Pure Food Building

The Pure Food Building was a facility opened in 1922 on Exhibition Place at the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It was demolished after the 1953 CNE to make way for the modernist Food Building, which still stands.

Pure Food Building
Pure Food Building, 1941, before repairs
Location in Toronto
General information
LocationExhibition Place
Town or cityToronto, Ontario
Coordinates43°38′05″N 79°25′10″W
Opened1922 (1922)
Demolished1953 (1953)
Cost$100,000 (1922)
OwnerCity of Toronto


The building featured six open-air courts, with booths arranged in squares, built in Italianate architecture. Ads billed it as the "largest and most costly permanent exhibition building in the world."[1] The 26,900-square-foot (2,500 m2) first unit of the building[2] was lit by 1000 kilowatt lamps, requiring 300 kilowatts to light it; several floodlights gave the "entrances to the building... a brilliant effect".[3]

History of the building

Planning and construction (1920-1922)

The Globe reported that, as of September 1920, a Pure Food Building was being considered by the directors. Other buildings proposed were a Temple of Music, a second Transportation Building, and an Electric Building.[4] The Pure Food Association and architect B. H. Prack presented a design for a Pure Food Building to the CNE Association in October. Final plans for the building were to be prepared by the City Architect of Toronto.[5] Exhibitors at the building would commit to a period of ten years, paying over that period for its construction cost, after which it would be owned by the City.[5][6] It was the first new building as part of a scheduled 50-year development plan.[6] The Toronto Board of Control and CNE board arranged a conference in November 1920, to discuss the creation of a $150,000 building devoted to "pure food". The proposal was that exhibitors "carry all interest and debt charges for twenty years," if City funding were provided.[7] Later in the month, Toronto City Council was to consider whether to apply to the Province "for the authority to issue debentures" for the structure.[8]

In February 1921, it was reported to the Canadian National Exhibition Association board that "headway was being made" in signing up exhibitors. The City had voted in favour of a $150,000 building to open in 1921, if guarantees were met.[9] Tenders for construction of half the building were opened in September, the lowest being $116,500.[10]

The land used for the building was outdoor space for agricultural and life stock exhibits; they were moved to the eastern end of the site.[11]

Early years (19221942)

The Toronto Daily Star described the building as "attractive and quaint... a complete departure from all precedent in the way of exhibition buildings." Comparatively, The Coliseum, opened the previous winter to present livestock, was "less imaginative architecturally."[13] The Globe suggested the building demonstrated the "growing popularity of the segregation principle," referring to the grouping of exhibits by theme.[14] An exhibitor at the Electrical Building noted a rise in visitors, crediting it to the fact their building was located en route to both Pure Food and the Coliseum, when entering through the Dufferin Gates.[15]

Textile manufacturers were announced in March 1922 to be considering their own structure.[14]

Early tenants included:

Canadian Milk Products Limited[17]
Keepsweet Table Cream[18]
Lion Brand Macaroni (A. Puccini & Co., Limited)[19]
O'Keefe's Carbonated Beverages[19]

Weston's Olde English Shoppe[20]

As of April 1922, the CNE noted that all of the Pure Food Building space was allotted, and 25 late applicants had been denied.[2] (Despite around 40 exhibitors moving from the Manufacturer's Building to Pure Food, and the existence of a Dairy Building, the earlier building was sold out by April as well.)[21] They continued to receive many applications for space at the building after the event, including a request for 20 spaces from the British Federation of Industries. The organization decided on a 19,000 square foot addition, to cost $100,000. Association second vice-president G. T. Irving appeared before the Toronto parks committee in November, asking for funding. They promised their full support when the matter was to appear before city council, and the property committee similarly recommended the board be allowed to make interim expenditures on concrete piers.[22] Given the high tariffs charged by the United States at the time, The Manchester Guardian felt it was "a specially favorable time for pushing British trade in Canada." The Star ran an editorial about Canada-British trade, suggesting that the Exhibition's support "for the promotion of trade within the Empire is a laudable project."[23] Indeed, there was a Federation of British Industries Section at the fair in 1923.[24]

Grocery stores Dominion Stores and Loblaws Groceterias were added as of 1926.[25][26]

Repairs and additions (19421952)

Repairs were done to the building in 1941 and 1942.[27]

The building became known for samples; an anonymous Toronto Star writer commented in 1948 that the "hundreds of samples" of yesteryear were replaced with "pay as you go" and a few long lineups.[28] Similarly, a photo caption for the 1951 Canadian Restaurant Association conference describes the samples at that event of reminding visitors of the "halycon days" in Pure Food.[29]

Construction began in mid-August 1949 to create a permanent 60-by-30-foot (18.3 m × 9.1 m) structure for Borden Foods mascot Elsie the Cow, a real jersey cattle, at the southeast corner of the grounds.[30]

New building announced (1953)

CNE executive under President J. A. Northey approved a new $1.5 million structure to replace the existing Pure Food Building in 1954, to be built on the same site. The demolition was to begin immediately after the 1953 Exhibition was over, and have 50% more exhibition space.[31]

See also


  1. ""Canadian National Exhibition" ad". The Toronto Daily Star. Toronto ON. 29 August 2013. p. 19.
  2. "C.N.E. to use unit systems on new halls". The Globe. Toronto ON. 18 April 1922. p. 13.
  3. "Latest lighting shown at the fair". The Toronto Daily Star. Toronto ON. 2 September 1922. p. 3.
  4. "Need of more buildings at Ex. manifest". The Globe. Toronto ON. 2 September 1920. p. 1.
  5. "A suggestion for the "Pure Food" Building for the C.N.E.". The Toronto Daily Star. Toronto ON. 25 October 1920. p. 2.
  6. "Spic and span is Exhibition after big day". The Toronto Daily Star. Toronto ON. 30 August 1922. p. 1.
  7. "Confer on building pure food edifice". The Globe. Toronto ON. 11 November 1920. p. 9.
  8. "Ald. [Aldermen] to debate tax exemption; two schenes". The Globe. Toronto ON. 22 November 1920. p. 5.
  9. "Agree to site for live stock arena". The Toronto World. Toronto ON. 10 February 1921. p. 10.
  10. "Pure Food Building Tenders Are Opened". The Globe. Toronto ON. 7 September 1921. p. 7.
  11. "Canada's yeomanry come thronging to nation's big fair". The Globe. Toronto ON. 7 September 1922. p. 15.
  12. "Exhibition notices". The Globe. Toronto ON. 2 September 1922. p. 18.
  13. "All getting ready for the opening day". The Toronto Daily Star. Toronto ON. 24 August 1922. p. 3.
  14. "New building for textiles". The Globe. Toronto ON. 1 March 1922. p. 9.
  15. "Electrical show at Ex. boomed by coal scare and expansion of hydro". The Globe. Toronto ON. 7 September 1922. p. 10.
  16. "Borden's ad". The Toronto Daily Star. Toronto ON. 5 September 1923. p. 23.
  17. "Klim Brand Powdered Whole Milk ad". The Toronto Daily Star. Toronto ON. 24 August 1923. p. 4.
  18. "Taste the Keepsweet at the Exhibition". The Daily Toronto Star. Toronto ON. 31 August 1922. p. 14.
  19. "O'Keefe and Lion Brand ads". The Toronto Daily Star. Toronto ON. 27 August 1923. p. 8.
  20. "Weston advertisement". The Toronto Daily Star. Toronto ON. 1 September 1922. p. 18.
  21. "Last available space for big Toronto fair is already purchased". The Globe. Toronto ON. 22 April 1922. p. 15.
  22. "To enlarge buildings for British exhibits". The Toronto Daily Star. Toronto ON. 14 November 1922. p. 26.
  23. "Britain at the Exhibition". The Toronto Daily Star. Toronto ON. 10 March 1923. p. 8.
  24. "The home of good tobaccos". The Toronto Daily Star. Toronto ON. 31 August 2013. p. 5.
  25. "Loblaws Groceterias ad". The Toronto Daily Star. Toronto ON. 26 August 1926. p. 7.
  26. "Dominion Stores Limited ad". The Toronto Daily Star. Toronto ON. 26 August 1926. p. 29.
  27. City of Toronto Archives Fonds 200, Series 487, File 609, "Repairs to Pure Food Building, Exhibition Park".
  28. "Children are style critics at Exhibition fashion show". The Toronto Daily Star. Toronto ON. 31 August 1948. p. 19.
  29. "'Come and get it,' Farmer to Sell Milk 15-18 Cents". The Toronto Daily Star. Toronto ON. 14 March 1951. p. Second section cover.
  30. "Elsie and son Beauregard will attend 1949 Exhibition". The Toronto Daily Star. Toronto ON. 17 August 1949. p. 7.
  31. "New Food Building approved for CNE". The Toronto Daily Star. Toronto ON. 12 May 1953. p. 7.
  32. "Accident mars Children's Day". The Globe. Toronto ON. 12 September 1922. p. 11.
  • City of Toronto Archives Fonds 200, Series 372, Subseries 1 includes various photographs of the building from the architects during a 1941-1942 repair
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