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Researching Historic Buildings in Toronto

Toronto Historic Buildings

The Toronto Heritage Register, the Architectural Index for Ontario and TOBuilt are good sources for basic information on historic buildings in Toronto.  These sources provide details, such as year built, architect, and building name(s), which you will need to find more detailed information about the building you are researching.  Digital Doors Open from the Ontario Heritage Trust features several historic buildings in Toronto.  You can also find information on Toronto Buildings by searching the Ontario Heritage Act Register ,  Ontario Heritage Trust - Places of Worship Inventory and the Directory of Federal Heritage Designations.


Toronto Heritage Register

The Toronto Heritage Register allows you to search for basic information on a number of historic buildings in Toronto.  This basic information is found in the Heritage Property Detail record which can be searched either via the Heritage Register Search map or by using the Heritage ProCity of Toronto's heritage property search showing search for 299 Queen Streetperty Search tool









screen shot of the Heritage Property Detail record highlighting bylaw, easement, names, year built and architecture firm

The Heritage Property Detail record provides basic information on heritage buildings including:

  • the architect
  • year built
  • current and former name(s)
  • Heritage designation bylaw number
  • Heritage Easement Agreement number  

All of this information will be useful when searching for information on


Architectural Index for Ontario

Toronto Reference Library's Architectural Index for Ontario is another good resource for basic information about historic buildings in  Toronto.  You can browse the index by designer/architect, building name, building type or street. The entry provides basic information on the building as well as an index to articles about the building.

screen shot from Architectural Index for Ontario showing the property details for 299 Queen St. W including building, date built and architect







Each listing also provides references to current and historical books and articles on the building.

The documents and reports created during the heritage designation process can contain valuable information on heritage buildings.  Many are available online at the City of Toronto website.

  • The Heritage Designation By-law outlines the architectural and cultural significance of the building in the   "Reasons for Designation" section.
  • The Intention to Designate document has background reports that contain detailed information on the heritage attributes of the property.

SAMPLE SEARCH:  The Broadview Hotel - 704 Queen Street East

Heritage Designation Bylaw

Bylaws 1998-Present:  For Heritage Designation bylaws passed from 1998 to the present, use the

City of Toronto Bylaw Search Page to access the full-text of the by-law. 

Screen shot of the Heritage Property Detail Record for 704 Queen St. East highlighting bylaw number


(The by-law number is found in the Heritage Property Detail Record).




Once you have the bylaw number:City of Toronto bylaw search page screen shot highlighting bylaw search for 704 Queen St. East

SAMPLE:   CITY OF TORONTO BY-LAW No. 605-2015 To designate the property at 704 Queen Street East (Dingman's Hall) as being of cultural heritage value or interest.

screen shot of bylaw registry search page highlighting bylaw number search

Pre-1998 Bylaws: The By-law Registry search page allows you to search for heritage designation bylaws passed before 1998 and may provide a link to the full-text of the bylaw.  Where full-text is not available you will be directed to contact the City Clerk to request the full-text.  You can also visit the Toronto Archive for the full-text of bylaws passed before 1998.




Intention to Designate Document

This document has a Background Information section that can contain report(s) with detailed information on a historic building including the architectural and cultural significance, the history of the building and the area, pictures and architectural drawings. screen shot of TIMMIS search for 704 Queen Street East

Search TMMIS  using the building address for reports from 2006-present.

(The Toronto Archives  provides access to pre-2006 Ontario Heritage Act Designation files  - Series 822).

screen shot from TIMMIS showing intention to designate for 704 Queen St. East


  • Choose the link for the full-text of the Intention to Designate Document.

Intention to Designate under Part IV, Section 29 of the Ontario Heritage Act - 704 Queen Street East (Entrance Address 106 Broadview Avenue)


  • Scroll down to the Background Information section for the background file report.
Background Information (Community Council)
(May 16, 2014) Report from the Director, Urban Design, City Planning Division - Intention to Designate under Part IV, Section 29 of the Ontario Heritage Act - 704 Queen Street East (Entrance Address 106 Broadview Avenue)


Information on materials and methods can often be found in historical articles written at the time the historic building was constructed or in books featuring the building. The Biographical Dictionary of Architects in Canada, the Architectural Index for Ontario and TOBuilt are excellent sources to help you find articles and books that feature your building. 

The Biographical Dictionary of Architects in Canada 1800 - 1950  is an excellent source to help you find references to articles or books on a historic building. You can browse or search by architect or building name.  

Each page has a brief biography of the architect and entries for each building he or she designed. (Hint:  Use CTRL-F to find your building on the page).

The entries have abbreviations for each source.  The most commonly used abbreviations are listed below.  If you have any questions about a source, contact your liaison librarian, Andrea Hall.

Sample Entry for 299 Queen St. West:

METHODIST BOOK & PUBLISHING CO., Queen Street West at John Street, 1914-15 (Toronto b.p. 9731, 21 March 1914; C.R., xxix, 17 Feb. 1915, 200-02, illus. & descrip.; Const., ix, Jan. 1916, 8-14, illus. & descrip.; Horwood Coll. 1147-49, 1153-57, 1182-83, 1222; Carr, 152, illus.)

Toronto b.p. 9731, 21 March 1914 = Toronto building permit #9731 issued March 21, 1914.
Horwood Coll. =  Drawings and/or records for the building are available in the Horwood Collection  at the Archives of Ontario.

Abbreviations for a select list of digitized sources (full list of abbreviations):

Finding Articles from older journals: Once you have a list of the journal articles that feature your building, you can search several sources for the full-text digitized article. See below for frequently cited journals.

b.p. - building permit
C.A.B. - Canadian Architect & Builder  [Toronto], pub. 1888-1908 digital full-text available at McGill)
C.R. - Contract Record  (available through Internet Archives), and its variant titles, including :

Const. - Construction: A Journal for the Architectural, Engineering and Contracting Interests of Canada  [Toronto], pub. 1907-1934 (digital full-text available through the Internet Archives)
demol.. - demolished
OA - Archives of Ontario (at York University)

R.A.I.C. - Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, Ottawa, Ont.  (digitized at Dalhousie)


Books:  You can search the GBC Library Catalogue for recent books that feature your building.  The Toronto Reference Library is another good source for books.  The Internet Archive and Google Books may provide the digitized full text for books and articles.

The Heritage Designation Bylaw and Easement Agreement can also contain information on materials and methods used in heritage buildings.



Blueprints and specifications for many historic buildings in Toronto are often housed at one of the following locations:

If the original blueprints are not available, one can often find copies of the drawings in historical articles written at the time the building was built.

Toronto Archives (255 Spadina Rd - just down the street from the Casa Loma campus):

Key Tips:

  • Bring photo ID on your first visit to sign up for a free Toronto Archive Researcher card.
  • It can take several hours to bring up records from storage so give yourself lots of time.
  • The archives are open on the weekend but you have to pre-order records on a weekday.
  • You can take non-flash photos of the blueprints and specification sheets

To search for blueprints, start at the Toronto Archives Advanced Search Page.

Toronto archives search screen with 299 Queen in keywords and series 410 in Forms Part of field

  • Start in series 410 in the Forms Part of field
  • Enter the building address, or name, or architect in the Keyword field
  • If there are no results, try taking out 410 and searching on building name, address or architect.



Records page for 299 Queen from Toronto Archives


If blueprints are available, you must create a Record Request Form to request the blueprints for the building.  If you need assistance, contact your librarian Andrea Hall or call the City of Toronto Archives at 416-397-0778.







blueprints from 299 Queen St. West


You can take non-flash pictures of blueprints and other records found at the archives.






Archives of Ontario (at York University subway stop - now only 35 minutes from Casa Loma!)

**Note: If you wish to view blueprints or records at the archives, they may need to be ordered 24-48 hours in advance. Speak to Archives reference desk staff for assistance (416-327-1600)**


Search the Archives of Ontario for drawings of many historic buildings in Toronto and Ontario.  Collections from several architects who worked in Toronto and Ontario are housed at the Ontario Archives including:

  • J.C.B. and E.C. Horwood collection (32,738 architectural drawings from Horwood and those compiled by J.E.B. Horwood from a number of architectural firms in Toronto)
  • E. J. Lennox (1860-1937)
  • Langley and Howland (1862-1908)
  • Jack Ryrie

    sample simple search of Archives of Ontario database


  • Start with a simple keyword search.
  • If you do not find any records, try the Advanced Search option


  • The Reference Desk staff at the Archives of Ontario can also help. Call 416-327-1600 for assistance.



Sample Record page from Ontario Archive database







Use the Related Material section to find related series numbers to search.

Information about Toronto's historic buildings can also be found in current articles and books.  You will use a specific search to find articles on a building and a general search to find books that feature a building.

Articles:  Try searching on all aspects of the building, including:

  • The current and former name(s) of the building
  • The architect or firm that designed the building
  • The architect or firm that did restoration work on the building

Start with our databases that have a Canadian focus using Canadian Sources +.


Next, search the main search box below. This will allow you to simultaneously search a number of databases including  Art and Architecture Complete and CPI.Q.




Books:  Use the library's main search box (above) but keep your search more general.  Try:

  • architect's name (e.g. Edmund Burke)
  • building name (e.g. Union Station)
  • type of architecture (e.g.Toronto and church and architecture)
  • Toronto and architecture

Screen shot of a Google Book search on the Wesley Building Burke Toronto


Google Books is another excellent way to find references to your building within books.  Try the name of your building and architect in the Google Search.   If the book is not available full-text, check the GBC Library catalogue or the Toronto Public Library catalogue for the book.