built from 1934 to 1935. This was the city’s third Customs House. Designed by architect Thomas W Fuller, the curved and imposing Beaux-Arts Classicism style building rises five stories on Front St W while extending six storeys in the back due to the change in grade.

This Federal Government building served as the Customs House in Toronto for inspection, taxation, administration, and storage of imported and exported goods. Its location was close to Toronto’s railway corridor and harbour. The landmark later became a multi-use federal building and home to Canada Customs and the Canada Revenue Agency, to name a few.

The monumental structure’s exterior features limestone cladding, stone and metal detailing, a centre pavilion with three round-arch main entrances, bronze doors, and metal beavers under six freestanding Ionic columns, along with east and west pavilions. Some interior features include marble-clad lobbies, a two-storey Long Room with marble floors and brass wickets.

2020 – The Dominion Public Building is located at ‪1 Front St W‬ between Bay St and Yonge St in Toronto's Financial District
2020 – The Dominion Public Building is located at ‪1 Front St W‬ between Bay St and Yonge St in Toronto’s Financial District

The Dominion Public Building Today

In 2017, the heritage-protected building was purchased by Larco Investments. The proposal includes two mixed-use towers for residential, office, hotel and retail space, which will soar over the existing Dominion Public Building.

The building was registered in Toronto’s first heritage inventory in 1973 and was later listed on the Canadian Register in 2011. This grand streetscape is one of Canada’s most important examples of Beaux-Arts architecture, as the Dominion Public Building complements the equally colossal Union Station.

Dominion Public Building Photos

1935 - Looking southwest towards the Dominion Public Building at ‪1 Front St W‬, between Bay St and Yonge St in the Financial District of Toronto. The building was constructed in two phases - the centre and east pavilions between 1929 and 1931, and the west pavilion from 1934 to 1935
1935 – Looking southwest towards the Dominion Public Building at ‪1 Front St W‬, between Bay St and Yonge St in the Financial District of Toronto. The building was constructed in two phases – the centre and east pavilions between 1929 and 1931, and the west pavilion from 1934 to 1935 (Library and Archives Canada PA-068224) ‬
2022 - Looking southwest towards the Dominion Public Building at 1 Front St W, between Yonge St and Bay St. Notice Union Station and the CN Tower in the background
2022 – Looking southwest towards the Dominion Public Building at 1 Front St W, between Yonge St and Bay St. Notice Union Station and the CN Tower in the background
2020 - Looking southwest along Front St W towards the Dominion Public Building, between Yonge St and Bay St. This Federal Government building served as the Customs House in Toronto for inspection, taxation, administration, and storage of imported and exported goods. Notice the CN Tower in the background
2020 – Looking southwest along Front St W towards the Dominion Public Building, between Yonge St and Bay St. This Federal Government building served as the Customs House in Toronto for inspection, taxation, administration, and storage of imported and exported goods. Notice the CN Tower in the background
September 10, 1973 – Looking west along Front St W from Yonge St towards the Dominion Public Building with Union Station and the construction of the CN Tower in the background
September 10, 1973 – Looking west along Front St W from Yonge St towards the Dominion Public Building with Union Station and the construction of the CN Tower in the background (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1526, File 47, Item 3)
2022 - Looking southwest from Yonge St and Front St W towards the Dominion Public Building, Union Station and the CN Tower in downtown Toronto
2022 – Looking southwest from Yonge St and Front St W towards the Dominion Public Building, Union Station and the CN Tower in downtown Toronto
Between 1976 and 1981 – The Dominion Public Building is located on the south side of Front St W, between Yonge St and Bay St in Toronto. This grand streetscape is one of Canada’s most important examples of Beaux-Arts architecture, as the Dominion Public Building complements the equally colossal Union Station
Between 1976 and 1981 – The Dominion Public Building is located on the south side of Front St W, between Yonge St and Bay St in Toronto. This grand streetscape is one of Canada’s most important examples of Beaux-Arts architecture, as the Dominion Public Building complements the equally colossal Union Station (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 732, Item 16)
1955 - Looking southeast from Front St W and Bay St towards the Dominion Public Building. The building was registered in Toronto’s first heritage inventory, which occurred in 1973 and was later listed on the Canadian Register in 2011
1955 – Looking southeast from Front St W and Bay St towards the Dominion Public Building. The building was registered in Toronto’s first heritage inventory, which occurred in 1973 and was later listed on the Canadian Register in 2011 (Toronto Public Library R-3688)
2020 – The Dominion Public Building is located at ‪1 Front St W‬ between Bay St and Yonge St in Toronto's Financial District. The tall, curved skyscraper in the background is the L Tower
2020 – The Dominion Public Building is located at ‪1 Front St W‬ between Bay St and Yonge St in Toronto’s Financial District. The tall, curved skyscraper in the background is the L Tower
July 1982 - Looking southeast from Front St W and Bay St towards the Dominion Public Building. The heritage structure is clad with limestone and features stone and metal detailing
July 1982 – Looking southeast from Front St W and Bay St towards the Dominion Public Building. The heritage structure is clad with limestone and features stone and metal detailing (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 124, File 3, ID 95)
2021 - Looking southeast towards the Dominion Public Building and the L Tower from Bay St and Front St W in downtown Toronto
2021 – Looking southeast towards the Dominion Public Building and the L Tower from Bay St and Front St W in downtown Toronto
February 15, 1931 - Looking east along Front St W from Bay St towards the construction of the Dominion Public Building. Notice Dominion Rubber in the background, which is where Meridian Hall stands today
February 15, 1931 – Looking east along Front St W from Bay St towards the construction of the Dominion Public Building. Notice Dominion Rubber in the background, which is where Meridian Hall stands today (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266, Item 23152)
March 1955 – Looking east along Front St W from Bay St towards the Dominion Public Building
March 1955 – Looking east along Front St W from Bay St towards the Dominion Public Building (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 124, File 1, ID 46)
1986 or 1987 - Looking southeast from the Royal York Hotel on Front St W towards Union Station on the right and Dominion Public Building in the background
1986 or 1987 – Looking southeast from the Royal York Hotel on Front St W towards Union Station on the right and Dominion Public Building in the background (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 429, Item 17)
2020 - The Dominion Public Building's centre pavilion of the Dominion Public Building has three round-arch main entrances, bronze doors, and metal beavers and above are six freestanding Ionic columns
2020 – The Dominion Public Building’s centre pavilion of the Dominion Public Building has three round-arch main entrances, bronze doors, and metal beavers and above are six freestanding Ionic columns
2020 - The entablature is inscribed with "Dominion Public Building A.D. MCMXXX" (1930)
2020 – The entablature is inscribed with “Dominion Public Building A.D. MCMXXX” (1930)
2020 - West pavilion entrance to the Dominion Public Building located at 1 Front St W in the Financial District of Toronto
2020 – West pavilion entrance to the Dominion Public Building located at 1 Front St W in the Financial District of Toronto
1884 - Toronto's second Customs House (1876 to 1919) was located on the southwest corner of Front St W and Yonge St. It was replaced by the Dominion Public Building
1884 – Toronto’s second Customs House (1876 to 1919) was located on the southwest corner of Front St W and Yonge St. It was replaced by the Dominion Public Building (Toronto Public Library R-4369)
1912 - Toronto's first Customs House was located on the north side of Front St W between Yonge St and Bay St from 1870 to 1876
1912 – Toronto’s first Customs House was located on the north side of Front St W between Yonge St and Bay St from 1870 to 1876 (watercolour by Owen Staples – Toronto Public Library R-2272)
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