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Under the Dome: The engineer who dreamed of living in a very different Toronto

It could been Toronto's true sky dome — if it had been built.

Terence W. McLorg thought a domed city could provide a lot of advantages

Terence W. McLorg talks about his dome idea

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2 years ago
1:41
In 1966, Terence W. McLorg tells CBC about why he thinks a dome should be built over Toronto. 1:41

It could have been Toronto's true sky dome — if it had been built.

Terence W. McLorg, the executive vice-president of the Canadian Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Association, proposed seeing Toronto covered with a series of connected plastic domes.

"Actually, approximately 2,000 small domes, a quarter of a mile in diameter," McLorg told CBC, when elaborating on an idea that got a lot of media attention when the engineer first raised it in 1966.

McLorg thought life under a dome could provide a lot of advantages to Torontonians, including during the winter months.

Terence W. McLorg thought life under a dome would make life easier during the winter as there would be no need to clear snow from the streets -- that in turn, would make driving less of a hassle. (CBC News/CBC Archives)

"It'll keep the snow off the streets for one thing," McLorg told CBC back in May of 1966.

He also thought the dome would allow for more interesting architectural choices, as well as a greater variety of plant species.

"We're going to find, actually, that the kind of trees and plants that we can grow are going to be quite exotic compared to anything we can look after now," McLorg told CBC.

He had the media's attention

A shot of life in downtown Toronto near Yonge and Queen streets in the mid-1960s, a time when Terence W. McLorg was envisioning a future under a plastic dome. (CBC News/CBC Archives)

On May 7 — the same day CBC aired its interview with McLorg — The Globe and Mail ran a headline about his dome that simply said: The big top.

"But is it really that far-fetched?" the Globe asked its readers, obviously setting them up for a punchline.

"After all, Metro [Toronto] is run like a three-ring circus. We might as well put a tent over it."

The Toronto Star had an earlier blurb in its own paper on May 3, reportedly the day after McLorg went public with his idea.

The paper told readers McLorg wanted to "turn our area into a year-round summer paradise," by constructing domes over a huge area and thus creating a climate that would allow gardeners "to grow oranges and watch roses bloom in December."

'Is this just a pipe dream?'

Here's a look at what life looked like in the dome-less City of Toronto back in 1966 -- in this case in the city's Yorkville neighbourhood. (CBC/CBC Archives)

When speaking to CBC, McLorg was asked directly about the feasibility of his idea.

"Is this just a pipe dream, or is it really technically possible?"  the interviewer asked him.

"It's technically possible, at least in the smaller sizes right now," said McLorg, who thought a school property would be a good place to test out the concept as a pilot project.

"From there, we should move to, perhaps, a region such as say, Don Mills — a development where we can apply it on a test basis still, before we go to the whole thing," said McLorg.

"Perhaps we're talking 10 years to get the dome over Toronto, perhaps we're talking 25. What we need now is a feasibility study to work out all the problems."'

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