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Toronto’s new City Hall officially opens

The Story

Paris has the Eiffel Tower, Athens has the Parthenon and now Toronto has a new ultra modern City Hall. Last-minute scrambling ensured everything was in place as Governor General George Vanier officially declared Toronto City Hall open on Sept. 13, 1965. "Pert" guides in their blue and gold uniform worked overtime, ushering throngs of curious visitors through the $25-million building, as heard in this CBC Radio report. Described as young, modern and vigorous, the new City Hall was hailed as a symbol of Toronto. The sleek monument with its curved twin towers and oyster-shell shaped council chambers attracted 70,000 visitors in just four days. Defective locks, loss of guides' voices and even minor flooding didn't hinder the week-long festivities celebrating Finnish architect Viljo Revell's latest addition to Canada's largest city.

Medium: Radio
Program: Metro Extra
Broadcast Date: Sept. 17, 1965
Guest: Ann Tucker
Host: Bruce Smith
Duration: 6:32

Did You know?

• The new City Hall was Toronto's fourth. The first was destroyed by fire, the second was temporary and the city outgrew the third, now known as Old City Hall. Toronto's old City Hall was built in 1899 and declared a National Historic Site by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada in 1989.


• Finnish architect Viljo Revell's design was chosen from among 520 entries from 42 countries. Revell died a year before the completion of what was described as his "greatest achievement."

• The new City Hall is supposed to represent an "eye," with two semi-circular buildings being the upper and lower eyelids. The meeting hall in the centre symbolizes the pupil.

• Initially, the international design competition for Toronto City Hall did not impose a limit on the building's cost. But when a limit was eventually enforced, Revell had to scramble to complete his building.

• Prime Minister Lester Pearson, Premier John Robarts, Toronto Mayor Phillip Givens and Finnish ambassador K.T. Tikanvaarn, along with 2,500 invited guests, attended the official opening of the new City Hall.

• Toronto City Hall consists of four main sections: the public square, the council chamber and the two office towers. The front of City Hall has a large pool, arched by three concrete structures, which converts into a skating rink in the winter.

• Viljo Revell's friend Henry Moore contributed a bronze sculpture called The Archer. It is located in front of City Hall.

• Toronto City Hall was the dream of the city's former mayor, Nathan Phillips, who wanted the "most magnificent public building in the world." Phillips was Toronto's mayor from 1954-1962. Nathan Phillips Square, the public square in front of City Hall is named in his honour.

• Detractors of the new City Hall referred to the twin-turreted structure as "Nate's oyster." Others claimed the $25-million building was too expensive, outlandish and colourless.

• Due to a carpenter's strike, carpets were laid and pictures hung only hours before the official two o'clock opening ceremony on Sept. 13, 1965.

• Week-long festivities at Nathan Phillips Square included performances by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the National Ballet of Canada and the Canadian Opera company.

• Toronto City Hall was seen twice in the Star Trek series: In the original (James Kirk) series in the episode "All Our Yesterdays"; and later in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Contagion," as a possible alien portal. It was also seen in the film Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004), as the headquarters for the Umbrella Corporation.



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