Dufferin Gate – Toronto’s Retro Parabolic Archway to Exhibition Place

2019 - The Dufferin Gate, looking north
2019 – The Dufferin Gate, looking north

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

1953 - Looking southwest towards the 1912-built Dufferin Gate and the Canadian National Exhibition
1953 – Looking southwest towards the 1912-built Dufferin Gate and the Canadian National Exhibition (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 536, Item 80)

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

1959 - Construction of the Dufferin Gate and the Gardiner Expressway
1959 – Construction of the Dufferin Gate and the Gardiner Expressway (City of Toronto Archives, Series 65, File 58, Item 8)

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.

Dufferin Gate Photos

1959 - Construction of the Dufferin Gate and the Gardiner Expressway
1959 – Construction of the Dufferin Gate and the Gardiner Expressway (City of Toronto Archives, Series 65, File 58, Item 8)
2019 - The Dufferin Gate, looking north
2019 – The Dufferin Gate, looking north
1980/98 - Dufferin Gate during The CNE
1980/98 – Dufferin Gate during The CNE (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 56, Item 9)
Between 1978 and 1987 -  Looking south from Dufferin St towards the Dufferin Gate
Between 1978 and 1987 – Looking south from Dufferin St towards the Dufferin Gate (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 363, Item 11)
Between 1978 and 1987 -  Looking south from Dufferin St towards the Dufferin Gate
Between 1978 and 1987 – Looking south from Dufferin St towards the Dufferin Gate (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 363, Item 10)
1961 - The Dufferin Gate lit up at night
1961 – The Dufferin Gate lit up at night (Courtesy of the Canadian National Exhibition Archives, Alexandra Studio Fonds, MG5-F496-I7)
1960 - Looking north up Dufferin St from The Ex
1960 – Looking north up Dufferin St from The Ex (CNE Archives)
2022 - Looking northwest towards the Dufferin Gate
2022 – Looking northwest towards the Dufferin Gate
1959 - The Dufferin Gate and the Gardiner Expressway while under construction
1959 – The Dufferin Gate and the Gardiner Expressway while under construction (City of Toronto Archives, Series 65, File 70, ID 4)
1958 - Demolition of the 1912-built Dufferin Gate
1958 – Demolition of the 1912-built Dufferin Gate (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 2022)
1955 – Looking south towards the Dufferin Gate at the CNE
1955 – Looking south towards the Dufferin Gate at the CNE (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 536, Item 392)
1954 – Looking towards the 1912-built Dufferin Gate at night from Dufferin St
1954 – Looking towards the 1912-built Dufferin Gate at night from Dufferin St (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 94, Item 3)
1953 - Looking southwest towards the 1912-built Dufferin Gate and the Canadian National Exhibition
1953 – Looking southwest towards the 1912-built Dufferin Gate and the Canadian National Exhibition (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 536, Item 80)
1953 - The 1912-built Dufferin Gate, looking north
1953 – The 1912-built Dufferin Gate, looking north (Toronto Public Library R-3497)
1953 - Looking northwest from inside of the 1912-built Dufferin Gate
1953 – Looking northwest from inside of the 1912-built Dufferin Gate (Toronto Public Library R-3498)
1952 - Looking southwest towards the 1912-built Dufferin Gate
1952 – Looking southwest towards the 1912-built Dufferin Gate (Toronto Public Library R-3499)
1942 -  The 1912-built Dufferin Gate at Exhibition Park
1942 – The 1912-built Dufferin Gate at Exhibition Park (City of Toronto Archives, Series 372, Sub Series 1, Item 1660)
1937 - Looking southeast toward the 1912-built Dufferin Gate from the railway bridge
1937 – Looking southeast toward the 1912-built Dufferin Gate from the railway bridge (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 1446)
1936 - The 1912-built Dufferin Gate during the Canadian National Exhibition
1936 – The 1912-built Dufferin Gate during the Canadian National Exhibition (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 16, Series 71, Item 11535)
1935 - Crowds at the Canadian National Exhibition
1935 – Crowds at the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE Archives)
1932 - The 1912-built Dufferin Gate lit up at night "Busy factories bring better times"
1932 – The 1912-built Dufferin Gate lit up at night “Busy factories bring better times” (Toronto Public Library r-3432)
1930 - Ladies in costume passing though the 1912-built Dufferin Gate at the Canadian National Exhibition
1930 – Ladies in costume passing though the 1912-built Dufferin Gate at the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE Archives)
1930 - Exhibition Park, looking northwest to Dufferin St entrance
1930 – Exhibition Park, looking northwest to Dufferin St entrance (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 16, Series 71, Item 7972)
1930 - Warriors Parade with De La Salle Cadet Band marching through the 1912-built Dufferin Gate at the CNE
1930 – Warriors Parade with De La Salle Cadet Band marching through the 1912-built Dufferin Gate at the CNE (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266, Item 21670)
1929 - The Empire Year of the Canadian National Exhibition
1929 – The Empire Year of the Canadian National Exhibition (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1488, Series 1230, Item 3538)
1927 -  Looking towards the 1912-built Dufferin Gate
1927 – Looking towards the 1912-built Dufferin Gate (CNE Archives)
1926 - Warriors Parade at The CNE
1926 – Warriors Parade at The CNE (City of Toronto Archives, Globe and Mail Fonds, Fonds 1266, Item 8559)
1923 - Poster from the Canadian National Exhibition with the 1912-built Dufferin Gate showcased
1923 – Poster from the Canadian National Exhibition with the 1912-built Dufferin Gate showcased (CNE Archives)
1920 - The beautiful architecture of the 1912-built Dufferin Gate, designed by architect GW Gouinlock
1920 – The beautiful architecture of the 1912-built Dufferin Gate, designed by architect GW Gouinlock (Toronto Public Library r-4095)
1920 - The 1912-built Dufferin "Memorial" Gate
1920 – The 1912-built Dufferin “Memorial” Gate (CNE Archives)
1915 - A Canadian National Exhibition postcard showcasing the 1912-built Dufferin Gate
1915 – A Canadian National Exhibition postcard showcasing the 1912-built Dufferin Gate (Toronto Public Library dc-pc36)
1914 – Looking towards the Dufferin Gate from Dufferin St south of Springhurst Ave
1914 – Looking towards the Dufferin Gate from Dufferin St south of Springhurst Ave (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 507)
1914 - Troops passing under the 1912-built Dufferin Gate when Exhibition grounds were being used for training during World War I
1914 – Troops passing under the 1912-built Dufferin Gate when Exhibition grounds were being used for training during World War I (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 779)
1912 - CN Railway tracks and the 1912-built Dufferin Gate, looking southeast
1912 – CN Railway tracks and the 1912-built Dufferin Gate, looking southeast (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 1083)
Circa 1911 - Lowering railway tracks at Dufferin St. In the background is the 1895-built Dufferin Gate
Circa 1911 – Lowering railway tracks at Dufferin St. In the background is the 1895-built Dufferin Gate (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266, Item 5017)
1911 – Looking towards the 1895-built Dufferin Gate
1911 – Looking towards the 1895-built Dufferin Gate (City of Toronto Archives, Series 372, Sub Series 51, Item 122)
1908 - The Exhibition's 1895-built Dufferin Gate
1908 – The Exhibition’s 1895-built Dufferin Gate (City of Toronto Archives, Globe and Mail Fonds, Fonds 1266, Item 14658)
1907 - The 1895-built Dufferin Gate, the "Industrial Exhibition Entrance"
1907 – The 1895-built Dufferin Gate, the “Industrial Exhibition Entrance” (Toronto Public Library R-4099)
Between 1900 and 1909 - The 1895-built Dufferin Gate at the Canadian National Exhibition
Between 1900 and 1909 – The 1895-built Dufferin Gate at the Canadian National Exhibition (City of Toronto Archives, Globe and Mail Fonds, Fonds 1266, Item 14660)
1890s - Grand Trunk Railway crossing at Dufferin St. The western limit of The CNE with the cupola of the Crystal Palace hidden behind the trees
1890s – Grand Trunk Railway crossing at Dufferin St. The western limit of The CNE with the cupola of the Crystal Palace hidden behind the trees (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds, 200, Series 376, File 1A, Item 6)
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)
2019 - Dufferin Gate and the Government Building, looking south
2019 – Dufferin Gate and the Government Building, looking south
2020 - Dufferin Gate
2020 – Dufferin Gate
2021 – Looking north towards the Dufferin Gate
2021 – Looking north towards the Dufferin Gate
2021 - Looking northwest towards the Dufferin Gate
2021 – Looking northwest towards the Dufferin Gate
SOURCE
  • City of Toronto Heritage Register: 100 Princes’ Blvd
  • Lost Toronto by William Dendy
  • The Globe Newspaper Archives: Aug 10, 1912, page 8
  • The Globe and Mail Newspaper Archives: May 3, 1957, page 4
  • The Globe and Mail Newspaper Archives: Sep 16, 1958, page 4
  • The Globe and Mail Newspaper Archives: Nov 7, 1958, page 15
  • The Globe and Mail Newspaper Archives: Apr 16, 1959, page 27
  • The Globe and Mail Newspaper Archives: Jun 18, 1959, page 25
  • Photos: Denise Marie for TorontoJourney416
  • Vintage Photos: City of Toronto Archives, Toronto Public Library & CNE Heritage