ⓘ Architecture of Upper Canada College. Since its founding in 1829, Upper Canada College, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, has occupied a number of sites and various ..


ⓘ Architecture of Upper Canada College

Since its founding in 1829, Upper Canada College, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, has occupied a number of sites and various structures on those sites. The school campus has always held a relatively prominent place within the city.


1. 1829 to 1891

The College was founded in 1829 by then-Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada, Major-General Sir John Colborne later, Lord Seaton. Originally, the College was situated in the Royal Grammar School, known as the Old Blue School, at College Square: 6 acres 24.000 m 2 bound by Church, Adelaide, Jarvis and Richmond streets. This was a simple two-storey, wood frame with clapboard siding building, with six-over-six paned windows and a pitched roof. John Strachan had it painted blue and white, which remain UCCs colours to this day.

However, this was a temporary location; the Board of Education of Upper Canada had been planning on a more permanent locale since before the school opened its doors. Initially they eyed Peter Street near the then end of King Street, but Colborne desired it to be at Russell Square, between King, Simcoe, Adelaide and John Streets; Colbornes location was accepted, and tenders for construction of the new College buildings were put out in May 1830. The costs of the buildings were originally slated at £10.000, but the cost was eventually estimated to be double that amount.

In Lost Toronto, William Dendy wrote:

"All the UCC buildings were of red brick. Only the main block had much architectural pretension, with its large porch supported on stone piers and the windows ornamented with flat, ledge-like architraves supported on scrolled consoles. The centre block measured 80 feet 24 m wide and 82 feet 25 m deep and contained offices and classrooms opening off a central hall on both floors; in the northwest corner of the second floor there was a "prayer room", with a dais for the master and box pews for each of the seven forms."

By the 1870s, with an enrolment of 300, the school was outgrowing the 1831 buildings. A $40.000 expenditure for expansion of the original structures was approved by the province for twelve classrooms, a public hall, a room for the principal, and beds for 60 more borders. The improvements were complete by April 1877, with the centre block expanded and its main facade altered to more of a Queen Anne style blended with a modified Elizabethan. Two story brick piers enhanced the corners and framed tall narrow windows, with the main entrance protruding forward, flanked by banded columns, more typical of Jacobean style. An octagonal cupola surmounted the main entrance volume, surrounded by narrow pinnacles topping the corner piers, which all concealed chimneys and ventilation openings. The eclectic mix of different styles was typical of the overall concept of Victorian architecture. By 1880, the College already again needed expansion of the boarding houses, and a gymnasium was necessary.


2. 1891-present

In 1887 the Liberal government in Ontario made a move to close UCC. Old-Boys graduates of the College and other figures helped prevent this, but in reaching the compromise it was decided that the school would be moved to a new location out of the city centre.

From 1887 to 1891, much effort was directed towards the moving of the College. The principal, then George Dickson, and the architect G.F. Durand, toured the private schools in the United States, and in February 1888, plans for the new buildings were presented to the government. A site at Avenue Road and St. Clair Avenue was suggested by the government, but was objected to as the 14 acres 57.000 m 2 was deemed too small. A new site, slightly farther north, was chosen and purchased from a Mr. Lawrence Baldwin. The ground-breaking for the new buildings at the new campus took place on April 2, 1889.

On July 3, 1891, the bell at the Russell Square campus rang for the last time. UCC then moved to its current site, the Deer Park campus 43.6933°N 79.4042°W  / 43.6933; -79.4042, 200 Lonsdale Road at Avenue Road in Forest Hill, with the doors being officially opened on October 14, 1891.

William Dendy described the buildings in his book Lost Toronto:

"Inevitably, given the date, the style of the new buildings was Romanesque Revival. It was built on a foundation of roughly finished Credit Valley sandstone, with upper walls of red brick ornamented with terra cotta panels and string courses. The basic arrangement of the design - a projecting triple-arched entrance, a central tower, and flanking wings forming a quadrangle behind - was very common at the time, and had become firmly established in Toronto with Lennoxs City Hall 1996-92. In fact, the new tower, rising 165 feet 50 m above the ground, like a church steeple above the surrounding trees, became a symbol of the college - an ever present reminder to students, and to the city below the hill, of the importance of the college and the influence of the alumni that had been shaped by it."

The new buildings purportedly held a room for a commercial course, which contained a counter and series of wickets built to simulate a real bank; these facilities were to help teach boys the routines of banking.

In 1902, a separate Preparatory School was built at the south edge of the Deer Park campus, creating two physically separate schools.

The College faced another crisis at the end of the 1950s when it was discovered that the 1891 main building was decaying rapidly due to poor construction; cracks and pipes were appearing throughout, doors frames warped to the point where doors could no longer be opened or closed. Eventually there was a fear that the tower would collapse. Because of these problems, the building was condemned and evacuated by March 12, 1958. Faculty offices were moved to the Prep building, the infirmary, and any other spare spaces, including the principals residence, Grant House. Classes were conducted in portables.

That same year, a major fundraising campaign was launched as construction of a new building on the exact site of the old was started. Even though construction began in 1958, during the modernist era, the symmetry of the original structure, as well as a clock tower, were repeated, yet instead of a Romanesque Revival style a simplified Georgian was used. In the summer of 1959, Governor General Vincent Massey laid the cornerstone, Field Marshal Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein dedicated the new front doors on April 28, 1960, and the new building was officially opened by Vincent Massey and Edward Peacock on September 28.

By 1989 the Peacock Building, the original structure of the Prep School, built in 1902, was growing outdated for the needs of the College. It still contained boarding dorms, bathrooms, and masters quarters which were being used as storage and makeshift offices. Renovation of the building was considered, but eventually it was decided that a new structure should be built as part of a larger, overall building campaign for the campus. The new Eaton Building, named for the Eaton family, which sent many sons to UCC, was completed in 1992, with a modern design that still included references to its historical predecessor. The gothic pointed arch of the original Peacock Building main door was reconstructed as a free-standing monument in the Eaton Buildings forecourt.

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