Hart House

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Hart House is the centre of student life at the University of Toronto. It is one of the earliest student activity centres constructed in North America. It was established in 1919 with financial help from Vincent Massey, a University of Toronto alumnus and benefactor. His interest in constructing such a facility at the University of Toronto came from the sense of communitarian sprit he felt at his graduate school, Balliol College, Oxford. His foundation supported the establishment of Hart House to unite students from all the independent colleges at University of Toronto. It was named after Hart Massey, the grandfather of Vincent Massey. Hart House has a 150 acres of farm in the town of Caledon on the edge of Niagara Escarpment in Peel region. Hart House is open all 365 days of the year.

Hart House was constructed in Gothic-revival style by Ernest Rolph and Henry Sproatt, one of the last North American master architects of Gothic style. The cost of construction was $2 million. The Soldiers Tower at the southwest corner of Hart House that commemorates the soldieries died in the Great Wars was also designed by Sproatt. Massey, to keep the collegial feel of Hart house, insisted that only men should be allowed to participate in Hart House activities but after his death, the Hart House administration, from 1972, allowed women an equal right of participation. Hart House contains many recreational and cultural facilities such as a gymnasium, a theatre, an art gallery, library, an archery range, a swimming pool, auditorium, and music rooms. The Justina M. Barnicke Gallery consist of about six-hundred Canadian works from 1921. It houses some of the historical art collection of the Group of Seven, Automatistes and Painters Eleven. Hart House has 27 clubs and committees including Hart House Debating Club, Literary and Library Committee, Hart House Review, Hart House Theatre, Hart House Orchestra and more.

Hart House is governed by Board of Stewards made up of the Chair, the Warden, administrative appointees and members and representatives from eleven Standing Committees and major student governments from all three University of Toronto campuses. The Board of Stewards is the highest governance body and has a majority of student members. It is responsible for managing and overseeing Hart House policies and budget issues. Dr. Louise Cowin is the current Warden of Hart House.


J. Burgon Bickersteth

Nicolas Ignatieff (    -1954)

Joseph McCulley (1954-   )

Arnold Wilkinson

Margaret Hancock









Kilgour, David, ed. A Strange Elation: Hart House, the first eighty years. Toronto: Hart House, 1999

Montagnes, Ian. An Uncommon Fellowship: the story of Hart House. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1969.

See also:

Hart House Debating Club

Hart House Review

Hart House Theatre

Model United Nations