On the windy and cold April evening in 1904, flames were spotted in an industrial building on Wellington Street, just west of Bay. The fire quickly spread in every direction and continued until around 5pm the following day. The fire affected about 13 acres of commercial property downtown, and destroyed over 100 buildings. Five thousand people were left without work.
|The aftermath of the Great Fire, 1904
City of Toronto Archives Fonds 1244, item 2
We were excited to find the fire documented in the daily journals of Toronto Catholic Matthew O’Connor. Records of parishioners fall outside of our collection mandate, but somehow O'Connor's journals found their way into our collection. And, in moments like this, we're especially thankful to have them.
It's interesting to see the fire described by a Torontonian of the day. The scope and estimated damage were unlike anything the city had seen in its history. Some amazing footage of the fire was captured and distributed across Canada by photographer George Scott and his assistant. Scott's film is now available on Youtube. Video Courtesy of Library & Archives Canada, ISN #16107
The rebuilding in the years that followed the Fire helped shape the city as we know it today. Tucked into O'Connor's journal was a clipping showing plans for the new Union Station to be built in the "Burnt District".
DC Item #59
ARCAT Desk Calendar Collection
You can find more information and more photographs of Great Fire of Toronto on the Archives of Ontario website here.