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Victoria College

100, University Street East, Cobourg, Ontario, K9A, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1988/04/13

View of southeast corner of building showing the addition to the east wing – November 2003; OHT, 2003
View of southeast corner – November 2003
View of the building looking north along College Street – November 2002; OHT, 2002
View corridor along College Street – November 2002
Historic view of the main (south) façade showing the central block, wings, and cupola – c. 1958; Archives of Ontario, 2005
Historic view of the main (south) façade – c. 1958

Other Name(s)

Victoria College
Upper Canada Academy

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)


Listed on the Canadian Register: 2007/11/09

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The building at 100 University Street East, commonly known as Victoria College, is situated on a rise of land at the northern terminus of College Street in the Town of Cobourg. The three-storey brick and stucco building was designed in the Greek Revival Style by architect Edward Crane and was constructed from 1832 to 1836.

The exterior of the building and the scenic character of the property are protected by an Ontario Heritage Trust conservation easement. The property is also designated by the Town of Cobourg under Part IV (By-law 11-88) and Part V (By-law 27-90) of the Ontario Heritage Act.

Heritage Value

Located upon a rise of land near the northeast edge of the town, Victoria College is one of Cobourg's most prominent and recognizable buildings. It is situated on the north side of University Street East at the terminus of College Street, which allows for a scenic view of the building from the southern limits of the town at Lake Ontario. The building is also situated at the northeast edge of Cobourg's Heritage District, which protects the heritage character of all of the properties bounding the viewscape along College Street.

Victoria College is historically significant for its association with Egerton Ryerson, its contributions as an early educational institution and its various uses as a medical treatment facility throughout the 20th century. The history of the building dates back to 1832 when construction first began with money collected from the Upper Canada constituents of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The cost for erecting the building was estimated at between $25,000 and $30,000, so when it was realized that expenditures would be closer to $40,000, construction was put on hold. Funds were eventually raised and the building was officially opened in 1836 with Reverend Egerton Ryerson serving as the school's first president. Although the building was originally opened as Upper Canada Academy, a school offering pre-university instruction to both sexes, it became Victoria College in 1841 when it received Royal Charter from Queen Victoria. With this distinction, Victoria College became the second institution in Upper Canada to receive degree-granting powers. Following a split in the Methodist Church, Victoria College merged with Albert College in 1884 to form Victoria University. Six years later, Victoria University declared federation with the University of Toronto and in 1892 the university left Cobourg for permanent residence in Toronto. In 1897, the vacant building was sold to the Government of Ontario and in 1900 it began operations as the Cobourg Insane Asylum to alleviate overcrowding at the seven other provincial asylums. The onset of WW I resulted in the transformation of the building to the Cobourg Military Convalescent Hospital and a large number of wounded soldiers were treated at the site until 1920 when it became the Ontario Hospital D'Arcy Place. The building maintained this use until 1970 and it is currently operated as a retirement living centre.

Victoria College is architecturally significant as an excellent early example of Greek Revival design. When construction commenced on the building in 1832, this style was only beginning to come into fashion and its future importance to the design of large public buildings was unknown. The College, which was designed and built by Edward Crane, was originally composed of a central three-storey block flanked by two-storey end pavilions with the west pavilion built to accommodate females and the east pavilion to accommodate males. Due to the complex history of the building, it experienced various alterations and additions over the years. The conversion of the building into an asylum at the end of the 19th Century, as overseen by Provincial Architect F.R. Heakes, resulted in the most dramatic changes with the addition of a third storey to the east and west pavilions and extensions to their rears. Despite the additions, the triple-pedimented profile remained intact and the large entrance portico and cupola continued to function as the building's most prominent features. The conversion of the building to a convalescent hospital also resulted in major alterations, with a large wing designed by W.L Symons added to the north end of the building and an even larger “H-shaped” wing added to the east end. The H-shaped wing was demolished in 1987.

Source: Conservation Easement Files, Ontario Heritage Trust

Character-Defining Elements

Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of Victoria College include its:
- overall symmetrical form of centre block and flanking pavilions
- carefully composed and classically proportioned main façade
- cladding of walls with stucco-covered brick (intended to resemble marble)
- dramatic three-storey central portico with fluted Doric columns
- large central pediment repeated on the east and west pavilions
- piano nobile central entrance with double door, sidelights and segregated transom
- double-hung twelve-over-twelve sash windows
- gently pitched roof with dentil trimmed soffit
- elongated cupola with Doric pilasters, round-headed louvered vents and domed roof
- masonry details including multi-levelled stringcourses, dentil trimmed frieze and embroidered cornice
- siting on a rise of land near the northeast edge of the town
- location beside a designated heritage conservation district
- prominent appearance from the south
- prominent cupola marking one of the town's major architectural landmarks




Recognition Authority

Ontario Heritage Trust

Recognition Statute

Ontario Heritage Act

Recognition Type

Ontario Heritage Foundation Easement

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

1900/01/01 to 1914/01/01
1914/01/01 to 1920/01/01
1990/01/01 to 1990/01/01
1957/01/01 to 1957/01/01
1987/01/01 to 1987/01/01
1988/01/01 to 1988/01/01
1836/01/01 to 1892/01/01
1920/01/01 to 1970/01/01

Theme - Category and Type

Building Social and Community Life
Education and Social Well-Being

Function - Category and Type


Health and Research
Hospital or Other Health Care Institution


Post-Secondary Institution

Architect / Designer

F.R. Heakes



Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Conservation Easement Files Ontario Heritage Trust 10 Adelaide Street East Toronto, Ontario

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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