Old Photographs of Ruins from the Toronto Fire that Destroyed Downtown

On the night of April 19th, 1904 and the morning of April 20th, 1904, a Toronto fire decimated downtown Toronto and took with it over 100 buildings in the industrial and commercial area in what would now roughly be Esplanade/Front Street to the south, King Street to the north, University to the west and Yonge street to the east.

“The Great Fire” was suspected to have started from a faulty heating stove or an electrical problem but the exact cause was never found. 17 fire halls, two engine companies and one hose company were brought in after a policeman on patrol saw the flames coming from the E & S Currie Limited’s neck wear factory at 58 Wellington Street West, just west of Bay Street (now TD Bank Tower). It took them 9 hours to control the blaze.

1904 - aftermath of fire, Bay St., e. side, looking s. from n. of Wellington St. W. - toronto fire
1904 – aftermath of fire, Bay St., e. side, looking s. from n. of Wellington St. W.

Hamilton, Ontario and Buffalo firefighters gave a hand to our city as temperatures dropped that night to -4 as snow fell and the flames consumed the downtown core. This was the second Toronto fire in 50 years to attack the young city.

John Croft was the only person to lose his life from the fire but he was an explosives expert who was clearing the ruins from the fire. Total damage from the blaze reached $10,387,000 and it put five thousand people out of work when the city only had a population of 200,000. As you would expect, stricter laws for fire safety were put in place and the Toronto Fire Department was expanded.

Here are a collection of photographs that I put together from after the fire was extinguished and the years following.

1904 - aftermath of fire, Bay St., looking north from north of Esplanade W., Toronto, Ont
1904 – aftermath of fire, Bay St., looking north from north of Esplanade W., Toronto, Ont
1904 - aftermath of fire, Bay St., s. from Melinda St
1904 – aftermath of fire, Bay St., s. from Melinda St
1904 - aftermath of fire, Bay St., s. from top of Telegram Building
1904 – aftermath of fire, Bay St., s. from top of Telegram Building
1904 - aftermath of fire, Bay St., w. side, s. from Melinda St.
1904 – aftermath of fire, Bay St., w. side, s. from Melinda St.
1904 - aftermath of fire, Front St. W., e. from Bay St
1904 – aftermath of fire, Front St. W., e. from Bay St
1904 - aftermath of fire, Front St. W., e. from w. of Bay St.
1904 – aftermath of fire, Front St. W., e. from w. of Bay St.
1904 - aftermath of fire, Front St. W., looking n.
1904 – aftermath of fire, Front St. W., looking n.
1904 - aftermath of fire, Front St. W., looking n. from s. side, w. of Yonge St.; custom house at right
1904 – aftermath of fire, Front St. W., looking n. from s. side, w. of Yonge St.; custom house at right
1904 - aftermath of fire, Front St. W., looking n. to Wellington St. W., e. of Bay St.
1904 – aftermath of fire, Front St. W., looking n. to Wellington St. W., e. of Bay St.
1904 - aftermath of fire, Front St. W., s. side, looking e. towards Yonge St
1904 – aftermath of fire, Front St. W., s. side, looking e. towards Yonge St
1904 - aftermath of fire, Front St. W., w. from Bay St.
1904 – aftermath of fire, Front St. W., w. from Bay St.
1904 - aftermath of fire, Front St. W., w. of Yonge St
1904 – aftermath of fire, Front St. W., w. of Yonge St
1904 - aftermath of fire, lane, e. side of Telegram Building.
1904 – aftermath of fire, lane, e. side of Telegram Building.
1904 - aftermath of fire, looking north east from Esplanade W., west of Bay St., Toronto, Ont.
1904 – aftermath of fire, looking north east from Esplanade W., west of Bay St., Toronto, Ont.
1904 - aftermath of fire, looking s. from s. of King St. W., betw. Yonge & York Sts
1904 – aftermath of fire, looking s. from s. of King St. W., betw. Yonge & York Sts
1904 - aftermath of fire, looking s.e. from top of Telegram Building
1904 – aftermath of fire, looking s.e. from top of Telegram Building
1904 - aftermath of fire, looking s.w. from top of Telegram Building
1904 – aftermath of fire, looking s.w. from top of Telegram Building
1904 - aftermath of fire, Wellington St. W., looking e. to Bay St.-r-1858
1904 – aftermath of fire, Wellington St. W., looking e. to Bay St.-r-1858
1904 - aftermath of fire, Wellington St. W., looking n. from s. of Wellington St., w. of Bay St
1904 – aftermath of fire, Wellington St. W., looking n. from s. of Wellington St., w. of Bay St
1904 - aftermath of fire, Wellington St., s. side, e. from Bay St.
1904 – aftermath of fire, Wellington St., s. side, e. from Bay St.
1904 - Aftermath of the 1904 fire: Front Street at Bay looking east
1904 – Aftermath of the 1904 fire: Front Street at Bay looking east
1904 - Aftermath of the 1904 fire: Bay Street north of the Esplanade, looking north
1904 – Aftermath of the 1904 fire: Bay Street north of the Esplanade, looking north
1904 - Aftermath of the 1904 fire: Bay Street north of Wellington, looking south
1904 – Aftermath of the 1904 fire: Bay Street north of Wellington, looking south
1904 - Aftermath of the 1904 fire: Bay Street north of Wellington, looking south
1904 – Aftermath of the 1904 fire: Bay Street north of Wellington, looking south
1904 - Aftermath of the 1904 fire: east of Bay Street, looking south-west
1904 – Aftermath of the 1904 fire: east of Bay Street, looking south-west
1904 - Aftermath of the 1904 fire: east side of Bay Street at Melinda
1904 – Aftermath of the 1904 fire: east side of Bay Street at Melinda
1904 - Aftermath of the 1904 fire: Front Street west of Bay
1904 – Aftermath of the 1904 fire: Front Street west of Bay
1904 - Aftermath of the 1904 fire: Bay Street looking south from Melinda Street
1904 – Aftermath of the 1904 fire: Bay Street looking south from Melinda Street
1904 - Aftermath of the 1904 fire: looking south from the Telegram building
1904 – Aftermath of the 1904 fire: looking south from the Telegram building
1904 - aftermath, Front St. W., w. from Yonge St. (from top of Custom House)
1904 – aftermath, Front St. W., w. from Yonge St. (from top of Custom House)
1904 - ay St., e. side, betw. Wellington & Melinda Sts., showing shop of H. F. Sharpe & Co., photographic goods.
1904 – ay St., e. side, betw. Wellington & Melinda Sts., showing shop of H. F. Sharpe & Co., photographic goods.
1904 - Bay St., looking s. from n. of Wellington St. W., Toronto, Ont.
1904 – Bay St., looking s. from n. of Wellington St. W., Toronto, Ont.
1904 - Bay St., w. side, looking s.w. from n. of Wellington St. W., Toronto, Ont
1904 – Bay St., w. side, looking s.w. from n. of Wellington St. W., Toronto, Ont
1904 - Bay St., w. side, looking s.w. from n. of Wellington St. W., Toronto, Ont.
1904 – Bay St., w. side, looking s.w. from n. of Wellington St. W., Toronto, Ont.
1904 fire ruins, n.w. corner of Bay Street and Wellington Street West
1904 fire ruins, n.w. corner of Bay Street and Wellington Street West
1904 - Front St. W., looking n.e. from s. of Front St., w. of Bay St.
1904 – Front St. W., looking n.e. from s. of Front St., w. of Bay St.
1904 - Shows buildings destroyed or damaged in the great fire of 1904 in the Bay - Wellington - Esplanade area
1904 – Shows buildings destroyed or damaged in the great fire of 1904 in the Bay – Wellington – Esplanade area
1904 - Toronto Fire ruins, Front Street looking west from Yonge Street.
1904 – Toronto Fire ruins, Front Street looking west from Yonge Street.
1904 - Toronto Fire ruins, looking north from foot of Bay Street.
1904 – Toronto Fire ruins, looking north from foot of Bay Street.
1906 - 1904 fire ruins, Front Street.
1906 – 1904 fire ruins, Front Street.
1906 - Curio seekers find souvenir in fire ruins.
1906 – Curio seekers find souvenir in fire ruins.
1906 - Curio seekers find souvenir in fire ruins.
1906 – Curio seekers find souvenir in fire ruins.
1907 - Men viewing the demolition of fire remains at site of future Union Station.
1907 – Men viewing the demolition of fire remains at site of future Union Station.
1907 - Pottery found in ruins of 1904 Fire.
1907 – Pottery found in ruins of 1904 Fire.
1907 - Toronto fire ruins grown over with weeds.
1907 – Toronto fire ruins grown over with weeds.
1907 - Ruins of fire of 1904, Front Street East
1907 – Ruins of fire of 1904, Front Street East
1907 - Ruins of fire of 1904, Front Street East.
1907 – Ruins of fire of 1904, Front Street East.
1908 - Customs examining warehouse and express office
1908 – Customs examining warehouse and express office
1908 - Excavating ruins of the Great Fire of 1904 for a new Customs House, Front Street at Yonge Street.
1908 – Excavating ruins of the Great Fire of 1904 for a new Customs House, Front Street at Yonge Street.
1908 - Excavating in the Great Fire ruins for new Customs House, Front Street and Yonge Street.
1908 – Excavating in the Great Fire ruins for new Customs House, Front Street and Yonge Street.

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To find more vintage photographs from this Toronto fire, visit the Toronto Archives or the Toronto Public Library archives.

 

 

Joel Levy
About Joel Levy 752 Articles
Photographer and Writer for Toronto Guardian and Joel Levy Photography