The site is mostly flat ground sloping down gently to the shoreline. It was originally forested land, and was cleared for military use.
Sections east of Stanley Barracks and south were filled in the early part of the 20th century. Today, the district is mostly paved, with an area of parkland remaining in its western section. There is a large open paved area in the southern central section, which is used for parking and the temporary amusements of the Canadian National Exhibition CNE.
The site has a variety of historic buildings, open spaces and monuments. The eastern entrance to Exhibition Place is marked by the large ceremonial Princes' Gates, named for Edward, Prince of Walesand his brother, Prince Georgewho visited in The roads are all named after Canadian provinces and territories except for Princes' Boulevard which is the main street east-west.
Several of the roads are used for the annual Honda Indy Toronto car race. South of the grounds is Ontario Placea theme park built in on landfill in Lake Ontario, and operated by the government of Ontario.
The site also has a long history of sports facilities on the site, starting with an equestrian track and grandstand. The grandstand eventually was converted for use by music concerts, major league baseball and football teams. The newest sports facility to be built is the soccer -specific stadium, BMO Field. There is also an arena, the Ricoh Coliseumhome to professional ice hockey. The site was used for several sports venues of the Pan American Games. The area was an important portage route for Native Americansand the French wanted to capture their trade before they reached British posts to the south.
It was burned by its garrison in after other French posts fell to the British on Lake Ontario. When Yorkthe predecessor of Toronto was inaugurated in the s, the land to the west of the garrison later Fort York was reserved for military purposes. This includes all of today's Exhibition Place. Years later, the British military decided to replace Fort York with a new fortto be located at the eastern end of the reserve. In —, they constructed a series of seven limestone buildings and several smaller ones.
Elaborate defensive works were never built and the buildings were turned over to the Canadian military inwhich named it Stanley Barracks in For the exhibition, to be held in Toronto, a permanent "Palace of Industry" exhibition building, based on London's Crystal Palacewas built at King and Shaw Streets in what is now Liberty Village.
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The site held four more fairs until the s, when the City of Toronto decided the exhibition had outgrown the site. The City signed a lease with the Government of Canada for a section of the western end of the reserve in April The Palace of Industry was moved to a site on the reserve near today's Horticulture Building, reconstructed and expanded.
When Ottawa was chosen to host the fair, Toronto decided to hold its own fair. First called the Toronto Industrial Exhibition, it was held in the Crystal Palace and temporary buildings. At first, the eastern part of the site was still reserved for military purposes, the exhibition held on the western part of the reserve, where many of the oldest exhibit buildings are located.
As time went by, more and more of the reserve was taken over for exhibition purposes, including a horse track and grandstand, and exhibit buildings. Development of permanent buildings[ edit ] Inafter the Government of Canada announced it would sponsor a major exhibition at the site inthe Toronto City Council decided to rebuild the exhibition site. The building campaign saw the building of fifteen permanent buildings designed by architect G.
The new buildings were elaborately designed and set in an attractively landscaped site. At the conclusion of the building campaign, the name was officially changed to the Canadian National Exhibition.
The five remaining buildings were declared a historic site in Inthe Dufferin Gates were replaced with a more elaborate arch and out-buildings on each side. The Dufferin Gates were patrolled by soldiers. View of Dufferin Gates in When the CNE became the world's largest annual fair ina year plan was launched following the urban design and architectural precedents of the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The Empire Court was to be a monumental central space with a triumphal arch and gates and monumental exhibition buildings with courtyards.
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During the s, the exhibition grounds were expanded to the west and to the east, as well as to the south, where reclaimed land was used to build Lake Shore Boulevard originally "Boulevard Drive"connecting downtown with Toronto's growing western suburbs. By the s, the Beaux-Arts style faded in popularity. The start of the trend for a new style of architecture arguably became evident in the construction of the Automotive Building inthe first building that moved away from the Beaux-Art architecture envisioned by the plan, mixing clean modern lines with classical ornamentation.
Inthe Horse Palace was built, replacing temporary stables used for the Winter Fair. The Horse Palace used Art Deco ornamentation. Inthe Bandshell was constructed for open-air music concerts. During the Second World Warthe exhibition grounds became Toronto's main military training grounds. The CNE, and virtually all other non-military uses of the lands ceased. The CNE was not held between andwhen the land and its facilities were turned over to the Department of National Defence as a training ground.
The CNE would resume again inas the Canadian military returned the grounds back to its civilian administrators. The new buildings, mostly in the central block of the site, exhibited a new Modernist style of architecture.
Inthe third Grandstand burned down. In its place was built the fourth Grandstand, a massive concrete construction and monumental cantilevered steel roof was a sharp contrast to the other buildings around it. The Modernist trend continued with the construction of other buildings and monuments typifying the modernist style including the Food Buildingthe Shell Oil TowerQueen Elizabeth Building and the Princess Margaret Fountain In the later s, the new six-lane Gardiner Expressway was pushed through the north side of the grounds, cut below grade in the western section of the grounds, and an elevated section in the eastern section.
The new parabolic arch Dufferin Gate was built in Inthe Coliseum was re-clad with a modernist south facade. To replace its exhibit in the Ontario Government Building, the Government of Ontario built Ontario Place on artificial islands to the south of Exhibition Place accessible via two foot bridges. Coinciding with the opening of the ultra-modern Ontario Place to the south, a new master plan for the Exhibition site was developed in The Master Plan was radical, calling for the demolition of many pre-World War II buildings, new Modernist buildings, and a massive central public space with a reflecting pool and fountains on the site of Exhibition Stadium, which was to be relocated.
It had first been proposed to connect Union Station and the Exhibition Grounds. Dufferin Street was to be connected to Lake Shore Boulevard, a new four-lane road along the north of the site and a new place parking lot taking the place of buildings to the west of Dufferin. Inthe International Building, formerly the Transportation Buildingto the west of the bandshell, burnt down. It was hosting an exhibit on Spain during the CNE when it caught fire and was destroyed.
The building was demolished and not replaced, the site left vacant and has since used mostly as a parking lot. The plan was abandoned after Exhibition Stadium was redeveloped and enlarged to host Major League Baseball in Into celebrate the centenary of the fair, a copy of the original music bandstand was built on the site of the original in the park north of the Horticulture Building. North of the park a new structure designed to resemble the s-era exhibition buildings was added.
The park was renamed Centennial Square and is also used for corporate picnics. The streets of Exhibition Place are closed off to regular traffic and a closed circuit is made through the grounds and along Lake Shore Boulevard.
The exterior was restored and a new interior was built. It saw the tear-down of the permanent midway buildings and the Flyer roller coaster. The City planned to charge rent to the midway's operator, Conklin Shows, which chose to tear down the buildings instead and set up temporary rides each year for the CNE. The new National Trade Centre now the Enercare Centre trade show building, planned since the plan, was built on the vacant Electrical Building site to host more and larger trade shows year-round.
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