St Lawrence Hall – The Historic Meeting Place in Old Town Toronto

2021 - St Lawrence Hall at King St E and Jarvis St, looking southwest
2021 – St Lawrence Hall at King St E and Jarvis St, looking southwest

The magnificent St Lawrence Hall is located at 157 King St E (at Jarvis St on the southwest corner), in the Old Town, St Lawrence neighbourhood of Toronto.

Great Fire of Toronto 1849

Early on an April morning in 1849, the first of Toronto’s great fires broke out. The blaze started at the back of the tavern which was located on King St E, near Nelson St (present-day Jarvis St). Flames spread quickly through the area bounded by King E, Church, Adelaide E and George Sts, in what was known then as the centre of downtown Toronto. Also called the “Cathedral Fire”, The Cathedral Church of St James, City Hall, the Toronto Mirror (newspaper) along with many businesses and wooden structures were destroyed.

The Architecture of St Lawrence Hall

1859 - Overhead view of St Lawrence Hall and Mirror Printing Office at King St E and Jarvis St, looking southwest
1859 – Overhead view of St Lawrence Hall and Mirror Printing Office at King St E and Jarvis St, looking southwest (Toronto Public Library r-4341)

Built on the ruins of the first City Hall, the stately St Lawrence Hall was constructed in 1850. It cost £5,455 to build. Designed by architect William Thomas in the Renaissance Revival style, the 3-storey, T-shaped building is in clad stone.

The centre block features a trio of arched openings that include the main entryway. Over the arches are keystones with the sculpted faces of the river gods which represent the St Lawrence River, the Niagara River and Lake Ontario. Other elements of the heritage building include a tetrastyle portico with Corinthian columns and a sculptured tympanum pediment. The mansard roof has semi-circular dormers and is clad with slate. The Hall is crowned with a domed cupola that has a bell, four clock faces and a flag pole.

On either side of the centre block are two wings that had shops on the main floor with public rooms and offices on the upper floors. On the third floor is an incredible Great Hall featuring dado, cornice mouldings, a grand chandelier and a bold ceiling with decorative plasterwork. The hall has hosted many performances, social events and lectures. Some of those included Toronto’s first mayor William Lyon Mackenzie as well as American showman P.T. Barnum. Several Abolition meetings were held during the years that Canada was receiving those seeking refuge through the Underground Railroad.

In 1851, the third St Lawrence Market North on the northwest corner of Front St E and Jarvis St was completed. At that time, visitors could enter through the main doors of St Lawrence Hall on King St E and walk to the rear of the building to a shopping arcade of the then-connected market.

Eric Arthur & the Restoration of St Lawrence Hall

2021 - The tetrastyle portico with Corinthian columns, the words "St Lawrence Hall" and sculptured tympanum pediment
2021 – The tetrastyle portico with Corinthian columns, the words “St Lawrence Hall” and sculptured tympanum pediment

By the mid-1960’s, the building fell into disrepair and was being threatened with demolition. Thanks to the efforts of architect Eric Arthur, this piece of Toronto’s history was saved and restored to its original glory. It was also part of the City’s commemoration of the Canadian Centennial in 1967. That same year, it became a National Historic Site of Canada.

Today, St Lawrence Hall is one of the oldest public structures in Toronto. More information on this historic building can be found at St Lawrence Hall.

Did You Know?

  • King St was one of the first streets to be mapped out in the town of York.  It was named after King George III who was the reigning king at that time.
  • Jarvis St north of King St E was once known as Nelson St. South of King St E, it was known as Market St E.
  • Other major works in Toronto designed by William Thomas include the Old Don Jail, St Michael’s Cathedral Basilica and the second City Hall which is incorporated into the St Lawrence Market South building.
  • The Victorian-style street lamps in front of the St Lawrence Hall are still lit by gas.

St Lawrence Hall Photos

2021 - St Lawrence Hall at King St E and Jarvis St, looking southwest
2021 – St Lawrence Hall at King St E and Jarvis St, looking southwest
1972 - St Lawrence Hall at King St E and Jarvis St, looking southwest - notice water trough on Jarvis St
1972 – St Lawrence Hall at King St E and Jarvis St, looking southwest – notice water trough on Jarvis St (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 2032, Series 841, File 22, Item 36)
2021 - The Hall's main entrance at 157 King St E with arched openings containing fanlights, keystones and spandrels
2021 – The Hall’s main entrance at 157 King St E with arched openings containing fanlights, keystones and spandrels
2021 - Statues above the main door of St Lawrence Hall
2021 – Statues above the main door of St Lawrence Hall
2021 - One of the three deities above the arched openings of the Hall
2021 – One of the three deities above the arched openings of the Hall
2021 - One of four sculpted spandrels above the entrance to St Lawrence Hall
2021 – One of four sculpted spandrels above the entrance to St Lawrence Hall
2021 - Victorian-style gas lamp in front of St Lawrence Hall at King St E and Jarvis St, southwest corner
2021 – Victorian-style gas lamp in front of St Lawrence Hall at King St E and Jarvis St, southwest corner
2021 - The tetrastyle portico with Corinthian columns, the words "St Lawrence Hall" and sculptured tympanum pediment
2021 – The tetrastyle portico with Corinthian columns, the words “St Lawrence Hall” and sculptured tympanum pediment
2021 - Cupola of St Lawrence Hall
2021 – Cupola of St Lawrence Hall
2010's - The north end of the Great Hall
2010’s – The north end of the Great Hall (City of Toronto)
2010's - The south end of the Great Hall
2010’s – The south end of the Great Hall (City of Toronto)
2010's - The VIP Room in St Lawrence Hall
2010’s – The VIP Room in St Lawrence Hall (City of Toronto)
1980 - St James Park and St Lawrence Hall on King St E, looking southeast towards Jarvis St
1980 – St James Park and St Lawrence Hall on King St E, looking southeast towards Jarvis St (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 15, Item 42)
1980 - Looking southeast along King St E towards Jarvis St
1980 – Looking southeast along King St E towards Jarvis St (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 15, Item 52)
1980's - The historic Hall at night
1980’s – The historic Hall at night (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 623, Item 8)
1980's - Aerial view of St Lawrence Hall with the Cathedral Church of St James and Park
1980’s – Aerial view of St Lawrence Hall with the Cathedral Church of St James and Park (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 498, Item 37)
1980 - St James Park and St Lawrence Hall on King St E, looking southeast towards Jarvis St
1980 – St James Park and St Lawrence Hall on King St E, looking southeast towards Jarvis St (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 498, Item 24)
1979 - Cupola of St Lawrence Hall and top of CN Tower, looking southwest
1979 – Cupola of St Lawrence Hall and top of CN Tower, looking southwest (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 15, Item 24)
1977 - St Lawrence Market North and the back of the Hall from Front St E near Jarvis St, looking northeast
1977 – St Lawrence Market North and the back of the Hall from Front St E near Jarvis St, looking northeast (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 124, File 12, ID 50)
1950 - Cupola of St Lawrence Hall, looking north
1950 – Cupola of St Lawrence Hall, looking north (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1128, Series 380, Item 63)
1920 - Men with brooms on top of St Lawrence Market North roof with the Hall cupola in the background, looking north
1920 – Men with brooms on top of St Lawrence Market North roof with the Hall cupola in the background, looking north (Archives of Ontario I0013803)
1898 - The south end of the Great Hall
1898 – The south end of the Great Hall (Toronto Public Library r-4331)
1898 - The north end of the Great Hall
1898 – The north end of the Great Hall (Toronto Public Library r-4334)
1897 - St Lawrence Hall at King St E and Jarvis St, looking southwest
1897 – St Lawrence Hall at King St E and Jarvis St, looking southwest (Toronto Public Library r-4335)
Before 1898 - St Lawrence Market North and Hall from Front St E and Jarvis St, looking northwest
Before 1898 – St Lawrence Market North and Hall from Front St E and Jarvis St, looking northwest (Toronto Public Library r-6040)
1890's - Looking east along King St E towards Jarvis St
1890’s – Looking east along King St E towards Jarvis St (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 119, Item 69)
1885 - St Lawrence Hall with the North Market in the background, looking southeast
1885 – St Lawrence Hall with the North Market in the background, looking southeast (Toronto Public Library r-4337)
1874 - Overhead view of the Hall at King St E and Jarvis St, looking southwest
1874 – Overhead view of the Hall at King St E and Jarvis St, looking southwest (Archives of Ontario I0021840)
1870's - St Lawrence Hall and shops on King St E, looking southeast towards Jarvis St
1870’s – St Lawrence Hall and shops on King St E, looking southeast towards Jarvis St (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 561, Item 17)
1859 - Admission card to the Union Hook & Ladder Co. Ball at St Lawrence Hall
1859 – Admission card to the Union Hook & Ladder Co. Ball at St Lawrence Hall (Toronto Public Library)
1859 - Overhead view of St Lawrence Hall and Mirror Printing Office at King St E and Jarvis St, looking southwest
1859 – Overhead view of St Lawrence Hall and Mirror Printing Office at King St E and Jarvis St, looking southwest (Toronto Public Library r-4341)
2021 - St Lawrence Hall at King St E and Jarvis St, looking south
2021 – St Lawrence Hall at King St E and Jarvis St, looking south
2021 - Biagio Ristorante in the historic setting of St Lawrence Hall
2021 – Biagio Ristorante in the historic setting of St Lawrence Hall
2019 - St Lawrence Hall heritage plaque
2019 – St Lawrence Hall heritage plaque
1972 - Water trough once on Jarvis St, just south of King St E, beside St Lawrence Hall
1972 – Water trough once on Jarvis St, just south of King St E, beside St Lawrence Hall (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 2032, Series 841, File 2, Item 8)
2020 - Water trough now in St James Park on King St E, across the street from the Hhall
2020 – Water trough now in St James Park on King St E, across the street from the Hall
1858 - Map showing the location of the historic Hall along with the previous names of Jarvis St
1858 – Map showing the location of the historic Hall along with the previous names of Jarvis St (Toronto Public Library)
1849 - Map of the Great Fire of Toronto 1849
1849 – Map of the Great Fire of Toronto 1849 (Landmarks of Toronto Volume 1 book by J Ross Robertson)
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