Meridian Hall – Toronto’s Sophisticated Venue, Once the O’Keefe Centre

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2021 – The Meridian Hall at 1 Front St E and Yonge St in Toronto’s St Lawrence neighbourhood. Notice the Dominion Public Building across Yonge St and the CN Tower in the background
2021 – The Meridian Hall at 1 Front St E and Yonge St in Toronto’s St Lawrence neighbourhood. Notice the Dominion Public Building across Yonge St and the CN Tower in the background

Meridian Hall, once the O’Keefe Centre, is a performing art and entertainment venue located at ‪1 Front St E (at Yonge St) in the St Lawrence neighbourhood of Toronto.

Architecture of the O’Keefe Centre

Completed in 1960 and originally named after the O’Keefe Brewery, the venue’s sponsor, the performing art centre is built on land donated by the City of Toronto. Designed by architects Peter Dickenson when he worked for the architectural firm Page + Steele and Earle C Morgan, the O’Keefe Centre was built in a Mid-Century Modern style.

Between 1972 and 1987 - Looking east from in front of the Dominion Public Building on Front St W towards the O'Keefe Centre
Between 1972 and 1987 – Looking east from in front of the Dominion Public Building on Front St W towards the O’Keefe Centre (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 351, Item 16)

The interior, with its opulent ambiance, was designed by Herbert Irvine. The north entrance and double-height lobby are clad with white Carrara marble. Along the curved upper north wall of the lobby is a magnificent 30 m or 100 ft mural by Toronto artist York Wilson titled The Seven Lively Arts. On the south wall are a pair of bronze and granite cantilevered staircases. With unobstructed views of the stage, the contemporary fan-shaped auditorium features a large balcony, cherry wood acoustic panels, and a suspended acoustic ceiling. It’s the largest soft-seat venue in Canada, and when built, the hall had a seating capacity of 3250.

The exterior is limestone and black granite with bronze doors and window frames. It’s made up of three distinct parts:

  • The entrance block, with its iconic sloped canopy, is filled with rows of mirrored globe lights.
  • The auditorium, with its slanted roof, stands behind the entrance block.
  • The fly tower, with its flat roof, follows the auditorium.

A Variety of Entertainers

October 1, 1960 - Guests arriving outside of the O'Keefe Centre on opening night
October 1, 1960 – Guests arriving outside of the O’Keefe Centre on opening night (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 822)

The opening night gala was on October 1, 1960, and featured a musical production of Camelot with Richard Burton, Julie Andrews and Robert Goulet.

This major performing arts venue has hosted legendary musicians, dance performances, comedy acts, international performers, award shows, and special events. Performers include Louis Armstrong, David Bowie, Anne Murray, Harry Belafonte, Radiohead, Mariah Carey, Led Zeppelin, Don Rickles, Ina Garten, Martin Short, Steven Martin, Janis Joplin, Leonard Cohen, the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and many more.

The National Ballet of Canada and the Canadian Opera Company have called the venue home for more than forty-five years. They moved to the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts in 2006.

The Hummingbird & Sony Centre

In 1996, it was renamed the Hummingbird Centre. In 2007, the venue closed to undergo major renovations. Precisely 50 years after its opening, the arts and entertainment hub relaunched as the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts on October 1, 2010.

Meridian Hall

In 2019, TO Live began a partnership with Meridian Credit Union, and it was renamed Meridian Hall. Today, the venue has 3,191 seats. TO Live is a City of Toronto agency that also operates Meridian Arts Centre and St Lawrence Centre for the Arts.

Did You Know?

  • Before the O’Keefe Centre started the transformation of the neighbourhood, the area was home to 19th-century warehouse buildings. Specifically, where Meridian Hall is today, the Dominion Tires occupied the northern portion, while the Great Western Railway Station (later the Toronto Wholesale Fruit Market) occupied the southern portion of the site.
  • Along with designing the interior of the O’Keefe Centre, Herbert Irvine was the head decorator for Eaton’s and also designed five Canadian embassies, and assisted in the restoration of the Royal Alexandra Theatre.
  • In June 1974, the Russian/Bolshoi Ballet was performing at the O’Keefe Centre. It was on this stage that Mikhail Baryshnikov famously defected from the USSR.
  • The building received heritage status in 1990.
  • In 2016, Studio Libeskind completed the 58-storey L Tower. The residential condo tower is next to and south of Meridian Hall. It features a dramatic curve so as not to cast a shadow onto Berczy Park, which is northeast of the structure.

O’Keefe Centre/Meridian Hall Photos

July 11, 2021 - Looking southeast towards Meridian Hall at the corner of Front St E and Yonge St. Also notice the 58-storey condo, known as the L Tower, on the right
July 11, 2021 – Looking southeast towards Meridian Hall at the corner of Front St E and Yonge St. Also notice the 58-storey condo, known as the L Tower, on the right
January 1, 2024 - Looking southwest towards the Meridian Hall from the corner of Front St E and Scott St. Notice the Dominion Public Building across Yonge St on the right
January 1, 2024 – Looking southwest towards the Meridian Hall from the corner of Front St E and Scott St. Notice the Dominion Public Building across Yonge St on the right
May 1959 – An aerial view of the construction of the O'Keefe Centre at the corner of Front St E and Yonge St. The performing arts venue held its opening night gala on October 1, 1960
May 1959 – An aerial view of the construction of the O’Keefe Centre at the corner of Front St E and Yonge St. The performing arts venue held its opening night gala on October 1, 1960 (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 124, File 1, ID 50)
May 1959 - Looking southeast toward the construction of the O'Keefe Centre at Front St E and Yonge St. The venue  was designed by architects Peter Dickenson when he worked for the architectural firm Page + Steele and Earle C Morgan
May 1959 – Looking southeast toward the construction of the O’Keefe Centre at Front St E and Yonge St. The venue was designed by architects Peter Dickenson when he worked for the architectural firm Page + Steele and Earle C Morgan (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 124, File 1, ID 51)
October 1, 1960 - Opening night at O'Keefe Centre featured a musical production of Camelot with Richard Burton, Julie Andrews and Robert Goulet
October 1, 1960 – Opening night at O’Keefe Centre featured a musical production of Camelot with Richard Burton, Julie Andrews and Robert Goulet (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 815)
2021 – The canopy and entrance of Meridian Hall at 1 Front St E in Toronto’s St Lawrence neighbourhood. In the background, notice the Dominion Public Building and the CN Tower
2021 – The canopy and entrance of Meridian Hall at 1 Front St E in Toronto’s St Lawrence neighbourhood. In the background, notice the Dominion Public Building and the CN Tower
April 1968 – An aerial view looking southeast towards the O'Keefe Centre from the Toronto Dominion Centre. The light grey building that's diagonal across from the O'Keefe Centre is the Bank of Montreal Building, today home to the Hockey Hall of Fame
April 1968 – An aerial view looking southeast towards the O’Keefe Centre from the Toronto Dominion Centre. The light grey building that’s diagonal across from the O’Keefe Centre is the Bank of Montreal Building, today home to the Hockey Hall of Fame (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 124, File 2, ID 26)
1972 – Looking southwest from Front St E and Scott St towards the O'Keefe Centre, now the Meridian Hall. Notice the Dominion Public Building in the background
1972 – Looking southwest from Front St E and Scott St towards the O’Keefe Centre, now the Meridian Hall. Notice the Dominion Public Building in the background (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 2032, Series 841, File 13, Item 18)
1978 - Looking northwest from The Esplanade towards the southside of O'Keefe Centre. Notice the peak of the Royal York Hotel in the background on the left
1978 – Looking northwest from The Esplanade towards the southside of O’Keefe Centre. Notice the peak of the Royal York Hotel in the background on the left (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 299, Item 16)
1983 or 1984 - Looking southeast towards the O'Keefe Centre today, the Meridian Hall at 1 Front St E and Yonge St in the St Lawrence neighbourhood of Toronto
1983 or 1984 – Looking southeast towards the O’Keefe Centre today, the Meridian Hall at 1 Front St E and Yonge St in the St Lawrence neighbourhood of Toronto (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 427, Item 1)
January 27, 2024 - Looking west from under the canopy of Meridian Hall with the Dominion Public Building in the background. Usually, from this angle, the CN Tower is visible however, due to the fog, it's hidden
January 27, 2024 – Looking west from under the canopy of Meridian Hall with the Dominion Public Building in the background. Usually, from this angle, the CN Tower is visible however, due to the fog, it’s hidden
1983 or 1984 – Looking west from under the iconic canopy of the O'Keefe Centre at Front St E and Yonge St. Notice the Dominion Public Building and the CN Tower in the background
1983 or 1984 – Looking west from under the iconic canopy of the O’Keefe Centre at Front St E and Yonge St. Notice the Dominion Public Building and the CN Tower in the background (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 427, Item 5)
October 29, 2022 - The canopy and entrance of Meridian Hall, originally the O'Keefe Centre, at 1 Front St E
October 29, 2022 – The canopy and entrance of Meridian Hall, originally the O’Keefe Centre, at 1 Front St E
Between 1996 and 1998 – Looking east towards the Hummingbird Centre, now Meridian Hall at ‪1 Front St E at Yonge St. It was known as the Hummingbird Centre from 1996 until 2007
Between 1996 and 1998 – Looking east towards the Hummingbird Centre, now Meridian Hall at ‪1 Front St E at Yonge St. It was known as the Hummingbird Centre from 1996 until 2007 (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 427, Item 15)‬
Between 1996 and 1998 - Looking northeast from Yonge St, just south of Front St, towards the Hummingbird Centre. Notice a production of Romeo and Juliet is being advertised at the performing arts venue
Between 1996 and 1998 – Looking northeast from Yonge St, just south of Front St, towards the Hummingbird Centre. Notice a production of Romeo and Juliet is being advertised at the performing arts venue (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 568, Item 2)
2019 – The venue was known as the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts from when it relaunched on October 1, 2010, until being renamed Meridian Hall on September 15, 2019
2019 – The venue was known as the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts from when it relaunched on October 1, 2010, until being renamed Meridian Hall on September 15, 2019
Between 2010 and 2019 - Auditorium of the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts Auditorium, now the Meridian Hall
Between 2010 and 2019 – Auditorium of the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts Auditorium, now the Meridian Hall (TO Live)
Between 2010 and 2019 - An evening view of the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts with the CN Tower in the background
Between 2010 and 2019 – An evening view of the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts with the CN Tower in the background (TO Live)
2021 – The Meridian Hall in the left foreground and the CN Tower in the background
2021 – The Meridian Hall in the left foreground and the CN Tower in the background
2020 - Looking southeast towards the Meridian Hall at 1 Front St E. The venue was previously known as the O'Keefe Centre, Hummingbird Centre and the Sony Centre of the Performing Arts
2020 – Looking southeast towards the Meridian Hall at 1 Front St E. The venue was previously known as the O’Keefe Centre, Hummingbird Centre and the Sony Centre of the Performing Arts
2021 - Looking south towards the iconic cantilevered canopy of Meridian Hall at 1 Front St E and Yonge St
2021 – Looking south towards the iconic cantilevered canopy of Meridian Hall at 1 Front St E and Yonge St
Between 1972 and 1987 - Looking east from in front of the Dominion Public Building on Front St W towards the O'Keefe Centre
Between 1972 and 1987 – Looking east from in front of the Dominion Public Building on Front St W towards the O’Keefe Centre (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 351, Item 16)
Between 1985 and 1990) - Under the canopy of the O'Keefe Centre
Between 1985 and 1990) – Under the canopy of the O’Keefe Centre (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 686, Item 13)
October 1, 1960 - Guests in gowns and tuxedos at the entrance of the O'Keefe Centre on opening night to see a musical production of Camelot with Richard Burton, Julie Andrews and Robert Goulet
October 1, 1960 – Guests in gowns and tuxedos at the entrance of the O’Keefe Centre on opening night to see a musical production of Camelot with Richard Burton, Julie Andrews and Robert Goulet (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 803)
1960 - Guests at the entrance of the O'Keefe Centre on opening night
1960 – Guests at the entrance of the O’Keefe Centre on opening night (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 816)
1960 - Lobby of the O'Keefe Centre and The Seven Lively Arts mural on opening night
1960 – Lobby of the O’Keefe Centre and The Seven Lively Arts mural on opening night (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 779)
October 1, 1960 - Guests arriving outside of the O'Keefe Centre on opening night
October 1, 1960 – Guests arriving outside of the O’Keefe Centre on opening night (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 822)
2022 - Looking southeast towards Meridian Hall, originally the O'Keefe Centre, at Front St E and Yonge St. Notice the St Lawrence Centre for the Arts in the background, on the left
2022 – Looking southeast towards Meridian Hall, originally the O’Keefe Centre, at Front St E and Yonge St. Notice the St Lawrence Centre for the Arts in the background, on the left
2023 - Looking southeast towards the Meridian Hall at the corner of Front St E and Yonge St
2023 – Looking southeast towards the Meridian Hall at the corner of Front St E and Yonge St
2023 - The heritage plaque reads:

O'Keefe Centre for the Performing Arts 1960 

“For more than 50 years, the O’Keefe Centre has been one of the premier performing arts venues in Toronto, hosting ballet and opera, concerts, and a variety of stage productions. The O’Keefe Centre was vital to the renewal of the St. Lawrence area that began in the 1960s and included new housing, parks, and cultural venues.

The 3,000–seat theatre was financed by E. P. Taylor, owner of the O'Keefe Brewing Company. It opened with the world premiere of the musical Camelot, starring Julie Andrews, Richard Burton, and Robert Goulet. The New York Philharmonic orchestra conducted by Leonard Bernstein performed here, as did Harry Belafonte, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Janis Joplin, Anne Murray, Diana Ross and the Supremes, the Doors, the Grateful Dead, and Led Zeppelin.

Until 2006, the theatre was home to the Canadian Opera Company and the National Ballet of Canada. Foreign ballets also visited. In 1974, during the Cold War, Soviet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov defected to Canada after a performance here with the Bolshoi Ballet.

The venue changed names several times and, in 2015, the L Tower by architect Daniel Libeskind was added to the site.”

Designated under the Ontario Heritage Act, 2008 
Heritage Toronto 2018
2023 – The heritage plaque reads:

O’Keefe Centre for the Performing Arts 1960

“For more than 50 years, the O’Keefe Centre has been one of the premier performing arts venues in Toronto, hosting ballet and opera, concerts, and a variety of stage productions. The O’Keefe Centre was vital to the renewal of the St. Lawrence area that began in the 1960s and included new housing, parks, and cultural venues.

The 3,000–seat theatre was financed by E. P. Taylor, owner of the O’Keefe Brewing Company. It opened with the world premiere of the musical Camelot, starring Julie Andrews, Richard Burton, and Robert Goulet. The New York Philharmonic orchestra conducted by Leonard Bernstein performed here, as did Harry Belafonte, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Janis Joplin, Anne Murray, Diana Ross and the Supremes, the Doors, the Grateful Dead, and Led Zeppelin.

Until 2006, the theatre was home to the Canadian Opera Company and the National Ballet of Canada. Foreign ballets also visited. In 1974, during the Cold War, Soviet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov defected to Canada after a performance here with the Bolshoi Ballet.

The venue changed names several times and, in 2015, the L Tower by architect Daniel Libeskind was added to the site.”

Designated under the Ontario Heritage Act, 2008
Heritage Toronto 2018
October 7, 1928 - Looking northeast towards the Bank of Montreal Building (today home to the Hockey Hall of Fame), the Board of Trade Building, and the Dominion Tire Company at Front St and Yonge St. Also visible on the right is the Toronto Wholesale Fruit Market, originally the Great Western Railway Station. The area in the foreground shows the demolition of the former Customs House, which today is the site of the Dominion Public Building
October 7, 1928 – Looking northeast towards the Bank of Montreal Building (today home to the Hockey Hall of Fame), the Board of Trade Building, and the Dominion Tire Company at Front St and Yonge St. Also visible on the right is the Toronto Wholesale Fruit Market, originally the Great Western Railway Station. The area in the foreground shows the demolition of the former Customs House, which today is the site of the Dominion Public Building (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266, Item 15167)
Between 1900 and 1920 – The Toronto Wholesale Fruit Market, originally the Great Western Railway Station, was once at the northeast corner of Yonge St and The Esplanade, which is today occupied by the L Tower and the southern portion of Meridian Hall
Between 1900 and 1920 – The Toronto Wholesale Fruit Market, originally the Great Western Railway Station, was once at the northeast corner of Yonge St and The Esplanade, which is today occupied by the L Tower and the southern portion of Meridian Hall (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1568, Item 370)
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