university toronto

10 strange and unusual things you might not know about the University of Toronto

Founded in 1827 as King's College, the University of Toronto is far and away the city's most important academic institution. It's also an indelible part of the city's cultural identity. Given its lengthy history, there are loads of fascinating facts and secrets to shed light on after all these years.

Here are some things you probably don't know about U of T.

1. If you know where to look, you might find William Lyon Mackenzie King's name etched into the exterior wall of the west wing at University College.

2. The building that houses Trinity College on Hoskin Avenue is a stone replica of an earlier structure, now demolished, that was located in current day Trinity-Bellwoods Park. You can still see the college's front gates on Queen Street.

3. Speaking of Trin, there's a highly controversial secret society linked to the college that dates back to 1858. Although official ties to the college were severed in the early 1990s, the society meets for readings three times a year. A number of prominent Torontonians have been members.

4. You'd never guess it from the street, but there's a secret bamboo garden in the atrium at the Terrence Donnely Centre.

5. There's an old nuclear accelerator in the McLennnan Physical Labs building. While no longer operational, the shell of the machine still exists.

6. University Avenue used to be named College Avenue for its proximity to King's College, U of T's original name.

7. Numerous ghost stories persist on campus, including that of Diabolos and Reznikoff, who were masons at University College in the 1850s. They were in love with the same women and a confrontation resulted in Reznikoff's death. There's a door at the college that still bears an axe mark from the fight.

8. Members of U of T's aerospace institute helped save Apollo 13. Researchers were given three hours to calculate the air pressure required for safe re-entry to Earth, and did so without knowing that they were the only scientists working on the problem.

9. Back in the 1920s, Hart House banned jazz music from being played on its pianos. It was only lifted in 1957 when Peter Appleyard and Moe Koffman played on campus.

10. There used to be an annual winter carnival at U of T, which crowned a snow queen (no, really) based on her enthusiasm, willingness, and general appearance, but also for her skill at things like sawing wood and cooking over an open flame.

Lead photo by

Terry Alexander


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