George W. Gouinlock (1861-1932) was born in Paris, Ontario. Very little is known about his early training, but it is believed that he apprenticed in Hamilton and may have worked in Manitoba, Chicago and Milwaukee before moving permanently to Toronto in 1874. Gouinlock began his career in Toronto with the architectural firm of Kennedy and Holland in 1886. In 1888, he set up a practice with G.W. King, but from 1901 until 1921 Gouinlock practised alone. A founding member of the Ontario Association of Architects, he was elected president in 1909.
In the early 1900s, Gouinlock was approached by Toronto City Council to redesign the west end of the Toronto Industrial Exhibition (later known at the Canadian National Exhibition). Many of the buildings on the site at the time were wooden structures that were not meant to be permanent Between 1902 and 1912 Gouinlock transformed the western end of the exhibition grounds with fifteen new structures set amidst broad boulevards and an open plaza. Gouinlock’s architectural plan was heavily influenced by the Beaux-Arts classical design he had encountered at Chicago’s World’s Columbia Exposition in 1893.
Beaux-Arts design combines classical architecture from ancient Greece and Rome with Renaissance ideas. It is characterized by order, symmetry, formal design, grandiosity, and elaborate ornamentation. The style originated in France and spread throughout the industrial world. Beaux-Arts design was a popular architectural style in North America from 1885-1925. In the United States, the Beaux-Arts style led to planned neighborhoods with large, showy houses, wide boulevards, and vast parks. Because of the size and grandiosity of the buildings, the Beaux-Arts style was most commonly used for public buildings like museums, railway stations, libraries, banks, courthouses, and government buildings. It also set a new precedent for the construction of exhibition buildings. Of the fifteen new buildings Gouinlock designed for the Toronto Industrial Exhibition, all were influenced by the Beaux-Arts style, including the Railway Building (renamed the Music Building in 1968). The Railway Building was built as part of a joint venture between the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada, the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, the Toronto Industrial Exhibition and the City of Toronto. The building had to fit on a small triangular piece of land and contain three separate exhibit spaces. Gouinlock took these spatial challenges and used them to his advantage designing a fanciful yet functional trefoil building with domes and decorative friezes characteristic of the Beaux-Arts style.
The Railway Building opened in time for the 1907 fair and was used to showcase rail travel and achievements in transportation. The continuing growth and popularity of the annual exhibition were closely tied to the development of rail transportation which made it possible for people from every province to attend. The popularity of railway travel began to wane after the Second World War and from 1952 onwards, the Railway Building became home to different groups over the years. From 1952 to 1961 it functioned as the Hydro Building where it housed exhibitions promoting Canadian advances in energy developments including the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway and a model of a nuclear powered generating station. In 1968 the Railway Building was renamed the Music Building.
In 1987, a fire almost nearly destroyed the Music Building and there was much debate between City of Toronto Council, Heritage Toronto and the Canadian National Exhibition as to its future. At the time, the Board of Governors of Exhibition Place recommended demolishing the Music Building, but the Toronto Historical Board undertook a fundraising campaign to try to raise enough funds and awareness to prevent the demolition of the historic building. In 1989, with public and private donations, as well as grants from three levels of government, City of Toronto Council approved the restoration of the Music Building. The Music Building re-opened in 1990. Today, the Music Building is leased to the Toronto Fashion Incubator.
Apart from the Music Building, another four of Gouinlock’s original fifteen buildings still exist: the Horticulture Building (home to the Muzik Clubs), the Press Building (home to the administrative offices of the Canadian National Exhibition), the Government Building (home to Medieval Times) and the Fire Hall-Police Station (still in use by the Toronto Police Services and Toronto Fire Services during the CNE). The other ten were destroyed by fire or demolished as part of subsequent revitalization programs.
Adell, J. The Music Building (Formerly the Railway Building). Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, 1989
Blumenson, J. The Birkbeck Building, 8-10 Adelaide Street East, Toronto, A Final Report. The Heritage Trust, Ontario Heritage Foundation, 1985
George W. Gouinlock (1861-1932) was born in Paris, Ontario. Gouinlock began his career in Toronto with the architectural firm of Kennedy and Holland in 1886. In 1888, he set up a practice with G.W. King, but from 1901 until 1921 Gouinlock practised alone.
In the early 1900s, Gouinlock was approached by Toronto City Council to redesign the west end of the Toronto Industrial Exhibition (later known as the Canadian National Exhibition). Many of the buildings on the site at the time were wooden structures that were not meant to be permanent. Between 1902 and 1912 Gouinlock transformed the western end of the exhibition grounds with fifteen new structures set amidst broad boulevards and an open plaza. Gouinlock’s architectural plan was heavily influenced by the Beaux-Arts classical design he had encountered at Chicago’s World’s Columbia Exposition in 1893.
Unlike other Exhibition Place buildings by George W. Gouinlock, the Fire Hall and Police Station was not designed in the Beaux-Arts style. Instead, it has an eclectic architectural design featuring a clock tower, polychrome brick banding and a shallow pitched copper roof. The Fire Hall and Police Station has Arts and Crafts design elements. Its red brick exterior is designed in contrasting colours and textures and includes Tudor style detailing executed in wood and stucco. The building was also designed with wide entranceways, allowing easy access to the building for people and vehicles.
Although the Fire Hall and Police Station has undergone several planned alterations, such as one major restoration in 1981 to bring the building to Ontario Building Code standards as well as having modern, roll-up doors installed, the structure's basic character remains intact.
The Fire Hall and Police Station is divided into two sections. A detachment of the Toronto Police Services occupied a portion of the Fire Hall and Police Station year-round for a period of time from 2004 to 2013. In 2012, a detachment of Toronto Fire Services began to occupy the Fire Hall on a full time year round basis. Prior to 2012, Toronto Fire Services were only on site during the CNE. During the CNE Toronto Fire Services provide educational programming to visitors. In 2016, a detachment of Toronto Parks, Forestry & Recreation division took up residence in a portion of the Fire Hall for use as administrative services.
The Clock Tower of the Fire Hall and Police Station is currently undergoing restoration.
The Bandshell was designed by Craig & Madill Architects. Extensive research on other band shells, such as the Hollywood Bowl in the United States, influenced the design of the Bandshell. Art Deco features can be seen on the exterior of the shell that is decorated with stylized musical notes. The structure was built to accommodate a 100-piece band. The stage itself is 63 feet in width and 38 feet in depth and faces toward the north. The building includes a full basement which houses storerooms, a transformer room and dressing rooms. At the time it was built, the Bandshell featured the latest in acoustics and lighting. The ‘shell’ consists of eight semi-circular ‘louvres’ specifically engineered to achieve ideal acoustics. The Bandshell was built with 1,030 concealed lamps that illuminate the structure in red, green and blue. This lighting feature could be controlled with dimmers thus enhancing the musical performance on stage.
When it opened in 1936 the Bandshell featured the Kneller Hall Band, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the United States Navy Band amongst other noteworthy bands. The Bandshell became the place for visitors to congregate and listen to a variety of military bands and big bands from the 1930s to the 1950s.
Since its construction in 1936, the Bandshell has also served as the site of the official opening of the annual CNE. From the stage of the Bandshell, dignitaries such as William Lyon McKenzie King, Rear Admiral the Earl Mountbatten of Burma and Vincent Massey have presided over opening day ceremonies. In more recent years the CNE opening day ceremonies have taken place at the Princes’ Gates.
Over the years the Bandshell continued to feature various musical entertainment. In the 1970s, band competitions, also known as “Battle of the Bands”, were held on the Bandshell stage. The Bandshell has also been the site of body building competitions, celebrity appearances and talent shows.
Today, the Bandshell forms part of the Bandshell Park that is host to various festivals and events throughout the year. The structure also continues to highlight a variety of musical talent during the annual CNE in August.