It’s difficult to imagine life at U of T without Convocation Hall, the stately beaux arts–style building that graces King’s College Circle – but it wouldn’t have existed without the donations of alumni and friends. After the University College fire of 1890 destroyed the previous Convocation Hall (which had been located in the college’s northeast wing), the U of T Alumni Association launched a fundraising campaign to construct a new hall.
The association initially aimed to raise $25,000, but as plans for the building expanded, so did the budget. Over the course of two years, donors contributed around $50,000, which the Ontario government matched. The Class of 1884 raised $1,500 – a significant amount for the time. City residents took an interest, as well: Timothy Eaton, of department store fame, gave $1,000.
Designed by Frank Darling of Darling & Pearson (one of Toronto’s finest architectural firms), the building was partly modelled on the Sorbonne theatre in Paris and accommodates about 1,700 people. Its cornerstone was laid in June 1904, and the hall officially opened in June 1907.
The building in the left of this picture is Stewart Observatory, which was dismantled in order to make space for Convocation Hall. The observatory was reconstituted on Hart House Circle in 1908, where it still sits.
On the day the cornerstone was laid, U of T Alumni Association president Dr. R.A. Reeve remarked, “Faith in the alumni and friends of the university, at times sorely tried but never lost, today has its reward.”