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Independent Schools

St. Michael’s College School (SMC-IN)

Location: 1515 Bathurst Street, Toronto, Ontario  M5P 3H4 (east side of Bathurst Street; north of St. Clair Avenue West)

War memorial rock garden at St. Michael's College School, Toronto, photo courtesy SMCS Archives

War memorial rock garden at St. Michael’s College School, Toronto. Photo courtesy SMCS Archives

Opened: 1852

Pre-1998 municipality: City of Toronto

Type of school: Independent; Catholic; all-boys; Grades 7 to 12

During the French Revolution (1787-1799) the number of Roman Catholic seminarians diminished because of persecution. In 1800, two priests founded a secret school in the remote mountains of central France. By 1802, after a change in French laws, ten priests from that school openly bound themselves into a religious community near the city of Annonay. In 1822, they chose St. Basil, a 4th-century teacher, bishop, and doctor of the Church, as namesake of their Congregation of St. Basil (Basilians) which would train new members to continue after the founding fathers’ retirement.

1852 Sept: Msgr de Charbonnel, Roman Catholic Bishop of Toronto, recalled his own Basilian education at Annonay, France, when considering Catholic schools for the young people of his parish. At his invitation, French Basilians opened St. Michael’s College School in the basement of the Bishop’s Palace on Church Street. The school offered, in the French style, a combination of what we would call high school and university education.

1856: School moved to Clover Hill—property donated to the Basilians by the Honourable John Elmsley, Legislative and Executive Councillor of Upper Canada. Clover Hill was outside the city at the time, in an area now bounded by Bay, St. Joseph, and St. Mary Streets.

1881: Affiliated with St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto for post-secondary education.

1902: New wing added to the original building to accommodate the rapidly expanding high school section. (The college section developed more gradually.) The high school remained in this building until 1950.

1932: Yearbook name changed to The Thurible.

1950 Sept: New building on current Bathurst Street site. (The property was previously owned by the Sisters of St. Joseph, who bought it in the 1920s from the estate of R.J. Fleming, a businessman and mayor of Toronto. The Sisters had built a convent and St. Clare House orphanage south of the Fleming house.) Monochrome beige Belden brick, finely-finished concrete and glazed concrete block of the same colour. The lantern tower situated directly over the chapel’s altar was originally designed to be an illuminated beacon at night. Architect: Ernest Cormier (1885-1980) whose designs include the Supreme Court of Canada building, the exterior doors of the United Nations building in New York (Cormier was the sole Canadian consultant for that design) and his own Art Deco home in Montreal, later owned by former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. St. Michael’s is “a scaled-down version of the University of Montreal main building.” Cormier’s only Toronto designs were those done for the Basilians. Later additions to the school reflect Cormier’s style. The 1902 Gothic Revival archway— engraved “Students’ Entrance”—was moved from the old building when it was demolished in 1971, and installed on the grounds on the Bathurst Street side, aligned with the new building’s entrance. A 1903 stained glass window from inside the arch of the old gate was also preserved. (See 1992 comments.)

Brits Blue granite war memorial at St Michael's College School, Toronto. Photo courtesy SMCS Archives

Brits Blue granite war memorial at St Michael’s College School, Toronto. Photo courtesy SMCS Archives

1957: Artificial ice installed.

1960 Nov 7: A capacity crowd watched an NHL All-Star team composed exclusively of St. Michael’s alumni play the school’s senior team, the Majors. The Majors won, and went on to win that season’s Memorial Cup.

1967: School entered into partnership with Metropolitan Separate School Board of Toronto to educate the Board’s students in Grades 9 and10. This made St. Michael’s both a public and an independent school (until 1985).

1984: Establishment of archives requested by Fr Norm Fitzpatrick, CSB, principal. The school’s first archivist, Fr William O’Brien, CSB, began organizing documents and searching records relevant to the school’s history.

1985 Sept: The Basilian Fathers refused provincial aid, returning St. Michael’s to its roots as a fully independent Catholic high school.

1986: Fr O’Brien, a Second World War veteran, as well as the archivist, began planning a war memorial honouring former students.

1990: Dedication of WWI and WWII framed list of war dead.

1992: Installation above entranceway of stained-glass window preserved from Clover Hill building. Depictions of the old and new schools; religious symbols; Basilian motto, among the additions to the original arched window.

1995: New east wing included: modern classrooms; new library; music and visual facilities; design and technology facilities; a 50-seat lecture hall; expanded gymnasium. Building Fund Campaign for a major renovation of the school included funding for a full Memorial Wall listing the names of all alumni killed in the two World Wars, Korea, and peace time, in the service of Canada.

1998 Sept: Academic program expanded to include Grades 7 and 8.

2000 June: Memorial wall dedicated.

2002 Sept 15: Celebration of 150th anniversary.

2004 Sept: Stadium retro-fitted with artificial turf for the athletic field, an electronic score board, stadium lighting, and an air-supported structure to cover a third of the field for use during winter months.

2008: Archives moved to second floor of the arena. When the protective vertical blinds in the controlled climate museum segment open, there is a clear view of the famed St. Mike’s hockey rink. CBC’s annual Hockey Day in Canada, on January 5, 2007, featured the school’s celebration of 100 years of hockey. More than 200 St. Michael’s alumni have played in the National Hockey League. The fourteen Hockey Hall of Fame inductees (a record unmatched by any school) include Bobby Bauer, Red Kelly, Tim Horton, Dave Keon, and Frank Mahovlich. Many descriptive photos hang in the arena. The arena is 185 feet by 80 feet; can seat 1,140 fans, with standing room for another 500. The “double-blue” (light blue and navy blue) colours are worn in a full range of sports programs: football, baseball, basketball, track and field, tennis, swimming, lacrosse, etc. The school competes with other independent, Catholic, and public schools in the GTA.

2010 Apr 10: Centre for the Arts opened with a gala performance featuring St. Michael’s Alumni Orchestra, the Nylons, the Three Sopranos, and the casts of Phantom of the Opera, and Twelve Angry Men. Designed by C.S. and P. Architects, the Centre is situated where the priests’ residence was, and where Cormier indicated in his late 1940s design an auditorium should be located. The stage is the size of Toronto’s Royal Alexandra Theatre on King Street. Used by the school and rented to performing groups.

2012 May 26: St. Michael’s took part in Doors Open Toronto.

Published history:
St. Michael’s College School: Doors Open Toronto at St. Michael’s College School: Saturday, May 26, 2012. Toronto, St. Michael’s College School, 2012.

Web sites: http://www.stmichaelscollegeschool.com
NOTE: Many of St. Mike’s publications are available online through archive.org and linked from the school’s web page http://www.stmichaelscollegeschool.com/about-us/history-and-archives/online-publications/index.aspx including the following:

  • School “calendars” from 1905. These are much like yearbooks—containing team pictures, curriculum information, etc.
  • Yearbooks from 1910. Early issues are called: The Year Book of St. Michael’s College. In 1932, the name was changed to The Thurible. (A thurible is a metal vessel suspended from chains, used for burning incense during solemn services of the church. A server swings the thurible, releasing the fragrant smoke. The new name had a three-fold significance for the school: a thurible appears on the Basilian coat of arms; at High Mass, St Michael is mentioned as “standing at the right hand of the altar of incense;” and incense smoke symbolizes prayers rising to Heaven.) Yearbooks around the war years contain more information about honour rolls. For example, 1919, p. 58 lists “The Fallen” (28 deaths); p. 59 has the photos of the fallen; pp. 63-66 have five columns of names on each page. The Thurible 1945 refers to a memorial to be erected after the war, and on pp. 8-9 tells the branch of service (including some American) and details such as “lost at sea,” “died in camp,” “died of wounds,” and “killed.” Also, The Thurible 1946, p. 81 has a memoriam of World War II deaths (92 names) and includes the years of graduation. The 1948 issue comments, “More than 500 alumni hastened to join the armed services.”
  • Blue Banner, the twice-yearly alumni magazine— current and archival information on graduates’ contributions to politics (particularly federal), academia, the arts, media, sports, and business.
  • The school’s archival holdings include: most school newspapers back to 1944; school marks registers from 1875 to 1919; videos and thousands of images of teams, clubs, and school activities; artifacts such as a football helmet from the 1920s and autographed hockey pucks.

    War memorial (SMC-IN-a) now in St Michael's College School musem, Toronto. ©Toronto Branch, Ontario Genealogical Society

    War memorial (SMC-IN-a) now in St Michael’s College School musem, Toronto. ©Toronto Branch, Ontario Genealogical Society

Memorials transcribed:
SMC-IN-a: (WWI and WWII) large framed listing of all of the school’s known war dead. Hand-written (copper plate style). Six panels (church window shape). Panel one: (school crest) St. Michael’s / College School / Honours its students / who gave their lives / in war. Panel two: hand-drawn plain cross above “World War I.” Panels three to five: hand-drawn plain cross above “World War II.” Panel six: (Greek writing) “In place of lamentation / there is remembrance, / and pity is become praise.”

SMC-IN-b: (WWI; WWII; Korea; Peace Time) memorial wall made of Brits Blue granite from South Africa, dedicated in June 2000. The company that made the memorial also did the police memorial at Queen’s Park and the firefighter’s memorial in Ottawa. “In the image and likeness of God / (school crest between two crosses) / St. Michael’s College School / Defenders of Freedom / SMCS honours its students who gave their lives in war and peace time / World War I / (25 names) / World War II / (92 names) / Korean War / (one name) / Peace Time (one name) / Requiescant in Pace. (Ongoing research in the school archives suggests that the figures, especially for the First World War, are likely higher.)
NOTE: The school discussed whether the memorial should be inside the building or outside where it could be seen by the public. When planning for major renovations began in 1995, it was decided to place it here, on what had been the outside wall of the chapel. Above the memorial are the Stations of the Cross originally painted for the Basilian chapel on Strawberry Island, near Orillia, Ontario, by Fr Robert McKinnon, the school’s art and drama teacher in the early 1970s. Fr O’Brien died before the June 2000 dedication. Kimm Bailey, Director of Advancement, finished the project.

SMC-IN-c: Rock garden (“Tulip Garden”): Inscribed on small rocks: (cross) Pray / for / Our War Dead / in World War I / and / World War II. Fr O’Brien initiated creation of a special tulip garden in the school’s courtyard to commemorate the 50th anniversary (1995) of the end of World War II. This was part of a cross-Canada “Canada Remembers” project. Garden composed of a small statue of Saint Francis holding a bird in his right hand, rocks, driftwood, small evergreens and seasonal plants. Maintained by Fr Cecil Zinger, a teacher at the school. Archivist Richard McQuade continues (2013) to work on details of the military records of any former SMCS students—many of whom joined the Royal Canadian Air Force. He is compiling details such as service numbers, data from government files, cross references, etc. and welcomes further information.

There is no peace—
Only post-war
-Pius XII