Home > Life, The Universe, & Everything > Designated Survivor Filming Washington, DC in Toronto & North York

Designated Survivor Filming Washington, DC in Toronto & North York




Mystery building to the left of the street light on the far side of the road. (Click to Enlarge)

This summer I was meandering around my neighborhood in North York (fine, I was playing Pokémon Go and was on a poke-walk! Don’t judge me!) when I noticed this weird building to the west of the Allen Rd in what was either Downsview Airport or the grounds of the upcoming Downsview Park TTC Station. It looked like it was a medieval castle but not. I knew I needed to find out what it was so I came back with my point-and-shoot camera that has 21x optical zoom and took a bunch more snaps.


I asked friends and neighbours if they knew what it was and showed the photos but no one had any better idea what the mystery building was.



Fast forward to September 28 when I watched the second episode of the new Kiefer Sutherland show, Designated Survivor made by ABC and aired here in Canada on CTV. The show’s plot involves the destruction of the US Capitol building and they were showing the destruction’s aftermath when I noticed some familiar shapes.



I googled “Designated Survivor filming location” and saw “Toronto, Canada” on IMDB and at once knew what that mystery building was, the set for that scene of the show! They had added a ton of CGI but it was 100% the same building. I even grabbed some screenshots of the 2 scenes where I noticed and confirmed my mystery building and included them below


I thought I recognized other locations in Toronto while I continued watching the show but never really confirmed it until a few weeks ago when I happened to notice them filming a car chase on University Avenue between Dundas & Queen. My earlier theory of University Avenue standing in for…Pennsylvania Avenue? (I don’t know really because I don’t know Washington DC well enough) in a the second episode of Designated Survivor came when I noticed a speed limit sign supposedly in urban DC which said “MAXIMUM 50” which I knew must be a sign for a speed limit in kilometres per hour and not miles per hour.


Ironically, this means the car chases passes by the American Consulate in Toronto. (I wonder if that was on purpose as a type of inside joke.)

Finally, I was passing through Downsview Park again, this time way further to the west, and I came across this set which appears to be the West Front of the US Capitol building. 


Since there were no real fences or anything and I saw some other people walking their dogs on the site I decided to walk around and check it out up close.


I got a bunch of pretty great panoramic shots of the set. You can even see the cherry picker they used to get some of the more aerial looking shots. I couldn’t guess what they used the tents for aside from shelter. Maybe safely storing equipment in case of rain or snow?


And then I climbed the stairs and got up on the balcony. Wonder what happens in the show where that black mark is…I am guessing it is where someone is to stand so he or she is in the right place for the scene.

I even took a video showing off where it is in the park relative to the surrounding buildings and landmarks.

I wonder what other parts of Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area have been masquerading as Washington D.C. for this show. Also, it really is amazing how much they use CGI to make sets look like complete scenes…but I guess that’s showbiz!

  1. December 20, 2016 at 5:34 pm

    There was also a few scenes inside 900 Bay (The Macdonald Block) – Ontario Government building. As well the exterior was repurposed as the ‘NSA’ in one episode.

    Interesting to see Toronto landmarks in this US series!

    • December 21, 2016 at 2:49 pm

      Fully agreed! It’s fun to notice while you’re watching. I wrote about this because this summer, I honestly was really puzzled about that building I saw and I had such a Eureka! moment watching the show I needed to share it. This became compounded when I ran into them filming on University and then found the second set for the more recent episodes.

    • April 21, 2017 at 3:43 am

      There’s actually still a sign on a Macdonald Block door that says “Rayburn Building.” Can’t tell if someone put it there to be cute or if the production team is using the room for storage for future shooting.

  2. December 20, 2016 at 7:08 pm

    Kind of cool that they put the Capital where Queen’s Park is!

    • December 21, 2016 at 2:51 pm

      I honestly don’t know University Ave well enough so I’m wondering why you think we’re looking north to Queen’s Park as opposed to south to downtown? I always thought it looks south but I realize I have no logical reason for it, just assumption

      • April 21, 2017 at 3:38 am

        I actually took a pic the other day almost from where the University Ave convoy shot was taken. (Don’t know how to attach it though).

        The shot was taken from Armoury and University, looking north. I was 99% sure of the direction but don’t frequent that area as much as I used to and wanted to be sure. From my own reconnaissance this week I can confirm it.

        The easiest proof is the building half way up on the left with a little square sign at the top. That is a University of Toronto shield marking the presence of the Rehabilitation Sciences Building. As you go further up the block on the west side of the street (but hard to distinguish in the pic) you pass Mount Sinai and Princess Margaret Hospitals. At the top on the west/left side of the street is the Ontario Hydro building. Across the street on the east side is the newest of the MaRS towers. In between the two is where the Pink Palace (aka Queen’s Park) has been replaced by the ruin of the Capitol Building.

        Kudos to the location scout for picking out a great spot that offered rare open sky in downtown Toronto to plop the ruin into. And good on you Dan for spotting the Capitol ruin set at Downsview!

  3. jcinpa
    March 7, 2017 at 9:14 pm

    Ironically, and coincidentally, I’m watching an old episode of Queer as Folk as I peruse this blog! For those unaware, QAF was a 5 season series that ran from 2000 – 2005. It was filmed almost entirely in Toronto and its surroundings, but the story line situates the series in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.

    Go Canada! If I ever decide to film a movie, this Yank from Pennsylvania will have to stake out Toronto for set potential 🙂

  4. Sherry
    March 23, 2017 at 12:06 am

    So, Don, Where is the Camp David location?

    • steve
      April 6, 2017 at 1:01 am

      Miler Lash House U of T Scarborough campus

      • steve
        April 6, 2017 at 1:06 am

        sorry, should read Miller Lash House

    • April 7, 2017 at 3:10 pm

      Sorry but as I said in my post I came across these locations completely randomly. I do not have any inside info on filming locations for this or any other show/movie

  5. April 16, 2017 at 7:14 pm

    Great article. You might not have noticed but there was a convoy scene where they drove through Downtown Hamilton, with Hamilton Place on the left.

    • April 16, 2017 at 7:34 pm

      Cool! I did not notice that. What episode was it in? I don’t know Hamilton nearly as well as Toronto

      • April 21, 2017 at 9:44 am

        Can’t remember. Relatively recent one from March I think.

  6. Matt
    April 28, 2017 at 12:35 am

    These are some pretty good photos here. I am big fan of the show. Kind of crazy in a way that you found that weird building structure and then one day see it on tv with a bunch of CGI in the back to make look like the bombing of the capital building. Also you are only website I seen post filming locations for this show so thanks for posting these photos.

    • April 28, 2017 at 3:41 pm

      Thanks for your comments, Matt! You’re right it was very odd to notice it suddenly on TV lol. You’re very welcome for posting the location info. Glad to see I’m helping people out who are wondering about this show! 😀

  7. Rick
    April 29, 2017 at 1:46 pm

    I was just a Downsview Park. Drove around the area but didn’t see any sets. Guess they’ve all been dismantled.
    Is there a studio there for the filming, or did they just use the land?

    • April 29, 2017 at 2:05 pm

      Wish I had an answer for you, Rick. I stumbled across the sets and have no part in the production of the show or any inside info

      • Rick
        April 29, 2017 at 3:21 pm

        Ok. Thanks.
        It’s cool though. It’s one of my favourite shows, and I live and work just down the street from there.
        I go to the flea market on occasion, and i probably passed the Capitol debris set many times without knowing what it was.

  8. May 5, 2017 at 10:26 am

    Did anyone else notice that there was a least one scene filmed at The Amazing Ted’s Restaurant in Scarborough? This used to be our after church breakfast spot with occasional Saturdays thrown in. BTW, many years ago when I first visited Washington DC, I thought it had a very similar feel to it as Toronto. It’s been a while since I’ve been there so I don’t know if that is still the case.

    • Matt
      May 19, 2017 at 4:37 am

      What episode did they use the restaurant for filming? I will go back and rewatch the episode and see what you car talking about.

  9. Jonathan Leigh
    October 2, 2017 at 7:56 pm

    Just watched S2 Ep2 – Saw a couple little things but the biggest one right at the end – corner of University and College – Lloyd walking out of a subway (Queen’s Park station), emerges to look down the street at the rebuilt Capitol Building. You can see a smidge of the “University Ave.” sign obscured by a pole, and MaRS on the right.

    • Jonathan Leigh
      October 2, 2017 at 7:58 pm

      S2 Ep1 I should say.

  10. Joshua Loverly
    July 6, 2019 at 3:39 pm

    Just discovering this show via Netflix (here in NYC). Glad to find this info, could never have imagined, thank you!

  11. Kory Michalicek
    February 8, 2021 at 11:55 am

    I was wondering if you know where the white house set was set up at.

    • February 8, 2021 at 11:58 am

      I don’t sorry. I just happened to stumble on both of the locations. One near-ish to where I grew up & one I just happened to be in the right spot downtown Toronto when they were filming on city streets. I don’t/didn’t have any insider info or access to the show

  12. Ned
    November 13, 2021 at 11:05 pm

    Hey Dan, why don’t you post any more comprehensive contemplation?

    • December 30, 2021 at 9:12 am

      Hey Ned,
      Stay tuned in 2022!!! 😀

  13. Marta
    June 10, 2022 at 10:16 pm

    Season 1 esidode 18
    Atwood and the reporter were in Ted’s diner which is located in Scarborough ( Kingston Road and Meadowvale)

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