Massey Hall – The Historic and Internationally Famous Venue

2021 - The neon Massey Hall sign on the front of Toronto's iconic music venue at Victoria St and Shuter St
2021 – The neon Massey Hall sign on the front of Toronto’s iconic music 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 a restaurant called the Keg Mansion.

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

The opening night on June 14, 1894, 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 major 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 for the protection of the patrons.

In 1973, the hall, which is 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 (Toronto Public Library r-4116)
1894 – Seating, stage and organ pipes at Massey Hall (Toronto Public Library r-4116)

Some of the notable people 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 of the 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 of them. His first performance was in March 1967 and, just before the hall closed for renovations in July 2018, Mr Lightfoot played 3 sold-out shows.

Haunted Tales

There have been reports of a male spirit who is 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 has taken the stage.

The Grand Old Lady of Shuter Street Today

2021 - Massey Hall at Shuter St and Victoria St, southwest corner - about one week after completion of the restoration
2021 – Massey Hall at Shuter St and Victoria St, southwest corner – about one week after completion of the restoration

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 3 nights in Toronto’s beloved music hall.

Massey Hall Photos

1972 - Massey Hall at 178 Victoria St at Shuter St, southeast corner
1972 – Massey Hall at 178 Victoria St at Shuter St, southeast corner (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 2032, Series 841, File 17, Item 17)
2021 - Massey Hall at Shuter St and Victoria St, southwest corner - about one week after completion of the restoration
2021 – Massey Hall at Shuter St and Victoria St, southwest corner – about one week after completion of the restoration
2021 - Massey Hall's red front doors, neon sign and north facade
2021 – Massey Hall’s red front doors, neon sign and north facade
2018 - Sign and red doors of Massey Hall (The Corporation of Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall)
2018 – Sign and red doors of Massey Hall (The Corporation of Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall)
1890's - Interior of Massey Hall (Archives of Ontario I0001871)
1890’s – Interior of Massey Hall (Archives of Ontario I0001871)
1894 - Seating, stage and organ pipes at Massey Hall (Toronto Public Library r-4116)
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 - Crowd walking into Massey Hall (Archives of Ontario I0004568)
1947 – Crowd walking into Massey Hall (Archives of Ontario I0004568)
1970s - Shuter St looking southeast from Yonge St, towards Massey Hall
1970s – Shuter St looking southeast from Yonge St, towards Massey Hall (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 305, Item 6)
1975 - Massey Hall, looking east on Shuter St
1975 – Massey Hall, looking east on Shuter St (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 42, Item 5)
1961 - Looking southwest on Shuter St towards Massey Hall
1961 – Looking southwest on Shuter St towards Massey Hall (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 124, File 1, ID 70)
2021 - Massey Hall looking south from Shuter St
2021 – Massey Hall looking south from Shuter St
2021 - Red front doors, neon sign and frieze above doors with "Massey Music Hall" in capital letters
2021 – Red front doors, neon sign and frieze above doors with “Massey Music Hall” in capital letters
2021 - 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
2021 – 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
2021 - Box Office sign and doors on the north facade of Massey Hall
2021 – Box Office sign and doors on the north facade of Massey Hall
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
2018 - Massey Hall at Shuter & Victoria Sts, southwest corner
2018 – Massey Hall at Shuter & Victoria Sts, southwest corner (The Corporation of Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall, Stephen Chung – photographer)
2018 - Crowd at Massey Hall (The Corporation of Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall)
2018 – Crowd at Massey Hall (The Corporation of Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall)
2018 - Interior of Massey Hall (The Corporation of Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall)
2018 – Interior of Massey Hall (The Corporation of Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall)
2018 - Stage and audience at Massey Hall (The Corporation of Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall)
2018 – Stage and audience at Massey Hall (The Corporation of Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall)
2018 - A standing ovation at Massey Hall (The Corporation of Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall)
2018 – A standing ovation at Massey Hall (The Corporation of Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall)
2020 - Renovations at Massey Hall
2020 – Renovation and restoration at Massey Hall
2021 - Massey Hall during renovation and restoration, looking southwest from Shuter St and Victoria St
2021 – Massey Hall 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 - Massy Music Hall heritage plaque
2021 – Massy Music Hall heritage plaque
2021 - Massey Hall historic sites plaque
2021 – Massey Hall historic sites plaque
2021 - Sir Ernest MacMillan historic sites plaque
2021 – Sir Ernest MacMillan historic sites plaque
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