Margaret Addison Hall

Victoria University is a college of the University of Toronto, founded in 1836 and named for Queen Victoria. It is commonly called Victoria College, informally Vic, after the original academic component that now forms its undergraduate division. Since 1928, Victoria College has retained secular studies in the liberal arts and sciences while Emmanuel College has functioned as its postgraduate theological college.

Victoria is situated in the northeastern part of the university campus, adjacent to St. Michael's College and Queen's Park. Among its residential halls is Annesley Hall, a National Historic Site of Canada. A major centre for Reformation and Renaissance studies, Victoria is home to international scholarly projects and holdings devoted to pre-Puritan English drama and the works of Desiderius Erasmus.


Victoria College was originally founded as the Upper Canada Academy by the Wesleyan Methodist Church. In 1831, a church committee decided to locate the academy on four acres (1.6 hectares) of land in Cobourg, Ontario, east of Toronto, because of its central location in a large town and access by land and water. In 1836, Egerton Ryerson received a royal charter for the institution from King William IV in England, while the Upper Canadian government was hesitant to provide a charter to a Methodist institution. The school officially opened to male and female students on October 12, 1836, with Ryerson as the first president and Matthew Ritchie as principal. Although the school taught a variety of liberal arts subjects, it also functioned as an unofficial Methodist seminary. In 1841, it was incorporated as Victoria College, named for Queen Victoria, and finally received a charter from the Upper Canadian Legislature.

Victoria University was formed in 1884 when Victoria College and Albert University federated with each other. In 1890, Victoria University federated with the University of Toronto. In 1892, Victoria University moved from Cobourg to its current campus on Queen's Park Crescent, south of Bloor Street (at Charles Street West), in Toronto.

A plaque was erected at 100 University Avenue at the intersection with College Street in Cobourg, Ontario.

James Loudon, a former President of the federated universities, had prohibited dancing at the University of Toronto until 1896. However, dancing at Victoria was not officially permissible until thirty years later, in 1926.

King George V gifted to Victoria College a silver cup used by Queen Victoria when she was a child and the Royal Standard that had flown at Osborne House and was draped on the coffin of the Queen when she died there in 1901.

Two bronze plaques on either side of the outside door of Victoria College were erected as memorials dedicated to the students of Victoria College who lost their lives in the First World War.

In 1928, the independent Union College federated with the theology department of Victoria College, and became Emmanuel College.

On the old Ontario strand for piano by Joyce Belyea was published for the Victoria College Music Club between 1946 and 1948 by the J.H. Peel Music Pub. Co. in Toronto.

Sites and architecture

Victoria College is somewhat separated from the rest of the University of Toronto geographically, bordering Queen's Park, and being located on the eastern portion of the campus along with St. Michael's College. The main building, Old Vic, is an example of Richardsonian Romanesque architectural style. The architect was W. G. Storm, who died shortly after completion. The campus is centred on the main quadrangle of Victoria, outlined by the upper and lower houses of Burwash Hall.

The oldest residence building at Victoria is Annesley Hall. Built in 1903 and renovated in 1988, it is a National Historic Site of Canada located across from the Royal Ontario Museum. Annesley Hall was the first residence built specifically for women in Canada.

Burwash Hall is the second oldest of the residence buildings at Victoria. Construction began in 1911 and was completed in 1913. It was named after Nathanael Burwash, a former president of Victoria. The building is an extravagant Neo-Gothic work with turrets, gargoyles, and battlements. The architect was Henry Sproatt.

The building is divided between the large dining hall in the northwest and the student residence proper. The residence area is divided into two sections. The Upper Houses, built in 1913, consist of four houses: North House, Middle House, Gate House, and South House. The Lower Houses were built in 1931 and were originally intended to house theology students at Emmanuel College, whose current building was opened the same year. Ryerson House, Nelles House, Caven House, Bowles-Gandier House are now mostly home to undergraduate arts and science students. The latter two are mostly reserved for students in the new Vic One Programme.

To the west the Upper Houses look out on the Vic Quad and the main Victoria College building across it. West of the Lower Houses is the new Lester B. Pearson Garden of Peace and International Understanding and the E.J. Pratt Library beyond it. From the eastern side of the building, the Upper Houses look out at Rowell Jackman Hall and the Lower Houses see the St. Michael's College residence of Elmsley. The only exception is the view from Gate House's tower that looks down St. Mary's Street.

Rowell Jackman Hall, is the newest of Vic's residences, having been completed in 1993. It is named after Mary Rowell Jackman whose son Henry N. R. Jackman made a substantial donation to the project. It stands just to the east of Burwash Hall on Charles St. and is west of St. Michael's College Loretto College. Before Rowell Jackman Hall was built, the site was home to a parking lot and the historic Stephenson House. Prior to construction Stephenson House was moved to a new location further east on Charles St. The building's construction caused some controversy as it greatly disrupted life in Burwash.

Margaret Addison Hall is a seven-floor co-ed residence across Charles St. from Burwash Hall, between the Wymilwood building and the Victoria sports field.

Built in 1961 and located at the south end of the quadrangle, the E.J. Pratt Library the main library of Victoria University, with some 250,000 volumes. The collection is geared towards the undergraduates and contains mainly humanities texts with a focus on History, English, and Philosophy. The site of the library and the adjacent Northrop Frye Building was originally on the route of Queen's Park Crescent. The road was pushed south into Queen's Park to make way for the new buildings.

Academics and organization

Victoria University is governed bicamerally by the Victoria University Board of Regents and the Victoria University Senate. These bodies are represented by faculty, administrators, elected students and alumni. The colleges are governed by the Victoria College Council and Emmanuel College Council. College councils are represented by faculty, administrators and elected and appointed students. Victoria's governing charter was most recently amended in 1981, with the enactment of the Victoria University Act.

Victoria is presently the wealthiest college at the University of Toronto by net assets. In part this has been because of alumni donations, but much of the growth is specifically due to the rapidly increasing value of Victoria's large real estate holdings in downtown Toronto. Today, the College has a securities portfolio worth approximately $78 million and a real estate portfolio worth $80 million.

The E.J. Pratt Library is the main library of Victoria College. The Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies holdings fall into three main categories: rare books, most of which were printed before 1700 (currently about 4,000 titles), modern books (currently about 25,000 volumes), and microforms (several thousand microfiches and reels). The library contains primary and secondary materials relating to virtually every aspect of the Renaissance and Reformation. In particular, it houses the Erasmus collection, one of the richest resources in North America for the study of works written or edited by the great Dutch humanist Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam. The collection holds a substantial number of pre-1700 editions of his works, including the Novum Instrumentum of 1516.

The academic programs of the college include Literary Studies, Semiotics and Communication Theory, Renaissance Studies, the Vic Concurrent Teacher Education Program (developed in conjunction with OISE/UT) and the first-year undergraduate programs Vic One and Vic First Pathways. Recently, the administration of Victoria University has been actively promoting international experiences as a part of the undergraduate student experience.

Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies (CRRS) is a research and teaching centre in Victoria University devoted to the study of the period from approximately 1350 to 1700. The CRRS supervises an undergraduate program in Renaissance Studies, organizes lectures and seminars, and maintains an active series of publications. The centre also offers undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral fellowships. The Records of Early English Drama (REED), also known as the Centre for Research in Early English Drama, is an international scholarly project that looks at the broader context from which the great drama of Shakespeare and his contemporaries grew. REED examines the historical manuscripts that provide external evidence of drama, secular music, and other communal entertainment and ceremony from the Middle Ages until 1642, when the Puritans closed the London theatres.

Founded in 1975, REED has for the last 31 years worked to locate, transcribe, and edit all surviving documentary evidence of drama, minstrelsy, and public ceremonial in England before 1642. As well, two collections go beyond the original boundaries of our research to cover other parts of the British Isles, RED (Records of Early Drama): Scotland and Wales. Twenty-five collections of records have been completed since the first REED collection, York, appeared in 1979; the most recent one, REED: Lincolnshire, comes out in 2009. Over 30 editors are at work on future collections.

REED's internal governance is provided by an Executive Board of senior scholars in early drama and related fields, with advisors and collections editors drawn from Canada, the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom. For many years, REED also published a twice-yearly newsletter (REEDN), now superseded by a refereed journal, Early Theatre (ET/REED). The co-directors of REED are Alexandra Johnston and Sally-Beth MacLean.

Student life

Campus life for Victoria students is active and varied. Victoria College has both clubs and levy receivers, which are overseen by the Victoria University Students' Administrative Council (VUSAC). Clubs include PlenTea to Talk About, Vic Dance, the Scarlet and Gold Martial Arts Society, and the Victoria College Chorus.

Levy receivers are students groups with special status. They receive a guaranteed fixed levy from student fees every year. Levy heads are considered assessor members of VUSAC. Victoria's eight levy receivers are:

  • Victoria College Drama Society (VCDS), which runs at least four shows per year (a fall show, a winter show, a submission to the University of Toronto Drama Festival, and a musical)
  • The Strand, Vic's student-run newspaper that is distributed fortnightly across the University of Toronto's downtown campus.
  • Victoria College Athletics Association (VCAA), which provides students with a chance to participate and compete in intramural sports.
  • The Cat's Eye , a student lounge in the Wymilwood building that is often used to hold events
  • Acta Victoriana, an annual literary journal made up of student submissions.
  • The Victoriad, the yearbook.
  • WUSC, which sponsors a student from a developing country to come to the University of Toronto.
  • Caffiends, Vic's student-run organic cafe.
  • VicPride! , an LGBTQ organization that strives to create a safe space at Victoria.

Victoria is also home to the Isabel Bader Theatre, which opened in March 2001. Over the past few years the theatre has been used as a lecture hall for University of Toronto students, an active learning space for Victoria University students groups, numerous concerts, theatrical productions, film screenings, and conferences.

Residential halls and houses

Each Upper House at Burwash Hall consists of three floors. The lower floor contains a common room equipped with kitchen facilities, couches and a television. The upper floors each have their own kitchen and dining area. Upper Houses are divided between double rooms and singles, with about sixty percent of the population being in doubles. The Lower Houses each have four floors, but are much narrower with each level having only four rooms. Each level also has its own kitchen, but these are much smaller than in the Upper Houses. The Lower Houses do have far larger and better fitted common rooms that are similar to the one's the Upper Houses had before the renovations. The rooms in the Lower Houses are also considered more luxurious with hardwood floors and large sizes. The upper houses were gutted and renovated in 1995. The lower houses have only been partially upgraded. Before the renovations the entire building was all male, but now every house is co-ed.

Gate House is one of the four Upper Houses of Burwash Hall. Until 2007, when Victoria administration made it co-ed, Gate House was one of the last remaining all-male residence building in the University of Toronto. The Gate House emblem is the Phoenix, visible in the bottom-right corner of the Victoria College insignia. Gate House, with the rest of Upper Burwash, opened in 1913 and has held students every year since then except 1995, when it was renovated. Gate House has three floors which house 28 students.

The eight storey Rowell Jackman Hall building is an apartment style residence with each floor divided into a number of suites. When it was completed Rowell Jackman Hall was mainly home to upper years and graduate students. Today it only houses underdgrads and has a considerable number of first years, except for the Marchand-Smith wing, or International House, which continues to house a number of upper years.

Stephenson House is a community involvement residence at Victoria University, hosting ten undergraduate students per year. Stephenson House is self-governed and self-regulating with a separate application and selection process.

Burwash Dining Hall

The Burwash Dining Hall holds some 250 students and sixteen large tables. Hanging on the western wall is Queen Victoria's burial flag, given to the college soon after her death. Under the flag is the high table where the professors and college administration lunch. Historically, the Upper Houses each had their own table. Gate sat in the southwest corner, Middle sat in the far northeast, South sat in the table to the west of Middle, while North sat to the west of the southeast corner. The only lower house to have had a designated table was Caven, in the northwest corner beside the Alumni table. (Note that prior to the 1995 renovations, some of these houses, particularly North and Caven, 'traditionally' sat elsewhere)

Culture and traditions

For 20 years Gate House hosted an annual party called Novemberfest in the Burwash dining hall. The Victoria Dean of Students cancelled Novemberfest in 2003, when police discovered widespread underage drinking and over 800 people in the dining hall, in violation of the fire code. Another Gate House tradition that no longer occurs is the "stirring the chicken," a dinner and keg party where house members cook chicken fajitas for hundreds of guests. Until 2007, Gate House held secretive first-year initiation ceremonies called Traditionals, which involved writing slogans on campus buildings in chalk, singing songs to the all-women's residence (who would then sing back to them), and leading first-years around the house blindfolded.

During its 93 ye ars as a men's residence, Gate House developed a distinct character and reputation. These antics included pranks, toga parties, streaking, caroling to other residences, hazing rituals, "beer bashes" and "incessant pounding" on the Gate House table in the dining hall. Paul Gooch wrote that these traditions gave Gate House an "ethos" that contradicted his vision of residence life.

The all-male Gate House was known as a social centre and spirited, tight-knit community. According to Grayson Lee, who created the snow penis sculpture in 2007, most of its residents were "heartbroken" to leave. Former Gate House President Dave Ruhl commented that "the Gate House camaraderie is unique" and that living there was "one of the most important parts of the university experience" for many.

The Reuters news agency nicknamed Gate House "U of T's Animal House" because Donald Sutherland's memories of its parties are said to have influenced the script of the 1978 movie. The Toronto Star described Gooch's decision to put an end to its traditions, activities and distinguishing characteristics as "neutering Animal House."

Notable alumni and faculty

Famous Victoria alumni include Margaret Atwood, Lester B. Pearson, Don Harron, and Donald Sutherland.

  • Egerton Ryerson - one of the founders of Victoria College and its first President
  • Margaret Atwood – Author
  • Margaret Avison – Poet
  • Wilbur R. Franks – Noted Scientist and Cancer Researcher
  • Northrop Frye – Literary Critic
  • Norman Jewison – Current Chancellor of Victoria University and Filmmaker
  • Don McKellar – Actor and Filmmaker
  • Richard Outram - Poet
  • Lester B. Pearson – Former Prime Minister of Canada and Nobel Laureate
  • E. J. Pratt – Poet
  • Laure Rièse - First female faculty member
  • Donald Sutherland – Actor
  • Kenneth D. Taylor - Former Chancellor of Victoria University and Former Canadian Ambassador to Iran
  • Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga – 6th President of Latvia
  • Arthur L. Schawlow - Physicist, Nobel laureate
  • Augusta Stowe-Gullen - first woman to graduate from a Canadian medical school


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