Meet me at the Shell Oil Tower

Shell Oil Tower brochure 1

Based upon a winning competition entry by Toronto architect George Robb, the Shell Oil Tower was an Exhibition Place landmark from its completion in 1955 to its demise in 1985. The welded-steel and glass structure, the first of its kind in Toronto, extended 120 feet above the midway and provided fairgoers with panoramic views over the city and Lake Ontario from its open-air observation deck. Hardy patrons could eschew the elevator and climb twin staircases that scissored back and forth behind the glass walls, the equivalent of ascending a nine-storey building. Capping the tower was a giant clockface 16 feet in diameter, visible from across the fairgrounds, with hour markers three feet high.

CNE Shell Oil Tower

During the 1960s and 70s the Shell Oil Tower was renamed the Bulova Tower and traded its analog clockface for a then-new digital readout, but retained its popularity as a viewing platform and fairground meeting place. Elevator breakdowns and other maintenance issues led to its closing in 1983, however, and in 1985, despite protests from architects, preservationists and urbanists such as Jane Jacobs, the tower was demolished to make way for the first Molson Indy racetrack. More about Exhibition Place’s Modernist buildings can be found here.

Shell Oil Tower brochure 2

Shell Oil Tower brochure 3

5 Responses to “Meet me at the Shell Oil Tower”

  1. 1 Andrew Stewart October 24, 2016 at 11:38 am

    This is a wonderful blog, very much appreciated. I am only discovering it now and enjoying all your past posts. I remember buildings long since torn down, and am wondering if you also remember some of them, and can identify them (and have pictures)? One was the small, very cool, late 40s or 50s-era building, with upper levels cantilevered over the lower level(s), located at the northeast corner of St Clair Ave West and Deer Park Crescent. It was torn down about 15 or 20 years ago and replaced by a terrible-looking condo. It should have been designated and saved. Another building I remember is a large (20 storeys or so) commercial building located on the south side of Eglinton, east of Yonge. I think it was glazed black but had nickle “fins” down the side, if I am remembering correctly. I think it might have been the corporate headquarters for a nickle mining/manufacturing company.

    • 2 Scott Burgess October 27, 2016 at 9:15 am

      Indeed, two of my favourite lost buildings! Photos are available if you search Google. They are respectively, the Anglo Canadian Insurance building and the Union Carbide building. Both buildings if I am not mistaken were awarded, upon opening, awards for their outstanding architecture. Two excellent books, among others available at the library with photos are “Mean City” and “Endangered Species” by John Martins-Manteiga. Don’t get me started on the Bata International Centre building or the Primrose Club or the Wawanesa Insurance building or the Imperial Oil building at Don Mills and Eglinton or the …

  2. 4 Brian D Sokoloski March 20, 2018 at 2:14 am

    Wondering what was the cost the Shell Tower when built and what would be cost today to rebuild the tower in 2018 dollars and to find another sponsor to donate the some of the money to build again

  1. 1 CNE’s Shell Oil Tower | Toronto Past Trackback on January 16, 2017 at 10:44 pm

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