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Visiting the Campbell Block, The Junction, Toronto, Ontario: Ornate Building Formerly Housing a Hotel, Dating From 1888

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Some architectural history at a significant Toronto road intersection

Very prominent at the intersection of Dundas Street West and Keele Street, the Toronto, Ontario suburb known as The Junction (1), is the recently restored building complex known as the Campbell Block.

The Block formerly housed a hotel known logically as the Campbell Hotel. Interestingly, in the late 19th century the building also housed a West Toronto Junction Mechanics' Institute, founded in 1888 and opened at the Campbell Block in 1889. The library collection of this institute formed the nucleus of the local library, later endowed by the Carnegie Institution, at nearby Annette Street.

1888 also marked the foundation of the Village (later Town) of West Toronto Junction, eventually incorporated into the City of Toronto in 1908 (2). In the decades prior to the village incorporation in 1888, what is now The Junction was a rural area, in which some taverns were located, frequented by farmers bringing their animals to a local cattle market. A mail coach rote was known to pass through the area. During the Mackenzie Rebellion in Upper Canada, William Lyon Mackenzie (1795-1861) (grandfather to the later, long-serving Prime Minister of Canada William Lyon Mackenzie King, who persisted in claiming implausibly to be emulating the life of his grandfather)(2) is recorded as having with his associates robbed a mail coach at what is now the nearby intersection of Old Weston Road and Dundas Street.

The Campbell Block was the responsibility of architect James A. Ellis, the author of more than 30 building projects at Toronto Junction and neighbouring areas (3).

Significantly, in the two photos which I have supplied (above and below), the fact that the original Campbell Block was smaller that the existing building is apparent, when attention is paid to the right of each photo, along the Block's Keele Street elevation. The lines of Syrian (or Romanesque) window arching has been continued at a visible extension of the building, but as a brickwork pattern rather than as actual windows; the gable lines of the building have also been continued, albeit at a lower level., the extension seemingly lacking an extra storey.

A crowning feature of the Block is a small pediment at the gable level, at the corner of the building where Dundas and Keele streets meet.

In some ways the building used by the former Campbell Hotel resembles Toronto's Gladstone Hotel, on Queen Street West: almost contemporaneous, using red brick and exhibiting elements of Romanesque styling.

Numerous businesses have over many decades, used the Campbell Block.

Photos of the Campbell Block dating from some decades ago show the Block's exterior brickwork as having become worn and dilapidated; but the building's recent restoration has again given the brickwork a clean, almost pristine look, as befits a piece of local, architectural heritage.

The Campbell Block is located at 2856 Dundas Street West, The Junction, Toronto, Ontario.

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January 21, 2021


(1) The name 'The Junction' was derived from three railway lines, the third of which was built in 1879. See also: , issued by the Toronto Junction Historical Society.

(2) Regarding the well sanitized and proper William Lyon Mackenzie King, historian Robert Bothwell has, for the sake of accuracy, opined that 'he resembled his grandfather in almost no respect'. Robert Bothwell, A Short History of Ontario , Edmonton: Hurtig Publishers, Ltd., 1986, p. 127.

(3) See also:

Campbell Block, 2856 Dundas St W, Toronto, Canada.

Campbell Block, 2856 Dundas St W, Toronto, Canada.

Also worth seeing

In Downtown Toronto, visitor attractions include: Old City Hall, St James's Cathedral, Osgoode Hall, Campbell House, the CN Tower, the Ontario Legislative Assembly Building at Queen's Park, Fort York, Union Station, and many others.


How to get there: Air Canada,flies to Toronto Pearson Airport, with wide North American and other connections, from where car rental is available. However, visitors to Downtown Toronto will find many sights to be easily walkable. The Junction, Toronto, may be various accessed via TTC services #26, #30, #40 and #89. Some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent. You are advised to refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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