Looking back at the Gooderham Building

Job sites - lighting, buildings, streetscapes.. - 1978-1978


If you’ve ever been walking along Front Street, you may have found yourself gazing up at the uniquely shaped Gooderham Building, otherwise known as the “flatiron.” Without a doubt, you can tell the building is full of history, stories and maybe even a few secrets.

The Gooderham Building is located in the center of Wellington, Front and Church streets in downtown Toronto. On one side of the building is the “flatiron mural” of painted windows created by the artist Derek Michael Besant in 1980, who used a trompe l’oiel effect to make the painting come to life. The effect will play a trick on the human eye, making it seem like the banner is truly there. It was also one of the first flatiron buildings in North America.

Open space - Albert square/Berczy Park. - 1978-1988


So, what’s the full story behind the Gooderham Building?

The building’s name is derived from the famous Toronto-based Gooderham family, and was initially developed as a distillery by George Gooderham. Little did Mr. Gooderham know how famous the building would be over a 100 years later! George Gooderham was also the President of the Bank of Toronto and the founder of Gooderham and Worts, a distillery. Rumour has it there is an underground tunnel between the Gooderham Building and the Bank of Toronto (but who knows unless you find it!).
The building has five stories and was built in 1892 by the architect David Roberts Jr., costing a total of only $18 000 – can you believe it? It was previously known as the “The Coffin,” back when it only had three stories. So why the peculiar location? The Gooderham building is shaped to fit into the intersection because it follows the Town of York grid and diagonal lines from the waterfront.


In 1975, it was announced that the building was a historic site according to the Ontario Heritage Act. To this day, numerous people will whip out their phones and cameras to take photos of the beautifully constructed building. The higher stories are now filled with office spaces, and the underground features a Firkin Pub. Not a bad place to work!



St. Lawrence Historical District/East Downtown. - 1972-1987

Next time you’re walking by the Gooderham Building, take a closer look at the detail of this heritage building. If you’re lucky, you may find the secret tunnel, but who knows where it leads!

Images via the City of Toronto Archives





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