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. 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

1953 - Looking southwest towards the Dufferin Gate (1912-1958) and the Canadian National Exhibition
1953 – Looking southwest towards the Dufferin Gate (1912-1958) and the Canadian National Exhibition (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 536, Item 80)

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

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. 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.

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)
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)
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 second Dufferin Gate
1958 – Demolition of the second Dufferin Gate (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 2022)
1953 - Looking southwest towards the Dufferin Gate (1912-1958) and the Canadian National Exhibition
1953 – Looking southwest towards the Dufferin Gate (1912-1958) and the Canadian National Exhibition (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 536, Item 80)
1953 - The second Dufferin St Gate, looking north
1953 – The second Dufferin St Gate, looking north (Toronto Public Library r-3497)
1953 - Looking northwest from inside of the second Dufferin Gate
1953 – Looking northwest from inside of the second Dufferin Gate (Toronto Public Library r-3498)
1952 - Looking southwest towards the second Dufferin Gate and the Government Building
1952 – Looking southwest towards the second Dufferin Gate and the Government Building (Toronto Public Library r-3499)
1937 - Looking southeast toward the second Dufferin Gate from the railway bridge
1937 – Looking southeast toward the second Dufferin Gate from the railway bridge (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 1446)
1936 - The Dufferin Gate during the Canadian National Exhibition
1936 – The 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 second Dufferin Gate lit up at night "Busy factories bring better times"
1932 – The second Dufferin Gate lit up at night “Busy factories bring better times” (Toronto Public Library r-3432)
1930 - Ladies in costume passing though the second Dufferin Gate at the Canadian National Exhibition
1930 – Ladies in costume passing though the second 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)
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)
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 second Dufferin Gate showcased
1923 – Poster from the Canadian National Exhibition with the second Dufferin Gate showcased (CNE Archives)
1920 - The beautiful architecture of the second Dufferin Gate, designed by architect GW Gouinlock
1920 – The beautiful architecture of the second Dufferin Gate, designed by architect GW Gouinlock (Toronto Public Library r-4095)
1920 - The second Dufferin "Memorial" Gate
1920 – The second Dufferin “Memorial” Gate (CNE Archives)
1915 - A Canadian National Exhibition postcard showcasing the second Dufferin Gate
1915 – A Canadian National Exhibition postcard showcasing the second Dufferin Gate (Toronto Public Library dc-pc36)
1914 - Troops passing under the second Dufferin Gate when Exhibition grounds were being used for training during World War I
1914 – Troops passing under the second 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 second Dufferin Gate, looking southeast
1912 – CN Railway tracks and the second Dufferin Gate, looking southeast (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 1083)
1908 - The Exhibition's first Dufferin Gate
1908 – The Exhibition’s first Dufferin Gate (City of Toronto Archives, Globe and Mail Fonds, Fonds 1266, Item 14658)
1907 - The first Dufferin Gate, the "Industrial Exhibition Entrance"
1907 – The first Dufferin Gate, the “Industrial Exhibition Entrance” (Toronto Public Library r-4099)
1900/09 - The first Dufferin Gate at the Canadian National Exhibition, looking south
1900/09 – The first Dufferin Gate at the Canadian National Exhibition, looking south (City of Toronto Archives, Globe and Mail Fonds, Fonds 1266, Item 14660)
1890's - Rail crossing at Dufferin St and the western limit of The CNE with the Crystal Palace hidden behind the trees, looking southwest
1890’s – Rail crossing at Dufferin St and the western limit of The CNE with the Crystal Palace hidden behind the trees, looking southwest (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds, 200, Series 376, File 1A, Item 6)
1880 - Dufferin/Exhibition Wharf, the Crystal Palace (1858-1906) and Exhibition grounds, looking northeast
1880 – Dufferin/Exhibition Wharf, the Crystal Palace (1858-1906) and Exhibition grounds, looking northeast (Toronto Public Library r-4111)
2019 - Dufferin Gate and the Government Building, looking south
2019 – Dufferin Gate and the Government Building, looking south
2020/1960 - Dufferin Gate at Exhibition Place
2020/1960 – Dufferin Gate at Exhibition Place (CNE Archives)
2019/1959 - Dufferin Gate at Exhibition Place
2019/1959 – Dufferin Gate at Exhibition Place (City of Toronto Archives, Series 65, File 58, Item 8)
2019/1937 - Dufferin Gate at Exhibition Place
2019/1937 – Dufferin Gate at Exhibition Place (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 1446)
2020/1900’s - Dufferin Gate at Exhibition Place
2020/1900’s – Dufferin Gate at Exhibition Place (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266, Item 14660)
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