Massey Hall – The Historic and Internationally Famous Venue

2021 - The neon Massey Hall sign on the front of Toronto's iconic entertainment venue at Victoria St and Shuter St
2021 – The neon Massey Hall sign on the front of Toronto’s iconic entertainment venue at Victoria St and Shuter St

Massey Hall is located at ‪178 Victoria St‬ (at Shuter St on the southwest corner) in the Downtown Yonge neighbourhood of Toronto.

Hart Massey’s Gift to Toronto

Built in 1894 by Hart Massey, industrialist and operator of a large farm equipment manufacturing company, the concert hall was designed by architect Sidney Badgley. Once called the Massey Music Hall, the historic gem was built to honour Massey’s late son, Charles Albert. The now National Historic Site of Canada was a gift to the people of Toronto to develop the arts. Did you know that the Massey family lived in a stately home at 515 Jarvis St? Today, it’s the Keg Mansion restaurant.

The landmark music auditorium, with its Moorish Revival interior, originally had 3,500 seats consisting of orchestra seating, two balconies, stage and private boxes, and tiered onstage seating. The exterior was considered austere with its brick and stone façade.

On June 14, 1894, the opening night was a performance of Handel’s Messiah with a 500-member chorus and a 70-member orchestra.

Massey Hall’s Renovations & Heritage Status

Until the 1920s, it was the only hall in Canada specifically designed for music. In 1933 and after a significant renovation, the seating was reduced to 2,675, a lounge was added, wooden stairs were replaced with steel and stone steps, Art Deco elements were added, and the ground floor entrance was enlarged. Also, the name was changed to Massey Hall.

In 1943, a flood destroyed photos, records, documents and playbills. In 1948 and due to fire concerns, the original wood seating and the oak floor were replaced. In the 1950s, plaster began falling off the ceiling, so thick wire had to be added to protect the patrons.

In 1973, the hall, known for its warm, outstanding acoustics, was on the City’s inaugural list of heritage sites.

Legendary Entertainers at Canada’s Carnegie Hall

1894 - Seating, stage and organ pipes at Massey Hall
1894 – Seating, stage and organ pipes at Massey Hall (Toronto Public Library R-4116)

Some notable speakers and performers who have appeared at Massey Hall include Gordon Lightfoot, Oscar Peterson, Nellie McClung, Winston Churchill, Dizzy Gillespie, Bob Dylan and his band (later known as The Band), Jack Dempsey (boxing match), Buffy Saint-Marie and Russell Peters.

Rush, Neil Young and Burton Cummings are just a few artists who have recorded albums at the hall. There has also been a 7-month run of Cats, as well as ballet, opera and theatre performances. “Canada’s Carnegie Hall” was once home to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Toronto Mendelssohn Choir.

Gordon Lightfoot has performed the most solo performances at Massey Hall – over 165. His first performance was in March 1967, and just before the hall closed for renovations in July 2018, Mr Lightfoot played three sold-out shows.

Haunted Tales

There have been reports of a male spirit wearing old-fashioned clothing haunting the backstage area of this historic hall. It’s thought to be that of the venue’s former custodian, who once lived in an apartment behind the stage.

There are also rumours of a female opera singer making her presence known from a seat in the audience. Named “The Diva,” she makes loud noises when a soprano takes the stage. Click for more haunted tales.

The Grand Old Lady of Shuter Street Today

2022 - Looking southwest towards Massey Hall at Shuter St and Victoria St in downtown Toronto
2022 – Looking southwest towards Massey Hall at Shuter St and Victoria St in downtown Toronto

Through the years, the “Grand Old Lady of Shuter Street,” named in 1953 by Vincent Massey (the grandson of Hart Massey), has undergone several updates. The $184+ million revitalizations began in 2013, and in mid-2018, the hall closed for extensive restoration. The building’s heritage will be protected while bringing it into the 21st century.

Updates include opening the stained-glass windows, restoration of the plaster ceiling including repairs to the ornamental spike shapes along the ceiling arches, repairing/reinstating lighting, constructing a 7-storey addition, updating the entrance, a more accessible box office, restoration of the original signage and adding elevators along with additional bars and bathrooms on each floor.

The 2,550-seat venue will also have brand new red seating that is more comfortable (the seating on the second and third-floor balconies will remain the same).

Massey Hall is Reborn

On November 25, 2021, Gordon Lightfoot took the stage for the grand re-opening of the “House of Gord.” Mr Lightfoot performed for three nights in Toronto’s beloved music hall.

Massey Hall Photos

2022 - The main facade of Massey Hall, located at the southwest corner of Shuter St and Victoria St
2022 – The main facade of Massey Hall, located at the southwest corner of Shuter St and Victoria St
1972 - Massey Hall at 178 Victoria St at Shuter St, southwest corner
1972 – Massey Hall at 178 Victoria St at Shuter St, southwest corner (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 2032, Series 841, File 17, Item 17)
2022 - Looking southwest towards Massey Hall at Shuter St and Victoria St in downtown Toronto
2022 – Looking southwest towards Massey Hall at Shuter St and Victoria St in downtown Toronto
Circa 1915 - Postcard of Massey Music Hall
Circa 1915 – Postcard of Massey Music Hall (Toronto Public Library PC1095)
2022 – Looking southeast towards Massey Hall located at 178 Victoria St‬ and Shuter St in the Downtown Yonge area of Toronto
2022 – Looking southeast towards Massey Hall located at 178 Victoria St‬ and Shuter St in the Downtown Yonge area of Toronto
2021 - Massey Hall's red front doors, neon sign and north facade
2021 – Massey Hall’s red front doors, neon sign and north facade
1890s - Stage and  Interior of Massey Hall
1890s – Stage and Interior of Massey Hall (Archives of Ontario I0001871)
1894 - Seating, stage and organ pipes at Massey Hall
1894 – Seating, stage and organ pipes at Massey Hall (Toronto Public Library R-4116)
1919 - Interior of Massey Hall
1919 – Interior of Massey Hall (Library and Archives Canada, Massey Family Fonds, e011197971)
1919 - Street railway strike meeting at Massey Hall
1919 – Street railway strike meeting at Massey Hall (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 8056)
1923 - Toronto Police Band at Massey Hall
1923 – Toronto Police Band at Massey Hall (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266, Item 189)
1947 - Looking west along Shuter St towards the crowd walking into Massey Hall. Notice Yonge St in the distance
1947 – Looking west along Shuter St towards the crowd walking into Massey Hall. Notice Yonge St in the distance (Archives of Ontario I0004568)
2022 - Massey Hall is located at 178 Victoria St‬ and Shuter St on the southwest corner in the Downtown Yonge area
2022 – Massey Hall is located at 178 Victoria St‬ and Shuter St on the southwest corner in the Downtown Yonge area
1961 - Looking southeast toward the front entrance to Massey Hall from Shuter St
1961 – Looking southeast toward the front entrance to Massey Hall from Shuter St (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 124, File 1, ID 70)
1970s - Looking  southeast from Yonge St and Shuter St towards Massey Hall in the distance
1970s – Looking southeast from Yonge St and Shuter St towards Massey Hall in the distance (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 305, Item 6)
1975 - Looking east on Shuter St from St Enochs Sq with Massey Hall on right
1975 – Looking east on Shuter St from St Enochs Sq with Massey Hall on right (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 42, Item 4)
Between 1978 and 1980 – Looking south from Shuter St towards the front entrance to Massey Hall
Between 1978 and 1980 – Looking south from Shuter St towards the front entrance to Massey Hall (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1465, File 305, Item 9)
Between 1978 and 1980 – Looking southwest from Shuter St and Victoria St towards Massey Hall. Notice the Eaton Centre on Yonge St in the distance
Between 1978 and 1980 – Looking southwest from Shuter St and Victoria St towards Massey Hall. Notice the Eaton Centre on Yonge St in the distance (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1465, File 305, Item 12)
1986 – Looking east along Shuter St towards the front of Massey Hall on the right. Also, notice the spire at St Michael's Cathedral Basilica in the distance on the left
1986 – Looking east along Shuter St towards the front of Massey Hall on the right. Also, notice the spire at St Michael’s Cathedral Basilica in the distance on the left (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1465, File 401, Item 18)
1956 - Looking southwest from Shuter St and Victoria St toward the front entrance to Massey Hall
1956 – Looking southwest from Shuter St and Victoria St toward the front entrance to Massey Hall (Canadian Architectural Archives, Panda Associates Fonds, PAN 561272-1)
1956 - Stage and auditorium at Massey Hall
1956 – Stage and auditorium at Massey Hall (Canadian Architectural Archives, Panda Associates Fonds, PAN 561272-2)
1956 - Stage and auditorium at Massey Hall
1956 – Stage and auditorium at Massey Hall (Canadian Architectural Archives, Panda Associates Fonds, PAN 561272-3)
1956 – The auditorium at Massey Hall
1956 – The auditorium at Massey Hall (Canadian Architectural Archives, Panda Associates Fonds, PAN 561320-2)
2022 -  Looking south from Shuter St towards Massey Hall located at 178 Victoria St‬ in the Downtown Yonge area of Toronto
2022 – Looking south from Shuter St towards Massey Hall located at 178 Victoria St‬ in the Downtown Yonge area of Toronto
2022 -The main entrance of Massey Hall with its red red doors, neon sign and frieze above doors with "Massey Music Hall" in capital letters
2022 -The main entrance of Massey Hall with its red red doors, neon sign and frieze above doors with “Massey Music Hall” in capital letters
2022 - Massey Hall is located at 178 Victoria St‬ and Shuter St
2022 – Massey Hall is located at 178 Victoria St‬ and Shuter St
2022 - The north facade of Massey Hall. Notice the stained glass windows and the pilasters with Roman ionic capitals supporting the pediment that once featured sculpted decoration
2022 – The north facade of Massey Hall. Notice the stained glass windows and the pilasters with Roman ionic capitals supporting the pediment that once featured sculpted decoration
2022 - Box Office sign and doors on the north facade of Massey Hall located at 178 Victoria St
2022 – Box Office sign and doors on the north facade of Massey Hall located at 178 Victoria St
2021 - The neon Massey Hall sign on the front of Toronto's iconic entertainment venue at Victoria St and Shuter St
2021 – The neon Massey Hall sign on the front of Toronto’s iconic entertainment venue at Victoria St and Shuter St
1911 – The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir at Massey Hall
1911 – The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir at Massey Hall (Toronto Public Library R-4097)
2018 - Crowd at Massey Hall
2018 – Crowd at Massey Hall (The Corporation of Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall)
2018 - Interior of Massey Hall
2018 – Interior of Massey Hall (The Corporation of Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall)
2018 - Stage and audience at Massey Hall
2018 – Stage and audience at Massey Hall (The Corporation of Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall)
2018 - A standing ovation at Massey Hall
2018 – A standing ovation at Massey Hall (The Corporation of Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall)
Circa 1915 - Postcard of Massey Music Hall at the corner of Shuter St and Victoria St
Circa 1915 – Postcard of Massey Music Hall at the corner of Shuter St and Victoria St (Toronto Public Library PC1095)
2020 - Looking southwest towards the renovation and restoration at Massey Hall
2020 – Looking southwest towards the renovation and restoration at Massey Hall
2021 - Massey Hall without its neon sign during renovation and restoration. Looking southwest from Shuter St and Victoria St
2021 – Massey Hall without its neon sign during renovation and restoration. Looking southwest from Shuter St and Victoria St
2021 - During the restoration of Massey Hall with its iconic sign hanging once again
2021 – During the restoration of Massey Hall with its iconic sign hanging once again
2021 - Looking southwest towards Massey Hall at Shuter St and Victoria St in the Downtown Yonge area. The photo was taken about one week after the completion of the restoration
2021 – Looking southwest towards Massey Hall at Shuter St and Victoria St in the Downtown Yonge area. The photo was taken about one week after the completion of the restoration
Circa 1904 - Postcard of Massey Music Hall
Circa 1904 – Postcard of Massey Music Hall (Toronto Public Library PC3817)
October 23, 1925 - Rally in Massey Hall for William Lyon Mackenzie King
October 23, 1925 – Rally in Massey Hall for William Lyon Mackenzie King (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266, Item 6468)
October 25, 1929 – A meeting at Massey Hall
October 25, 1929 – A meeting at Massey Hall (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266, Item 18497)
2021 – The Heritage plaque at the Massy Music Hall reads: "The success of Toronto's first music festival in 1886 inspired philanthropist Hart Almerrin Massey to build a "Commodious" auditorium. He hoped it would "cultivate and promote an interest in music, education, temperance, industry, good citizenship, patriotism, philanthropy and religion…." Designed by Canadian architect Sidney Rose Badgley, it opened with a three day musical festival beginning on 14 June 1894. The hall soon gained international renown for its superb acoustics. Many of the world's great musical artists, orators, dancers, lecturers, athletes and explorers have appeared on its stage. Massey Hall has also been used for political assemblies, protest rallies, religious conventions, boxing and wrestling matches and union meetings. Throughout its first century, Massey Hall has fostered the entertainment, education and cultural advancement of the people of Toronto.  Toronto Historical Board, 1994"
2021 – The Heritage plaque at the Massy Music Hall reads:

“The success of Toronto’s first music festival in 1886 inspired philanthropist Hart Almerrin Massey to build a “Commodious” auditorium. He hoped it would “cultivate and promote an interest in music, education, temperance, industry, good citizenship, patriotism, philanthropy and religion….”

Designed by Canadian architect Sidney Rose Badgley, it opened with a three day musical festival beginning on 14 June 1894. The hall soon gained international renown for its superb acoustics. Many of the world’s great musical artists, orators, dancers, lecturers, athletes and explorers have appeared on its stage.

Massey Hall has also been used for political assemblies, protest rallies, religious conventions, boxing and wrestling matches and union meetings. Throughout its first century, Massey Hall has fostered the entertainment, education and cultural advancement of the people of Toronto.

Toronto Historical Board, 1994″
2021 - Massey Hall historic sites plaque
2021 – Massey Hall historic sites plaque
2021 - Sir Ernest MacMillan historic sites plaque located at Massey Hall
2021 – Sir Ernest MacMillan historic sites plaque located at Massey Hall
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