Founded in 1948 as the Ryerson Institute of Technology, the university has grown within the ever-changing and ever-growing city of Toronto. Once used as a training space for the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War, Ryerson is now a modern institution known for innovations like its DMZ. From breweries to rooming houses, this photo essay focuses on how Ryerson has grown up within the city — and transformed it.
Gerrard and Gould Streets: The Toronto Normal School
What students know today to be Kerr Hall used to be the Toronto Normal School, where prospective elementary school teachers were taught the standards of teaching.
Completed in the Gothic architectural style, the building included a theatre, art gallery, museum, various gardens, an arboretum, the Council of Public Institution chamber and several branches of the education department. It was officially opened on Nov. 24, 1852.
The school underwent several transformations over the years, including an additional third storey that allowed for more gallery space and an auditorium.
It continued to train pupil teachers and house elementary students until 1941.
During the Second World War, the Normal School space was offered as a war training centre that included space for the Royal Canadian Air Force. Additional outbuildings were brought to the grounds to provide more space. After the war, the building became the Toronto Training and Re-Establishment Institute for those who had served in the war.
Church and Gerrard Streets: Kerr Hall
In 1948, the space that was once the Normal School became home to Ryerson’s humble beginnings as the Ryerson Institute of Technology, founded by Howard Kerr. The original Normal School buildings were renamed Ryerson Hall in honour of Egerton Ryerson. The spacious main structure served as the hub of Ryerson, while the prefabricated outbuildings served as additional classrooms and spaces for events and sports.
However, hrowing enrolment rates and increased demand for additional courses brought up the need for a more accommodating space. Between 1958 and 1963, the original structure was demolished to make room for Kerr Hall, the quadrangle that students now have fun navigating every day. The arch in front of the Ryerson Recreation and Athletics Centre is all that remains of the Normal School.
Church and Gould Streets: Oakham House
If you’re an architect, why not build the house of your dreams? That’s exactly what William Thomas, a 19th-century architect did when he created Oakham House in 1948. Thomas designed the building in the style of Gothic architecture. To make it feel more like home, the entrance was originally adorned with two dogs.
When Thomas died in 1860, Oakham House was sold to the McGee family until it was taken over by the city in 1899.
For the following 60 years, Oakham House was known as the Working Boys Home for “troubled or disadvantaged” boys aged 14-18. For $10 a week, the boys had a room, laundry service, medical care, counselling, recreational space and food.
Ryerson didn’t acquire the building until the mid 20th century, when it was named Kerr Hall after then-Ryerson president Howard Kerr. It became a male residence, with additional rooms for student groups, meetings and a tuck shop.
Once construction began on what students now know to be Kerr Hall, the 55 Gould St. residence became Eric Palin Hall. It served mostly as a social space until the fire department deemed the second and third floor unsafe for living.
Come 1976, the building was renovated once again and renamed under its original title, Oakham House, two years later. The Ram in the Rye pub was added onto the lower level and it began to look a lot like what current Ryerson students know it to be.
Victoria and Gould Streets: O’Keefe Brewery
Beer anyone? Turns out, the space between O’Keefe Lane, Gould, Bond and Dundas streets was home to the former O’Keefe Brewery and bottling warehouse. It was started in 1861 by Eugene O’Keefe after he acquired it as the Victoria Brewery. O’Keefe Brewery eventually became the largest brewery in Canada.
The brewery was innovative for its time. According to an article in the Feb. 17, 1993 edition of The Ryersonian, O’Keefe ale was the first of its kind to be “mass-advertised” in Canada through its use of billboards, wall murals and truck advertisements.
It was renovated and used as the building for photographic arts, and later the school of image arts. The brewery itself was considered too large to renovate and was torn down in 1980 to make room for what is now the parking garage and the Cineplex theatre complex. O’Keefe Brewery was eventually purchased by Carling Brewing Co. and became a part of the Molson Coors Brewing Co.
Today, students know the former bottling building as the ultra-modern Image Arts Building.
Yonge and Dundas Square
Yonge Street, one of the longest streets in the world, has a colourful past and present. Stretching through numerous neighbourhoods in the city core and beyond, its image has changed, been subject to legislation and challenged throughout its 200-year history.
In 2008, Ryerson University arranged for morning lectures to be held in 12 of the 24 theatres available in what was then the AMC multiplex, and is now a Cineplex theatre. Podiums for lecturers were installed, custom desktop spaces were designed to fit into the cup holders of the chairs and presentation technology was secured.
The theatre was a big hit with students, much better than a few years earlier when the Carlton Cinemas were used as classrooms.