Toronto Feature: Toronto Harbour Commission | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Toronto Feature: Toronto Harbour Commission

This article is from our Toronto Feature series. Features from past programs are not updated.

This content is from a series created in partnership with Museum Services of the City of Toronto and Heritage Toronto. We gratefully acknowledge funding from the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, and the Department of Canadian Heritage.

Toronto Harbour Commission Building - Aerial View
An aerial view of the Toronto Harbour Commission Building, circa 1918, when it was on the harbour (courtesy City of Toronto Archives/Fonds 1244, Item 920).
Toronto Harbour Commission Building
Toronto Harbour Commission building, circa 1917, the same year it was completed (courtesy City of Toronto Archives/Fonds 1244, Item 743).
The landlocked Harbour Commission Building 2012 (photo by James Marsh).

Toronto Feature: Toronto Harbour Commission

"Landlocked Harbour Commission"

Once upon a time, Harbour Street lived up to its billing--it ran close to Toronto's shoreline. Thanks to the work of the Toronto Harbour Commission, the name has not made sense for decades.

Established following a city referendum in 1911, the Toronto Harbour Commission was placed in charge of the waterfront. Over the next two decades it extended the city south into the lake through lakefilling that created Queen's Quay, the Portlands and Bathurst Quay. Later the commission created land near Hanlan's Point that became the Island airport.

The commission, and its successor the Toronto Port Authority, have operated out of 60 Harbour Street since it was built on the end of a pier, surveying the harbour, in 1917. Since then the building has not moved, but the shoreline has.

The agency remains responsible for marine activities in Toronto Harbour, though it has been embroiled in controversies over the future of the Island airport, still operated by the Port Authority.