[URBAN NOTE] “The rise and fall and rise of St. Lawrence Hall”
Spacing Toronto’s Chris Bateman writes about the early history of St. Lawrence Hall.
In 1966, Toronto’s St. Lawrence Hall was in terrible shape.
The venerable old neoclassical building at the southwest corner of King and Jarvis streets was partially derelict—its stonework and chimneys collapsing, the roof leaking, and window frames rotting. Years of grime and dirt caked the glass and the clocktower sagged five centimetres off centre.
The stores on the ground level consisted of a ramshackle army surplus store and a machine shop, but most were boarded up.
Yet, despite its decrepitude, the Great Hall—the grand event space for which the building is named—remained relatively untouched. Its ornately-carved plaster ceiling and grand gasolier (a gas-powered chandelier) were in bad shape, but showed tremendous potential for restoration.
“St. Lawrence Hall was like a ragged beggar who has treasure stored away in a shack,” wrote Kenneth B. Smith, a reporter with the Globe and Mail.
50 years ago, in 1966, after a concerted preservation battled headed by prominent architect Eric Arthur, St. Lawrence Hall was completely restored as a City of Toronto Centennial project. Before that could happen, however, Toronto’s once-prized public hall had to hit rock bottom.