The Simpsons Fire 1895
Robert Simpson’s original store at Yonge and Queen circa 1875.
Simpson’s timing was extraordinary: Toronto’s population would quadruple between 1871 and 1896, from 56,000 to over 225,000. This period was one of active growth for Simpson’s. The store grew from having a few employees to 200 by 1890. The store relocated from its original Yonge Street location to the corner of Queen and Yonge, and expanded several times. In fact, business was so brisk that the store soon needed more substantial enlargement. Thus it was on December 4, 1894 that a brand new six-storey brick building opened its doors at the corner of Queen and Yonge streets.
On March 3, 1895, less than three months after its opening, the new Simpson store burned to the ground, falling victim to the third major fire in Toronto in less than two months. Undaunted and defiant, Robert Simpson resolved to re-open for business as soon as possible and to rebuild his store. Exactly six days after the fire Simpsons was once again welcoming customers, albeit in rented premises. The store would move back to the Queen and Yonge location in just over 10 months, in a new and improved building.
|This fire map prepared the day after the fire shows the extent of the damage, not only to Simpson’s but the surrounding buildings as well.The rebuild store was an almost exact replica of the previous one destroyed the year before.|