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Visiting Toronto, Ontario: Fine Views of F.W. Cumberland's University College National Historic Site of Canada, 1856/59

Updated on April 22, 2020
Provincial flag of Ontario
Provincial flag of Ontario | Source
One of the entrances to the University of Toronto: King's College Road, off College Street. Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
One of the entrances to the University of Toronto: King's College Road, off College Street. Toronto, Ontario, Canada. | Source

A sedate and historic seat of learning

[This visit occurred some years ago.]

Dating from 1856/59, University College (1), Toronto, Ontario is one of the University of Toronto's two sites which have been designated a National Historic Site of Canada — the other is Annesley Hall, distinguished in the higher education of women, dating from 1903.

The main building, including the well-known tower, of University College was designed by F. W. Cumberland (1821-1881) (2).

Styled in Romanesque Revival, the building features sometimes ornate Syrian arching. Its south-facing tower offers an imposing backdrop to visitors arriving at the King's College Road gates, off College Road (see photo, above).

I have also included, below, a 19th century photo of University College.

The College was founded in 1853, after many arguments which revolved round whether the Province was to fund denominational or non-denominational university bodies. Premier Robert Baldwin was strongly favourable to non-denominational higher education; while other prominent institutions in the Province were otherwise minded: Trinity College, Toronto, was strongly Anglican, and Queen's University Kingston retained a Presbyterian basis for many years. The emergence of a collegiate organization for the developing University of Toronto in the 19th century superficially resembled those of Oxford and Cambridge (3), although the underlying reason for this was an initial inability among various confessional groups or proponents of non-denominational higher education to agree on a common formula. Premier Robert Hincks was particularly noted for his support for a collegiate model for the University of Toronto.

Graduates of University College, Toronto, have included: Prime Ministers of Canada William Lyon Mackenzie King and Arthur Meighen; Ontario Premiers Edward Blake, Bill Davis and Bob Rae; Governor-General of Canada Vincent Massey; Nellie Spence (4), who graduated in 1889, served as a distinguished teacher of English and history, received an honorary Doctorate in 1937 and served on the University Senate; The Hon. Rosie Abella, Puisne Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada; and numerous other highly distinguished figures.

April 22, 2020


(1) See also:

(2) Other works in Toronto by Architect Cumberland include: the Cathedral Church of St James; the Toronto Street Courthouse; the Normal School (subsequently incorporated into Ryerson University); and the Adelaide Street Courthouse. F. W. Cumberland also served in the Ontario and Dominion legislatures, representing Algoma.

(3) In actual fact, the organization model of London University, England is probably closer to what emerged at Toronto than those of Oxbridge Colleges.

(4) See also:

Some sourcing: Wikipedia

University College at the University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada, 1885
University College at the University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada, 1885 | Source

Also worth seeing

In Toronto itself, historic buildings abound; some of these at the University of Toronto, include: Annesley Hall, the Lillian Massey Building; 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 numerous 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.

Map location of Toronto, Ontario
Map location of Toronto, Ontario | Source

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