It was during a chance meeting on a Toronto streetcar that OAC President James Mills met Walter Massey (1864-1901) and sought funds from him for buildings required for the growth of OAC, since funding was not available from the provincial government. Coincidentally, three months later on another streetcar, Massey sat next to Mills and announced his family’s decision to provide funds to the school; specifically to build a library. Three months after laying the cornerstone for the building on August 14, 1901, Massey died of typhoid fever. The family’s gift is considered the first private money ever donated to OAC and the first sizeable amount given unconditionally in the Dominion of Canada.
One of Massey Hall’s most popular features was the student coffee house, which was dug out of the basement in just three evenings by OAC, OVC and Macdonald College students. Home to the University’s library until 1968, Massey Hall now functions as a meeting place for students in the drama program.
Walter Massey 1864–1901
The seeds for Massey Hall were sown at a chance meeting on a Toronto streetcar between OAC President James Mills and Walter Massey, president of the farm implement company Massey-Harris. Mills used the opportunity to seek funds for a number of buildings required for the growth of OAC, since no funding was available from the provincial government. Coincidently, Massey sat beside Mills on another streetcar three months later and announced his family’s intention to provide funds to the school. The Massey family believed scientific investigation and literature deserved a permanent home, so they chose to build a library.
The Massey gift was the first private money ever donated to the OAC and is considered the first sizeable amount given unconditionally in the Dominion of Canada. Walter Massey died of typhoid fever three months after laying the library’s cornerstone on August 14, 1901.
Massey Library had a capacity for 75,000 books. It incorporated many architectural styles and featured towers, Flemish facades, arches, stained glass windows and pillars. A coat of arms depicted in the stained glass window on the staircase was designed by F. C. Harrison, an 1892 OAC graduate and founder of the school’s bacteriology department.
He also designed the OAC crest that was registered with the Ontario Department of Agriculture in 1903.
This plaque is located outside on the right hand side of the main entrance of Massey Hall.
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