20 York Street’s History

Once a sleepy backwater, Toronto became a commercial centre after 1858, when the first steam locomotives chugged out of Union Station, linking Lake Ontario to Western Canada. In the years that followed, industry flourished and the rail yards grew to encompass much land below Front Street. To keep pace with growth, the station was demolished and rebuilt—twice. The current Beaux-Arts building was completed in 1927, and it remains Canada’s busiest travel hub.

In 1929, 20 York Street—which lies within the Union Station Heritage Conservation District—was built as a Canadian National Express building. Goods arriving at Union Station were unloaded here and transferred to horse-drawn wagons in the York Teamway—the portion of York Street that now runs beneath the viaduct south of Front. In 1989, SkyWalk was built, connecting Union Station to the Rogers Centre. By 2015, it will house the Union-Pearson Express terminal. The walkway cuts through 20 York Street, leaving its Beaux-Arts façade intact.

The new development will preserve the original heritage building, celebrating Toronto’s golden age as a Canadian railway hub, while also embracing a future that is unmistakably global.