The Horse Palace has been described as one of the finest Art Deco Buildings in the City of Toronto and possibly in the province or nation. Art Deco elements of the Horse Palace include a hard-edged angular composition, cubist forms and strong horizontal and vertical planes. The low relief sculptured friezes of horses located on the exterior of the building are also indicative of the Art Deco style of design. In addition, details such as lanterns, skilfully executed in coloured glass, accentuate the overall architectural design of the building.
When constructed in 1931, the Horse Palace was billed as the finest equestrian facility in Canada and continues to fulfil its traditional role during the annual and the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.
One “non-traditional” use of the Horse Palace occurred between 1942 and 1946 when the CNE grounds were occupied by the Canadian military. During this era, the Horse Palace was used as a barracks for soldiers waiting to be sent overseas.
Since 1931, the Toronto Police have had a Mounted Unit temporarily stationed in the Horse Palace during the CNE and Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. In 1968, however, a Mounted Unit took up residence in the Horse Palace on a year-round basis, while other Mounted Units were stationed in various other stables across the city. In the late 1990s, however, Toronto Police decided to bring all the mounted units together in one location and to this end the stables at Exhibition Place underwent major renovations. On July 25th, 2000, the Mounted Unit of the Toronto Police moved into its new home in the Horse Palace. This brought all of the Mounted Unit’s personnel together in one facility for the first time in 100 years.**
In April of 2003, the South Division of Toronto Animal Services opened its doors in the south east corner of the Horse Palace. The mandate of Toronto Animal Services is to promote and support a harmonious environment where humans and animals can co-exist free from conditions that adversely affect their health and safety. Toronto Animal Services operates five Animal Centres, including the one in the Horse Palace, and is responsible for sheltering animals that are lost or surrendered by owners or animals that are available for adoption to new homes.
In June of 2003, the Riding Academy also took up residence in the Horse Palace. The Riding Academy offers professional riding instructions to novice and advanced-level riders. Also available on site through the Exhibition Therapeutic Riding Academy (ExTRA) is therapeutic riding lessons for children and adults with physical and/or cognitive impairments.
*Toronto Historical Board, Report to the Commissioner of Parks and Property, 1988.
**Bill Wardle, The Mounted Squad. An Illustrated History of the Toronto Mounted Police, 1886-2000 ( Markham, Ontario, 2002).