The History of the Automotive Building and Beanfield Centre

The Automotive Building is an Art Moderne pavilion featuring open, fluid spaces.  Yet one's initial impression is that the Automotive Building, with its Roman arched windows, is classical in design.  In fact, architect Douglas Kertland skilfully harmonized both styles to produce a graceful, functional structure.  Constructed in 1929 at a cost of 1 million dollars, the Automotive Building was described by Sam Harris, then President of the CNE, as "a gem of exposition architecture."

The Automotive Building is significantly situated to formally frame the Princes' Gates and boulevard.  Recently renovated, the building is highly visible from both the Exhibition Place grounds and the lakefront.

For almost four decades, the auto show was the most popular event presented at the annual CNE (Canadian National Exhibition). And it was in the Automotive Building that fair-goers were treated to glimpses of the latest models in cars and trucks, such as the revolutionary Tucker presented in 1947.  The CNE last auto show was held in 1967, after which car manufacturers began unveiling new models at a different time of year.

Since 1967, the Automotive Building has housed many notable exhibits, including various feature countries and international exhibits, Car of the Century and Canada 2000 and the Farm Food and Fun pavilion.

One unusual use of the Automotive Building occurred during the Second World War. During that period in Canadian history, the CNE grounds were home to detachments of the Canadian military. In 1939, the Royal Canadian Navy converted the Automotive Building into HMCS York.  Elsewhere on the grounds, the Royal Canadian Air Force moved into the Coliseum and the Canadian Army took over the Horse Palace, the CNE Administrative Offices and the Government Building. 

In 2009, the Automotive Building underwent major renovations and is now a state-of-the-art conference facility.  Known as the Allstream Centre from 2009 until early in 2017, it is now known as the Beanfield Centre.

The Automotive Building south entrance, 1920s. Photo: Toronto Archives