During the 1950s, the Women’s Department programming at the CNE had grown exponentially and the need for a new Women’s Building was put forth by the CNE’s Board of Directors in 1954. In 1955 the City of Toronto hired architects Page and Steele to design and construct the new Women’s Building. It was later renamed the Queen Elizabeth Building in 1957.
Page and Steele was an architectural firm created in 1926 by Forsey Page and Harland W. Steele in Toronto. In the 1950s they employed a well-known British architect named Peter Dickinson. Dickinson played a prominent role developing modernist architecture in Toronto during the 1950s, completing some of the city’s most celebrated mid-century Modern buildings like the O’Keefe Centre (now Sony Centre). The Queen Elizabeth Building was one of the seven major structures added to Exhibition Place between 1948 and 1962 which exemplified the Modernist architecture movement in Toronto. One of the building’s most distinctive architectural features is its folded plate roof that allowed for uninterrupted interior spaces. Modernist architectural design consisted of classic, understated looks, and clean lines with minimal ornamentation. This style emphasized creating structures with ample windows and open floor plans, with the intention of opening up interior spaces and bringing the outdoors in.
While outfitting the theatre’s interior with modern stage construction and lighting techniques, Dickinson also embellished the theatre foyer with sweeping staircases and a polychromatic marble floor. Above the entrance to the theatre is an impressive copper sculpture by Canadian artist Elizabeth Wyn Wood. It depicts the full range of activities that might occur on the stage within. At the time that the theatre was built it featured the largest stage of any theatre in Canada.
The Queen Elizabeth Theatre became popular for its fashion shows and cooking demonstrations during the CNE. But the theatre was also utilized outside of the annual summer fair. The theatre has hosted a variety of events on stage such as a CBC Trans-Canada talent show in 1959, a public art auction in 1967, Miss Teenage Canada contest in 1969, the 1975 Juno Awards, Karate-Mania in 1986 and the popular 1996 stage show that payed tribute to the life of singer Patsy Cline.
The landscape surrounding the Queen Elizabeth Building is filled with artwork by well-known Canadian artists. The west lawns of the building contain four limestone sculptures by sculptor E. B. Cox. Sculptor Frances Loring was commissioned to create a large relief sculpture for the exterior’s south façade. The large polystyrene sculpture is titled Woman and Children. And, just outside of the Queen Elizabeth Exhibit Hall, four granite benches by artist Stephen Cruise are placed at the southeastern exit.
Today, the Queen Elizabeth Theatre is leased as a concert venue and the upstairs dining area, Fountainblu, is leased as a premier banquet venue. The Queen Elizabeth administration area was home to the offices of Exhibition Place staff up until 2014. This portion of the building is now also leased to a tenant. The Queen Elizabeth Exhibit Hall continues to host mid-size trade shows and other conventions throughout the year
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.