Enjoying Toronto’s historic architectural gems – Queen Street’s Black Bull Tavern

27 Apr


The Black Bull, 298 Queen St. West, Northeast Corner of Soho and Queen Streets. This photo was taken before the 2012 renovations.

The idea of enjoying the city’s architectural gems has a different connotation when a person views “The Black Bull Pub,” since it remains today a functioning drinking establishment, as it did over a century ago, but now has a great outdoor patio.

The sign attached to the south side of the building states that the tavern was established in 1822. However, in that year, it was a modest wood-frame, two-storey building, with a steep-pitched roof. The doorway was located at the southwest corner of the premises, allowing patrons to enter from either Queen or Soho Streets.

In 1861, the owner added a third storey with a Mansard roof. During this year, patrons in the pub hotly debated the merits of confederation with the other North American British colonies.

In 1885, they added an extension on the north side, on Soho Street. This was the year of the Northwest Rebellion, when John A. Macdonald sent troops to the west. In 1910, they again extensively renovated the Black Bull, employing brick cladding to encase the entire building. In this year, King Edward VII died. He had been the most popular British monarch since the mid-seventeenth century.

Today, the pub is an attractive Second Empire style building of red brick, with yellow-brick pilasters on the 1885-addition, on the west side. The main door, which at one time was at the corner, has been relocated to the Queen Street side of the tavern. The slate-rock tiles on the roof survived until 2011, but were painted yellow.

During the restoration in 2012, the Mansard roof and third-floor windows were renovated, and the slate tiles replaced with asphalt tiles, in a pattern that was the same as the earlier tiles of slate. Though not authentic, they are more in keeping with the original appearance of the building as they are slate coloured.


  Yellow-brick pilasters (flattened pillars) on the west wall of the Black Bull

DSCN6635   DSCN6636

        # 3 Soho, attached to the north side of the Black Bull pub

Attached to the north end of the Black Bull is #3 Soho Street, a building that matches the brickwork of the pub. However, it is in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, as it includes heavy stone blocks and Roman arches above the windows and door. The most famous civic building constructed in this style is the Old City Hall.  


            A PCC streetcar passing the Black Bull in April of 2012.


Mansard roof on the south side of the Black Bull (prior to renovations)


The old angled doorway is now a window (left side of photo) and the modern doorway faces Queen Street 


West side of the Black Bull, with the popular sidewalk patio. This photo was taken prior to the restoration, the original slate tiles remaining on the roof remain, covered with yellow paint.


                The patio of the Black Bull on a hot summer night.

I have spent much of my adult life researching the history of Toronto. I love the city. It has provided the background for my books, one of which, “The Villages Within”, was short-listed for the Toronto Heritage Awards. If interested in novels with a Toronto setting, descriptions of the books are available by following the link:

They can be purchased in soft cover or electronic editions. All books are available at Chapters/Indigo and on The electronic editions are less that $4. Follow the links:

There Never Was a Better Time:

Arse Over Teakettle:

The Reluctant Virgin;

The Villages Within: 

Author’s Home Page:

Authors can be contacted at:

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Posted by on April 27, 2012 in Toronto


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