Remembering Massey Hall: June 14: Snapshots in History
On June 14 and beyond, take a moment to remember a venerable historical landmark, Massey Hall on Shuter Street, which opened on June 14, 1894 (as the first day of a three-day festival) with a performance of G.F. Händel’s Messiah by a 500-person chorus and the 70-member Grand Festival Orchestra. Massey Hall served as the home location for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (1923-1982) (and its predecessors (1906-1918)) and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir (1895-1982) until 1982. Massey Hall was designated a National Historic Site on June 15, 1981.
Known as Massey Music Hall up to 1933, Massey Hall was built at the behest of industrialist Hart Massey (of Massey-Harris, later Massey-Ferguson fame) as a gift to the City of Toronto in memory of his late son Charles Albert Massey to promote interests in music, education, good citizenship, philanthropy, patriotism and the like. Architect Sidney Badgley designed Massey Hall and it was constructed at a cost of $152,390.75 with an exterior of Palladian architecture coupled with an interior of Moorish Revival architecture.
Until the 1920s when concert halls were built elsewhere, Massey Hall was the sole facility in Canada designed solely for musical performances. Renovations in 1933 resulted in an added balcony lounge and reduced seating to the present 2,765. A further 1948 renovation lowered the stage and replaced wooden floors in Massey Hall with reinforced concrete. Following falling plaster from the ceiling in 1955, the ceiling was completely re-plastered accompanied with a strong wire mesh. In the 1980s, the interior was completely redone and air-conditioning was added in 1989 prior to the run of the musical Cats. In 1994, to celebrate the centenary of Massey Hall, the basement was renovated to include a bar called Centuries (prior to this, alcohol had not been permitted in Massey Hall) which included photographs of previous performers in the facility.
In celebration of Massey Hall, please consider some of the resources and treasures available in Toronto Public Library collections:
For more information about some of the musical performances over the years at Massey Hall, please visit Celebrating Massey Hall and Toronto Music: June 14: Snapshots in History on the Arts & Culture Blog.