Visiting Falconer Hall, Toronto, Ontario, With Many Associations: Women's Student Centre; York University; Law Faculty
Distinguished historical associations...
Executed in brick — of a particularly dark, cherry red variety —, with stone facing, Falconer Hall (at first called Wymilwood)(1) dates from 1903. Among its prominent features are a circular pediment atop ornate entrance pillars.
The architectural partnership responsible for the building was Sproatt and Rolph, founded in 1899 by architects Henry Sproatt (1866-1934)(2) and Ernest Ross Rolph (1871-1958).
It is named for Sir Robert Falconer (1867-1943), who served as President of the University of Toronto from 1907 to 1932 (3), who in his day was regarded as somewhat of a champion of academic freedom; a balanced assessment of his record might arguably cause it to emerge as more elusively nuanced.
...with women's university education
Originally the property of the prominent Wood family, Falconer Hall was given to the University of Toronto in 1925; it was to serve as a centre for women students at Victoria College within the University. Facilities for women students were still limited in the early to mid 20th century and, as John Court writes, 'Wymilwood filled a desperate need for a university women's centre' (4).
Perhaps significantly in this respect, Falconer Hall is situated close to both Annesley Hall and the Lilian Massey Building, both of which have had strong associations with expanding facilities for women at the University of Toronto.
...with the beginnings of York University
Later, from 1960, Falconer Hall was the first building at which York University was based. In September 1960, 76 students began classes of study based at Falconer Hall (5). Maybe significantly, given the building's later use as a library, the library of York University was housed here also (6).
...with the University of Toronto's Law Library named for Bora Laskin
In recent years, the building has been used by the University of Toronto's Law Faculty and currently houses the Bora Laskin Law Library (7), named for the Chief Justice of Canada (1912-1984) who served from 1973 until 1984.
Falconer Hall is located at 86 Queen's Park Crescent, Toronto, Ontario.
August 2, 2019
(1) What is now part of the University of Toronto's Goldring Student Centre was also formerly called Wymilwood.
(2) Other buildings with which Architect Sproatt was involved in designing include Burwash Hall, the Soldiers' Clarion Tower, the Royal York Hotel, the Canada Life Building, and the Princess Margaret Hospital — all in Toronto —, and Knox Presbyterian Church, Ottawa; and many others.
(3) As Robert A. Falconer, from a Scottish Presbyterian background and sometimes referred to as the Rev. Robert Falconer, he actually never served as a minister, although he pursued academic theology. From 1907, in what would be a long-serving appointment until 1932, he served as President of the University of Toronto, gaining the reputation of a reformer and expansionist. He was also to some extent regarded as a defender of academic freedom (in the face of Ontario Premier Howard Ferguson's unsuccessful attempts — in a noted incident that produced controversy — to prevent a woman student from reading socialist writings included in her coursework). At the beginning of World War One, in the face of voracious, crude popular xenophobia against German speakers, he tried unsuccessfully to argue for the continuing value of retaining German language teachers at the University of Toronto. With regard to issues of Canadian unity, his willing identification with military recruitment while serving as University President — to the extent of earning him his knighthood — during an era marked profoundly by the Conscription Crisis made him prominent among those spearheading the divisive current of Anglophone opinion which saw troops recruited in Toronto machine-gunning protesters in Quebec City. It should thus be recalled that early 20th century Ontario was to some degree informed by a cauldron of Orangist vituperation against those with cultural differences, and that this formed part of the background to Sir Robert Falconer's long service as University President. See also: http://faculty.marianopolis.edu/c.belanger/quebechistory/bios/robertfalconer.htm
(4) See also: http://www.yorku.ca/yul/profiles/past/sept97/current/features/article1.htm While women were being admitted to Victoria University in the 19th century, facilities for women students for many years were limited; and the proportion of women students among the student body was relatively low, in comparison with some overseas university institutions: e.g., in 1876, a considerable majority of students at University College, Bristol, England were women.
(5) See also: http://www.yorku.ca/histpsyc/YorkPhaseOne.htm
(6) See also: https://www.library.yorku.ca/web/archives/finding-aids/york-university-chronology/1960-2/
(7) See also: http://ultravires.ca/2018/11/j-w-and-the-house-that-pork-built/ Chief Justice Bora Laskin also served previously as a Justice of the Ontario Court of Appeal. An alumnus of the University of Toronto, his service on the Supreme Court coincided with a considerable expansion of the powers of the Federal Government, expressed in various of his published legal opinions.
Also worth seeing
In Toronto itself, there is a rich heritage of historic buildings; some of these, within walking distance of Falconer Hall, include: the Lillian Massey Building, Annesley Hall; Victoria College; Trinity College; the Legislative Assembly building of the Ontario Parliament; Queen's Park; at a slightly further distance: Old City Hall, Campbell House, Osgoode Hall, and many others.
How to get there: Air Canada, flies to Toronto Pearson Airport, with wide North American and other connections, from where car rental is available. However, visitors to Downtown Toronto will find many sights to be easily walkable. Some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent. You are advised to refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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