The Dufferin Gate is located near the foot of Dufferin St, at Exhibition Place in Toronto. Before the construction of the monumental Princes’ Gates, the Dufferin Gate was the main entrance to The CNE and Exhibition Place.
A Little CNE History
The first Grand Dominion & Industrial Exhibition was held in September of 1879. By the early 1900s, “Canada’s Greatest Fair” was growing. Changes were underway at Exhibition grounds, and a massive rebuilding program had begun. Prominent Toronto architect George W Gouinlock was tasked to design the property’s grand structures, including the Dufferin Gate.
The Previous Two Dufferin Gates
The 1895-built Dufferin Gate was a wooden structure. In 1912, it was replaced by Mr Gouinlock’s impressive entrance at the cost of $50,000. Compared to the other buildings he designed for The CNE, he had a little more artistic freedom regarding the festive entryway.
As it was called, the new Dufferin Memorial Gate greeted visitors arriving by foot, streetcar, and rail. Designed to stir anticipation, the magnificent structure prepared CNE-goers for the exciting time to be had within.
Set in a semi-circular forecourt, this main entrance had one-storey curved wings with pavilions on the ends. The pavilions were topped with Baroque-style domes. The wings had many turnstiles, guiding guests towards the centre of the gate where two tall, flag-topped brick towers existed.
Make Way for the Gardiner Expressway
In November 1958, the Dufferin Gate entrance was demolished to clear the way for the Gardiner Expressway. A parabolic archway replaced the gate. The style caused much controversy. Designed by architect Arthur G Keith of the firm AD Margison and Associates, the Mid-Century Modern style archway is made with slender steel encased in concrete.
The new and third Dufferin Gate that we know today was completed for the opening of the 1959 CNE. Moved 10.6 m or 35 ft south of the previous gate, the archway stands 20 m or 65 ft tall and cost over $250,000 to build. The structure received heritage status from the city in 1993.
Did You Know?
The Dufferin Gate looks similar to The Gateway Arch in St Louis, Missouri. Eero Saarinen designed it in 1947; however, construction on the famous arch did not begin until 1963. Toronto’s retro Dufferin Gate predates the completion of the much larger American archway by about six years.
When the Gardiner Expressway was being constructed in the late 1950s, excavated material from the highway’s route where the 1912-built Dufferin Gate was located was used as fill in Lake Ontario to create acres of new parkland.
From 1880 to the early 1900s, a wooden wharf was located at the foot of Dufferin St, when it met Lake Ontario. The Dufferin/Exhibition Wharf served visitors arriving by steamboat from the Toronto Harbour.
Mr Gouinlock designed over 20 buildings at Exhibition Place grounds. Some were destroyed by fires, while others were demolished. Today, less than half of those buildings remain and include the Administration Building (now the Press Building), the Railway Building (now the Music Building), Horticultural Building (now the Toronto Event Centre), the Government Building (now Medieval Times) and the Fire Hall/Police Station.