Toronto Harbour Commission – Once Sat on the Water’s Edge

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2021 – The Toronto Harbour Commission building is located at 60 Harbour St in the South Core district of Toronto
2021 – The Toronto Harbour Commission building is located at 60 Harbour St in the South Core district of Toronto

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 stood 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 Archibald and Holmes’ engineering and building company. 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.

Circa 1918 - – Looking northeast from Lake Ontario towards the Toronto Harbour Commission Commission
Circa 1918 – – Looking northeast from Lake Ontario towards the Toronto Harbour Commission (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 743)

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.”

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, completed in 1918, cost $247,000 to build and was the head office of 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

2021 – Looking northwest from Bay St and Harbour St towards the Toronto Harbour Commission building
2021 – Looking northwest from Bay St and Harbour St towards the Toronto Harbour Commission building

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.
  • In 1865, the Waterfront Esplanade was finished.
  • In 1882, the breakwater protecting Toronto Island was completed.
  • In 1918, construction of the Toronto Harbour Commission building was concluded.
  • In 1939, the THC finished constructing the Island Airport (today’s Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport) and opened it to the public for business.
  • In 1999, the Toronto Harbour Commission became the Toronto Port Authority.
  • In 2015, the Toronto Port Authority became PortsToronto.

Toronto Harbour Commission Photos

2021 – The Toronto Harbour Commission building is located at 60 Harbour St in the South Core district of Toronto
2021 – The Toronto Harbour Commission building is located at 60 Harbour St in the South Core district of Toronto
July 6, 1917 - Photograph of artist's perspective rendering showing south and west faces of Toronto Harbour Commission Administration building
July 6, 1917 – Photograph of artist’s perspective rendering showing south and west faces of Toronto Harbour Commission Administration building (PortsToronto Archives, Arthur Beales – photographer)
August 16, 1917 - Looking northwest towards the construction of the Toronto Harbour Commission building. The view shows concrete formwork, reinforcing steel and concrete placement for columns and walls
August 16, 1917 – Looking northwest towards the construction of the Toronto Harbour Commission building. The view shows concrete formwork, reinforcing steel and concrete placement for columns and walls (PortsToronto Archives, Arthur Beales – photographer)
May 1, 1918 - Looking southwest towards the construction of the Toronto Harbour Commission building. The view shows concrete floors and columns are complete, windows are installed, and wall-facing stonework is progressing at the top floor. And notice ferry in the background on the left
May 1, 1918 – Looking southwest towards the construction of the Toronto Harbour Commission building. The view shows concrete floors and columns are complete, windows are installed, and wall-facing stonework is progressing at the top floor. And notice ferry in the background on the left (PortsToronto Archives, Arthur Beales – photographer)
2022 –  The ornate stone sculpture group over the main entrance of the Toronto Harbour Commission is a beautiful contrast to the building's simple lines
2022 – The ornate stone sculpture group over the main entrance of the Toronto Harbour Commission is a beautiful contrast to the building’s simple lines
June 12, 1919 - Photograph of stone sculpture over the main entrance to Toronto Harbour Commission building
June 12, 1919 – Photograph of stone sculpture over the main entrance to Toronto Harbour Commission building (PortsToronto Archives, Arthur Beales – photographer)
2021 – Stone sculpture over the main entrance to the Toronto Harbour Commission building
2021 – Stone sculpture over the main entrance to the Toronto Harbour Commission building
June 21, 1918 - The view shows sculptors working on stone relief work over the main (south) entrance to the Toronto Harbour Commission building, which is essentially complete
June 21, 1918 – The view shows sculptors working on stone relief work over the main (south) entrance to the Toronto Harbour Commission building, which is essentially complete (PortsToronto Archives, Arthur Beales – photographer)
July 12, 1918 - Looking south towards the completion of the Toronto Harbour Commission building
July 12, 1918 – Looking south towards the completion of the Toronto Harbour Commission building (PortsToronto Archives, Arthur Beales – photographer)
August 27, 1918 – Looking northeast from Lake Ontario towards the Toronto Harbour Commission
August 27, 1918 – Looking northeast from Lake Ontario towards the Toronto Harbour Commission (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 1496)
2021 –  The keystone figurehead over the main entrance to the Toronto Harbour Commission once looked out over the city's harbour when it was completed in 1918
2021 – The keystone figurehead over the main entrance to the Toronto Harbour Commission once looked out over the city’s harbour when it was completed in 1918
Circa 1918 - – Looking northeast from Lake Ontario towards the Toronto Harbour Commission Commission
Circa 1918 – – Looking northeast from Lake Ontario towards the Toronto Harbour Commission (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 743)
1920 - Looking northeast from the lake towards the Toronto Harbour Commission, between the two ship lines sheds
1920 – Looking northeast from the lake towards the Toronto Harbour Commission, between the two ship lines sheds (PortsToronto Archives, Arthur Beales – photographer)
2021 – Looking northwest towards the Toronto Harbour Commission building
2021 – Looking northwest towards the Toronto Harbour Commission building
1920s - Toronto Harbour Commission and waterfront (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1465, File 722, Item 8)
1920s – Toronto Harbour Commission and waterfront (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1465, File 722, Item 8)
1920 - Iceboats on the frozen lake in front of the Toronto Harbour Commission
1920 – Iceboats on the frozen lake in front of the Toronto Harbour Commission (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 448D)
2022 –  Looking north towards the Toronto Harbour Commission
2022 – Looking north towards the Toronto Harbour Commission
May 25, 1922 – The Toronto Harbour Commission and harbour improvements
May 25, 1922 – The Toronto Harbour Commission and harbour improvements (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1548, Series 393, Item 17397-1)
2023 – Looking northwest from Bay St and Harbour St towards the Toronto Harbour Commission building
2023 – Looking northwest from Bay St and Harbour St towards the Toronto Harbour Commission building
July 20, 1924 - Looking northeast towards the Toronto Harbour Commission and the skyline from Lake Ontario
July 20, 1924 – Looking northeast towards the Toronto Harbour Commission and the skyline from Lake Ontario (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266, Item 3240)
Circa 1930 - Aerial view of Toronto Harbour Commission and skyline. Notice the Royal York Hotel and the Canadian Bank of Commerce
Circa 1930 – Aerial view of Toronto Harbour Commission and skyline. Notice the Royal York Hotel and the Canadian Bank of Commerce (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 372, Item 13)
2020 – Looking southwest towards the Toronto Harbour Commission building located at 60 Harbour St in the South Core district of Toronto
2020 – Looking southwest towards the Toronto Harbour Commission building located at 60 Harbour St in the South Core district of Toronto
September 10, 1929 – Looking north towards the Toronto Harbour Commission and skyline. Notice the Royal York Hotel, Canadian Bank of Commerce and the Old City Hall
September 10, 1929 – Looking north towards the Toronto Harbour Commission and skyline. Notice the Royal York Hotel, Canadian Bank of Commerce and the Old City Hall (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 53)
1930 - Giant British airship R-100 rumbles over the Toronto Harbour Commission following a transatlantic flight. Notice the tall Canadian Bank of Commerce Building in the background
1930 – Giant British airship R-100 rumbles over the Toronto Harbour Commission following a transatlantic flight. Notice the tall Canadian Bank of Commerce Building in the background (PortsToronto Archives)
2021 – The main entrance to the Toronto Harbour Commission building
2021 – The main entrance to the Toronto Harbour Commission building
Circa 1930 -  Looking south towards Toronto Harbour Commission, Toronto Bay and Toronto Island from the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building. Notice in the foreground, the Dominion Public Building on the left and Union Station on the right
Circa 1930 – Looking south towards Toronto Harbour Commission, Toronto Bay and Toronto Island from the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building. Notice in the foreground, the Dominion Public Building on the left and Union Station on the right (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1568, Item 456)
March 17, 1931 - Looking north from Lake Ontario towards the Toronto Harbour Commission in the center, Royal York Hotel on the left and the Canadian Bank of Commerce building on the right
March 17, 1931 – Looking north from Lake Ontario towards the Toronto Harbour Commission in the center, Royal York Hotel on the left and the Canadian Bank of Commerce building on the right (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266, Item 23372)
March 17, 1931 - Snow-cleaning machine on Bay St in front of the Toronto Harbour Commission. Notice the Royal York Hotel in the background
March 17, 1931 – Snow-cleaning machine on Bay St in front of the Toronto Harbour Commission. Notice the Royal York Hotel in the background (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266, Item 23396)
Circa 1950 - The Toronto skyline and beyond
Circa 1950 – The Toronto skyline and beyond (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1128, Series 380, Item 85)
1950 - The south facade of the Toronto Harbour Commission
1950 – The south facade of the Toronto Harbour Commission (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1128, Series 380, Item 88)
2021 – The majestic Toronto Harbour Commission building
2021 – The majestic Toronto Harbour Commission building
1953 - Looking north from Queens Quay towards the Toronto Harbour Commission in the center, Royal York Hotel on the left and the Canadian Bank of Commerce building on the right
1953 – Looking north from Queens Quay towards the Toronto Harbour Commission in the center, Royal York Hotel on the left and the Canadian Bank of Commerce building on the right (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 536, Item 172)
2020 – Looking north towards the Toronto Harbour Commission building
2020 – Looking north towards the Toronto Harbour Commission building
Circa 1980 – Looking north from Harbour St just west of Bay St towards the Toronto Harbour Commission with the Toronto-Dominion Centre in the background
Circa 1980 – Looking north from Harbour St just west of Bay St towards the Toronto Harbour Commission with the Toronto-Dominion Centre in the background (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 372, Item 6)
October 1971 – Looking northeast towards the Toronto Harbour Commission with the O'Keefe Centre sign on the far-right
October 1971 – Looking northeast towards the Toronto Harbour Commission with the O’Keefe Centre sign on the far-right (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 124, File 2, ID 127)
2021 – Looking northwest from Bay St and Harbour St toward the Toronto Harbour Commission building
2021 – Looking northwest from Bay St and Harbour St toward the Toronto Harbour Commission building
1972 - Looking northwest from Bay St and Queens Quay towards the Toronto Harbour Commission
1972 – Looking northwest from Bay St and Queens Quay towards the Toronto Harbour Commission (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 2032, Series 841, File 62, Item 11)
1972 - Looking northwest from the corner of Bay St and Harbour St towards the Toronto Harbour Commission
1972 – Looking northwest from the corner of Bay St and Harbour St towards the Toronto Harbour Commission (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 2032, Series 841, File 62, Item 17)
2020 – Looking northwest towards the Toronto Harbour Commission building located at 60 Harbour St
2020 – Looking northwest towards the Toronto Harbour Commission building located at 60 Harbour St
Circa 1980 – An aerial view looking southeast of Toronto Harbour Commission and Toronto
Circa 1980 – An aerial view looking southeast of Toronto Harbour Commission and Toronto (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 372, Item 3)
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