An initiative of the Canadian National Exhibition Association (CNEA), Withrow Common is an exciting new community event space located at Toronto’s Exhibition Place, across from the Princess Margaret Fountain.
The 2,675 square-foot venue lives in the west side of the Queen Elizabeth Building complex, which was constructed in 1957.
Designed by architects Page + Steele Inc., led by designer Peter Dickinson, the structure exemplifies the mid-century Modernist architecture movement in Toronto in the 1950s. This was a movement in which Dickinson played a prominent role (Ontario Association of Architects).
The building was originally envisioned as the CNE’s Women’s Building and was re-named the Queen Elizabeth Building in 1957. It has a long and rich history of hosting exhibits and educational events. Most recently, the space served as the Executive Offices for the Exhibition Place Board of Governors.
In 2016, the CNEA won a bid to redevelop these offices as a multi-purpose gallery space to facilitate events and workshops for the neighbouring community and beyond.
The renovation of the space was completed in 2017. The CNEA’s overall design concept for the renovation of the building was to honour its mid-century Modernist history, while embracing a clean, simple and contemporary look.
About Withrow Common
Withrow Common is named in honour of the Canadian National Exhibition Association’s founder: John Jacob Withrow (1833-1900).
In addition to his leadership in creating a permanent exhibition on these grounds in 1879, Mr. Withrow served as founding president of the Toronto Industrial Exhibition Association, which was re-named the Canadian National Exhibition Association in 1912. Mr. Withrow served as the fair’s President from 1879 until his death in 1900.
A businessman, politician, and philanthropist, Mr. Withrow made many contributions to the city and community during his lifetime. He also served as an alderman for the City of Toronto from 1873 to 1878.
Artist: John Wycliffe Lowes Forster
Title: John J. Withrow Founder and Late President of the Industrial Exhibition Association 1905
City of Toronto Art Collection, A75-175