The City’s third Morgue was located at 86 Lombard St (between Church St and Jarvis St, on the north side) in the St Lawrence neighbourhood of Toronto.
Toronto’s First Two Morgues
The two prior morgues occupied the northwest corner of The Esplanade E and Frederick St. The first was built around 1860 and made of clapboard. At a City Council meeting in 1873, the decision to build a new “dead house,” as they were known back then, was a very live concern.
In 1877, the City’s second morgue was completed and stood on the same site as the first. Designed by architect William Stewart, the cost of the new building was $3,500, and the two marble slabs were $400.
The red brick building that fronted Frederick St had a very small inquest room, a large and airy autopsy room with a cement floor, a waiting area with a box stove and long bench, and small storerooms for fuel, etc. In the early 1900s, coroners began protesting that the morgue was no longer suitable for inquests, plus it was damp and out of the way.
The Lombard Street City Morgue
Located on Lombard St, Toronto’s third morgue was built in 1907/08. Designed under the direction of City Architect Robert McCallum, it was just west of Fire Hall No. 5. The two-storey Edwardian-style building is constructed of red pressed brick and features classic stone details at the entrance, in the rusticated lower window trim, in the upper band course and in the pilaster capitals. The lower windows have exaggerated keystones, while over the entrance is an acroterion. The handsome building is topped off with a cornice cap.
When it was built, the Lombard Street City Morgue had an identification room with 14 refrigerated receptacles, an autopsy room, a courtroom for inquests, jury and witness rooms, a coroner’s room and a general office. There was also an ambulance station at the rear with room for two wagon ambulances, stables for three horses, a caretaker’s room and a hayloft. The estimated costs of the morgue were $30,000, and the ambulance station was $4,500.
The Lombard St building received heritage status in 1973. The morgue closed two years later.
The Building’s Redesign
In 1979, the former Lombard St morgue became the Pauline McGibbon Cultural Centre. Mrs McGibbon was the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario from 1974 to 1980 and the first woman to hold a vice-regal office in Canada. The redesign was created by the architectural firm Thom Partnership. The former inquest room became a theatre, and the receptacle room became Polly’s Café. The centre closed in 1986. Today, the former morgue on Lombard St is the Fred Victor’s Centre.
Toronto’s Fourth & Current Morgues
Toronto’s fourth morgue was located on Grenville St and was in use from 1975 to 2013. The City’s current morgue is the Forensic Services & Coroner’s Complex. It opened in 2013 and is located near Keele St and Wilson Ave.