Hart House (University of Toronto) in Toronto
Hart House is a student activity centre at the University of Toronto. Established in 1919, it is one of the earliest North American student centres. Hart House was initiated and financed by Vincent Massey, an alumnus and benefactor of the university, and was named in honour of his grandfather, Hart Massey. The Collegiate Gothic-revival complex was the work of architect Henry Sproatt, who worked alongside decorator Alexander Scott Carter, and engineer Ernest Rolph, and subsequently designed the campanile at its southwestern corner, Soldiers' Tower.
Conceived as a place for cultural, intellectual and recreational functions alike, Hart House contains a range of facilities that include a gymnasium, swimming pool, archery range, theatre, art gallery, reading and sitting rooms, lounges and reception areas, offices, library, music rooms, conference and study rooms, restaurant and auditoriums. Hart House is organized into standing committees composed of students and faculty, and is governed by a similarly-composed board of stewards and the warden. The overall design acquires a high degree of stylistic unity through the calm, monumental impression it creates. There are several contributing factors: the stress placed on masses rather than silhouettes, the horizontal lines and the reduction of picturesque motifs to a minimum.
As an undergraduate, Vincent Massey read history and English at Victoria University in the University of Toronto, and then completed graduate studies in history at Balliol College, Oxford. Upon his return to Canada, he sought to bring a unifying, communitarian spirit to the highly independent colleges of the University of Toronto, inspired by the social and recreational life that he observed at Oxford's colleges. Massey, who in 1908 had become a trustee of his family estate, offered to establish a structure devoted to extracurricular activities at the university, an idea that was readily embraced by the university's governors.
When construction began in 1911, the trustees of the Massey estate had budgeted a significant amount of $300,000 for the project. Working without a master plan, Massey and his architect continued to adopt new ideas and expand existing ones as construction progressed. By the time of completion in 1919, the cost of the building had soared to $2 million.
Hart house was built during the Gothic Revival era. Originally, Gothic architecture was associated with Cathedrals. The Gothic cathedral was built at a large scale. When the Gothic style had first gained its momentum in England and France, the large churches were encrusted with decoration. This decoration depicted biblical events through images so that even the illiterate could dwell in the ideals of religion. Originally the church developed universities: The ideals that Hart house is intended to evoke are represented through its architectural forms just as biblical messages were demonstrated in Gothic churches. The building is made up of corridors and are flanked my various rooms, high ceilings, and sculptural detailing. The attention to detail demonstrates importance and the emphasized high ceilings demonstrate authority. Dim lighting makes Hart house the perfect place to study and ultimately influences one to become a better member of society.
Massey's donation stipulated that the building was to be used only by men, as he felt that a coeducational facility would ruin the sense of collegiality that he hoped to create. Beginning in the 1950s, this restriction created much controversy as women demanded admission. Massey stood by his original conditions, however. After his death the Stewards and administrators of Hart House had Massey's deed of gift altered to allow women to become members. Since 1972, women have been able to fully participate in the House's activities.
During John F. Kennedy's debate with Stephen Lewis at Hart House on 14 November 1957 he said "I personally rather approve of keeping women out of these places" and went further onto remark "Its a pleasure to be in a country where women cannot mix in everywhere" (ignoring the female students who picketed outside with signs proclaiming "Unfair!" and "We want Kennedy!").
It is evident that the exterior of the building was carefully sculpted in the mind of Henry Sproatt. Hart House is large in comparison to the buildings surrounding it such as Wycliffe College and the Stewart Observatory. In keeping with the Gothic form, the building is presented as larger in height than in width, which gives it an even more predominant sense of grandeur to those standing at its base. From the exterior, a repetition of large windows can be seen along the northern and southern sides, matched with stout exterior protrusions, accentuating the end of one section of the building and the beginning of another. The contours of the building are jagged, emphasizing the Gothic form and giving Hart House the profile of a true academic institution of that time period.
A variety of intimate details can also be found in the interior of Hart House. Below grade, backstage, at the rear wall of the theatre just mentioned, there are scars formed by service ammunition, giving the building a sense of character. There are also elements forged into the walls of the building that are there on purpose, like the first occupants of the House that are remembered on the south façade, as well as carvings over the bay windows of the map room which depict the principal units that were stationed there during the war. The Great Hall holds another souvenir, inconsistent with the Gothic setting: one of the stone corbels has been carved to represent an officer cadet of 1916 in uniform, carrying his field pack and rifle.
Hart House is a example of Gothic Revival architecture as it is asymmetrical with pointed arches and windows, extensive ornamentation, steeply pitched roofs and a tall tower. It is also a late collegiate Gothic building because of its late erection date in 1919. The building consists of four wings around a quadrangle with a four-peaked tower extended from the south west corner. Although Hart House appears to be masonry construction, it is actually structural steel and precast concrete with grey sandstone cladding. The roofs are barrel vaulted wood beams. Wood and stone are the main materials used in this building. Hart House along with all of its uses is working towards sustainability with the use of simple things like dual-flush toilets and power saving light bulbs.
The majority of elements within Hart House hint at the Perpendicular style of Gothic architecture and thus generally line up in a row. Arches and vaults are the dominant structural form, however, there are parts of the building that employ lintels to create open spaces with flat ceilings (such as the East Common Room). The ceilings in the corridors and many rooms such as the Upper Gallery of the Great Hall are vaults with ridge ribs, but of particular emphasis is the treatment of the library ceiling that uses decorative Lierne ribs that can also be seen in the entrance vaults. The general shape of the frontispieces and, what appear to be, Tudor-like archways mirror the shape of the chimney arches, while the decorative cinquefoil shapes used for the windows can also be seen in the woodwork of doors and trusses. The main entrance on the south side, the entrance on the west side, and the entire east wall is treated with a Perpendicular style parapet of battlements. The Gothic nature of the structure is emphasized through the structural systems, layout, and ornamentation, while the weight of stone is de-emphasized through its decoration, and its contrast with the thin stained-glass windows.
Close to the Romanesque-building style, Gothic, or Gothic-revival style uses stone masonry to build. The use of rocky dark sandstone and limestone materials contrasted greatly with the smooth brick lining inside, the pointed-arch shape dominating the windows and doors and hallways. The porch is another Gothic-revival element that architect Henry Sproatt added, a protected space in front of the main entrances for people to hide in case of bad weather. The addition of decorated wooden arch-braces and ceilings act like an acoustical amplifier for the Hart House Orchestra.
Even though the detail of the Gothic style is much simpler than the Romanesque style, it still has decorative stone and wood carvings inside and outside the building. On the south side of the building there is a line of miniature human head sculptures made out of stone near the top of the building. There are also stone lions and monkeys that are on the outside of the main doors one at each side. The arch braces on the flat roofs of the east hall ways have carved decorations on them. The windows have clover like decorations near the top. Even the school crest and motto is carved onto the façade of Hart House. These carvings are a beautiful addition aesthetically to the building.
"Hart House's system of governance is based on a commitment to collaborative and democratic decision-making." Hart House is governed by the Board of Stewards, a deliberative body composed of the student secretaries of the standing committees of the House; a representative from the Finance Committee; the University of Toronto campus student governments; the chair of the Alumni Committee; a senior member from Recreational Athletics; the President of the University (or his/her designate); two appointees of the President; one appointee of the Governing Council; and the Warden, who serves as the chief administrative officer of the House. The current acting Warden is Bruce Kidd, who succeeded Louise Cowin in 2011. The Board of Stewards is responsible for the use of space in the House, approving the House's finances, and working with the Warden to determine the strategic vision of Hart House. Students are a majority of the members of the Board of Stewards.
Justina M. Barnicke Gallery
The Justina M. Barnicke Gallery features a collection of historical and contemporary Canadian art, dating from 1921 to the present. Exhibits focus on contemporary Canadian art in all media. The gallery also hosts film screenings, lectures and performance art.
Apart from the regular exhibitions held at the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, the building houses an art collection that is valued at over CDN $10 million.
Clubs and activities
Hart House Debating Club
In 1986, the University of Toronto Debating Union—a university-wide debating club dating back to the 1940s—approached the Hart House Debates Committee and came to an agreement that secured support for the Union from Hart House. The organization, renamed the Hart House Debating Club, has ever since been the primary debating club at the University of Toronto open to all students from all colleges and campuses. Since its inception, the Hart House Debating Club has played host to prominent world leaders, including several Canadian Prime Ministers, foreign ambassadors, and John F. Kennedy. Moreover, the Club has hosted dozens of prestigious tournaments, including the North American Debating Championship and the World Universities Debating Championship.
The club has also won the World Universities Debating Championship twice; in 1981 and 2006.
Literary and Library Committee
This committee oversees many of the literary events that Hart House sponsors throughout the school year. These include the writing groups le mot juste and the "Algonquin Square Table", as well as the "Hart House Review". The Literary and Library Committee regularly hosts a writer-in-residence who both leads workshops and reviews students' writings. The Literary and Library Committee also runs a library, located on the second floor of Hart House. It features a variety of books for in-house research and leisure reading, and often is the venue for public readings (also coordinated by the Literary and Library Committee).
Hart House Review
- Main article: Hart House Review
Hart House Review (HHR) is a Canadian literary magazine / literary journal managed by student members of Hart House at the University of Toronto and published by Coach House Press. The magazine is best known for prose, poetry and photography contributed by emerging writers and artists in Canada. The likes of Rohinton Mistry, Camilla Gibb, Lynn Crosbie and many other notable names in Canadian literature have been published in the HHR during their university years.HHR also regularly organizes literary events which feature established and emerging members of the writing and publishing world.
The Hart House Lecture is an annual public lecture series in historic Hart House at the University of Toronto. Delivered by a lecturer chosen by a committee of students, staff and alumni, the Hart House Lecture generally takes place in late March in the Great Hall of Hart House.
The Lecture Series was launched in 2001, with the vision of establishing an annual public lecture in Hart House. Organized by students, the Hart House Lecture Series aspires to ignite public conversation and debate. The lecture takes issues identified by youth to a national audience. For Hart House, a historic gathering place at the University and a home for debate, discussion and dissent, the lecture is a fitting medium through which the House can nurture civic leadership and participation.
The lecturer for 2007 was McGill Professor Darin Barney, who delivered a lecture titled "One Nation Under Google: Citizenship in the Technological Republic". The lecture examined the relationship between technology and citizenship.
The lecturer for 2008 was Warchild Canada founder and U of T Professor Samantha Nutt lecturing on "The world is Our Backyard: Individual Responsibility for a Global Society". Dr. Nutt will speak about our role as privileged North Americans and our ability to effect change in war-torn countries.
Past lecturers have included Darin Barney 2007, Michael Geist (2006), David Bornstein (2005), Jennifer Welsh, (2004), Alan Lightman (2002) and Pico Iyer (2001).
Copies of some of the past lectures are available here.
- Main article: Hart House Theatre
Hart House Theatre is often referred to as the cradle of Canadian Theatre. Opening in November 1919 the Art Deco theatre on the University of Toronto's St. George campus quickly became a leader in the Canadian “Little Theatre” movement of the 1920s and 1930s. Hart House Theatre cultivated and featured some of the country’s finest actors, directors, playwrights and designers of the Pre-World War II era, including Raymond Massey, Dora Mavor Moore, Lloyd Bochner, Lawren Harris, Arthur Lismer, Wayne and Shuster and Merrill Denison. After the war, Hart House Theatre, under the direction of Robert Gill, became an extracurricular student theatre and for twenty years turned out a new generation of stage professionals. William Hutt, Don Harron, Kate Reid, David Gardner, Arthur Hiller, Donald Sutherland, Norman Jewison and Lorne Michaels all got their start treading the boards on the Hart House stage.
By the mid-1960s the theatre joined the world of academia with the creation of the Graduate Centre for Study of Drama. A new generation of students combined dramatic literature with practical theatre experience and learned from and contributed to the vibrant Toronto theatre scene of the 1970s.
Today Hart House Theatre is the focal point for the performing arts at the University of Toronto. With over a thousand students participating each year in its extra-curricular season of drama, dance, music and film, Hart House Theatre continues to influence each new generation (Source: Hart House Theatre). The performances almost often well reviewed by art critics, and sold out.
Hart House Orchestra
Since 1976, the Hart House Orchestra (HHO) has provided an opportunity for members of the University of Toronto community with musical interest and training to fellowship and perform together in a musical environment. The HHO is an auditioned group with a complement of 80 to 90 musicians. Organizational operations are run by a committee of volunteer orchestra members. Auditions are open to university students at all levels of study, alumni, faculty, staff and senior members.
Hart House Film Board
The Hart House Film Board is a popular club which helps its members make movies through equipment rental and instruction, as well as group projects (such as the New Filmmaker's Project) and screenings. Most notably, Atom Egoyan made his first movie using Hart House Film Board equipment.
The captivating beauty of Hart House has made it a popular location for nuptials, professional conferences and other highbrow events. Hart House also owns and manages a 150 acre farm in the Caledon Hills on the ridge of the Niagara Escarpment.
The farm has long been a popular retreat.
Since 1919, nearly all dignitaries visiting Hart House had signed its guest book. In 2007, the original leather-bound book finally ran out of pages and had to be replaced.
The first royal visitor to Hart House was Prince Edward, Prince of Wales, who played squash with students there in 1924. In 1939, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth toured the campus and lunched at Hart House. Elizabeth II made the first of several visits as a princess in 1951.
Several individuals have signed the guest book more than once during separate visits to Hart House. Notable visitors include:
- Dwight D. Eisenhower
- Ronald Reagan
- John F. Kennedy
- Thomas Mann
- Stephen Leacock
- Henry Moore
- Seamus Heaney
- Octavio Paz
- John Kenneth Galbraith
- Christopher Hitchens
- Edmund Hillary
- King George VI
- Queen Elizabeth II
- Hart House official website
- Hart House Debating Club
- Hart House Orchestra
- Hart House Lecture
- Justina M. Barnicke Gallery
- Hart House Film Board