The Toronto Harbour Commission building is located at 60 Harbour St (just west of Bay St) in the South Core district of Toronto.
The Architecture of This Historic Gem
Construction began on the majestic Toronto Harbour Commission building in 1917 and was completed the following year. When built, the structure sat on the shoreline and was surrounded by Lake Ontario on three sides – the east, south and west.
The six-storey Beaux-Arts style building that kept watch over the City’s harbour was designed by architects Chapman & McGiffin. It was constructed by the engineering and building company of Archibald and Holmes. The building sits on a foundation of 46 vertical piles. The exterior walls are finished with Indiana and Queenston limestone, while the front of the building features eight imposing columns with decorative Corinthian capitals. Another external element of the historic building is the ornamental metal panels between the floors.
The entrance doors are made of bronze. Above them is an expertly carved stone keystone figurehead that, when built, looked out over Toronto’s harbour. Also over the entrance and resting on brackets is a cornice with ornately sculpted figures holding a crest with the initials “THC.”
Inside, the elegant main floor features an elaborate panelled ceiling, while the floors, walls, steps and arches are marble. The second-floor boardroom is a jewel – the walls are covered in rich wood wainscotting, and there’s a marble fireplace and striking chandeliers. The building was also constructed with a penthouse, two elevators, a vault and a sprinkler system.
The landmark cost $247,000 to build and was completed in 1918. It was the head office for the THC for decades.
Notice the inscription under the roofline on the south, west and east sides? The word “harbour” has been spelled the American way, “Toronto Harbor Commission.” Alfred Chapman also helped design the monumental entrance to the CNE, The Princes’ Gates, and the Sunnyside Bathing Pavilion.
Land-filling of Toronto’s Harbour
By the 1920s, a massive land-filling project had begun. The two shipping shed buildings east and west of the THC were now gone, and the Toronto Harbour Commission building was landlocked. The formal structure was once a part of the City’s skyline along with the Royal York Hotel and the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building; however, over the decades, the neighbouring glass and concrete skyscrapers overtook it.
The Toronto Harbour Commission building was one of the 490 buildings on Heritage Toronto’s initial induction list in June of 1973.
The Toronto Harbour Commission Building Today
Over the years, while Toronto’s shoreline has been extended south, this architectural gem has stood firmly in place. In May 2017, PortsToronto sold the building and property at 60 Harbour St/30 Bay St to Oxford Properties. The sale was valued at $96 million. In the agreement, the building will be restored and maintained. There are plans to build a commercial tower called The HUB while preserving the historic Toronto Harbour Commission building.
The lower floors of this historic building are home to Harbour 60 Toronto Steakhouse. The destination restaurant features classic fare and an extensive wine selection, all in an elegant setting.
Some Toronto Harbour History
In 1750, Fort Toronto was established as a trading post.
In 1793, the Town of York was founded, and the government took over controlling the port.
In 1850, five Harbour Commissioners were chosen to oversee the port. During this period, the harbour’s ownership and control were divided between the Commission, the City, the railroad and other private owners.