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

2021 - Toronto Harbour Commission building
2021 – Toronto Harbour Commission building

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 edifice sits on a foundation of 46 vertical piles. The exterior walls are finished with both 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.

1918 - Toronto Harbour Commission and submarine
1918 – Toronto Harbour Commission and submarine

The entrance doors are made of bronze. Above them are expertly carved stone sculptures including a 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. They’re holding a crest with the initial’s “THC”.

Inside, the elegant main floor features an elaborate panelled ceiling while the floors, walls, steps and arches are made of marble. The second-floor boardroom is a jewel – the walls are covered in rich wood wainscotting, 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 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 to design the monumental entrance to the CNE, The Princes’ Gates as well as 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 to the east and west of the THC were now gone and the Toronto Harbour Commission building was landlocked. The formal building 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, it was overtaken by the neighbouring glass and concrete skyscrapers.

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 - Bay & Harbour Sts, looking northwest
2021 – Bay & Harbour Sts, looking northwest

Over the years, while Toronto’s shoreline has been extended south, this architectural gem has stood firmly in place. In May of 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 time period, the harbour’s ownership and control was divided between the Commission, the City, the railroad and other private owners.
  • In 1865, the Waterfront Esplanade was finished.
  • In 1882, the breakwater protecting the Toronto Islands was completed.
  • In 1918, construction of the Toronto Harbour Commission building concluded.
  • In 1939, the THC finishes construction of Toronto Island Airport (today’s Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport) and opens for business to the public.
  • In 1999, the Toronto Harbour Commission becomes the Toronto Port Authority.
  • In 2015, the Toronto Port Authority becomes PortsToronto.

Toronto Harbour Commission Photos

2021 - Toronto Harbour Commission building
2021 – Toronto Harbour Commission building
1917 - Construction of Toronto Harbour Commission building, looking northwest
1917 – Construction of Toronto Harbour Commission building, looking northwest (PortsToronto Archives, Arthur Beales – photographer)
1918 - Construction of Toronto Harbour Commission building, looking southwest
1918 – Construction of Toronto Harbour Commission building, looking southwest (PortsToronto Archives, Arthur Beales – photographer)
1918 - Construction of Toronto Harbour Commission building and ferry, looking southwest
1918 – Construction of Toronto Harbour Commission building and ferry, looking southwest (PortsToronto Archives, Arthur Beales – photographer)
1918 - Sculptors at Toronto Harbour Commission building
1918 – Sculptors at Toronto Harbour Commission building (PortsToronto Archives, Arthur Beales – photographer)
1918 - Completion of Toronto Harbour Commission construction, looking south
1918 – Completion of Toronto Harbour Commission construction, looking south (PortsToronto Archives, Arthur Beales – photographer)
1918 - Toronto Harbour Commission and rower
1918 – Toronto Harbour Commission and rower
1918 - Toronto Harbour Commission and submarine
1918 – Toronto Harbour Commission and submarine
1920 - Toronto Harbour Commission, ship lines sheds and boats from the bay, looking northeast
1920 – Toronto Harbour Commission, ship lines sheds and boats from the bay, looking northeast (PortsToronto Archives, Arthur Beales – photographer)
1920's - Toronto Harbour Commission and waterfront
1920’s – Toronto Harbour Commission and waterfront
1920 - Iceboats on the frozen harbour in front of Toronto Harbour Commission
1920 – Iceboats on the frozen harbour in front of Toronto Harbour Commission
1922 - Toronto Harbour Commission and harbour improvements
1922 – Toronto Harbour Commission and harbour improvements
1924 - Toronto Harbour Commission and skyline from the bay, looking northeast
1924 – Toronto Harbour Commission and skyline from the bay, looking northeast
1900's - Aerial view of Toronto waterfront and skyline
1900’s – Aerial view of Toronto waterfront and skyline
1929 - Toronto Harbour Commission, Royal York Hotel and skyline, looking north
1929 – Toronto Harbour Commission, Royal York Hotel and skyline, looking north
1930 - Giant British airship R-100 rumbles over the Toronto Harbour Commission following a transatlantic flight (PortsToronto Archives)
1930 – Giant British airship R-100 rumbles over the Toronto Harbour Commission following a transatlantic flight (PortsToronto Archives)
1931 - Toronto Harbour Commission, Royal York Hotel and Canadian Bank of Commerce building from waterfront
1931 – Toronto Harbour Commission, Royal York Hotel and Canadian Bank of Commerce building from waterfront
1950 - The South facade of the Toronto Harbour Commission
1950 – The south facade of the Toronto Harbour Commission
1950's - Aerial view of Toronto waterfront, Canada Steamship Lines shed, Toronto Harbour Commission and skyline
1950’s – Aerial view of Toronto waterfront, Canada Steamship Lines shed, Toronto Harbour Commission and skyline
1953 - Toronto Harbour Commission, cars, streetcars and skyline
1953 – Toronto Harbour Commission, cars, streetcars and skyline
1971 - The south facade of the Toronto Harbour Commission with O'Keefe Centre sign on far-right
1971 – The south facade of the Toronto Harbour Commission with O’Keefe Centre sign on far-right
1972 - Bay St & Queens Quay, looking northwest
1972 – Bay St & Queens Quay, looking northwest
1972 - Bay & Harbour Sts, looking northwest
1972 – Bay & Harbour Sts, looking northwest
1980's - Aerial view of Toronto Harbour Commission and Hilton, looking southeast
1980’s – Aerial view of Toronto Harbour Commission and Hilton, looking southeast
2021 - Cornice and keystone on the Toronto Harbour Commission building
2021 – Cornice and keystone on the Toronto Harbour Commission building
2021 - Toronto Harbour Commission building entrance
2021 – Toronto Harbour Commission building entrance
2021 - Toronto Harbour Commission building, looking northwest
2021 – Toronto Harbour Commission building, looking northwest
2021 - Bay & Harbour Sts, looking northwest
2021 – Bay & Harbour Sts, looking northwest
1918/2021 - Toronto Harbour Commission building at 60 Harbour St
1918/2021 – Toronto Harbour Commission building at 60 Harbour St (City of Toronto Archives)
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