toronto massey hall

Massey Hall to undergo $135 million renovation

Massey Hall is going to get a comprehensive $135 million renovation over the next seven years that will will see the venerable 2,700-seat auditorium significantly upgraded and expanded for just the second time in its lengthy history.

Originally announced in April 2013, the first phase of renovations will add a loading dock, backstage, and technical facilities to the rear of the 120-year old Shuter St. building using land made available by the developers of the Massey Tower, a 60-storey residential building currently under construction on Yonge St.

The Albert Building, a former janitor's residence turned backstage area, will be demolished to make way for the new facilities.

The second phase, which is due to begin in 2019 following completion of the Massey Tower, will see the exterior and interior extensively renovated. All 2,753 seats will be replaced, outdoor walkways will be added to improve the flow of people through the building, and the plaster ceiling will be restored with the original stained glass.

The hall could close for up to two years during this time, the owners say.

Massey Hall was built in 1894 with funds donated by Hart Massey, an agricultural equipment manufacturer. The building was a gift to the city in honour of his late son, Charles, who died from typhoid in 1884. Charles Massey, a partner in the family business, was a gifted organist and pianist and it was felt a venue for "musical entertainments of a moral and religious character, evangelical, educational, temperance, and benevolent work" would suit his legacy.

As a result of Massey's support of the temperance movement, alcohol wasn't served until 1994.

In 14 decades, Massey Hall has been hosted numerous important performances. In 1953, jazz legends Bud Powell, Charles Mingus, Max Roach, Charlie Parker, and Dizzy Gillespie performed there as a group for the first and only time. Bob Dylan went electric for the first time in Canada with The Band in 1965. Neil Young recorded Live at Massey Hall in 1971 and Rush taped All The World's A Stage in 1976.

The venue became a National Historic Site of Canada in 1981 and $16 million of the renovation funding will come from the Government of Canada and the Province of Ontario. TD Bank Group and RBC are also donating to the project, which is due to be completed in 2021.

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.


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