Panorama of the City of Toronto, 1857

The Toronto firm of Armstrong, Beere & Hime was commissioned to prepare a series of city views for the City of Toronto’s important, but unsuccessful bid to be named the capital of Canada.

The jewel of the city views project was a 13-part panorama photograph taken from the roof of the tallest building in Toronto in 1857 - the then-incomplete Rossin House Hotel, situated in the newest, more modern part of the city.

In taking the series of views, the photographic team had to turn the camera slightly to the right after each plate, while keeping it at a consistent height. The ... prints would then fit together, possibly overlapping. The group of thirteen photographs in the finished panorama ... covers a 360-degree range.

...In the panorama of 1857, Toronto...was a city still connected to its earliest history; and its character was not so much in transition as it was poised on the verge of change.

William Dendy, Lost Toronto, Toronto, 1993.

Rossin House Hotel

photograph of Rossin House

In 1857, the roof of the hotel provided the ideal vantage point from which Armstrong, Beere & Hime photographed their Toronto. The Rossin House, on the southeast corner of King and York streets, was the tallest building in the newer commercial district of Toronto when it opened that year. It was one of the city’s pre-eminent hotels, with an 1866 guide claiming: “What the Fifth Avenue Hotel is to New York, and the Windsor is to Montreal, so the celebrated Rossin House is to Toronto.” The Rossin House was destroyed by a fire in 1862, and was rebuilt in 1863.

Rossin House.
York Street, southeast corner King Street. 1867.
Photographer: Octavius Thompson.
Toronto Reference Library: T 12706

Click here to view the panorama.

Source: Special Collections, Toronto Public Library.