Printed drawing of large concrete, box-like building. The largest portion of the building protrudes on the left-hand side, and its front and left sides are visible. The building's facade consists of vertical concrete lines with seven stories of windows rising between them.  A large brown smokestack is visible to the right. The centre of the main building features a clock tower that rises above the roof. A union jack flag is visible on top of it. The top of the image reads, "Terminal Warehouse, Toronto, Canada."

Queens Quay Toronto history

Queens Quay: The World at the Waterfront

207 Queens Quay West

Printed drawing of large concrete, box-like building. The largest portion of the building protrudes on the left-hand side, and its front and left sides are visible. The building's facade consists of vertical concrete lines with seven stories of windows rising between them.  A large brown smokestack is visible to the right. The centre of the main building features a clock tower that rises above the roof. A union jack flag is visible on top of it. The top of the image reads, "Terminal Warehouse, Toronto, Canada."

Postcard showing the Terminal Warehouse, Toronto, 1927. Illustration by Valentine-Black Co. Courtesy of the Toronto Public Library.

Four images are placed in a square with a blue background. Below, in white letters, is written "Queen's Quay Terminal." In the top left image, there is a large concrete building. It is shaped like a box except for a tall tower at the center-front of the building. There are lines crisscrossed at the front of the building, which look like scaffolding. Much of the building's interior is exposes, likely because it is undergoing renovation. Much of the building's front looks blackened. It is a cloudy day. The top right image shows the same structure at the same angle, but green-tinted glass covers all the square sections that were open on the facade in the last picture. This glass extends for three stories above the roof of the original building. It is sunny with a bright blue sky in this image. The lower-left corner shows an open space, possibly the atrium of a shopping area. An escalator extends up and down on the left side of the picture. People are riding the escalator and in the lobby. A large chandelier dangles above the area. Lastly, in the bottom right image, the tiny figures of dancers extend their arms and right legs in unison. They are on a stage, and a spotlight is on them. Opposite them are several rows of red seats extending up towards the back of the theatre space.

Queen’s Quay Terminal Building exterior and interior, Toronto, between 1980 and 1998. Courtesy of the City of Toronto Archives.

Black and white photograph of the waterfront. Water ripples on the left side of the image and meets a straight shoreline that extend away from the camera. A boat sits in this inlet. The name "McColl Frontenac Oil Co. Ltd." is written in bold white letters on its dark hull. A tall building stands above those closer to the ship. Many tall cylinders make up this building, possibly formed from concrete.  They stand together to the right and left of an even taller central building. Near the horizon, a similar building stands, roughly half the size of the closer one.  A ship is sailing out of the photo's scope on the left. The pointed bow of a third ship is visible in the bottom left corner.

Looking west to Maple Leaf Mills silos and Canada Malting silos, Toronto, circa 1930s. Courtesy of the City of Toronto Archives.

Black and white photo of a steam train next to a large boat on a pier. A larger concrete building is visible further back on the same side of the train. Several people are visible between the train and the ship. One is riding a bike toward the camera. A large anchor hands from the front of the ship and smokestacks are visible on its stern.

Queen’s Quay Terminal Warehouse wharf, Toronto, circa 1920s. Courtesy of the Toronto Public Library.

Important Work

Queens Quay: The World at the Waterfront Connected to the World

Now a residential and commercial space, this building — formerly the Toronto Terminal Warehouse — was a powerful symbol to Torontonians when it was completed in 1927. Its scale, use of the latest technology, and Art Deco-style exterior showed a Toronto that was both modern and prosperous. By the 1920s, Ontario was the destination of almost half of all imported goods to Canada. The majority arrived in Toronto.

The Toronto Terminal Warehouse needed to store a massive amount of this incoming merchandise effectively. Its eight floors featured 1,000,000 square feet of storage space, including a large cold storage area, to safely house goods arriving from every corner of the world. The setup around the warehouse ensured these goods could travel to and from it easily. Beside the warehouse was a dock that extended more than 2,000 feet, allowing boats to drop anchor just offshore. Later, as trucks became more relied upon for shipping, the Direct Winters Transport established its headquarters just west of the Terminal Warehouse. The Transport building was renovated to become the York Quay Centre in 1985 and became a central feature of the revitalized Harbourfront Centre in the 2000s.

The Men of the Trees

A Treasure Trove

The Toronto Terminal featured goods that may seem commonplace in our supermarkets today and even the cupboards in our own homes. But the rich supply of items in housed was once considered remarkable. In the 1930s, reporters visiting the warehouse were amazed at the wide variety of goods arriving by boat and train from all over the world. Thousands of products were stored in the warehouse: walnuts from Spain and Turkey, Chinese peanuts, Algerian figs, coffee beans from Sri Lanka, cocoa butter from the West Indies, tinned fruit from Australia, Norwegian cod-liver oil, Manchurian soybeans, Argentinian beef, and more. For decades, the Terminal Warehouse supplied Torontonians with the many flavours of the world.

Lest we Forget

Through Good Times and Bad

Both booms and busts have influenced developments and activities along the waterfront. In 1929, only two years after the Toronto Terminal opened, the stock market crashed — marking the beginning of the Great Depression.

In 1932, a space in the Toronto Terminal was dedicated to providing clothing to city residents. Set up at the request of the Ontario Government and run by the Canadian Association of Garment Manufacturers, clothing — including coats, sweaters, and dresses — was supplied by 400 Ontario factories to towns and cities across the province at cost to keep people warm during the winter of 1932-1933. Like the jobs created by the building of Coronation Park, the warehouse offered some relief during a difficult economic time in Toronto’s history.

It’s up to us…

New Connections

While the waterfront setting once connected the Terminal Warehouse to treasures from all over the world, today, its picture-perfect setting draws global talent to the Harbourfront Centre. The Concert Stage and Harbourfront Centre Theatre have hosted international musicians, while the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery showcases work created both in Canada and abroad. During the 2018-2019 season, visitors enjoyed artwork from Guatemala-based artist Vivian Suter, Scottish artist Karla Black, and Senegalese artist Nabila Abdel Nabi.

Each year, Harbourfront Centre hosts Kuumba during Black History Month. In Swahili, Kuumba means “to create,” and the festival showcases Black creativity through dance, storytelling, art, and theatre. International contributions have included dancers from Burkina Faso and the Canadian premiere of Calypso at Dirty Jacks – a documentary about music in Trinidad and a club in Port of Spain called Dirty Jim’s. In 2001, the festival hosted the Black Invention Museum. Founded by Lady Sala Shabazz in Los Angeles, the exhibition features inventions by African Americans, such as ironing boards and lawn sprinklers, many of which remain in use today.