Hart House at the St. George campus has been celebrating its 100th anniversary throughout the 2019-2020 academic year and last Sunday they held the biggest event of the year so far.

The Open (Hart) House event invited students, alumni, and residents to visit the building and enjoy the activities scheduled for the day including reunion gatherings, craft workshops, and panel discussions.

Hart House is known for its leisure, art, culture, fitness, diversity, and—most historically—its debates.

The creation of Hart House began with an idea from Vincent Massey, who did his undergraduate studies at Victoria College in the University of Toronto. Massey continued his studies at the University of Oxford and upon returning to Toronto he was inspired to gift U of T a building that encouraged students to pursue a social and recreational life.

With high hopes Massey named the building after his grandfather, Hart.

“Through creative engagement with the arts and culture, debates and dialogue, recreation and wellness, or community-engaged learning, Hart House provides students an opportunity to navigate different ideas and perspectives, and to connect to causes and purposes greater than themselves,” said U of T President Meric Gertler in a message to the 100th Hart House anniversary website.

“Hart House,” continued Gertler, “has become an integral part of the cultural and intellectual landscape of the University and the surrounding city, and is peerless in inspiring change, provoking thought and helping to shape the artistic and social tapestry of the local community.”

The Great Hall, located in the east wing of the House, is where many historical and famous debates have taken place like John F. Kennedy’s debate with Stephen Lewis on November 14, 1957.

Many theatrical, symphonic, and orchestral performances have also been held there.

Evelyn, a second-year St. George student studying statistics and music, spoke of her experience with the Great Hall as part of the Hart House Singers.

She performed in the summer of 2019 with her fellow peers on the theme of “Journeying.”

Evelyn called the experience “one of the most unforgettable memories of [her] life.” She continues to volunteer at Hart House Singers events and tries to spend as much time at the Hart House as she can.

Hart House was originally meant for men’s recreational, social, and academic use only. Although now anyone can enter, women were originally not granted access into the building.

Massey believed that a coeducational facility would ruin the collegiality of how Hart House was supposed to be and included the male-only requirement with his donation of the building.

By the early 1950s, the restriction created controversy and people began to protest, demanding admission entry for women. After Massey’s death, administrators altered his plans and allowed women to become members in 1972.

Currently, Hart House is at the center of the St. George campus. Students from all three U of T campuses pay a mandatory incidental fee to Hart House of $6.02 per year ($3.01 per semester).

This allows UTM students to receive a discount to see performances in the Great Hall, host events held by student societies, and provide fitness activities at St. George’s historical building.

So, raise a glass and have a toast to the 100th anniversary of one of the oldest buildings in Toronto, and to which improved the student body’s social and recreational life on the St. George campus.

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