The Dufferin Gate is located near the foot of Dufferin St, at Exhibition Place in Toronto. Prior to 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 1900’s, “Canada’s Greatest Fair” was growing. Changes were underway at Exhibition grounds and a huge rebuilding program had begun. Prominent Toronto architect George W Gouinlock was tasked to design the grand structures on the property which included the Dufferin Gate.
The Previous Two Dufferin Gates
The first Dufferin Gate was a wooden structure built in 1895. In 1912, it was replaced by Mr Gouinlock’s impressive entrance at a cost of $50,000. Compared to the other buildings he designed for The CNE, he had a little more artistic freedom when it came to the festive entryway.
The new Dufferin Memorial Gate, as it was called, 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 and they also guided guests towards the centre of the gate where there were two tall, flag-topped brick towers.
Make Way for the Gardiner Expressway
In November 1958, the Dufferin Gate entrance was demolished to clear the way for the Gardiner Expressway. The gate was replaced by a parabolic archway. 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 was given heritage status by the City in 1993.
Did You Know?
The Dufferin Gate looks very similar to The Gateway Arch in St Louis, Missouri. It was designed by Eero Saarinen 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 1950’s, excavated material from the highway’s route which the second Dufferin Gate was located on, was used as fill in Lake Ontario to create acres of new parkland.
From the 1880 to the early 1900’s, there was a wooden wharf located at the foot of Dufferin St, when it met Lake Ontario. Called the Dufferin/Exhibition Wharf, it 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.