WE SELDOM GIVE OLD CITY HALL A GLANCE, BUT UP CLOSE IT’S ONE FINE BUILDING

TORONTO’s population in the 1880’s was about 100,000, and the city fathers believed it was time to erect a public building that stood out from all the others. They hired E.J. Lennox, a local architect, to create a $200,000 court house, which soon expanded to a $1.5-million courthouse and city hall. The good fathers were shocked.Work began in 1889, and kept on going for the next 10 years. Lennox attended 520 meetings, arguing with politicians about the mounting bills. Finally in 1907 the final bill arrived, calculated on six sheets of paper. The tab – $242,870.82, with $181,255.71 still owing. That was serious cash in those days.E.J. Lennox was originally supposed to take home $68,000, but additional duties brought a hefty additional paycheck. He finally pocketed $120,000. Lennox also managed to leave his marks on the building – his engraved smiling face for one, and a string of letters spelling out E.J. Lennox Architect along all four sides of the structure.Just desserts for the penny-pinching city councillors.

TO GET INTO OLD CITY HALL, IT HELPS IF YOU’RE IN TROUBLE WITH THE LAW

OLDCITYHALL1TORONTO’s wonderful old pile on Queen Street West at Bay is off-limits to casual visitors.  Once our city’s third City Hall, it’s now a provincial court house.  X-ray security, some questionable characters, folks on the wrong side of the law, formally attired lawyers, no photographs allowed – that’s Old City Hall these days.

OLDCITYHALL2OLDCITYHALL5The building, which opened in 1899, was a sandstone creation by architect E. J. Lennox.  He designed several other important buildings around TORONTO.  From its clock tower chimes, scowling garygoyles, oak doors, mosaic floors, stone arcades, to murals by GEORGE AGNEW REID, the ‘Union of Commerce and Industry’ by stained-glass artist ROBERT McCAUSLAND, and multiple court rooms, it’s a structure with a glorious past and a colourful present.

OLDCITYHALL3OLDCITYHALL4PHOTOS – City of Toronto Archives – http://tayloronhistory.com