The first Trinity College building was at the site of Trinity Bellwoods Park on Queen Street West and opened in 1851. Visitors to the park can see the original gate pillars and reproductions of the original gates at the south entrance to the park, but the building was torn down in the 1950’s. Eden Smith’s building for St. Hilda’s College can still be seen near the north-west corner of the park.
In 1904, Trinity College federated with the University of Toronto and in 1925 the College moved to Hoskin Avenue. Grand plans for the new campus, created between 1910 and 1914 by Frank Darling of Darling and Pearson, included three quadrangles, a chapel, convocation hall, library, residences for men and women, and other amenities. Unfortunately, World War I and the waning fortunes of some Trinity supporters caused the College to scale back its plans. In 1924 the new building opened its doors, but consisted only of the Hoskin Avenue facade. The inspiration for the ‘collegiate gothic’ style of architecture was the original building, designed by Kivas Tully. This in turn was inspired by English colleges, in particular St. Aidan’s Theological College, Birkenhead. The physical lineage of Trinity’s buildings reflects the use of Oxford and Cambridge as academic models, a tradition carried forward to the present in many aspects of student life.
When the new campus opened, men were housed at the corner of Hoskin Avenue and St. George Street in a converted apartment building, the St. George Mansions, later known as Trinity House. Women students were housed on St. George Street in three buildings, including the former home of Sir Edmund Walker at 99 St. George. The present campus consists of four buildings in close proximity near the intersection of Hoskin Avenue and Devonshire Place.
The original building formed an east-west axis along Hoskin Avenue and was completed in 1925. Later additions include the east and west wings in 1941, the north-east residence wing in 1955, the Chapel in 1955, and the north-west resident wing in 1963, the latter finally closing off the quadrangle. The additions were constructed of similar materials and harmonize with the original. Made of rock-faced stone with smooth stone trim, south wing of Trinity College is a three-storey structure, largely symmetrical with a central portal surmounted by a distinctive copper-roofed bell tower, with flanking end pavilions and smaller lantern towers. Prominent turrets, pinnacles decorated with finials and crockets, chimneys, bay windows and a distinctive two-storey entrance are flourishes that break up the symmetry and horizontality of the facade. Stone retaining walls and a generous garden that is linked to Philosopher’s Walk contribute to a sense of graciousness. The eastern end of this building contains the Provost’s Lodge. At the western end is the Chapel, designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, with its soaring leaded-glass windows in the perpendicular gothic style.
Today the main building houses student residents, faculty and administrative offices, classrooms and common rooms including Strachan and Seeley Halls and the Trinity College Chapel. In the front hall is the Student Services Centre, which houses the Office of the Registrar and Office of the Dean of Students.
At the entrance to the College note the crest above the door and the inscriptions ‘JOHANNES STRACHAN FUNDATOR MDCCCLI’. The carved heads flanking the door represent Charles A. Seager, Provost from 1921 to 1926 (right) and John Austin Worrell, Chancellor from 1914 to 1927 (left). Inside the first set of doors to the right is the cornerstone from the Queen Street building. The Latin text relates the founding of the College in the 14th year of Victoria’s reign, and refers to John Strachan and architect Kivas Tully.
Along the south side of the main hallway are the administrative offices of the College, and the Welcome Desk. The corridor is decorated with stone corbels portraying Canadian wildlife in the western wing and student sporting events in the eastern wing. Along the corridor there are several wooden benches with carved gryphons brought to the new location from the original Trinity College. The doorway leading outside on the north wall, opposite the main entrance, has a carved surround that features the signs of the zodiac. Visitors who enter this north door are met by four charming carved corbels representing four branches of scholarship.
At the eastern end of the corridor is the Provost’s Lodge, a private residence for the Provost. At the west end of the corridor is the Chapel, added to the original structure in 1955. A separate guide is available for the Chapel.
Turning right at the Chapel entrance and following the corridor northward, there is an exit leading to the Munk Centre and John W. Graham Library. Past this on the left is the entrance to the Divinity Common Room (DCR), formerly known as the Rhodes Room. This room was the northern limit of the original building. Across the hall is a staircase leading to the choir loft for the Chapel, two classrooms, offices, and the Angel’s Roost (residence).
From the DCR, steps lead to the 1942 addition and Strachan Hall (see separate guide). The entrance to the Hall features boards containing the names of student government leaders, or ‘Heads’. Up the stairs to the west is the Junior Common Room (JCR). This room is the official home to the Trinity College Literary Institute (The Lit), probably the oldest student club in Canada.
Back at the main entrance, a set of stairs leads to the second floor of the original building. In the stairwell is a portrait of Hon. George William Allan, Chancellor of the College from 1877 to 1901 painted by Sir Edmund Wyly Grier. At the curve in the stairway there is a glass case containing athletic trophies won by Trinity teams through the years. The case is maintained by the Trinity College Athletic Association. At the top of the stairs is the Douglas and Ruth Grant Boardroom, featuring a lovely view of the quadrangle from the second floor. The Boardroom features a series of pencil drawings, likely in the hand of architect Frank Darling, depicting unbuilt proposals for Trinity College. Above the fireplace is the framed Letters Patent for a new Grant of Arms from the College of Arms in London, dated 1988.
The new Student Services Centre opened in September 2019. The Centre centralizes student services, strengthens student supports and experience, and provides a warmer welcome for all campus visitors. The Student Services Centre is located in the front hallway of the main Trinity College building. The Centre houses both the Offices of the Registrar and the Dean of Students.
Completed in 1955, the Trinity College Chapel was designed in the “perpendicular gothic” style by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, the British architect who designed the iconic red telephone booths in England, Liverpool Cathedral, and the Bankside Power Station (now the Tate Modern Art Gallery). The chapel contains sculptures by Emmanuel Hahn & Jacobine Jones and stained glass removed from the original Trinity College on Queen Street. The building of the chapel was financed by our most generous benefactor, Gerald Larkin. The beauty of the chapel is enhanced by our Trinity College Choir and the 1,400 pipe organ.
Learn more about the Chapel.
At the top of the stairs to the left, through a set of double doors with linen-fold carving, is a grand hall originally intended as the library reading room. In the Tudor style with vaulted ceilings, the hall was used as a Chapel until the current Chapel was completed in 1955. Twelve carved stone heads serve as corbels for the exposed wooden beams. At the west end of the room is the Chancellor’s Chair originally located in the Convocation Hall on Queen Street. Over the door at the east end is the coat of arms of Bishop Strachan, added in 1959 by A. Scott Carter.
The Hall was renamed in 1957 after the death of Provost Reginald S.K. Seeley, the only Provost to die in office. Seeley Hall is currently used for many student and alumni events as well as weddings and other celebrations.
Learn more about the Seeley Hall.
The main student dining hall in Tudor style with hammer-beam trussed roof was part of the 1941 expansion of the College which included the east & west wings. This grand space contains polychromed wood decorations and a heraldic mural designed by A. Scott Carter, a 17th century tapestry depicting the Visit of the Queen of Sheba to the Court of Solomon, and portraits of John Strachan (founder), John Beverley Robinson (first Chancellor), and all former Provosts of the College. Recent restoration of the hall has brought it back to its original glory and includes a new kitchen and servery to enhance the student experience.
Learn more about Strachan Hall, including its tapestry, stain glass and portraits.
Part of the 1941 expansion, the Junior Common Room (JCR) is home to the Trinity College Literary Institute (The Lit), the oldest university debating society in Canada, The room also contains the Speaker’s Chair, made with wood from the home of college founder John Strachan.
Through the north doors of the original Hoskin Avenue building one enters the quadrangle, which did not exist in its present form until 1963 with the completion of Cosgrave House. In 2007, the quadrangle underwent an extensive refurbishment and the medieval knot pattern was added. The original quadrangle design contained a sundial given to the College by architect Frank Darling.
Learn more about the The Quadrangle.
To the west of the north field is the Gerald Larkin Building, completed in 1961 shortly after the death of Gerald Larkin and subsequently named for him. His portrait, by Cleeve Horne, is in the lobby of the building. The Larkin Building is the home of The Buttery, the student cafeteria, on the main floor. A lounge area, featuring a fireplace decorated with a bronze coat of arms by sculptor Harold Stacey, affords a space for socializing and study. The second floor of the building houses the Centre for Ethics, and the third floor contains the offices of the Deans of Arts and Divinity, the Margaret MacMillan Trinity One Program, Development & Alumni Affairs and Communications & Public Affairs, as well as faculty offices and classrooms. The building was designed by the Canadian firm Somerville, McMurrich and Oxley.
The George Ignatieff Theatre, added in 1979 and home to productions by the Trinity College Dramatic Society, is at the west end of this building. In 2010 solar panels were added to the roof of the Larkin Building, part of a Trinity initiative to be a leader in the green movement on campus. The west face of the building contains a bronze sculpture by Gerald Gladstone entitled ‘Solar Net’, executed in 1962.
Immediately to the west of the main building is the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy, original called the Munk Center for International Studies. The three buildings that comprise this renovated compound were originally built for the University of Toronto as a residence for men and were known as Devonshire House. They were named for the 9th Earl of Devonshire and former Governor General of Canada, Sir Victor Cavendish. The buildings were designed by Eden Smith (1859-1949) a proponent of the Arts and Crafts movement and a prolific architect whose cottage-style homes grace Toronto’s residential neighbourhoods. Among the roughly 2,500 projects he completed as an architect in Toronto was the first St. Hilda’s College at the Queen Street campus.
The building is extant, although substantially changed. Smith’s design for the Devonshire residences made use of warm red brick and sandstone. Each building is three-storeys high and divided into distinct ‘houses’, marked with a gable. In 1961 the residences were acquired by Trinity College and in 2000, after a substantial renovation, largely funded by Peter and Melanie Munk, the Centre was opened. The complex includes Trinity’s library, named for John W. Graham, a Trinity graduate who was instrumental in the acquisition of the property for the College, and the father-in-law of donor Ted Rogers. Designed by Toronto architect Tom Payne of Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg, the project is a fine example of modern adaptation that is respectful of the original design. The John W. Graham Library opened in September 2000. The Graham Library’s two “fireplace reading rooms” are especially popular with students on cold winter evenings. The chimney stacks were the only interior features retained from the original student residence when the building was repurposed to become Trinity’s library.
A cloister has been added to unify the three buildings; the interior furnishings and fittings follow the spirit of the Arts and Crafts aesthetic. English landscape designer Martin Lane Fox created the formal Bosanquet Garden in front of the building, named for Melanie Munk’s father, David Bosanquet.
Across Devonshire Place from the Gerald Larkin Building is the residence originally built to accommodate Trinity College’s women students. Trinity College first admitted female students in the Faculty of Music and the first women graduated in 1886. St. Hilda’s College was opened in 1888, a collaboration between Provost C.W.E. Body and Miss Ellen Patteson, later Mrs. Rigby, an Englishwoman who came to Canada to teach. It was separately incorporated and had its own Charter, Council and Dean of Women. A series of buildings, both at the Queen Street campus and then on St. George Street, housed the ‘St. Hildians’, until the present Georgian style building was created in 1938 by Toronto architects George and Moorhouse (who later worked on the Chapel). The north and south wings of this building are later additions. A green roof was created on top of Cartwright Hall in 2010, accessible from the second floor, one of several ‘green’ projects undertaken by the College and the student body. Until 2006 St. Hilda’s functioned as a women’s college with its own student government, clubs, social functions and athletics. Trinity College is now co-educational and St. Hilda’s now houses co-ed residences, a small library and several reading rooms. It still has its own Board of Trustees and Alumnae Association. Rooms and residence areas at St. Hilda’s are named after former Deans of Women and their portraits are hung in the Rigby Room.
– Sylvia Lassam, Rolph-Bell Archivist, 2013