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University College, Toronto
File:University College University of Toronto.png
Motto Parum claris lucem dare (Latin)
Motto in English To shed light on that which is obscure
Established 22 April 1853
Type Constituent college of the University of Toronto
Principal Sylvia Bashevkin
Undergraduates 4,100
Location Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Campus Urban

University College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Toronto. UC was founded in 1853 as The Provincial College to provide higher education in Ontario without regard to religious affiliation. Currently, 4,100 students and 100 faculty make their academic home at University College, one of two National Historic Sites of Canada[1][2] at the University of Toronto. It is an academic community of students, faculty, staff and alumni.

Site Edit

The site that the building finds itself situated in today is substantially different than that which it originally found itself. In effect a university and a city have grown around University College. University College was the first building on the University of Toronto campus and as such has always been a focal point on its grounds. Even To This Day University College holds a place of importance over King’s College Circle at the center of the St George campus at the University of Toronto. If ones stands in the field surrounded by Kings College Circle it feels as though the university radiates outwards from the focal point of University College. The site which University College is found on has certainly changed considerably over the last one hundred and fifty years. What was once the only building on campus is now surrounded by countless other buildings, paths and roadways. When originally constructed the views out of upper story windows would have rendered forests and fields but now are replaced with a condensed and busy modern university campus. In a broader context University College and the University of Toronto both find themselves in a much different site than that of the 19th century. When the University of Toronto was conceived of it was not an urban campus as it is today. Originally University College would have been situated in a rural setting with fields and woods surrounding it with the majority of urban Toronto south of its location. This has changed greatly and now the university and University College both find themselves in the downtown core of Toronto. The juxtaposition of this old and historic building to a modern setting helps to reinforce the thoughts and feelings that the building evokes. If University College was not surrounded by like buildings and not in the core of a modern city the thought that this is an important historical building would not be as pronounced.

History Edit

File:UofT after the 1890 Fire.jpg

The building was built in 1856–1859 by Frederick Cumberland and William G. Storm. It opened in 1858. The building features several stained glass windows including the `Rose window` by Robert McCausland Limited. Once the building was opened, the classes conducted at Queen’s Park, then King’s College, moved to University College.[3] The University of Toronto’s first permanent building and was not joined by other buildings until 1889. Located on 15 King’s College Circle, University College is situated between Gerstein Science Information Centre and Knox College in a “u” formation.[3] The building is considered to be a form of Romanesque Revival. University College like most Romanesque Revival buildings have extremely thick masonry walls. As well, they are built of many types of brick and stone layered upon each other.[3] Romanesque structures will often have arched or rounded windows as well as huge, cavernous facades.[3] All of these characteristics can be seen on University College. A major detail of University College is their use arches; there are a series of arches, sets of arcades. These arches are semi-circular as well as consist of small columns that act as structural support, and support a vault on the walkway on the side.The building has much ornamentation, especially in stone carvings. There are many carved pattern on the walls, the arches, the columns and the façade. Carved images include nature, animals, mysterious creatures as well as the school shield and motto. On February 14, 1890, the eastern wing, housing the library, was severely damaged by a fire.[3] The cause of the fire is said to be due to servants dropping two kerosene lamps on a wooden staircase, the fire immediately spread causing quite the damage.[3]

Stories and Beliefs of the BuildingEdit

The famous ghost story of the University College, started from the carving "Crocodiles and vermin". The sculptor was a Russian, named Ivan Reznikoff. It is said that he was buried in the northeast corner of the quadrangle. Since then, his ghost has been seen at regular intervals. The newel in the east staircase is a wooden Griffin. Griffin is a magical creature that is a mix of a lion and an eagle. people in campus believe that touching that Griffin would bring luck to their life and for sure thy would pass their exams with great marks.

Design before the Fire in 1890Edit

Before the fire on 1890, University College was a U-shaped structure that was open on the north end, with a quadrangle and cloisters enclosed. The focus point of the structure was at the south side, where it had a stone tower at the center of the south composition, it was also where the main entrance of University College. It could access to classrooms, public reading rooms, the museum and the library. On the east side of the building, there was an entrance for the quadrangle and the convocation hall. Residences and dining hall were on the west range of the structure. The chemistry laboratory was moved to the southwest range, the reason of moving it there was because it was more logical than in the first study which was in the north. The south elevation was asymmetrical and very detail. The structure was delicate and the façade was enhanced by the stone carving and patterning.[4]

In order to achieve a picturesque approach, Cumberland ignored the classical symmetry and gave another expression in architecture. University College had combined important parts and made it into a whole. Another explanation of Cumberland’s design for being so different in the 1850s was he had involved British design for educational structures in England and Ireland. Cumberland chose Norman Romanesque style because he thought it was the most appreciate for the typography in Canada.[4]

Interesting Key Aspects of the BuildingEdit

University College, one of Toronto’s oldest landmark buildings, has a great history behind it and is quite successful as far as architecture is concerned. “University College owes its appearance to a tangle of disagreements and concessions, political as well as artistic” (Bissell 22). The college became a “secular institution of higher learning in the 1850s,” as people like George Brown of Globe, Egerton Ryerson and chief architect Cumberland fought for this. This secularism only came about after debates and votes took place (Simmins 93). Cumberland met the requirements asked of him after taking part on a research and experience based trip to Europe in February 1856: “This course of action was consistent with Victorian architectural practice when new public buildings were being planned, which was to carefully study applicable building forms and adapt them, to the requirements of the job at hand (Simmins 95). The design committee lead by Cumberland end up including Norman, English, and “faint traces of Byzantium and the Italian palazzo” in the design (Friedland 57). The college is “a community of scholars whose primary aim must always be the courageous and independent pursuit of truth...[with] freedom from denominational control...” (Bissell 132). The building is “Norman-Romanesque [in] style, U-shaped with the north side left open [originally]...[The building is] asymmetrical [in] plan and elevation, [with] elaborately carved walls faced with stone, and a quadrangle and cloisters within...[and is] felicitously sited amid landscaped grounds” (Simmins 103). The Gothic, Byzantinian, Norman and early English styles were “fitting for educational institutions” (Bissel 23). the main materials include wood, stone, brick, slate, iron, mortar, and tile. “Only about one third of the exterior is stone, the rest being a very pale yellow brick, produced at a brickyard on Yonge Street...” (Friedland 62). Judging by historical maps of the city, Toronto undertook a great amount of urban development which made the college less visible as a landmark, but also made it stand out as different compared with most other buildings in the area. Most of the older colleges of the university are similar in some respects to University College, making this college fit into its immediate surroundings.

Bissell, Claude Thomas. University College: a Portrait. [Toronto]: Univ. of Toronto Pr., 1953. Print.

Friedland, Martin L. The University of Toronto: a History. Toronto: University of Toronto, 2002. Print.

Simmins, Geoffrey. Fred Cumberland: Building the Victorian Dream. Toronto: University of Toronto, 1997. Print.

Queen Victoria and members of the Royal Family (including her grandson, Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany) donated funds for the restoration of the building.[5]

Buildings and environs Edit

The college's three residence buildings hold about 720 students, and are fully co-ed, although Whitney started out as the women's residence and Sir Daniel Wilson's as the men's. A third residence, Morrison Hall, was added in 2005. Demand for places is high for a number of reasons: most rooms are singles, the community life is accepting and diverse and most main academic buildings are right across the street. Off-campus students can participate in the residence community life by becoming associate members of one of the houses.

Hutton House is one of six residential division within the Sir Daniel Wilson Residence at the University of Toronto. The residence was built as a men's residence in 1954. Hutton House is named after Maurice Hutton, a University College, University of Toronto classics professor. He also acted as Principal of University College, University of Toronto from 1901 to 1928. During 1906 and 1907 he was acting President of the university.[1]

Academics Edit

UC offers a number of distinct programs and courses within the University of Toronto. These include programs in Canadian Studies, Drama, Health Studies, and Sexual Diversity Studies.[6]

In 2008/2009 UC ceased to house the Cognitive Science program.

Student life Edit

UC prides itself both on academic excellence and its openness to diversity. The college's motto is "to shed light on that which is obscure".

University College Literary and Athletic SocietyEdit

File:University College, University of Toronto.jpg

The University College Literary and Athletic Society, colloquially known as the 'Lit', is the oldest student government in Canada dating back to 1854. Established in 1854 as the Literary and Scientific Society and renamed The University College Literary and Athletic Society in 1921 it merged with the University College Women's Undergraduate Association in 1958 to become representative of all students attending the college.[7]

Every full and part-time University College student is a member of the society. The Lit's mandate is to provide services, host events, facilitate student involvement, represent the student body, and foster a sense of community among students in the college. The Lit is also responsible for Orientation Week for incoming first-years, the student-run Diabolos' coffee bar, and the annual Fireball formal, commemorating the 1890 fire which destroyed the college.[7]

Diabolos' Coffee BarEdit

Diabolos' is University College's not-for-profit coffee bar that has been overseen by the UC Lit and student-run since 1966. It provides fair trade coffee, tea, vegan and vegetarian products to University College students. It is located in University College's Junior Common Room and is open Monday to Thurs 8:30am – 6pm and Friday 8:30am – 4pm.[7]

Additional imagesEdit

Notable alumniEdit

Arts & EntertainmentEdit




Literature & JournalismEdit


Science & MedicineEdit


See alsoEdit

References Edit

  1. University College, Directory of Designations of National Historic Significance of Canada
  2. University College, National Register of Historic Places
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 Parks Canada. "University College". Toronto National Historic Sites. Government of Canada. Retrieved 5 March 2011. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Simmins, Geoffrey (1997). Fred Cumberland: Building the Victorian Dream. Toronto: University of Toronto Press Incorporated. pp. 92–111. 
  5. Bousfield, Arthur; Toffoli, Garry (2004). "Let's Get It Right!: Facts About Canada's Monarchy". Canadian Royal Heritage Trust. Retrieved 15 September 2007. 
  6. Sexual Diversity Studies at the University of Toronto
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 University of Toronto – University College Literary & Athletic Society – Welcome Home


  • Bissell, Claude T. 'University College: A Portrait, 1853-1953'. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1953. Print.
  • Martin L. Friedland 'The University of Toronto: A History' (Toronto: University of Toronto Press © 2002)
  • Robin Harris 'A History of University of Toronto' (Toronto: University of Toronto Press © 1970)
  • Rick Helmes-Hayes 'Forty Years, 1963–2003: A History of the Department of Sociology, University of Toronto.' (Toronto: Canadian Scholars' Press, 2003, 215 pp.)
  • Professor Brian McKillop, 'Matters of Mind: The University in Ontario, 1791–1951' (Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press ©1951)
  • Marian Packham '100 Years of Biochemistry at the University of Toronto: An Illustrated History' 1908–2008, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press © 2008)
  • Simmins, Geoffrey. Fred Cumberland: Building the Victorian Dream. Toronto: University of Toronto Press Incorporated, 1997.

External links Edit


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