Two similar views of a street with a landmark three-storey building on it. The building features a large cupola on top.

Building Toronto – St. Lawrence Hall

Building Toronto – St. Lawrence Hall

Two similar views of a street with a landmark three-storey building on it. The building features a large cupola on top.

Stereoview of St. Lawrence Hall, Toronto, between 1856-1869. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 2, Series 958, File 109, Item 1.

Black and white photograph of workers on scaffolding working on the ceiling of St. Lawrence Hall.

St. Lawrence Hall, under restoration, 1967. Toronto Star.

Toronto’s first large concert venue

Named for the patron saint of Canada, St. Lawrence Hall (1850) was Toronto’s first large meeting venue. Architect William Thomas designed the building in the Renaissance Revival style after the Great Fire of 1849 destroyed much of the neighbourhood. Throughout the 19th century, the hall was home to social, political, and cultural gatherings.

Toronto’s first large concert venue

A year after opening, the hall hosted the North American Convention of Coloured Freeman. Escaped slave Henry Bibb and his wife, Mary, organized the conference in response to the adoption of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act in the United States, and the subsequent rise in slaves seeking refuge in Canada. More than 50 delegates spoke, and the conference cemented Canada as a desirable destination for refugee slaves.

Toronto’s first large concert venue

In the late 19th century, the city centre shifted north and west and larger venues were established. St. Lawrence Hall fell into disuse in the 20th century and was threatened with demolition. However, the community successfully advocated to protect the building. Restored for Canada’s Centennial in 1967, St. Lawrence Hall was named a National Historic Site that same year in recognition of its fine architectural qualities and its role in Canadian social and political history.