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Newman Centre

89, St.George Street, Toronto, Ontario, M5S, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1981/07/04

View of the staircase from the main floor foyer – 1993; OHT, 1993
Interior View – 1993
View of the south façade including tower and ballroom addition – 1993; OHT, 1999
View of the exterior from the south – 1993
View of the front façade on St. George Street showing tower and third floor verandah – 1999; OHT, 1999
View of the front façade (west side) – 1999

Other Name(s)

Newman Centre
The Matthews' House

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)


Listed on the Canadian Register: 2008/11/13

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Newman Centre, is situated at 89 St. George Street, at the northeast corner of St. George Street and Hoskin Avenue, in the City of Toronto. The two-and-a-half-storey brick and sandstone mansion was designed in a combination of Richardsonian Romanesque and Queen Anne Revival styles, and attributed to architect David Roberts. It was constructed in 1891.

The exterior, selected elements of the interior and the scenic character of the property are protected by an Ontario Heritage Trust conservation easement (1981). The property is also designated by the City of Toronto under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act (Bylaw 176-76).

Heritage Value

Located at the northeast corner of St. George Street and Hoskin Avenue, Newman Centre is a prominent presence, at one of the University of Toronto's main intersections, which is dominated by University of Toronto buildings including the Robarts Library and Massey College. The house is also located near other period homes which reflects the area's late 19th century residential scale. The sandstone retaining wall and landscaping enhance the picturesque qualities of the house.

Newman Centre is significant for its association with grain merchant W. D. Matthews and the Newman Foundation, at the University of Toronto. Built in a neighbourhood that was regarded as one of Toronto's most desirable, at the turn of the 20th century, the Newman Centre is now in the centre of the University of Toronto's main campus. Newman Centre was originally the home of W.D. Matthews (1850-1919), a successful grain merchant and entrepreneur. Matthews built the house using money obtained through the success of W.D. Matthews and Company, one of Canada's largest grain merchants at the time. Born in 1850 in Burford, Ontario, W.D. Matthews joined the family grain business in 1866, assuming control after his father's death, in 1888. The Matthews family lived at the home until W.D. Matthews' death, in 1919. In 1922 the building was purchased by the Newman Foundation, an organization devoted to providing spiritual and ecumenical services to the Catholic community, at the University of Toronto, and it has been in its use ever since. Newman Centre is named after John Henry Cardinal Newman, an English convert to Catholicism, who inspired Catholic student associations at universities in Britain and all over the English-speaking world, in the late 19th century. During the building's use as the Newman Centre, very few changes have been made. A sunken terrace on the south side was created, to provide access to a below-grade coffee shop and offices, for Catholic Youth Services.

Newman Centre is a hybrid of Richardsonian Romanesque and Queen Anne Revival styles. Known as the Annex style in Toronto and so named because of the area of Toronto, located just to the north of Newman Centre, in which many examples of this style were built. The design of Newman Centre is attributed to David Roberts, although no original drawings have been located. Roberts was the architect of the Gooderham residence on St. George Street, at Bloor Street, in 1890, and bearing a marked resemblance to the Matthews' house. The Newman Centre is built out of a combination of Credit Valley sandstone and red bricks and was decorated with red unglazed terracotta panels. The slate hip roof has copper flashing and finials at the crest. The building's many gables have elaborately carved vergeboards and terracotta scalloped shingles. The foundation is built of rock-faced stone, while the walls are of pressed-clay brick. Credit Valley sandstone was used for the lintels, windows sills, and banding between the windows. Carved sandstone and terracotta panels were used between the windows and as decorative elements. The building also features two, three-storey round towers, at the southwest and southeast corners. The house has five verandahs with carved wood railings. In 1901, architect G.W. Miller designed an Edwardian-style ballroom addition to the south side of the home. While the ballroom is built of the same materials as the rest of the house it has a gently bowed window, a tall elaborate chimney and Art Nouveau elements, such as the fireplace and plaster ceilings. Recurring architectural elements that define the interior include the paneling on the walls, the basket-weave oak floor with edge banding, plaster ceiling mouldings, fireplaces with dark tiles and carved oak mantels, stained glass windows, coffered ceilings and elaborate hardware.

Source: OHT Easement Files.

Character-Defining Elements

Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of the Newman Centre include its:
- 'Annex' architectural style
- Credit Valley sandstone
- red terracotta panels
- carved sandstone panels
- scalloped terracotta shingles of the gable ends
- slate roof with copper flashing
- metal finials on the roof peaks
- five gables of the roof
- carved vergeboards
- red pressed-clay bricks
- two three-storey towers
- five verandahs
- stone window sills
- stone lintels
- stone banding
- many elaborate brick chimneys
- bowed windows
- interior oak wall paneling
- basket-weave oak floors with edge banding
- plaster mouldings on the ceilings
- carved fireplace mantels and ceramic tiles
- carved banister and newel post
- stained glass windows
- coffered wood and plaster ceilings
- large oak doors
- elaborate door hinges and handles
- period washroom on the ground floor under the stairs
- Art Nouveau-style ceiling plaster and low-cambered vault of the ballroom
- proximity to notable University of Toronto landmarks such as Robarts Library and Massey College
- proximity to other Victorian houses
- location at one of the University of Toronto's main intersections
- proximity to the Annex neighbourhood
- sandstone retaining wall and landscaping




Recognition Authority

Ontario Heritage Trust

Recognition Statute

Ontario Heritage Act

Recognition Type

Ontario Heritage Foundation Easement

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

1919/01/01 to 1919/01/01
1976/01/01 to 1976/01/01
1981/01/01 to 1981/01/01
1900/01/01 to 1901/01/01
1922/01/01 to 1922/01/01

Theme - Category and Type

Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Architecture and Design

Function - Category and Type


Religion, Ritual and Funeral
Religious Institution


Single Dwelling

Architect / Designer

David Roberts



Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Ontario Heritage Trust Property Files Ontario Heritage Trust 10 Adelaide Street East Toronto, Ontario

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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