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Hogtown at 180: Happy Birthday, Toronto!

Today marks 180 years since the Town of York decided it was time to grow the hell up and call itself a city. There were already enough "York"s around, though, and since no one had claimed the name "Toronto" yet, the City of Toronto it became. True fact: the name "Toronto" derives from the Mohawk "tkaronto", or "trees standing in water"; at least, that's what the Mohawks said it meant. Of course, little Toronto's come a long way since then; the log cabins of Muddy York have been replaced by skyscraping condos, office towers and everyone's favourite phallic symbol. Let's have a look at some of Toronto's most iconic buildings that are still standing—at posting time, anyway.

↑ Toronto's first Post Office was built at 260 Adelaide Street (known back then as Duke Street) in 1833. Once all the city's incorporation paperwork was signed off they had somewhere to drop it off to be sent back to Parliament. It probably got there late.

↑ By 1850 Toronto had become way more sophisticated, and wanted to show the world that it, too, could put up big fancy buildings—even if it meant copying the Europeans. St. Lawrence Hall is a three-storey Renaissance-style National Historic Site that was built as Toronto's big gathering place; there are still meeting halls upstairs and retail at street level.

↑ By 1900 Toronto had grown into a thriving metropolis, in no small part due to the many breweries and distilleries scattered around the city. All that booze paid for a lot of buildings in town—the Distillery District, the Dominion Brewery, and everyone's favourite photo subject, the Gooderham Building. The Gooderham Building, known to all as the Flatiron, was actually built a few years before New York's Flatiron Building. That's ok—those guys always copy Toronto.

↑ One hundred years ago, Group of Seven member Lawren Harris hired prominent Canadian architect Eden Smith to build a facility at 25 Severn Street, in Rosedale, where Harris's artist pals could live, eat, and work. The result, a three-storey brick building with enormous windows, is now known as The Studio Building. You can see it from the Yonge subway line; it's on the east side of the rail track, just north of the Bloor station tunnel. Seems like a lot of money to spend just so Harris could hang out with his friends.

↑ A lot of landmark buildings went up in Toronto in the 1920s and 1930s, like Union Station, the Royal York Hotel, the Concourse Building, College Park, and Commerce Court. Most of those are still around, but the Concourse Building is being swallowed by the Ernst Young Tower; at least the Concourse's Art Deco façade, with its gorgeous mosaics by Group of Seven artist J.E.H. MacDonald, will be retained.

↑ The 1940s and 1950s saw Toronto looking more modern and boxy; one exception is the Bank of Nova Scotia building, at the northeast corner of King Street and Bay Street. It was designed in 1929, which explains its vaguely Art Deco style, but was only built in 1951. The 27-storey building is pretty much dwarfed now by all the banking towers that surround it, but its bas-relief sculptures of mythological figures are still prominent at street level.

↑ Speaking of banking towers, in the 1960s and 1970s the Financial District went crazy with building fever. The TD Centre, First Canadian Place, and Commerce Court were all built between 1968 and 1975 (Scotia Plaza came along in 1988). At 68 storeys, First Canadian Place was the tallest building in Canada when it was built; but then, in 1976, the CN Tower raised the stakes for building in Toronto. It raised them really, really high.

↑ The CN Tower changed Toronto's skyline so radically that today it's nearly impossible to imagine it not being there. Even with the ever-growing crop of condo towers and office blocks, it's still the main point of directional reference for map-clenching tourists and longtime Torontonians alike: CN Tower = south. Easy. As of today there are half a dozen buildings with sixty storeys or more in Toronto, and more on the way, but it would be pretty safe to bet that the CN Tower's going to be the standout for a long, long time—maybe even until 2134.
· 180 People Who Have Made a Difference in Toronto [Toronto Star]
· Toronto's First Mayor, William Lyon MacKenzie []
· Happy 180th Birthday Toronto: What's Your Favourite Thing About The City? [Huffington Post]