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Visiting York Memorial Collegiate Institute, Toronto, Ontario: striking frontage and landmark on Eglinton Avenue West

Updated on March 9, 2012
Provincial flag of Ontario
Provincial flag of Ontario | Source
York Memorial Collegiate Institute, Toronto
York Memorial Collegiate Institute, Toronto | Source
Map location of Toronto's York
Map location of Toronto's York | Source

Charles Wellington Smith's grand tribute to victims of World War One

In 1929 Sir William Mulock (1) laid the cornerstone of what was to become a striking landmark in Eglinton Avenue West, in Ontario's York (later to be absorbed into Toronto).

Some history and features

The following year, this fine structure was completed and inaugurated by the same distinguished guest.

The architect responsible was Charles Wellington Smith, who, in the entrance way, sought to honour the fallen of World War One with various design devices (2). There are eleven, terraced steps at the main entrance: these eleven steps represent the Armistice of 1918, which took effect at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of that year. Carved into the stone archway of the entrance are two torches of remembrance and two shields of honour, one either side of the doorway. Motifs of oak leaves and acorns, grapes, pine cones and ferns, and the name of the school in Old English lettering complete the carvings in the stonework of the entrance way.

Don Valley brick in various shades complements the stonework in the building's frontage. Above the stone, entrance way window, is a crenellated balcony, executed in brick and stone.

The pleasing combination of brick and stone in the entrance way and its solid design reminds me generally of the Gatehouse by Sir Arthur Blomfield at Selwyn College, Cambridge, England.

The design of the frontage of York Memorial Collegiate Institute was thus one of the ways in which the former Township of York honoured the youth of York who fell in World War One.

Distinguished alumni of York Memorial Collegiate Institute include, in politics: Alan Tonks, former MP for York South-Weston and former Metro Toronto Chairman; in broadcasting: Dave Devall, the world's longest serving TV weather reporter; on the sports front: Harry Sinden, former coach of Team Canada and of the Boston Bruins, and Gail Kim, professional wrestling champion.


(1) Sir William Mulock (1843-1944) was Vice-Chancellor and subsequently Chancellor of the University of Toronto, and, serving in governments led by Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Postmaster-General and subsequently Minister of Labour (his Deputy Minister, whom he recruited in 1900, was William Lyon Mackenzie King). He later served as Chief Justice of Ontario.

(2) Source:

Also worth seeing

Gibson House , Willowdale (distance: 12.9 kilometres) is a museum at the former 19th century residence of David Gibson.

Black Creek Pioneer Village (distance: 14 kilometres) has an impressive collection of buildings of historic significance.

The Belltower, Thornhill West , Vaughan (distance: 16.4 kilometres) is a striking structure in an open steel design, with bells by Eijsbouts.


How to get there: Air Canada, flies to Toronto Pearson Airport, with wide North American and other connections, from where car rental is available. (Distance from Toronto Pearson Airport to 2690 Eglinton Avenue West: 15.1 kilometres). Travellers may wish to travel by public transit, via the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) 32 bus service. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. You are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please 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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    • MJFenn profile image

      MJFenn 5 years ago

      Pamela Kinnaird W: Yes, a locality's built environment will often deeply reflect its history, be it with grandeur or with all the poignancy of the tragic events of the past. Even in the history of this building, one can sense something of the elemental identity convulsions of Canadians following the psychologically shattering World War One. Thank-you for your comment.

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

      Pamela Kinnaird W 5 years ago from Maui and Arizona

      This was interesting. I love history. Having the architecture reflect the history is really neat (or Canadian -- or British-like.)

      My husband's ancestors lived all around that area -- thousands of them in different lineages throughout the years. You might have heard of Glen Williams not too far away. Husband's third great-grandfather and sons and daughters founded that town.