Victoria College (VIC-UN)
Location: 73 Queen’s Park Crescent East, Toronto, Ontario M5S 1K7 (south of Bloor Street West, at Charles Street West; east off Queen’s Park Crescent. On the northeastern portion of the University of Toronto campus.)
Opened: 1836 (in Cobourg, Ontario)
Alternate or former names: Upper Canada Academy; Victoria College (since 1841); Victoria University; Vic (informal)
Pre-1998 municipality: Toronto
Type of school: University. Federated college of the University of Toronto since 1890. Governed by Victoria University Board of Regents and the Victoria University Senate.
Motto: Abeunt studia in mores—Studies pass into character
Victoria is a wealthy college, not only because of alumni generosity, but also because of prime real estate holdings—such as the Colonnade, at 131 Bloor Street West—in central Toronto. The history of Victoria College—particularly in the early days—is entwined with the history of the Methodist (later the United) Church of Canada.
1831: A committee of Methodist church faithful had raised funds for an academy on four acres of land in Cobourg, Ontario (east of Toronto) on Lake Ontario. The site—on a rise of land near the northeast edge of the town—was chosen for its convenient land and water access.
1832 June 7: Cornerstone laid for a three-storey Greek Revival brick and stucco building designed by architect Edward Crane. (Building cost: $40,000.)
1836 June 18: Opened as Upper Canada Academy. Founded by royal charter from King William IV. The government of Upper Canada had hesitated to provide a charter to a Methodist institution. The school offered a variety of liberal arts subjects, but also functioned as an unofficial Methodist seminary.
1836 Oct 12: Official opening for male and female students under the Reverend Egerton Ryerson, as president. Ryerson was a Methodist minister, author, newspaper editor, and public education advocate. He had travelled to England, soliciting money and arranging to get a charter for the academy. The first principal was Matthew Ritchie.
1841: Incorporated as Victoria College; named for Queen Victoria. A charter received from the Upper Canadian Legislature gave Victoria the power to grant degrees—the second institution in Upper Canada to have degree-granting powers.
1842 June 21: Egerton Ryerson inducted as principal.
1842 Oct: University-level instruction began. Women excluded from the college.
1845: First convocation. The first B.A. was granted to Oliver Springer.
1878: Faraday Hall built to house Science Department. (Destroyed by fire in mid-1900s.)
1878 May: Acta Victoriana founded. It is the oldest continuous literary journal in Canada.
1884: Victoria College merged with Albert College, in Belleville, to form Victoria University. 1890: Federated with the University of Toronto.
1892: The last graduating class from the Cobourg campus. The college moved from Cobourg to Toronto, to the dismay of the Cobourg Council. (College activities had enlivened the town.) The main Toronto building, “Old Vic,” designed by architect W.G. Storm, is an example of Richardsonian Romanesque style.
1897: The government of Ontario bought the vacant Cobourg building, which changed architecturally over the years. In 1900, it became the Cobourg Insane Asylum. From 1920 until 1970, it was D’Arcy Place (a part of the Ontario Hospital system). The building was later turned into a retirement residence. It is a designated heritage site of both the province of Ontario and the town of Cobourg. See also: World War I (below).
1899: The Methodist Church Archives established at Victoria University.
1903 Oct 1: Annesley Hall, the college’s oldest residence and the first residence in Canada built specifically for women, opened on the corner of Queen’s Park and Charles Street West. Named for Susannah Annesley, mother of John Wesley, one of the founders of Methodism. Intended as a home of “high moral tone” for the “daughters of Methodism.” Largely financed by the estate of businessman and philanthropist Hart Almerrin Massey. Massey had attended three sessions at Victoria College when it was in Cobourg. The Masseys were Methodists. Designed by George M. Miller, in an eclectic style sometimes called “Jacobethan.”
1910: Formal opening of the Birge-Carnegie Library, Victoria’s main library until the 1961 opening of the E.J. Pratt Library.
1913: Victoria Student Council formed.
1913: Second residence, the Neo-Gothic Burwash Hall, completed—another gift of the estate of Hart Almerrin Massey. Named for Nathanael Burwash, a Methodist minister and chancellor and president of Victoria from 1842 to 1845. (Initially consisted of four houses of residence: North, Middle, Gate, and South.) An all-male residence until 1995, when it became co-ed. The adjoining Burwash Dining Hall is the University of Toronto’s largest, with a capacity for 250 students. Architects: Sproatt and Rolph.
World War I (1914-1918): Of the 530 students and graduates who served, 75died. The Cobourg building became the Cobourg Military Convalescent Hospital, where wounded soldiers were treated until 1920.
1925: Methodists, some Presbyterians, and some Congregationalists joined to form the United Church of Canada.
1925: Wymilwood, 84 Queen’s Park, opened as a residence and social centre for women. Donated by financier Edward Rogers Wood and his wife Agnes, a Victoria Women’s Association member.
1926: Dancing, prohibited at the University of Toronto until 1896, did not become officially permissible at Victoria until this date. (Methodists traditionally frowned on dancing, card playing, gambling, smoking, and the consumption of alcohol.)
1928: Presbyterians who had not joined the church union to form the new United Church retained Knox College (the building) at the University of Toronto, but the Knox faculty and most students left to form “Union College” with the theology department of Victoria. Shortly afterward, it was renamed Emmanuel College and associated with the new United Church of Canada. Emmanuel offered theological and post-graduate studies, formalizing religious education that had been a part of the curriculum since Victoria’s earliest days. Victoria continued to offer secular undergraduate studies.
1930: Emmanuel College (as part of Victoria University) affiliated with The United Church Training School situated in Toronto. The arrangement lasted 40 years. The United Church Training School was the new (1926) name for the Methodist National Training School, established 1894 as a training school for deaconesses.
1931: Lower Houses of Burwash Hall, intended for Emmanuel College’s theology students, completed.
1932: The 100th anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone of Upper Canada Academy was observed by a pilgrimage to Cobourg.
World War II (1939-1945): More than 1400 students and graduates enlisted; 79 died.
1937: Reba E. Hern became the first woman to receive a diploma from Emmanuel College.
1940 Sept: Stephenson House, a self-governing “community involvement” residence for male undergraduate students, opened at 63 Charles Street West. Its purpose was “to assist worthy students in Victoria College who plan to enter the ministry of the United Church of Canada for home or foreign service.” Named for Dr. Frederick Stephenson, an Emmanuel College professor, whose wife had suggested the project, Stephenson House continued its cooperative housing operation in several locations, subsidized by Victoria College. In the 1980s, it began to accept applications from women. It is currently (2014) at 63 and 65 Charles Street West.
1951: Victoria Reports (later Vic Report) the alumni publication, founded.
1951 Oct 12: Cornerstone laid for Wymilwood Student’s Union.
1952: Student newspaper The Strand founded.
1953: Archives was given space in the Wymilwood building. The Archivist/Historian was jointly appointed by the United Church and Victoria University.
1959: Margaret Addison Hall, a seven-storey residence for women, opened. Named for Margaret Addison, dean of Annesley Hall from 1903 to 1931.
1961: The new Victoria College Library opened. (Renamed E.J. Pratt Library in 1967.) Built on the south end of the quadrangle, it contains some 4,000 rare books (mostly pre-1700); modern books (in 2014, about 25,000 volumes) and several thousand microfiches and reels.
1966 Nov 1: New Academic Building opened.
1967: The main library (built in 1961) was renamed the E.J. Pratt Library in honour of the poet and teacher whose manuscripts are housed there.
1970: Emmanuel College became a partner in the Toronto School of Theology.
1972: The United Church of Canada Archives moved into the Birge-Carnegie Library building.
1982: Initiation of the Jackman Project: History of the Methodist Church in Canada.
1983 June 3: New Academic Building renamed Northrop Frye Hall.
1984: Victoria University Archives also moved to the Birge-Carnegie Library, sharing space with the United Church Archives.
1986: Sesquicentennial celebrated.
1988: Burwash Dining Hall reopened after a year of extensive renovation and restoration. It was now open to the entire Victoria community, including female residents, who had until then used separate dining facilities. Annesley Hall also renovated.
1989: Northrop Frye Centre established to perpetuate work in literary criticism and theory, the arts and religion. Northrop Frye (1912-1991) was considered one of the most influential 20th century thinkers in this field.
1989 Oct 21: Annesley Hall officially rededicated. (It is a National Historic Site of Canada.)
1991: Friends of Victoria University Library formed.
1992: Annual Victoria College Book Sale began.
1992 Oct 17: Old Vic centenary celebrated, following the sod-turning ceremony for the Rowell Jackman Hall.
1993 Oct 2: Newest residence, Rowell-Jackman Hall (eight storeys; apartment-style) built on site of historic Stephenson House, which relocated farther east on Charles Street.
1991: Friends of Victoria University Library formed.
2001 March: Isabel Bader Theatre opened, serving as a lecture hall, concert, film, and theatre venue, conference centre and much more.
2007: Gate House, one of the four Upper Houses of Burwash Hall, and one of the last all-male residences at the University of Toronto, became co-ed.
2008: The United Church Archives left Victoria University to form a separate United Church Archives in Etobicoke.
2011 May 28: Groundbreaking ceremony for the Goldring Student Centre.
Published history: See websites below.
http://library.vicu.utoronto.ca/ A wealth of information about Victoria College, including a detailed timeline from 1829 to the present day. The digital collection (3,906 items and growing) is searchable. NOTE: Just as Victoria College and the United Church are entwined, the Victoria College (University) Archives and the United Church Archives share much history. At the bottom of the timeline mentioned above, is a summary of their connections and locations over the years.
VIC-UN-a (WWI): Bronze (deaths): East side of the main archway. Above the Victoria crest (in relief) and motto; with a mourning angel and sword pointed downward (also in relief) on each side: They were valiant in life triumphant in death / Erected / to the Memory / of the Students of / this College who gave / Their lives in the Great / War 1914-1918. Two columns. Given names followed by surnames. The last name, “Douglas A. Wright,” appears at the bottom, between the two columns. At the base of the memorial: This tablet was presented to Victoria College / by the Alumni and Alumnae Associations and / Dedicated October 19th 1923.
NOTE: The Library’s timeline notes 67 WWI deaths; our index shows 75.
VIC-UN-b (WWII): Bronze (deaths): West side of the main archway. Above the Victoria crest (in relief) and motto; with a mourning angel and sword pointed downward (also in relief) on each side: They were valiant in life triumphant in death. Erected / to the Memory / of the students of / this College who gave / their lives in the Great War 1939-1945. Two columns. Given names followed by surnames. The last name, “Harold James Young,” appears at the bottom, between the two columns. At the base of the memorial: This Tablet was erected / by the Board of Regents and / dedicated October 13th, 1953.
NOTE: The Library’s timeline lists 76 WWII deaths; our index shows 79. “The Great War” traditionally refers to the First World War, but the term is used on this memorial for the Second World War.