The Great Fire of 1904 in Toronto left a devastating impact on Bay Street that few would ever think of today. When walking or driving down Bay Street in the financial district today, all you see are shiny, tall and seemingly indestructible towers. Back in 1904, they might have felt the same way, only destruction did indeed occur in a massive way.
Although it’s not exactly known what caused the fire, it is suspected that it was a stove left unattended, or something caused by poor electrical wiring. Nevertheless, the damage was severe, stretching just north of Wellington Street to south of Front Street and covering both sides of Bay Street. To get an in-depth view of the extend of the fire, you can see the historical document below:
Yet to really put it into perspective, consider the two following photos that document a part of Bay Street before and after the fire. Both photos were taken at approximately the same spot on Bay, however, the only building that looking truly intact in the second photo is “Old City Hall” (which at that time was simply, “City Hall”).
Imagine the impact these historic building could have made to the facades of Bay Street if this fire never happened! I can just see how these stone and brick facades could have been used to support sleek glass towers above, to maximize the current use of the space.
Some other very dramatic before and after photos are listed below, that reveal the look of the downtown core as more of a war-zone than a fire. Without the specialized techniques and modern equipment that we have for fire-fighting today, the fire spread rapidly and destroyed more buildings than it likely ever could today. And thank goodness for that. I hope we never see destruction like that ever again on Bay Street!