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Visiting the Lumsden Building, Toronto, Ontario: Innovative use in 1910 of concrete facing by John A. Mackenzie

Updated on February 3, 2015
Provincial flag of Ontario
Provincial flag of Ontario | Source
Lumsden Building at Yonge and Adelaide, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Lumsden Building at Yonge and Adelaide, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. | Source
Lumsden Building, Toronto, Canada
Lumsden Building, Toronto, Canada | Source
Map location of Toronto, Ontario
Map location of Toronto, Ontario | Source

Once said to be the largest concrete-faced structure in the world

So: a rather ornate, modern office block? or an older, heritage building ahead of its time?

Well, you decide. This structure, the Lumsden Building, Toronto, Ontario, is over 100 years old. In its day, it was distinguished by its wide use of concrete facing. At the time, this was regarded as rather innovative. Up to then, concrete was thought of mainly as a material for a structure's internal support, without little or no aesthetic value.

Indeed, it was reckoned to be the largest, concrete structure in the world. (The world has certainly caught up with the Lumsden Building in this regard since then!)

Features which distinguish the building include the architect's use of thick, decorative detailing around the windows. For the first 50 or so years of the Lumsden's Building's existence, a conspicuous feature was an ornamental cornice, with a multitude of brackets under the eves, but this was subsequently removed. The top photo of the Building (see right) shows the more modern, clean lines of its roof area.

The architect for the Lumsden Building was John A. Mackenzie . Work on the Building was carried out in 1909 and 1910.

The Lumsden Building is situated at 2-6 Adelaide Street East, at the corner of Yonge Street. A plaque acknowledging the heritage value of the property, sponsored by the Toronto HIstorical Board (3), is affixed to the property.

This ten storey Lumsden Building attains a height of 36.93 metres. Its initial owner, Charles C. Cummings, gave the Building its designation in reference to his wife Catherine's maiden name (4).

There is an unfortunate sequel to this: On February 15, 1919, after an inner crisis said to have been made acute by his separation from Mrs. Cummings, Charles C. Cummings committed suicide by shooting himself (5). This is undoubtedly a rather unexpectedly dramatic and prosaic footnote to a short account of this historically significant Building and its first owner, despite his wealth and business success.

Biographical note: Interestingly, the son of Charles and Catherine Cummings was called Lumsden Cummings, a World War One fighter pilot with the rank of Captain in the Royal Flying Corps, who distinguished himself by the War's end by shooting down five enemy aircraft (6).

January 30, 2015


(1) See also:

(2) Other works by Architect Mackenzie included: a Dale Avenue, Toronto residence for Mr. and Mrs. Charles Cummings; the Society of Friends' Meeting House, Maitland Avenue, Toronto; and many others.

(3) The Toronto Historical Board replaced the former Toronto Civic Historical Committee in 1968; it was itself renamed Heritage Toronto in 1998. (See also the Wikipedia article: 'Heritage Toronto'.)

(4) One of Mr and Mrs. Charles Cummings' former homes was in Scarborough, Ontario, which is now Cedar Ridge Creative Centre, an arts facility now owned by the City of Toronto. Mr. Cummings was President of C.C. Cummings Ltd. He also was known for having bought up the lands to be used for Scarborough Golf and Country Club.

(5) See also:

(6) See also:

Also worth seeing

In Downtown Toronto itself, its many visitor attractions include: Old City Hall, Fort York, Osgoode Hall, Campbell House, the CN Tower, Casa Loma; the Ontario Legislative Assembly Building at Queen's Park, Union Station, and many others.


How to get there: Porter Airlines, flies to Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, and has wide North American connections. Car rental is available at Union Station; Air Canada flies to Toronto Pearson Airport, with wide North American and other connections, from where car rental is available, but visitors to Downtown Toronto will find many sights to be easily walkable from Union Station. For up to date information, you are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent. For any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities, please refer to appropriate consular sources.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.


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