University College National Historic Site of Canada
Links and documents
1856/01/01 to 1859/01/01
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
University College National Historic Site of Canada is a large, mid-19th-century college building situated on the St. George campus of the University of Toronto. Its prominent location at the top of the central campus green illustrates its important role in the history and life of the institution. An impressive Romanesque-revival styled pile, it is a large structure with a towered south-facing façade, two wings extending north and a medieval-inspired round building originally intended as a chemistry theatre. Together the components enclose a traditional campus quadrangle. Official recognition refers to the building on its legal lot.
University College was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1968 because:
- it is one of the oldest collegiate buildings in Canada; and,
- it assured the future of the University of Toronto and drew it, in time, into a federal pattern, which was widely followed in Canada and the Commonwealth.
The University College National Historic Site of Canada, built between 1856 and 1859, is associated with both the development of the University of Toronto, and with a national system of non-denominational institutions of higher learning supported by government. The building originally was designed by architect F.W. Cumberland, demonstrating his skill in freely adapting the Romanesque-revival style to the purposes of a North American educational institution. In 1890 a fire occurred, largely destroying the eastern end of the building. The exterior walls remained standing and reconstruction under architect David Dick was completed in the style of the original building.
Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, June 1968 and 1970.
Key elements contributing to the heritage character of this site include:
- its prominent siting at the top of a green in the heart of the University of Toronto campus;
- its continued use as a university building;
- its C-shaped footprint with main south-facing façade and central tower from which extend two wings sheltering a green quadrangle;
- its use of the Romanesque Revival style, notable in its lively exterior massing with towers, buttresses, varied roof types and angles, and bold detailing with polychrome roof slates, stone carvings over the doors and windows, use of classically inspired columns;
- its high quality stone construction;
- its surviving 1890s interior configuration with central entrance leading to purpose-built spaces; and,
- its high quality interior detailing including stone carvings and wood finishes.
Government of Canada
Historic Sites and Monuments Act
National Historic Site of Canada
Theme - Category and Type
- Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
- Architecture and Design
- Building Social and Community Life
- Education and Social Well-Being
Function - Category and Type
- Post-Secondary Institution
Architect / Designer
F. W. Cumberland
Location of Supporting Documentation
National Historic Sites Directorate, Documentation Centre, 5th Floor, Room 89, 25 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Quebec
Cross-Reference to Collection