The building is associated with the Gooderham family – notably George Gooderham, eldest son of William Gooderham, the original founder of the successful distilling company. William Gooderham with his brother-in-law James Worts established a small distillery in 1837 to use surplus grain from their flour mill. In 1859, the firm of Gooderham and Worts constructed the largest distillery in Canada West and by 1875 accounted for the production of almost a third of Canada's proof spirits.

The company had diversified interests that accounted for its prosperity. These included the Toronto and Nipissing Railway, lake transportation, retailing, woolen mills and banking. George Gooderham (1820-1905) followed in his father's footsteps and served both as president of the Bank of Toronto and Gooderham and Worts. The Gooderham Building was built to house the headquarters of this large industrial and commercial empire.

The building was designed by Toronto architect David Roberts Jr. who was also responsible for a number of other Gooderham commissions, notably George Gooderham's houses at St. George and Bloor Streets (1889) and Jarvis Street (1891). The "flatiron" building's triangular shape results from the confluence of Wellington Street, which follows the traditional Town of York grid, with Front Street, the irregular diagonal line derived from the 19th-century waterfront. The four-and-a-half-storey red brick building is set on a high foundation that rises a half-storey above ground. A string course divides the second and third floors, with a decorative frieze and cornice above the fourth floor. A steeply pitched copper clad roof is pierced by a number of decorative dormers. A prominent tower with ogee arch windows distinguishes the roof line at the apex of the building. A textured façade results from a dominant pattern of fenestration on all floors. There are hood mouldings over the fourth floor windows. The brick work on the Gooderham Building is exceptional both in terms of the quality of the red bricks and the miniscule thickness of the modern joints.

In 1975, the City of Toronto designated the structure under the Ontario Heritage Act and, in 1977, the Ontario Heritage Trust secured a heritage easement on the building.