Toronto’s Unique Architecture

We’re in the middle of a new adventure, visiting Toronto, Canada, in spite of it being entirely the wrong season to venture into this icy northern territory! Canadians we meet are constantly joking that we must have come for the weather. (Minus 15 degrees C some days …) And yet, there is still magic to be found in the ice and snow … and watery eyes and running noses.


Yorkville, the neighbourhood we’re staying in, is trendy, lively, and has a serious designer shopping street. Just around the corner from our Air BnB, Vera Wang has a store in a beautiful Victorian brownstone. And just further along, you could spend three months’ earnings on a pair of red-soled Christian Louboutins (should the desire take you).

Left  A window display of necklace and earrings (Versace? Prada? Dolce & Gabbana? I forget.) Right  Kate Spade’s ellie purse.

One thing that immediately stands out is Toronto’s distinctive architecture. The red brickwork “bay and gable” Victorian homes date to between 1875 and 1890 and are unique to this city. They are also sometimes called “worker’s cottages”, although with decorative details such as stained glass window and door panels, wooden lacework, and contrasting brick surrounds, they are definitely more upmarket today, with a more well-heeled occupancy.


They are also, these days, often divided right down the centre and turned into two multi-storey apartments, sometimes each side painted in a different colour, as you can see in the left photo.


It was the pink door that got me. But notice the beautiful stained-glass panels.


The narrow, pointed gables are a feature of this architecture. You even get blue skies in Toronto!

This beautiful building above left, one street away from where we’re staying, is the Heliconian Club, a tiny converted church built in 1876 and designed in the Gothic Revival architectural style. Apparently its fine acoustics, stage and exhibit area provide a space (since 1909) for artistic women in music, dance, drama, art, and literature, allowing them to be “free to express, share, and develop their talents at a time when men dominated the arts”.


All that colour is exhausting, so a little black and white to end. Toronto also has some interesting modern architecture, such as the curved building in the silhouette image, and the highly recognisable CN Tower, which can be seen from all angles of the city.

If you liked this, Mariëlle has a new blog on Toronto here