March 15, 1827, King's College - the precursor to the University of
Toronto - was granted its royal charter by King George IV. Throughout
2002, U of T celebrated 175 years of Great Minds. As part of the
celebration, the U of T website featured excerpts from The
University of Toronto: A History, written by Martin Friedland, University
Professor and Professor Emeritus of Law at U of T.
foundation stone for University College was laid without fanfare
or publicity or any of the grand ceremony that had accompanied the laying
of the stone for the ill-fated King's College. The governor general
was not there, and the stone itself was unmarked. As far as anyone now
knows, no documents or other objects were inserted in it.
U.C.'s foundation stone
was laid without publicity: the backers didn't want to reignite
the religious controversy.
people attended the October 4, 1856 event: John Langton, the vice-chancellor
of the University, and Professors Henry Croft and Daniel Wilson. Wilson
later remarked that "they laid the stone secretly as if engaged
in a deed of shame, full of hope, but also full of fear." He then
added, "Perhaps it was well and wisely done." They did not
want to create controversy and the possibility of renewed opposition
from the denominational colleges. They moved quickly.
stone that goes up in the building, every book that is bought,"
wrote Langton at the time, "is so much more anchorage, and so much
less plunder to fight for." The premier of the United Province,
John A. Macdonald, is reported to have said, "Even Methodists can't
steal bricks and mortar."
in front of UC, 1857
people who can claim the most credit for bringing the magnificent University
College building into being are John Langton, Governor General Sir Edmund
Walker Head, and the architect Frederic Cumberland. A lesser but still
notable contribution was made by Daniel Wilson, who was very knowledgeable
about art and architecture.
Trollope visited Toronto in 1862, he wrote that "the two sights
of Toronto" are Osgoode Hall and University College, which he said
"is the glory of Toronto." "Until I reached Toronto,"
the governor general, Lord Dufferin, said in 1872, referring to University
College, "I confess I was not aware that so magnificient a specimen
of architecture existed upon the American continent."
have a prejudice against trees," the governor general said.
would the building face? It seemed obvious to Cumberland, as it does
to us today, that the building should face south, but apparently the
governor general wanted it to face west. The three were saved, however,
by a tall elm tree when they began to stake out the ground according
to the governor general's wishes. The tree would have to be cut down,
they informed the governor. This he would not permit, claiming that
"it was the handsomest tree about Toronto," and adding, "You
Canadians have a prejudice against trees." So they staked it out
facing south, and, Langton wrote, "when the Gov. paid us a visit
next day he was quite satisfied and complimentary, and in congratulating
us upon the safety of the tree he said to Cumberland ..., 'I am sure
that you can never put anything up half so pretty.'" The tree was
toppled in a storm the following year.
two years after the foundation stone was laid (Oct. 4, 1858), the cap-stone
for U.C's 120-foot tower was set in place by Governor Head, Friedland
writes. The president predicted that long after his death, the new university
would "enable the sons of the poorest man in the land to compete
with the children of the most affluent."