Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Story of... The CN Tower

The CN Tower is an icon in not only Toronto, but in Canada. Standing at 1,815 feet you can see it from just about every neighbourhood in the city, and most of you have probably taken a trip to the top of it at some point in your life. The CN Tower put Toronto on the map as a leader in innovative architecture, but did you know that it was actually commissioned for a very practical reason?

The need for Canada’s National Tower (how many of you knew that was its full name?) came in the early 1970s when the skyscrapers in Toronto began to grow taller than the communication towers around the city. Because our infrastructure was surpassing the height of the communication towers, their signals weren’t able to stretch across the city as easily or at all, and a solution was necessary.

Construction began in 1972 and took approximately 40 months to complete. The first order of business was removing 56 metric tonnes of earth on the site for the foundation of the building. After the site was ready for concrete, work began on the shaft of the tower, which took about 8 months to complete. In August of 1974 work began on the 7-storey tower sphere, and after that came the antenna. The antenna was actually air-lifted in 44 different pieces and put together via helicopter! How crazy is that?

The CN Tower was finished on April 2, 1975 but the building didn’t actually open to the public until June 26, 1976. All the hard work paid off, because in 1995 the CN Tower was named one of the seven Wonders of the Modern World and it was the world’s tallest free-standing structure for 34 years, until the Burj Khalifa in Dubai surpassed it.

Now over 1.5 million people visit the landmark each year and it still serves its initial purpose as a communications tower for radio and television stations in Canada, however, many of us know it as a tourist destination more than anything. Over the years there have been stores, the 360 rotating restaurant, new elevators (one of which is glass paneled), an event space, the LED exterior lighting, a 3D theatre, and of course the Edgewalk, added to the persona of the CN Tower. Where would Toronto be without it?

All photos via The City of Toronto Archives