Exhibition Place

Exhibition Place
Looking East from the CNE Ferris Wheel (National Trade Centre at left, Automotive Building at right).
The Princes' Gates in 2005.
The Horticulture Building, constructed in 1907.
Direct Energy Centre, Canada's largest indoor exhibition hall.

Exhibition Place is a mixed-use district in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, by the shoreline of Lake Ontario, just west of downtown. The 197–acre area includes expo, trade, and banquet centres, theatre and music buildings, monuments, parkland, sports facilities, and a number of civic, provincial, and national historic sites. From mid-August through Labour Day each year, the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE), from which the name Exhibition Place is derived, is held on the grounds. During the CNE, Exhibition Place encompasses 260 acres (1.1 km2), expanding to include nearby parks and parking lots. The CNE features games and a midway, among a host of attractions. The fair is one of the largest and most successful of its kind in North America, and an important part of the culture of Toronto, the province, and the nation itself. The grounds have seen a mix of protection for heritage buildings along with new development.

Five buildings on the site (the Fire Hall/Police Station, Government Building, Horticulture Building, Music Building and Press Building), all designed by George Gouinlock, were designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1988.[1][2]


The Site

Exhibition Place is a large area west of Toronto's downtown. The district has a variety of historic buildings, open spaces and monuments. It hosts a wide array of activities year-round, but is best known for an annual summer fair, the Canadian National Exhibition and the Royal Agricultural Fair. The site also has a long history of stadiums for major league baseball and football teams. The newest sports facility to be built is the soccer-specific stadium, BMO Field.

The site is home to Direct Energy Centre (formerly the National Trade Centre), Canada's largest trade centre, and Ricoh Coliseum, home to the American Hockey League's Toronto Marlies. The site plays host to various international events such as the Honda Indy Toronto, The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, and many corporate and public trade shows.

The eastern entrance to Exhibition Place is marked by the Princes' Gates, a beautiful structure named for Edward, Prince of Wales, and his brother, Prince George, who visited in 1927. South of the grounds is Ontario Place, a theme park built on landfill in Lake Ontario, and operated by the government of Ontario.

History of the Grounds

Fort Toronto (also called Fort Rouillé) was built by French fur traders in 1750–1751 as a trading post on the site of today's grounds. The area was an important portage route for Native Americans, and the French wanted to capture their trade before they reached British posts. A small fort, it was burned by its garrison in 1759 as other French posts fell to the British on Lake Ontario.

The site witnessed two invasions of United States troops into York (Toronto) during the War of 1812. The first, on April 27, 1813, saw 1,700 soldiers come ashore to begin a six-day occupation of the town, during which they looted and burned edifices, including the Parliament Buildings. Three months later, on July 31, a force of 300 came ashore at or very near the grounds. Unopposed, they seized food and supplies in town, and burned military installations before departing. Half Moon Bay, Toronto is located to the south of the site was also a location of another military battery (Half Moon Bay Battery).

Years later, the British decided to replace old Fort York to the east with a new fort at the site of today's Exhibition Place. In 1840–1841, they constructed a series of seven limestone buildings and several smaller ones. Elaborate defensive works were never built, and the fort was turned over to Canada in 1870, which named it Stanley Barracks in 1893. It was garrisoned until 1947, then used for public housing through the early 1950s, when all but the officers' quarters were demolished. That building became Toronto's Marine Museum in the 1950s until it departed for a downtown pier in 1997. Both the Barracks and Museum are now closed.[3]

Firehouse tower at Exhibition Place, 1918.

In 1878, the Provincial Agricultural Fair was held at what would become Exhibition Place. That fair traditionally moved each year, so in 1879, when Ottawa was chosen as host, Toronto decided to hold its own fair. First called the Toronto Industrial Exhibition, it began an annual tradition that, since 1904, has been known as the Canadian National Exhibition—affectionately called "The Ex." Only five summers since 1879—all in the era of World War II—have not seen The Ex herald the end of summer vacation. None of the original 19th century buildings survive, but the oldest existing exhibition buildings are about 100 years old, and comprise a national historic site, including the Press Building (1905), the oldest among them.

The Post-World War I Years

When the CNE became the world's largest annual fair in 1920, a 50-year plan was launched following the urban design and architectural precedents of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago.[4] Chapman and Oxley prepared the 1920 plan, which emphasized Beaux-Arts architecture and City Beautiful urban design. It was at this point that the Exhibition grounds were expanded to the west and to the east, as well as to the south, where reclaimed land was used to build Lake Shore Boulevard (originally "Boulevard Drive"), connecting downtown with Toronto's growing western suburbs.

The Empire Court was to be a monumental central space with a triumphal gate and monumental exhibition buildings with courtyards. In the end, several buildings and structures were built as part of the plan such as the Government of Ontario Building in 1926, the Princes' Gates in 1927, and the Electrical and Engineering Building in 1928, but by the 1930s, the Beaux-Arts style faded in popularity. Arguably the start of the trend for a new style of architecture was becoming already evident in the construction of the Automotive Building in 1929, the first building that moved away from the Beaux-Art architecture envisioned by the 1920 plan, mixing clean modern lines with classical ornamentation. Subsequent buildings and structures were strikingly modern, and after the Second World War, Modernism came to dominate architectural projects at Exhibition Place.

The Second World War

During the Second World War the CNE became Toronto's main training grounds. The CNE, and virtually all other non-military uses of the lands ceased. The CNE was not held between 1942 and 1946, when the land and its facilities were turned over to the Department of National Defence as a training ground. After World War II, it was used as a demobilization centre.

The CNE would resume again in 1947, as the Canadian military returned the grounds back to its civilian administrators. Soon, the CNE turned away from a provincial, agricultural focus, and moved towards an increasingly modern, cosmopolitan look and feel.

The Modernist Movement

The first opportunity to place a Modernist look to the CNE grounds post-war came in 1946, when the third Exhibition Stadium burned down. In its place was built the fourth Exhibition Stadium, a massive concrete construction and monumental cantilevered steel roof was a sharp contrast to the other buildings around it.

The Modernist trend continued with the construction of other buildings and monuments typifying the modernist style including the Food Building 1954, the Shell Oil Tower 1955, Queen Elizabeth II Building 1957, the Princess Margaret Fountain 1958 and the new Dufferin Gates 1959. The modernist design trend culminated in the Better Living Centre, built in 1962, which came with a distinctive Mondrian-inspired ornament on its roof. The 1971 Master Plan was radical, calling for the demolition of many pre-World War II buildings, new Modern buildings, and a massive central public space with landscaping such as reflecting pool and fountains on the site of Exhibition Stadium, which was to be relocated. This plan resulted in some demolition, such as the Electrical and Engineering Building in 1972 (allegedly in poor structural condition) but faded in influence as Exhibition Stadium was not demolished until 1999, and thus allowing no opportunity to construct its centrepiece, the central public space.[5]

Recent History

In the early 1970s a permanent amusement park called Ontario Place was built on artificial islands to the south of Exhibition Place (accessible via two foot bridges). Its features are more 'kid-friendly' and based on a more creative sense of fun. It was also home to a famous warship, HMCS Haida, until 2003, when she was moved to Hamilton.

In July 2005, the City of Toronto asked for aquarium proposals from private enterprises. The only two respondents, Ripley's Entertainment and Oceanus Holdings, suggested that they would be interested provided the location was closer downtown, or had better transit access and parking.

Exhibition Place is also home to the Toronto Windmill, a WindShare wind turbine, and is home to an annual IndyCar race, the Honda Indy Toronto, formerly known as the Molson Indy Toronto.

The Stadia of Exhibition Place

Exhibition Place was also home to Exhibition Stadium, which was built out of the fourth Grandstand by adding two extra wings of seats. The original grandstand had been constructed in the late 1800s and was re-modelled, replaced, or destroyed over the years. It served as home to the CFL's Toronto Argonauts between 1958 and 1988 and the Toronto Blue Jays (AL) between 1977 and 1989. The two teams left for SkyDome (now Rogers Centre) in 1989. After it lost many stadium concert tours to Rogers Centre, and many other outdoor concerts to the nearby Molson Amphitheatre at Ontario Place, its usefulness was at an end. Considered an eyesore by some — although architecturally attractive, particularly in the original Grandstand section — the stadium was demolished in 1999 to serve as parking and allow a more sprawling midway. However, on October 26, 2005, the city of Toronto approved the construction of a 20,000 seat soccer stadium (BMO Field) on Exhibition Place land.

Exhibition Stadium (former stadium)

Original architectural model of the 4th Grandstand, from 1948

The CNE has been host to four grandstands since its inception. The third grandstand, designed by G.W. Gouinlock, was built in 1907 and had a capacity of 16,000. It burned down in 1946, subsequently leading to the construction of the fourth, Exhibition Stadium built in 1948. Designed by architects Marani and Morris, this building was the first of what would prove to be several Modernist buildings built on the CNE grounds, its distinctive and bold cantilevered truss roof dominating the grounds for over 50 years. It initially housed 22,000 people, but was expanded over the years to a maximum of 54,000 in order to accommodate the additional seating required for major professional sports teams who made the Grandstand their home. It became the home base for the Toronto Argonauts football team, and later, to the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team.

A race track on the grounds marked a historical race; on July 18, 1958, Richard Petty made his NASCAR Grand National (now Sprint Cup) debut on the race track at Exhibition Stadium.

In addition to sports, Exhibition Stadium was the stage for many entertainers over the years. Famous comedians who were featured there included Bob Hope, Victor Borge, and Bill Cosby. Similarly, many well-known musical acts made an appearance at the venue, ranging from Duke Ellington, Guy Lombardo, Benny Goodman, The Beach Boys (appearing there 11 times between 1974 and 1990), The Monkees, Sonny and Cher, to Melissa Etheridge, Sinéad O'Connor, Billy Idol, Nine Inch Nails and Tina Turner.

The Blue Jays and Argos left the open-air Exhibition Stadium for the retractable roofed Skydome (now, the Rogers Centre) in 1989. By that time it was recognized that the building was beginning to visibly decay, and was little used in its final decade of existence. Though it was the earliest of the modernist-style buildings on the grounds, it was the only one not to be become a historically listed building. It was finally demolished in 1999.

BMO Field (current stadium)

The new "National Soccer Stadium at Exhibition Place" known as BMO Field is a soccer-specific stadium, and is home to Toronto FC, the Major League Soccer (MLS) team that began play in 2007 and is owned by MLSE, as well as the Canadian national soccer team. Capacity is approximately 20,000 people and is owned by the City of Toronto. National Soccer Stadium opened on April 28, 2007, coinciding with the start of the 2007 MLS season. The BMO Field is south of the 'Food Building', on the former site of the Hockey Hall of Fame. Under the FIFA-sanctioned name "National Soccer Stadium", it was the centre piece venue for the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup, won by Argentina.

BMO Field continued the tradition of hosting open-air stadium concerts at Exhibition Place, beginning in early October 2007 with Genesis, which had played Exhibition Stadium nineteen years earlier.

The Buildings of Exhibition Place

While the CNE only lasts for a few weeks at the end of the summer, many major permanent buildings and other structures have been built over the years to house specific venues, or to commemorate specific events.

Buildings Overview

In the West Block there are five fair buildings designed by architect George Gouinlock: the Horticulture Building (now leased as a club), the Dominion Government or Arts, Crafts, and Hobbies Building (which has for the past decade hosted Canada's only Medieval Times), the Music Building (occupied by Immersion Studios), the Press Building, and a Firehall. The Ontario Government Building (currently operated and refurbished by the Liberty Grand event corporation) was created in 1926 and is one of the most architecturally stunning structures on the grounds. There are also two bandshells, one of which is an historic building, and a fair-sized park for relaxation. All of these buildings date from close to the turn of the 20th century.

The Better Living Centre's Northwest Elevation.

The Central Block contains the more modern 1950-1960s buildings, which are larger than the fair buildings from the West; the Better Living Centre (a very large exhibition space), the Queen Elizabeth Building (originally the Women's Building but, like the Princes' Gates, was renamed in honour of a royal visit), the Food Building (considered the heart of the CNE experience), a remaining section of the Halls of Fame Building, (now incorporated into BMO Field, is was home to the Hockey Hall of Fame from 1961–1993 and the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame until 2006). There are two large fountains here; the centrally located Princess Margaret Fountain and the southern Shrine Monument Fountain.

The East Block is dominated by Direct Energy Centre (which hosts large trade shows and routinely serves as Toronto's centre of Chartered Financial Analyst examinations). Direct Energy Centre has swallowed the two buildings behind it, the Coliseum (recently remodeled and reopened as the RICOH Coliseum) and the Industry Building. The Horse Palace (which adjoins the Coliseum and is used for equine shows and quartering), the Automotive Building (which was once used for car shows and is being turned into a conference centre), the Stanley Barracks Officers Quarters, and the General Services Building are all older exhibition buildings dating from around the 1920s.

The other main gate into Exhibition Place is the Dufferin Gate. It resembles the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri, but is actually several years older.

Allstream Centre

The main entrance to the Automotive Building, now called Allstream Centre.

Allstream Centre, formerly the Art Deco Automotive Building was constructed in 1929, designed by local architect Douglas Kertland. Located immediately inside the entrance to the Princes' Gates on the south side of Princes Boulevard, the building was initially used to display the latest car models to the public.

During World War II, this building was the home to Toronto's naval reserve, known as HMCS York. A commemorative plaque to this can be found on the north side of the building.

Its original purpose was arguably superseded in 1973 when the Canadian International Autoshow appeared elsewhere in the city during the spring, closer in time to when new car models appear than in late August when the CNE starts.

In more recent years of the CNE, the Automotive Building had regularly hosted the "Farm, Food and Fun" displays, which had previously been hosted in the Agricultural Centre across the street. The building was renamed the Allstream Centre in October 2009 and is currently Canada's most environmentally responsible conference centre.[6]

The building hosted World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Axxess in 2002, the fanfest prelude to WrestleMania X8.


The Bandshell with a modern canopy extension (ca 2007).

Inspired by the Hollywood Bowl, the Art Deco-styled Bandshell on the CNE grounds was built in 1936 according to designs prepared by the Toronto architectural firm of Craig and Madill.[7] It is situated on the west side of the grounds, and over the years has been host to many famous acts, including Guy Lombardo, Louis Armstrong, The Guess Who, and Joni Mitchell. More recently the likes of Susan Aglukark, Moxy Früvous, and Bob Newhart have played the open air venue.

The adjacent park is known as Bandshell Park. It also hosts a carillon on its grounds.

On August 25, 2003, as part of the CNE's 125th anniversary celebrations, and as part of Kid's Day, a Guinness World Record was set by the Bandshell as Sesame Street's Elmo hosted the largest Hokey Pokey song and dance routine.

Better Living Centre

The Better Living Centre Building

Another of the classic Modernist buildings on the site, the original purpose of the Better Living Centre was introduce new ranges of consumer goods to the baby boomer generation, making it a "space of encounter between consumer and product". For many people attending the CNE, the building hosted their first encounters with such technologies as colour television, transistor radios or home computers. It also became the place where people would expect to see the latest models of various consumer goods, ranging from vacuum cleaners to kitchen appliances.

The building's stark modernist architecture, made up of large white forms, a vast flat roof and harsh angles, suited its futurist themes. The building was designed by architects Marani, Morris and Allan and was opened by Toronto mayor Nathan Phillips on August 17, 1962. It was built on the former site of the Manufacturer building, which burned down in 1962.

In recent years, the Better Living Centre no longer serves its original purpose of introducing consumers to the latest and greatest products. Instead it has been divided in two, with one half now devoted to a casino, the other to the "Farm, Food and Fun" pavilion.

Dufferin Gates

The parabolic Dufferin Gates

The Dufferin Gates are the western-most pedestrian entranceway to the CNE grounds. Named after Lord Dufferin, the original gate to the CNE grounds was named in his honour, situated at the bottom of Dufferin Street. The original gateway was erected in 1895, and was superseded by a more permanent, ornate Beaux-Arts style triumphal arch built in 1910, and officially re-opened by Lord Dufferin in 1914.

With the construction of Toronto's Gardiner Expressway in 1956, the gates were demolished in order to make way for the roadway. In their place a modernist-style parabolic arch was erected 50 ft (15 m) south of the previous gates in 1956, designed Philip R. Brock. The current arch is built around a steel frame and concrete, with brick at the base. It is 65 ft (20 m) high and spans 74 ft (23 m) in width. The star decoration that hangs from the top of the arch was added during Canada's centennial celebrations in 1967.

A plaque from the Ontario Heritage Foundation commemorating the history of the CNE can be found just inside the gate.

TTC Route 29, originating at Wilson Station heads down to this entranceway from the Dufferin TTC station.

Fort Rouillé Monument

See: Fort Rouillé

Fort Rouillé Monument

A large obelisk marks the spot where the original French-built Fort Rouillé (also known as Fort Toronto) was erected in 1750 and 1751. Its construction was ordered by the Marquis de la Jonquière, then governor of New France, in order to further establish a French presence in the area, and to intercept the trade of Indians traveling towards an English fur-trading post in present-day Oswego. It was a small palisaded fort with a bastion at each of its four corners, and containing five main buildings: a corps de garde, storeroom, barracks, blacksmithy, and a building for the officers. A drawing purported to date from 1749 shows the fort adjacent to Lake Ontario, whereas today it is situated on top of a small hill a hundred meters or so from the lake's current shoreline.

The fort was abandoned and burned by the French garrison in July 1759, who were retreating from invading English forces. Vestiges of the fort remained for many years afterwards, but the site was graded over and sodded in preparation for the establishment of the nearby Scadding Cabin in 1879.

The grounds were excavated in 1979 and 1980 by the Toronto Historical Board, and again in 1982 by the Youth Committee of the Toronto Sesquicentennial Board. The outline of the original fort has been marked out in concrete around the obelisk. Two commemorative plaques — one in English, and one in French — are attached to the base of the obelisk, placed there by the Ontario Heritage Foundation. To the north a third plaque commemorates the excavation done on the site, and to the west a fourth plaque commemorates a visit to the site by Bertrand Delanoë, mayor of Paris, on September 6, 2003.

The obelisk is surrounded by two cannons and a mortar, dating from the 1850s. Perhaps ironically, they are all British.

Press Building

Press Building

Originally named the Administrative Building at its inception in 1905, until 1957 it was home to the CNE Association. In 1957 it was re-named the Press Building and it became the headquarters for the various media that would attend and report upon the annual fair. Additional telephone and press wire equipment was installed to handle the demand placed on it by the media. More recently the building has returned to its original function as home to the administrators of the CNE.

This building was designed in the Beaux-Arts style by architect G.W. Gouinlock, who went on to design several buildings on the grounds. A plaque dedicated to his work stands in front of the Press Building. It was once part of a formal plaza that originally boasted the Gooderham Fountain, also designed by Gouinlock, since replaced by the Princess Margaret Fountain in 1958. In 2005 the building celebrated its centennial. The Press Building, along with the nearby Fire Hall, Police Station, Railways (Music) Building, Horticulture, and Government buildings, are collectively designated Early Exhibition Buildings National Historic Site. Tours of the building are available.

Princes' Gates

Princes' Gates, 2003
Princes' Gates Plaque
Warrior's Day plaque

Often mistakenly called the "Princess Gates," the monumental Princes' Gates were officially opened by princes Edward, Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII), and George (later The Duke of Kent), on August 31, 1927, during that year's CNE. They were built in the Beaux-Arts style to celebrate Canada's 60th anniversary of Confederation, and were originally to be called "The Diamond Jubilee of Confederation Gates." but the name was changed when it was found that the Princes were touring Canada the year of its dedication. They were opened on August 30, 1927 by Their Royal Highnesses, the Prince of Wales and Prince George. [8] First to pass through the gate was a Veterans Parade, a tradition that later became the annual Warriors' Day Parade.

The gates are made of a mix of stone and concrete. The statue at the top of the arch is the "Goddess of Winged Victory," an interpretation of the original Winged Victory of Samothrace, designed by architect Alfred Chapman of Chapman and Oxley, and carved by Charles McKechnie. In her hand she holds a single maple leaf. There are nine pillars to either side of the main arch, representing the nine Canadian provinces in existence at the time of construction. Flanking the central arch are various figures representing progress, industry, agriculture, arts and science. The gates were designed by Chapman & Oxley in Beaux-Arts style.

During the fall of 1986 the Winged Victory statue was taken down and found to be seriously deteriorating. It was subsequently replaced by a glass-reinforced polymer plastic copy in 1987, designed and fabricated by Engineered Plastics Inc. of Oakville, Ontario,[citation needed] to withstand the elements for over a century. That same year the gates officially became a listed building under the Ontario Heritage Act.

The Scadding Cabin

The Scadding Cabin

This small building, located adjacent to the Fort Rouillé Monument, can be found on the western grounds of the CNE. It is not only the oldest building on the grounds, but the oldest building in Toronto. It was built by the Queen's York Rangers in 1794 on behalf of John Scadding, who served as clerk (essentially, an executive assistant) to the first lieutenant governor of Upper Canada, John Graves Simcoe.

It is a squat, two-storey log cabin with low ceilings, designed to retain the heat from the fire in winter close to its occupants. It is said that John Graves Simcoe, who was over 6 ft (1.8 m) tall, had to stoop in order to enter the building.

Scadding was given a plot of land from what is now just north of Gerrard Street East, south to the waterfront. The cabin was built close to the Don River's east side, on what is now part of the Don Valley Parkway, just south of Queen Street East.

Scadding sold the property in 1818 to William Smith. In 1879, his son William Smith offered the cabin to the York Pioneers, a local historical society. Around this time someone mistook the information concerning the original owner for the cabin, leading to it being erroneously called "The Governor Simcoe cabin". The original cabin was disassembled from its original site and rebuilt by the York Pioneers, along with an adjacent cabin made out of new logs, on the current site, just in time for the original Toronto Industrial Exhibition in 1879.

John Scadding's youngest son, Henry Scadding wrote an early history of York/Toronto and set the record straight on who the original owner of the cabin was. When he died in 1901, the York Pioneers renamed it "The Scadding Cabin", in honour of this son of the original owner, who had also been a past president of their society.

The building as it now stands is little changed from its original construction. Apparently an additional 7 ft (2.1 m) extension that would have appeared to the south of the building was not moved. The second cabin constructed next to it by the York Pioneers was built using wood that was too green, and it was demolished a few years after construction. Over the years some of the timbers have been replaced, and the cabin was remounted on a stone foundation in the late part of the 20th century. Inside the cabin are furnishings appropriate to a house in Upper Canada in the 1830s, and some known to have belonged to Simcoe.

Shrine Peace Memorial

Shrine Peace Memorial
Shrine Peace Memorial Plaque

This monument, depicting a winged angel holding aloft a crown of olive branches and standing upon a globe held aloft by female sphinxes, was presented to the people of Canada on June 12, 1930 by the Ancient Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine (better known as the Shriners) as a symbol of peace and friendship between the United States and Canada. It is also meant as "an ongoing reminder that Freemasonry actively promotes the ideals peace, harmony, and prosperity for all humankind".[9]

The monument was originally dedicated on the final day of a Shriners summit held in Toronto that year. It was dedicated by the Imperial Potentate of the Shrine of North America, Leo V. Youngworth, and formally received by George S. Henry, who was the Potentate of Rameses Temple No. 33 of Toronto. Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King was present at the dedication ceremony and over the radio publicly thanked the Shriners for the gift to the city of Toronto and to the Canadian nation.

The statue was created by sculptor Charles Keck, who was a member of the Kismet Temple of Brooklyn, New York. A bench surrounds the statue, bearing the words "PEACE BE ON YOU", and its response "ON YOU BE THE PEACE", both of which make up the Shrine motto. The statue and bench is surrounded by a circular fountain.

In 1962 the monument was relocated and re-dedicated at its current location. It was again re-dedicated by the Shriners in 1989. The surrounding gardens and fountain were erected by the Toronto Parks Department, which was re-dedicated to the cause of peace by then Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker on August 20, 1958.

It is situated immediately south of the Bandshell, and is the focal point of the surrounding rose garden.

Other buildings and structures

The Medieval Times Building
The Liberty Grand
  • Direct Energy Centre is the newest building (excluding the BMO Field stands) at Exhibition Place in Toronto. It has 10 exhibit halls with 1 million square feet (90,000 m²) of space. It is connected to the Ricoh Coliseum and the Automotive Building. Home to the Toronto International Boat Show, the National Home Show, the One of A Kind Show, and the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.
  • Coliseum (1922, now part of the Ricoh Coliseum) - an example of Beaux-Arts design
  • Exhibition Stadium (no longer extant; originally 1879, fourth and final version demolished 1999)
  • Fire Hall & Police Station was a Tudor Revival building built in 1912 by George W. Gouinlock and used by Toronto Police, Toronto Fire Services and Toronto EMS during the CNE.
  • The Food Building was originally built in 1921, current building dates to 1954. Water cascades down the windows of the east and west entrances to the building.
  • The Medieval Times Building in Toronto, Canada was formerly known as Government Building and later as Arts, Crafts and Hobbies Building. it was a Beaux-Arts structure built in 1912 by architect G. W. Gouinlock, in a similar style to the Horticulture Building.
  • Horse Palace (1931) used to host the bulk of the annual Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. The Art Deco building was considered the best equestrian facility in Canada when it was built. It has been described as one of the finest Art Deco Buildings in the City of Toronto and possibly in the province and/or nation. The Art Deco elements of the Horse Palace include a hard-edged angular composition, cubist forms and strong horizontal and vertical planes. The low relief sculptured friezes of horses located on the exterior of the building are also indicative of the Art Deco style of design. Since 1931, the Toronto Police have had a Mounted Unit temporarily stationed in the Horse Palace during the Canadian National Exhibition and Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. In 1968 a Mounted Unit took up residence in the Horse Palace on a year-round basis, while other Mounted Units were stationed in various other stables across the city. In the late 1990s, Toronto Police decided to bring all the mounted units together in one place. To do this, the stables at Exhibition Place underwent major renovations. On July 25, 2000, the Mounted Unit of the Toronto Police moved into its new home in the Horse Palace. This brought all of the Mounted Unit’s personnel together in one facility for the first time in 100 years.
  • The Horticulture Building was built in 1907 to replace the Crystal Palace. It is similar in style as the Medieval Times Building (Beaux-Arts), but without the towers at the sides. The building was used as a temporary morgue the day after a fire destroyed the SS Noronic in 1949.
  • The Liberty Grand Building is a banquet hall and events theatre building. The Beaux-Art structure was built in 1926 by Chapman and Oxley as the Government of Ontario Building.
  • The Immersion Studio in Toronto was constructed as the Railways Building in 1907, designed for the GTR, CB, and CP Railways by Exhibition Place architect George W. Gouinlock. It was most familiarly known as the Music Building before its current occupancy. It was nearly destroyed by a fire in 1987 and since then has been restored for private use. It is built in a Beaux-Arts style.
  • Princess Margaret Fountain (1958)
  • The Queen Elizabeth Building was completed in 1957 as the Women's Building. The Exhibit Hall is used year round and the offices were once occupied by the CNE Association and Board. It is home to the Arts, Crafts and Hobbies during the running of the Ex.
  • The CNE General Services Building was built in 1912 for Ontario Hydro and now used to house the CNE Archives.
  • Ricoh Coliseum, indoor hockey rink and multipurpose facility. Home to the Toronto Marlies of the AHL.
  • CNE Flagpole, erected in 1977, to replace the original flagpole installed in 1930. Atop the CNE Flagpole is a copper ball with a time capsule with materials from the 1930 and 1977 installations. The copper ball was manufactured by James Gow and Company of Toronto, and is the same one that sat atop the 1930 flagpole.
  • McGillivray Fountain stands in the north-western end of the grounds, a modern-art concrete sculpture creation dedicated to a former president of the Exhibition.
  • Toronto Windmill (Exhibition Place Turbine), a 91-metre windmill belonging to WindShare co-operative, erected on December 18, 2002, is the first wind turbine installed in a major North American urban city centre.[10] The turbine production capacity helps displace up to 380 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually, which is the equivalent of taking 1,300 cars off the road or planting 30,000 trees each year.

Race course

Exhibition Place
Toronto, Ontario street circuit track map.svg
Location Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Capacity 73,000
Opened 1986
Major events IndyCar Series
Honda Indy Toronto
Surface Asphalt/Concrete
Length 2.824 km (1.755 mi)
Turns 11
Lap record 57.143 (Gil de Ferran, Walker Racing Reynard-Honda, 1999, CART)

Since 1986, Exhibition Place has hosted an IndyCar/Champ Car race, currently sponsored as the Honda Indy Toronto. The race is held annually in July. In addition to the IndyCar race, several support races are held, including Indy Lights and the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, as well as a car show, concerts, and other off-track activities.

The track layout uses local roads that wind through and around Exhibition Place. The Start/Finish line is located on Princes' Boulevard, slightly west of Newfoundland Drive. From the Start/Finish line, drivers head East towards the Princes' Gates, turning right (south) onto Canada Boulevard before reaching the gate. From Canada Boulevard, the track blends onto Lake Shore Boulevard (west) which comprises the longest straightaway on the circuit (this straightaway is sometimes incorrectly referred to as Shoreline Drive during race telecasts; Shoreline Drive is the start-finish straight at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach). Drivers re-enter the Exhibition grounds at Ontario Drive, heading North towards Prince's Boulevard where they turn left (west). The circuit continues on to Manitoba Drive and heads north-east then east until reaching Nova Scotia Avenue. At Nova Scotia Avenue, drivers turn right (south) then navigate a left-right-left series of turns until rejoining Prince's Boulevard and heading east towards the Start/Finish line.

Exhibition Place is one of seven Canadian circuits to hold an Indy/Champ Car race, the others being Mosport, Concord Pacific Place in Vancouver, Edmonton City Centre Airport, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, Circuit Mont-Tremblant, and Sanair Super Speedway.


Public Transit

The grounds are well-connected to city and regional public transit systems. A commuter rail station (Exhibition GO Station) serves the grounds. Exhibition Place is also connected to city transit by streetcar on the Harbourfront and Bathurst Street lines at the Exhibition Loop, connecting Exhibition Place with Toronto subway system's Bathurst and Union stations. The grounds are also served by the Dufferin bus, which loops through Exhibition Place from mid-May through mid-August, terminating at the Dufferin Gate entrance the rest of the year. That bus connects with the subway's Dufferin station on the Bloor–Danforth line. During the CNE, the TTC also operates route 193, an express route from Dufferin Gates to its Dundas West Station on the Bloor line.

The first loop began operations in 1916 and was located at the current loop location. In 1923 the loop was relocated to the southeast near the Princes' Gate. With the construction of the National Trade Centre it was re-located back to the original location in 1996.

CNE Transit

Five three car shuttle trains operate during the CNE to ferry passengers around the grounds along six stops:

  • Princes' Gates stop, in front of the Direct Energy Centre by the Princes' Gates.
  • GM stop, next to the road leading to Lakeshore Avenue next to the Automotive Centre.
  • Ontario Place stop, across from the Ontario Place bridge next to the midway.
  • BMO Field stop, in front of the casino and behind the BMO field.
  • Kiddy Midway stop, in front of the main entrance to Kiddy Midway.
  • Food Building stop, in front of the Horse Palace and TTC/GO access.

Roads and Gates

The roads on the grounds are named for the provinces and territories of Canada:

  • British Columbia Road
  • Alberta Circle
  • Saskatchewan Road
  • Manitoba Drive
  • Ontario Drive
  • Quebec Street
  • Nova Scotia Avenue
  • Nunavut Road
  • Yukon Place
  • Prince Edward Island Crescent
  • Newfoundland Road
  • New Brunswick Way

Only the Northwest Territories are not used. Canada Boulevard and Princes' Boulevard are the other names of roads on the grounds.

Other gates in the park outside of Princes' and Dufferin Gates are:

  • British Columbia Gate - formerly Confederation Gate
  • Ontario Gate
  • Newfoundland Gate
  • Manitoba Gate

Demolished Buildings and Attractions

  • Canada's Sports Hall of Fame, built 1961 as the joint home of Canada's Sports Hall of Fame and the Hockey Hall of Fame. The latter moved in 1993, and the Sports Hall was partially demolished in 2006, with remaining sections to be incorporated into BMO Field, a new soccer stadium.
  • Mighty Flyer, a wooden rollercoaster, built in 1953 by Conklin Shows. It was a permanent fixture that lasted until the early 1990s.
  • The Electrical and Engineering Building was built in 1928. The building was demolished in the 1970s, and the site is now occupied by the Direct Energy Centre.
  • The Shell Oil Tower (1955–1986) was later known as the Bulova Tower. It was demolished in 1986.[11]
  • Alpine Way - A series of cable cars allowed visitors to view the Ex. The system consisted of four rows of cars (blue, green and red) carrying 4 passengers. The system was taken down in 1996 and placed into storage in 1998. This was the last of the permanent attractions built by Conklin Shows, and Jim Conklin described the dismantling of the attraction as a "heartbreak". Sam Sniderman shared equal sadness in the removal of the attraction, so much that he bought the ride sign and donated it to the CNE archives.[12]
  • Exhibition Stadium - For decades, the city's premiere outdoor sports and large concert venue (see above). Demolished 1999 and replaced with BMO Field.
  • Manufacturers' Building was a building used to house exhibits of household appliances, fixtures and furnishings. It burned down in 1962 and was replaced by the Better Living Centre.
  • The Women's Building was built in 1908 and burned along with the Manufacturers' Building in 1962.
  • The Process Building was built in 1905 and demolished in the early 1960s.
  • Transportation Building was burned down in 1960s and now occupied by Bandshell Park.
  • original Dufferin Gate - replaced by current gate in 1959; previous gates built in 1895 and again in 1910.
  • original Food Products Building - built in 1921 and replaced by current building in 1954
  • Gooderham Fountain built in 1910 and replaced by the Princess Margaret Fountain in 1958.


  1. ^ Gouinlock Buildings / Early Exhibition Buildings, Directory of Designations of National Historic Significance of Canada
  2. ^ Gouinlock Buildings / Early Exhibition Buildings, National Register of Historic Places
  3. ^ Stanley Barracks participated in Doors Open Toronto in 2006, affording the public a brief chance to walk inside.
  4. ^ Osbaldeston, Mark (2008). "28: CNE Fifty Year Plan, 1920 / Partially Built, 1971 CNE Fifty Year Plan, 1971 / Partially Built". Unbuilt Toronto: A History of the City That Might Have Been. Toronto: Dundurn Press. pp. 197–198. http://books.google.com/books?id=6h_yvfJ_yvQC&lpg=PA197&dq=CNE%20largest%20fair%201920&pg=PA197#v=onepage&q&f=false. Retrieved 2011-06-04. 
  5. ^ Osbaldeston, Mark (2008). "28: CNE Fifty Year Plan, 1920 / Partially Built, 1971 CNE Fifty Year Plan, 1971 / Partially Built". Unbuilt Toronto: A History of the City That Might Have Been. Toronto: Dundurn Press. pp. 203–206. 
  6. ^ The reinvention of an auto palace, Toronto Star
  7. ^ Heritage Toronto, CNE Bandshell
  8. ^ http://www.heritagefdn.on.ca/userfiles/HTML/nts_1_6224_1.html Ontario Heritage Trust Princes' Gates
  9. ^ Let There Be Peace
  10. ^ Toronto Hydro page about the wind turbine
  11. ^ shelltower.html
  12. ^ TheStar.com | CNE | Legendary midway a family affair

See also

External links

Historical Plaques at Exhibition Place

Coordinates: 43°37′58″N 79°24′58″W / 43.63278°N 79.41611°W / 43.63278; -79.41611

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