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The Princes’ Gates – The iconic Toronto gateway that was dedicated to two future Kings

August 2023

Triumphal Arches are decorative free-standing monumental structures that can be found around the world. One of the best known is the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France. Designed in the shape of an archway, with one or more arched passageways, often designed to span a road, are usually decorated with carvings, sculpted reliefs, and dedications. 

The Princes’ Gates, in Toronto, Ontario, serves as the eastern gateway to Exhibition Place, a mixed-use property for exhibitions, trade shows, public and private functions, and sporting events, including the annual Canadian National Exhibition (CNE). Built out of cement and stone, the elaborately decorated 350-foot-long triumphal arch is flanked by colonnades on both of its sides, with curved pylons at both ends.

Conceived as part of a redevelopment effort of the eastern portions of Exhibition Place, construction began in April 1927. Initially, the arch was to be named the Diamond Jubilee of Confederation Gates, with its opening coinciding with the 60th anniversary of the Confederation of the Dominion of Canada. By the time Toronto’s triumphal arch was officially dedicated on 30 August 1927 by Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII) and Prince George, Duke of Kent, the name had been changed to Princes’ Gates, in their honour.

Inspiration for the design of Princes’ Gates came from other British and French triumphal arches that lead designer Alfred Chapman had visited while touring western Europe for the 1925 British Empire Exhibition.

The structure includes a single Roman-styled arch made out of cement and stone, decorated with carved poppies on the underside, with two detached Corinthian columns, flanked by colonnades made of nine Doric columns, representing the nine provinces that existed in Canada at that time, topped by plinths with flags atop them.

A 24-foot statue stands on top of the Roman-styled arches, referred to as Wing Victory. The 12-ton statue is that of a figure raising one arm in the air, holding a laurel in the outstretched arm and a maple leaf in the other.

The central figure is flanked by hippocampuses, a mythological sea-horse creature, and two subsidiary male sculptures seated on the gunwales and facing backwards. Two pairs of identical sculptures are situated at the front and back corners of the Roman-styled arch, holding two beehives and two cornucopias.

Every year since its dedication, a procession of veterans has marched through the arch for every Warriors’ Day parade held during the CNE. The parade begins on the piazza to the east of the Princes’ Gates, marching though the arch and along Princes’ Boulevard.

Princes’ Gates has undergone several restorations over the years, the most recent being in 2010. It is designated as a structure of architectural and historic interest, under the Ontario Heritage Act.

Sources: Princes’ Gates – Wikipedia, Home – Exhibition Place (explace.on.ca), Triumphal arch – Wikipedia, Hippocampus (mythology) – Wikipedia.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

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