What Toronto looked like in the 1980s Through these Fascinating Photos

In the early 1980s, Toronto surpassed Montreal in population with a population of 3 million versus 2.8 million for Montreal. Several factors contributed to Toronto’s growth over Montreal, including substantial immigration, especially from Asians and African Americans, the growing auto industry in Southern Ontario after the Auto Pact was signed with the US in 1965, a calmer political environment, lower personal income taxes than in Quebec (Quebec experienced two referendums on separation during these years, one in 1980 and one in 1995). Most Canadian companies have their head offices in Toronto, which also became the corporate capital of Canada.

During the 1980s, manufacturing jobs in Toronto had become more specialized (e.g., electronics), and the significant shift was to service jobs as Toronto became a major financial, administration, real estate, insurance, educational, wholesale, retailing, and tourism destination. Five of the six national banks were located in the city, making it the nation’s financial capital. Consequently, the town saw high-density core development and suburbanization, which increased the need for public transportation.

Here are some stunning vintage photos that will take you back to the 1980s in Toronto. It seems like the 1980s were not too distant from today, but they were different. It was a large city, but it still felt like a small town. The environment seemed safe, clean, and endlessly exciting.

#7 South-east corner, Carlaw and Danforth avenues, 1989

#9 A photo from the modern day, featuring a 1980s-era police car from Metro Toronto.

#17 Markham Street looking north to Bloor Street, 1982

#19 Dundas Street and Pacific Avenue, looking north, 1987

#24 PCC streetcar 4392 on Church Street, south of Richmond Street, 1980

#27 South-west corner, Dundas Street and Pacific Avenue, 1987

#37 Looking across the Massey Ferguson lands on King West, 1980s

#41 Looking east across King from Duncan Street, 1980s

#44 Two types of streetcar and a trolley bus on Queen just west of Shaw, July 13, 1983.

#47 A harsh and modern-looking Queen and Bay during a snowstorm. March 13, 1980.

#48 Overhead view of Queen near City Hall, July 8, 1980

#50 Drummer’s Paradise on Church Street at Queen, July 21, 1982.

#51 Streetcar turning south onto Church past a Sears delivery van, February 13, 1980.

#52 Queen and Sherbourne with St. Paul’s Basilica in the background. June 2, 1981.

#53 An ice cold Queen and Parliament, looking east, February 6, 1981.

#55 The Dominion on Queen during the bad old days. June 6, 1981.

#56 Looking east from the bridge over the Don River, June 2, 1981

#57 The New Broadview Hotel, a.k.a. Jilly’s, as “Kicker’s,” August 31, 1983.

#58 Streetcars continue to operate at Queen and Broadview despite track work (Broadview Hotel is “Maxi’s,”) March 25, 1981

#59 Queen and Saulter, looking toward the rail bridge, June 6, 1981.

#60 The many gas stations of Queen and Jones, June 6, 1981.

#62 Trolley Bus at Dupont/Annette and Dundas. Image from barp, 1980s

#67 Bloor Street near Bay, facing north with the Holt Renfrew building in sight, 1980s

#96 Royal Tours – Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, 1984

#103 Bye Bye Birdie rehearsal, Scarborough Theatre, 1985

#104 Greek Village Dining Lounge, 551 Danforth Avenue, 1985

#115 Dead quiet Queen and Spadina in late summer. September 27, 1981.

#117 Looking east on Queen across Church, May 31, 1981.

#118 Richmond’s Trading Post on Church just north of Queen, July 21, 1982.

#119 Intersection of Queen and King at the Don River, looking west. No Scotia Plaza, yet. Exchange Tower is under construction behind First Canadian Place. June 2, 1981.

#120 Queen and Broadview, looking east at the stores on the north side of Queen, April 2, 1982.

#121 Queen and Broadview, looking west, August 25, 1983.

#122 Looking east from Queen and De Grassi under the rail tracks, June 6, 1981.

#123 Queen and McGee near the Jimmie Simpson Recreation Centre, June 6, 1981.

#124 Looking west from Queen and Carlaw in Leslieville, August 31, 1981.

#125 Looking west through Leslieville near Queen and Carlaw, August 31, 1983.

#126 The Flatiron building with Derek Michael Besant’s mural looking quite fresh, 1980s

#128 The Skydome under construction, some time around 1988.

#167 View from Gerrard and Mutual (looking east), Toronto, 1982

#191 Aerial view of trains parked in station, Toronto, 1980s

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Written by Aung Budhh

Husband + Father + librarian + Poet + Traveler + Proud Buddhist. I love you with the breath, the smiles and the tears of all my life.

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