Toronto's Old City Hall was home to its city council from 1899 to 1966 and remains one of the city's most prominent structures. The building is located at the corner of Queen and Bay Streets, across Bay Street from Nathan Phillips Square and the new City Hall in the centre of downtown Toronto. The heritage landmark has a distinctive clock tower which heads the length of Bay Street from Front Street to Queen Street as a terminating vista.Old City Hall was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1984.
Public outcry forced authorities to abandon these plans, and the Eaton Centre would be built around the landmark civic building and also the Church of the Holy Trinity (which was originally planned to be demolished). Old City Hall then became a dedicated courthouse.
Today, exhibit cabinets that display a collection of photographs and artifacts are found on the main floor of the entrance lobby. Also, when court is not in session, the former Council Chamber, with its spectator gallery above and late 19th-century ambiance, is open to the public.
Old City Hall can be described as a massive square quad with a courtyard in the middle. Situated at the front elevation, its clock tower was placed off centre to provide a terminating vista for Bay Street. In spite of this seeming asymmetry, the balance of the design is still existent throughout. Ultimately, even though the clock tower was off centre, balance was achieved through the repetition of the subtle details of measure and pattern.
Romanesque Revival style
Old City Hall was designed by architect E.J. Lennox in a variation of Romanesque Revival architecture known as Richardsonian Romanesque. Developed by Henry Hobson Richardson, this variation is considered more masculine, and it highlights bulk and massiveness as well as different sculptural features.
Within the three large oak doorways of the main entrance are steps leading to a two-storey main hall. In the arcade upon entering the building from the main entrance on Queen Street, there are murals designed by George Agnew Reid detailing Toronto’s pioneers and angels related to their experiences.
Old City Hall features a large, 103.6 metre-tall (340 ft) clock tower that is a terminating vista for Bay Street south of Queen Street West and is also prominently visible from Queen Street and Nathan Phillips Square. The clock tower was the tallest structure in Canada for 18 years from 1899 until 1917. The clock room houses three bells, the largest of which weighs 5443 kilograms.