Union Station: The history of our transit hub

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Union Station is what many people would call the centrepiece of Toronto. The century-old building has always played a large role in our cityscape, being used by tourists and Torontonians alike. It’s the central hub for all things transportation in our city and with a few changes over the last couple of years, it has quickly become one of our favourite places to spend time.

Funny enough, the building’s name is not that unique. The name “Union Station” is actually used in cities all over the world because of its meaning – which is that it acts as a place of ‘union’ for railroads. It’s where they all meet. Did you know that our Union Station is the largest railway station ever built in Canada? It takes up an entire block in the city between York and Bay, south of Front Street (our street!). You can find just about every type of transportation coming and going from Union Station. It’s the TTC’s main subway stop, there is GO Transit for travel within Ontario, or VIA Rail for travel within Canada, a bus terminal, and a rail link to the brand new Union Pearson Express.

Toronto’s original Union Station was much smaller and located on Front between York and Simcoe streets. It was built in 1872 and used until the Great Toronto Fire in 1904, which was when the land the current Union Station lives on became available. The City of Toronto owned this ground but leased it to the Grand Trunk Railway in 1905 to build on after everything on the site had been destroyed in the fire.

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Photo via Toronto Public Library Special Collections 

 

The Union Station we know and love today began construction in 1914 during World War I and finished in 1921. It remained unused for a number of years though because of issues between the Harbour Commission and the City. When it was finally time to open to the public in 1927, Edward the Prince of Wales came for the occasion and got to cut the ribbon. Fun fact: he was also the first person to ever be issued a ticket there!

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Since it opened, Union Station has seen hundreds of thousands of people pass through it. More recently the City has been working hard as part of a major revitalization project to make Union Station more than just a transportation hub, but as a place where people can visit too. So far they’ve done a great job by giving Front Street a complete makeover to make room for great events like Front Street Foods and the Union Station Holiday Market, as well as the Bay Street Concourse Level which is currently under renovation.

 

Cover photo via naveg on Flickr

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