The Ontario Government Building was built in 1926 to take the place of the original, smaller Ontario Government Building constructed in 1912 (now occupied by Medieval Times). The province required additional space for its exhibits aimed at educating residents of Ontario as to the various roles played by its government. For example, the new Ontario Government Building contained exhibits promoting the work of the Department of Agriculture, Department of Education, Department of Health, Department of Labour, Department of Mines, Department of Lands and Forests, Department of Northern Development and the Department of Public Highways. In the courtyard was a very popular display by the Department of Game and Fisheries of live animals such as deer, beaver, raccoons, etc. These animals were housed in fenced-in areas, allowing CNE visitors a chance to see wildlife up close. When Ontario Place opened in 1971, the province of Ontario no longer needed the building at the CNE to house provincial exhibits. From 1972 onward various seasonal tenants took over the Ontario Government Building to house their exhibits and shows.
The reinforced concrete Beaux-Arts building was designed by architects Alfred Chapman and J. Morrow Oxley of the architectural firm Chapman and Oxley. The building was built in a triangular layout, fronting on the southwest on Lake Shore Boulevard, British Columbia Road on the north and Alberta Circle on the east. The building has a central open triangular courtyard with the three wings surrounding it. Along the property facing Lake Shore Boulevard is a large concrete plaza leading down to the road, originally to Lake Ontario. A large dome at this south entrance dominates the structure while six tall lantern domes are placed at the corners of the building. The exterior was very ornate, but the interior, used for exhibit space was not decorated, like a warehouse. Chapman and Oxley also designed the Princes’ Gates and worked with the artist Charles McKechnie.
The artist Charles McKechnie, who often worked closely with Chapman and Oxley on architectural commissions, designed the statuary of the Ontario Government Building. Two majestic lions are positioned on the south lawn of Liberty Grand while another two lions flank the building’s east entrance. Charles McKechnie also designed the statuary for the Princes’ Gates.
In 2000, the City of Toronto released a request for proposals for long-term development of the Ontario Government Building. In 2001 Liberty Entertainment Group won that proposal and transformed the building, preserving and restoring its original Beaux- Arts features. The interior was transformed into a grand banquet space that includes three beautiful ballrooms. The building was renamed Liberty Grand and officially opened in 2002. Liberty Grand hosts weddings and special events year round.
Chapman, D. Howard Alfred Chapman Architect 1879 – 1949. The Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, Toronto, Ontario, 1978
Chapman, A. H. Ontario Government Building Canadian National Exhibition, Toronto. The Journal Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, January, 1927, p. 5 – 10
Ontario Government Building Exhibition Place – Assessment of Building Condition and Options for Conversion of Building to Year-Round Use, prepared by Taylor Hazel Architects Ltd., Toronto, November 1993
The Gooderham Fountain, constructed in 1911, was a monument to the wealthy industrialist William Gooderham who, along with his brother-in-law James Worts, established the Gooderham and Worts distillery in Toronto in 1837. The fountain was constructed on what was called the "Grand Plaza of Exhibition City," between the Horticulture Building, the Graphic Arts Building and the Administrative Building (Press Building). It became a favourite place for fair-goers to meet with friends and family. In 1957 the CNE Board of Directors sought to either renovate the Gooderham Fountain or replace it entirely. City of Toronto Council approved the construction of a new fountain and the CNE allocated a budget of $70,000 to cover the costs.
The Princess Margaret Fountain was built approximately 100 feet south of where the Gooderham Fountain was situated. It is set in a prominent location directly across from the Queen Elizabeth Building, at the intersection of Princes’ Boulevard, Manitoba Drive and PEI Crescent. The fountain was designed by the Toronto based exhibit-display firm Design Craft and installed in 1958. It consists of tiers of three progressively larger circular basins constructed of steel and reinforced concrete clad in terrazzo. This triple bowl design allows the water to cascade over the edges of the fountain. The fountain was designed to have a 16 colour-changing light show when operated at night. The original lighting design had 89 lights for the lower pool, 29 lights for the center bowl and 13 lights for the upper bowl. These lights were controlled by a colour changing apparatus that would light the fan jets.
The new fountain was dedicated by its namesake, Princess Margaret, sister of Queen Elizabeth II, when she visited Exhibition Place on July 31st during her Canadian tour in 1958. The Princess pushed the button of the fountain that started the jets and colour show. 20,000 visitors packed the Grandstand as Princess Margaret stopped to greet guests and take in a 2,000,000 bloom flower show in her honour.
Source: The Telegram, Toronto, August 1, 1958
The Princess Margaret Fountain is still a favourite meeting spot for members of the public attending events at the west end of the grounds of Exhibition Place. The fountain operates starting at the beginning of summer and the colours change on a timed delay.