expo 67 lounge

Mid-century fashion, vintage pop culture and retro cool... from Expo 67 and beyond.

15 August 2011

Toronto's "Mini-Me" Expo 67

Toronto's "Mini-Me" Expo 67

Toronto's "Mini-Me" Expo 67
Aerial views of Ontario Place (top), Expo 67 (bottom).

In the early 1970's, the city of Toronto was having a little Expo-envy. Initiated by the Government of Ontario, Ontario Place was Toronto's answer to Montreal’s Expo 67.

Like Expo, Ontario Place was built on man-made islands along the city's waterfront. Officially opened on May 22, 1971, the park encompassed 96 acres of which 51 acres were land fill.

Toronto's "Mini-Me" Expo 67

Toronto's "Mini-Me" Expo 67
Ontario Place's pods (top) and Expo's Quebec pavilion (bottom) floated on water.

The original Ontario Place consisted of 5 glass-and-steel pavilion pods elevated above the water, each pod being suspended from tension cables anchored to a central column. Glass staircases and walkways connected the pods, islands and shore. The overall transparency of these structures created a feeling of floating in open space between water and sky. [To me, squarish structures floating above water call to mind the Quebec pavilion, while open spaces, tension cables and transparent membranes recall the German pavilion...]

Ontario Place’s five pods were offset by 2 focal points: the Forum, an open-air concert bowl [Autostade, anyone?], and the Cinesphere, the world's first permanent IMAX theatre, housed in a geodesic dome. [Comparisons to the U.S. pavilion are obvious, while the origins of IMAX can also be traced back to Expo 67...]

Boutiques and restaurants dotted the Pod/Cinesphere complex, including a fine dining restaurant called The Trillium.

Toronto's "Mini-Me" Expo 67

Toronto's "Mini-Me" Expo 67
Toronto's Cinesphere (top), Montreal's Biosphere, 1974 (bottom).

Ontario Place was originally rather sparse, awaiting future development. Early brochures presented Ontario Place as a "work in progress" that would be ever-changing. [Expo 67's follow up permanent exhibition "Man and His World" was also supposed to be an ever-changing "work in progress"...]

All this free space meant that like Expo 67, Ontario Place visitors could take refuge in large, park-like rest areas. And like Expo, graphics and pictograms in brilliant primary and secondary colors guided visitors throughout the site.

Toronto's "Mini-Me" Expo 67

Toronto's "Mini-Me" Expo 67
Fireworks booming above Ontario Place (top) and La Ronde (bottom).

In the early years, Ontario Place was a success: during its short May-through-September season, the park drew some 2.5 million visitors annually... establishing it as the fifth-most popular theme park in the world.

In 1972, The Children’s Village was unveiled, featuring an interactive play environment for kids. It quickly became Ontario Place's top attraction, and a water play area opened in 1973; featuring water cannons, spray bridges and pedal-powered deluge fountains. [La Ronde had its own Children's Village, while interactive games and water play were key features of the Vienna Kindergarten...]

The Girls of Ontario Place

Toronto's "Mini-Me" Expo 67
Ontario Place guides (left) Man and His World, 1968 hostesses (right).

Like Expo 67, Ontario Place's pretty hostesses drew a lot of attention:

Toronto Week magazine claimed: "There’s a lot to see at Ontario Place, and some of the easiest things on the eye are the attractive guides.”

The Globe and Mail did a photo spread of the girls, writing: “The 100 girls who are the hostesses at Ontario Place for the summer… have hot pants and pantsuits, a midi, a jacket and a stretchy yellow-and-white bubble blouse. Most popular are the hot pants. One girl commented ‘I’ve just got to shorten them.’”...

The Ontario Place theme song (above) was written by Dolores Claman, of Hockey Night in Canada fame. [Doesn't it sound just like A Place to Stand?]

images (1-3-5-7) robertmoffatt115.wordpress.com
(2) flickr.com
(4) archives de montréal
(6) chamblycounty.com
(8) alamedainfo.com
(9) montage by author

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Anonymous Gary said...

Another great post Jason,

While I was only 5 during Expo '67, I have a few memories that are re-kindled when I see the Ontario Place comparisons. However, like the Expo site, Ontario Place has seen better days and now offers free admission to get the crowd numbers up. Oh well, time moves on for all sites... both locations are in their early to mid 40's now!

4:32 pm  
Blogger JHG said...

What happened to it?

9:19 pm  
Blogger Jason Stockl said...

Though it still exists today, Ontario Place's heyday is past.

A major redevelopment of the park is being planned, which will probably see most of the existing features torn down...

6:28 am  
Blogger Snowparrot said...

I have been to Ontario Place exactly 3 times in its 40 years. Once for a wedding (in the dome)--in 1984; and twice for concerts in the open-air hall now known as the Molson Amphitheatre (Jimmy Buffett both times).
Main problem: it's in Toronto!

2:11 pm  
OpenID mfm999 said...

Another great post, Jason. Expo envy! I loved OP in the '70s and thought it would keep expanding and eventually lead to a major redevelopment of the CNE grounds. Didn't happen. Love your comparisons and, especially, the Girls of Ontario Place! They look like they should have been up in Mirabel helping confused travellers. Cheers, Michael

11:20 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Jason. Always interesting. Snowball

5:41 pm  
Blogger Scott Waterman said...

I was pretty young but I have distinct memories of both places. Recently in fact I was telling someone about the theme song for Ontario Place but the one posted is not the one I remember. At least it's missing the chorus I recall which drew the word out to something like: On tar E ari ari O. Even as a child I thought it was the corniest thing.

12:06 pm  

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