Why I Love Toronto
The Great Hall
The Etobicoke School of the Arts semi-formals - I will never forget them. The girls were all decked out in dresses and skipped school to get their hair and make-up done, while the guys would iron their dress shirt and pick out a tie to wear for a night of dancing and small finger foods. Yes, semi-formal was the prom for us in Grade 9, 10 and 11.
Anyways, for my grade 9 and 11 years we went to The Great Hall for semi-formal and what a treat! The building was a stunning piece of architecture and even I realized that when I first saw it in Grade 9 and trust me architecture was not my main interest (it was reading the latest J14 magazine – how I have grown up). With its aging exterior, bay windows and orange/red bricks this building is a viewing pleasure on Queen Street West.
Erected in 1889 the building was designed by Gordon and Helliwell and built by Samuel J. Moore. Now the buildings original intent was a rather interesting one for it housed the first west end YMCA. Now compared to the YMCA’s I’ve seen today I couldn’t believe it, but don’t forget back in the day things were different and grand architectural spectacles were all the rage instead of these glass modern day boxes we have today. The building had a swimming pool in the basement (which is now a place for concerts) along with a gym that had an elevated track which Boston Marathon winner Tom Longboat trained on. Another cool fact is that The Great Hall was the place where some of the earliest basketball games were played.
The Great Hall eventually became a place of business when it was purchased by the Royal Templars of Temperance in 1912. Later it was home to the Polish National Union who used the building to print The Polish Voice newspaper and house Polish refugees coming to Canada during the second world war.
Now the main hall, called The Hall in which our semi-formal was hosted in, must have been the gym because above the hall is a balcony that looks as though it could have been used as a track. I just find it so fascinating that the building has gone through such a transition from a YMCA to offices to a home for Polish refugees to a bunch of other things in between and finally a venue for special events and concerts. This building has truly lived its life.
That is Why I Love Toronto
- Image 1
- Image 2 (The Great Hall website site above)