Feature from the Collections: Looking Back at the History of the Normal School Building – Part Two

Postcard of the Normal School, viewable along with other postcards at the Archives. (from Normal School 1 doc. file)

As mentioned in Part One of this feature (published February 19, 2013), the Normal School was a great stepping stone for the future of education in Canada. Egerton Ryerson set the standards with the first Normal School of Upper Canada, furthering the quality of education as well as increasing the number of pupils with a desire to receive formal training. In 1852 the Normal School at it’s new St. James Square location had its first semester with two hundred pupil teachers and a total student body of six hundred with the elementary students included.

The front of the Normal School featuring the third storey constructed in 1890 to accommodate an auditorium and rooms for the School of Art and Design, a statue of Egerton Ryerson, and the iron fence. (from Normal School 1 doc. file)

From the moment the Normal School at St. James Square opened, it never stopped growing and transforming. Maintenance to the school’s infrastructure was frequent from the 1860s and on. Changes were also made to the east front of the building in 1882 to accommodate the Ontario School of Art and Design and an iron fence was added to the property ten years later. By 1896, a third storey was added to the South block of the Normal School which provided spacious halls with archways and allowed for its use as art and picture galleries. The new storey also allowed space for an auditorium.

The Toronto Normal School (RG 95-1-523-336-2 “Campus Old”)

The year 1941 marked the Normal and Model Schools buildings’ end as such and the government of Ontario offered the buildings for a federal-provincial war training centre – Dominion-Provincial War Emergency Training Program – in support of the Second World War. Also on site was the No. 6 Initial Training Centre of the Royal Canadian Air Force. Prefabricated buildings also were built.

The Normal and Model schools were relocated to the Earl Kitchener Public School in East York for the remainder of the war. Without discussion, the change was made and the Normal School was eventually renamed Toronto Teachers College.

After the war, the building was renamed yet again and it became the Toronto Training and Re-establishment Institute for people who had served in the war. The program ceased in 1948 and the institute became the Ryerson Institute of Technology with Howard Kerr as its founder. The building once known as the Normal School became Ryerson Hall in memory of Egerton Ryerson.

Photos of the demolition of Ryerson Hall and construction of Kerr Hall on display at the Ryerson Archives. (Photograph by Sarah Virag, 2012)

The now Ryerson Hall building served as the main building for the Ryerson Institute of Technology with the pre-fab outbuildings used as classrooms, social and athletic venues. However, by the late 1950s, it was decided that Ryerson Hall would be demolished to make room for an increasing student body and course offerings. Ryerson Hall could not accommodate the vast changes of the Institute.

It was hoped that St. James Square could be kept in tact but this proved to be impossible if the school was to move forward and expand. Between 1958 and 1963, the surrounding structures housed in St. James Square were demolished. These, along with the Normal School building, except its front door and surrounding façade, were replaced by the Kerr Hall quadrangle building.

The construction of Howard Kerr Hall surrounding Ryerson Hall. (RG 95-1-578-116 “Campus Old”)

Howard Kerr Hall with Ryerson Hall still standing in the quadrangle. (RG 95-1-623-51 “Howard Kerr Hall”)

The deconstruction of Ryerson Hall inside the quadrangle. (RG 95-1-623-51 “Howard Kerr Hall”)

In 1964, the school was renamed again, this time as Ryerson Polytechnical Institution, which eventually gave rise to what would become the Ryerson University we know today.

Aerial view of Howard Kerr Hall with only the façade of the Normal School / Ryerson Hall remaining. (RG 95-1-634-62 “Howard Kerr Hall”)

The façade of the Normal School reminds us of our school’s journey from a normal and model school to a polytechnic institute to a university. It remains as a beautiful mark of architecture and is still in use as the entrance to the Ryerson University Recreation and Athletics Centre. Nothing else stands from our past.

The commemorative plaque on the Normal School façade, or, the Arch, as it is often referred to today. (Photograph by Sarah Virag, 2012)

It is the door to our past and future.

The façade as it stands today, also known as the Arch. It is the entrance to the Ryerson University Recreation and Athletics Centre. (Photography by Sarah Virag 2012)

For more information and images of the Normal School and its deconstruction with the construction of Kerr Hall, please visit the Ryerson University Archives located on the third floor of the library, open Monday to Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

 

 

 

Feature from the Collections: Looking Back at the History of the Normal School Building – Part One

Though most current Ryerson students have seen changes that have occurred to the campus with the refurbishment of the Image Arts building, the campus as a whole has not undergone many substantial architectural changes in the past few years. Most students recognize the school in a much similar way to how it would have been years before them. However, if one looks back to the fifties, the campus did not hold the modern buildings it is now comprised of.

Inside the Kerr Hall quadrangle of our modern Ryerson campus stands, in its original position, what may be unofficially known to present-day students, as the Arch. The building that the Arch belonged to was the Normal School, demolished by 1963 and replaced with Kerr Hall to accommodate the demand of the growing student population at the time. The façade was preserved in memory of Dr. Egerton Ryerson and his contributions to the advancement of education in Ontario.

The first Government House of Upper Canada at King and Simcoe Streets and the first building to house the Normal School in 1847. (from Normal School 2 doc. file; book, Toronto Normal School 1847-1947, printed by Ryerson’s School of Graphic Arts (between 1946 and 1948))

Egerton Ryerson, the superintendent of education from 1846 to 1876, envisioned an improved education system in the Upper Canada province (Ontario), but there was no actual plan of making this possible until he took action in 1846. He was granted permission to occupy the Government House of Upper Canada at King and Simcoe streets where Roy Thomson Hall is located today. The Normal school opened on November 1st, 1847. A normal school, according to Ryerson, is “a school in which the principles and practice of teaching according to rule, are taught and exemplified”. Normale is a French term implying a standard or norm in teaching. It was the first provincial institution for the systematic training of elementary school teachers.

Elementary students of the Model School, just North of the Normal School for pupil teachers. (from Normal School 2 doc. file. (Credit:  Toronto Reference Library, T12242)

In 1849, the government required immediate occupation of the Government House premises and the Normal school was to be vacated. The school then moved to Temperance Hall for three years on Temperance Street, situated below Richmond Street between Yonge and Bay streets. But it was unsuitable and inconvenient. Eventually, the site of St. James Square, on Gould Street, was acquired and proved to be suitable for the Normal school as well as its later development to a polytechnic institute and even later to becoming Ryerson University.

The area surrounded by Gould, Victoria, Gerrard, and Church streets was purchased in 1849. The buildings were designed in a classical revival style on the exterior (like civic buildings of the time) and had a gothic-style interior (like educational institutions of the time) by F.W. Cumberland and Thomas Ridout. The Normal School was a two storey building that took three years to complete. The Normal School was for instruction of the pupil teachers by lecture, and the Model School, just north of it, was where they would practice teaching elementary school students.

The Normal School wasn’t solely dedicated to classrooms. The structure also housed the Council of Public Instruction chamber and the various branches of the Education Department. There was also a theatre, an art gallery, two rooms for a museum (which was open to the public free of charge), and a book depository. The property also contained fruit, vegetable, and botanical gardens, a small arboretum, and two acres for agricultural experiments.

The school opened on November 24th, 1852.

To see the Normal School model as well as images of the original building, please visit the Ryerson University Archives located on the third floor of the Library.  Archives hours are Monday to Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

And now, stay tuned for the second part of the history of the Normal School and why only its façade remains standing today.

A Model Practice : Photographs from the Canadian Architect magazine archive

Architectural models breath life into otherwise straightforward ideas on paper; they easily and quickly communicate complex design schemes, embellishments, finishes and details, and they facilitate an easier dialogue between architect and client. Well-crafted architectural models even win competitions. While these models are very rarely preserved once building is begun, the realized design in miniature form represents the very essence of the architectural practice.

From January 4th- February 13th, 2012, photographs of models taken for Canadian Architect magazine will be on display in Special Collections on the Library’s 4th floor. These images were originally captured for project announcements, and today they give us as much to discuss as the finished buildings themselves. See the process that the architect goes through when bringing his or her idea to the public, and consider some of the challenges the architect faces in communicating with that audience. Is it useful to see the detailed model superimposed onto a photograph of the existing landscape, as with the Toronto Eaton Centre image? Why do some architects choose to put contextual detail in the model itself, making tiny trees and cars on the adjacent streets? Every model has a purpose and an audience, which is perhaps even more apparent in the scenic model taken from the set design for a CBC television special [borrowed from the Robert Hackborn collection for comparison’s sake]. With this model, the purpose is to show the interior to the cameras – not the exterior to a client.

Whatever the goal with these miniature worlds, either to emulate a real three-dimensional building as closely as possible or three walls that merely suggest one, the model serves as a stepping stone to the final idea. Here the idea of architecture is on display – judge for yourselves whether the real lives up to the imagined.