UrbanToronto has partnered with Heritage Toronto to capture a moment in Toronto's past. On a weekly basis, we will both be highlighting a historic photo of the city's people, places and events, and will be telling the stories behind them.

Many thanks to both Gary Switzer of MOD Developements and Maya Bilbao for putting together the photos and research.

This week's photo:

Toronto Normal School

Students traversing Ryerson University will certainly be interested to know that one of the most significant mid-19th century buildings in Toronto was located on their campus.

Long before Ryerson University was established, the area bound by Gerrard, Church, Gould and Victoria Streets was occupied by the Toronto Normal School. Established early on by prominent educator Egerton Ryerson as the hallmark of the Ontario Public Education System, the Toronto Normal School opened at present day Bond and Gould Streets in 1852. It was designed as a teacher's college and included two schools inside one building, the Toronto Normal School (for teacher training) and the Model School (a private boy's school). Inside, there was space for two hundred teachers in training and six hundred students.

Prominent architectural firm, Cumberland and Ridout was hired to design the Normal School. They created a striking building that merged a variety of styles including Palladian, Gothic, and Renaissance Revival. Above the portico was a decorative cupola that could be seen from a distance. In the 19th century, the Normal School was considered to be in a great location, above the business district, with a great view of Lake Ontario and the Bay…a view that no longer exists today.

The area where the Normal School was located came to be known as St. James Square, then one of just a handful of planned open spaces in downtown Toronto. Along with the school building and a botanical garden, the Normal School became an important centre of the arts in Toronto. It was home to the Department of Education and the Museum of Natural History and Fine Arts, that developed into the Royal Ontario Museum. Later, the building was used during WW2 as a training facility for the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Eventually, the campus of Ryerson University (founded in 1948 as the Ryerson Institute of Technology) was established on the grounds surrounding the old Normal School building. It is seen in this photograph not long before it was demolished in 1963, although a portion of the front facade was preserved and incorporated into the present campus.

Lost Toronto, Article on Normal School, Pg. 118