TLTV Ep 102 – The Canada Life Building
One of Toronto’s most recognizable and well-known buildings is the Canada Life Building on University Avenue in the heart of downtown Toronto.
The fifteen-floor Beaux Arts building opened in 1931 as the headquarters for Canada Life, Canada’s oldest (and at the time largest) insurance company. The building is 321 feet (98m) high, including it’s famous weather beacon (more on that in a minute). It’s imposing nature was meant to symbolize the company’s stability.
The building was the first of a series of planned structures along University Avenue, but the Great Depression halted these plans. When it was completed it was one of the tallest buildings in Toronto and the British Commonwealth. It remains one of the largest office buildings in Toronto, with windows that can still be opened by its occupants.
The building is perhaps best known for its famed weather beacon which was installed in August 1951. The beacon flashes green for clear weather, red for cloudy, flashing red for rain, and white for snow. Lights affixed to the support tower indicate variations in temperature (eg. getting warmer or colder). The beacon is intended to provide onlookers with “weather predictions at a glance”. The information is updated four times daily, seven days a week, by Environment Canada’s Weather Centre at Pearson International Airport.
In this episode we will start by getting a look at the outside of the imposing building, followed by a look inside its impressive lobby, which has many features including decorative ceilings and floors, columns and trim made of various types of marble, and a working model of the weather beacon.
Then we’ll be off to a rare opening of the 17th floor Tower Room, which overlooks downtown Toronto and is only open once a year. Even employees of Canada Life can only see this classic room once a year. The room was built to be an executive boardroom and to host events for the company, but is no longer in use. Luckily, it is open for the Doors Open Toronto weekend each year and the views from the windows of the Tower Room are impressive, as you will see. We will look south through the canyon of large building on University Avenue, west overlooking the OCAD building and the Art Gallery of Ontario, and east to look down on Osgoode Hall (the subject of the next episode of TLTV).
Since it is such a great space yet is only open once a year, the crowds in the room and waiting for the elevator down below can get very big very fast, so I got there early to give you the best view possible. Enjoy!