As a longtime history enthusiast, I’m always curious about what used to be.
And every so often, while I’m walking across the tiled corridors of University College or peering up at the latest whimsical pattern on the ever-changing UTSU dome, I’ll stop to wonder what stood there before.
Last week, I reconciled the flashbacks of my imagination with actual old photographs from a bit of research I did about U of T buildings. I came across some very interesting tidbits of architectural history during my browsings too- which I found was such a great way to feel more connected to campus, knowing little facts that I could point out as I walked around.
So , in honour of U of T’s 189th birthday yesterday, here’s a major St. George #throwbacktuesday (if only I posted on Thursdays, sigh)
First up…..University College!
our beloved University College building under construction, 1857.
Source: Ontario Ministry of Government and Consumer Services Archives, http://ao.minisisinc.com/scripts/mwimain.dll/144/IMAGES_FACT/FACTSIMAG/IMAGEFILE+I0021812?SESSIONSEARCH
another shot of the iconic UC building under construction, circa 1857.
source: Toronto Public Library Records
smiles and laughter on the King’s College Circle lawn in 1928.
Source: City of Toronto Archives
Looking down from the turrets of University College during an Open House, 1974.
(not accessible to students anymore from what I’m told, unfortunately!)
St. Michael’s College!
A sketch of St. Mike’s as it was, back in 1855.
The magnificent Soldier’s Tower being put together:
Soldier’s Tower under construction, 1923.
Source: University of Toronto Archives
The completed Soldier’s Tower, June 1924.
Inside University College…
The university had a small museum located in what is now West Hall, University College back in the late 1880s.
If this looks familiar, you’ve probably written an exam in the Hall at some point!
Photo Source: http://heritage.utoronto.ca/chronology
A beautifully taken shot of West Hall as we know it today.
Photo Credit: Richard Wintle
Cumberland House….aka the Centre for International Experience…
A horse-drawn carriage waiting outside Cumberland House, circa 1886.
Cumberland House today.
Photo Source: http://www.osm.utoronto.ca/map/f?p=110:4:889784336631501::::P4_BLDG_KEY:26
The Toronto Magnetic and Meteorological Observatory, or as we know it now, the UTSU Building
What we fondly call the ‘UTSU building’ is actually the oldest scientific institution in the country! The Observatory was built in the 1840s to facilitate a global research project on ‘fluctuations in magnetic declination.’ After the project ended in 1853, the Observatory was used by the Canadian government as the ‘country’s primary meteorological station and official timekeeper for over fifty years.’
The Toronto Magnetic and Meterological Observatory, what some call the birthplace of Canadian astronomy. William Armstrong, 1852.
U of T Archives Image Bank,
Taken from the top of University College, looking south to the Magnetic Observatory, now the UTSU building, with its distinctive dome!
You can observe just how much the landscape around the building has changed since 1859- see how far rural land stretches to what is now bustling, busy Queen’s Park.
Photo by William Notman, 1859.
A lost creek under Hart House Circle…..
The highs and lows of Hart House Circle, where McCaul
s Pond once lay.
Photo Source: Gary Winchester, http://www.cultureaddicthistorynerd.com/2015/11/university-torontos-abridged-history-photo-tour/
Where the waters of the Taddle Creek once flowed, amidst trees at Philosopher’s Walk.
Photo Credit: Photo: Ingrid Stefanovic
That uneven patch of grass you cross from Hart House to get to King’s College Circle?
One hundred years ago, that used to be a pond.
McCaul’s Pond. Painting by Lucius O’Brien, 1876.
McCaul’s Pond, late 1870s
The once bubbling Taddle Creek ran from what are now the winding paths in Philosopher’s Walk all the way up to Hart House Circle, where a dam emptied water into a large pond called McCaul Pond, named after the second president of U of T.
Ingrid Stefanovic, a professor at the University of Toronto, wrote about the buried pond:
“Throughout the 19th century, the creek was revered for its beauty, lending itself to the poetic renderings particularly of students, who actively interacted with Taddle Creek and McCaul’s Pond, fishing for trout, sailing toy boats, tobogganing on the creek’s banks and immersing first year colleagues into the waters as part of a hazing ritual.
“Thy classic flow,” mused one student writer in the Varsity magazine, “thy poetic surroundings, are an education in themselves!”
The pond and creek were later buried over by 1884 after concerns about public health, leaving only the curvatures of landscape to remember them by.
U of T and Amelia Earhart’s inspiration….
Not many people know this, but world-famous aviator Amelia Earhart arrived in Toronto in 1917, visiting her sister and working as a nurse’s aide to soldiers at the Spadina Military Hospital at 1 Spadina Crescent- now owned by U of T. In her free time, she attended air shows held nearby by the Canadian National Exhibition- it is said that this experience aroused her interest in aviation, a career that she would later pursue to reach global fame.
Children pictured outside Knox College (part of U of T) at 1 Spadina Crescent, 1882.
Source: Toronto Public Library records
#HappyBirthdayUofT! You were fascinating then and you’re fascinating now.
Velut arbor ævo/ ‘Like a tree through the ages’