UrbanToronto has partnered with Heritage Toronto to capture a moment in Toronto's past. On a weekly basis, we highlight historic photos of the city's people, places and events, and tell the stories behind them.
On Sunday, February 5, 2012, millions watched Superbowl XLVI between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots that took place at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
What viewers may be interested to know is that the Toronto Argonauts actually holds the title of the oldest sports franchise in North America. Here they are seen in 1924 playing against the Ottawa Rough Riders (established 1876) at Varsity Stadium.
The Argonaut Rowing Club was established in 1872 in Toronto. One year later, the oarsmen at the club, needing a way to increase physical fitness, established the Argonaut Rugby Football Club. Eventually, there were too many rugby injuries and the team continued solely with football.
The Argonauts was initially an amateur team, playing every few months, often against the University of Toronto and the Hamilton Tigers. In 1907, the team aligned with the Hamilton Tigers, the Ottawa Rough Riders and the Montreal Winged Wheelers of the Quebec Rugby Football Union. At that time, they became known as the Big Four. The Argos dominated Canadian football in the 1930’s and 1940’s winning numerous Grey Cups.
From 1874-1897, the Argonauts played at Rosedale Field near Mt Pleasant and MacLennan Avenue, an area that’s now home to the Rosedale Tennis Club. Then, the Varsity Athletic Grounds opened on Bloor Street at Devonshire Place becoming the new home of the Argonauts. The field became Varsity Stadium in 1911 where the Argos played for numerous years; 1898 to 1907, 1916-24, 1925-1958. Over the years, Varsity Stadium hosted numerous grey cups, Vanier Cups, and rock concerts. The stadium closed and was rebuilt evolving into Varsity Centre.
Getting back to the 1924 snapshot, neither the Argonauts nor the Ottawa Rough Riders won the Grey Cup that year. Queen’s University defeated Toronto Balmy Beach at Varsity Stadium.
Canada has an incredible sports history, something to keep in mind when watching your favourite events!
Many thanks to both Gary Switzer of MOD Developments and Maya Bilbao for putting together the photos and research.