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HISTORY: Sturdy structure once housed Meteorological Service (Feb. 2024)

April 6th, 2024 · No Comments

Building at 315 Bloor St. W. now occupied by Munk Centre for Global Affairs

This building, located at 315 Bloor St. W. at Devonshire, was built in 1909 as one of Toronto’s first buildings designed for meteorological study. COURTESY CITY OF TORONTO ARCHIVES

By Mia Keskinen

The building located at 315 Bloor St. W. and Devonshire Place, adjacent to Varsity Stadium, is known for many things, but was built with the specific purpose of conducting meteorological and astronomical research in Canada. 

Completed on August 5, 1909, the structure was designed by architects at the firm Burke and Horwood. 

The building’s Romanesque Revival style is a gem in the heart of the city, a reminder of what once was, with sun-kissed, tan stone bricks, and gargoyles guarding the entrances for over a hundred years. 

The picture above encapsulates its historical significance in the city, showing that it has loomed large since the date of its construction.

The study of meteorology in Canada predates this building. The Meteorological Service of Canada (MSC) was established for $5000 with a grant to Professor G. T. Kingston of U of T. 

His job was to establish a network of weather observations, and the first Toronto Magnetic and Meteorological Observatory was built of wood in 1840 which was located near Convocation Hall, much further south on the U of T campus. 

The electrification of newly built streetcar tracks along College Street and the usage of metal in modern buildings surrounding the facility disrupted the magnetic field in the building, making it very difficult to conduct research. 

By 1907, new university buildings encompassed the surrounding area of the observatory; astronomical research quickly became impossible due to lights elucidating the night sky. Due to these factors, the Meteorological Office decided they would relocate to this “new” building in 1907 at 315 Bloor St. W.

The building at 315 Bloor St. W. played a major role in World War II, as pilots were taught how to read the weather at this facility. 

The renovated and re-purposed building at 315 Bloor St. W at Devonshire stands strong.

According to a plaque listing the historical significance of this building, “The British Army began regular meteorological and magnetic studies on this campus, stimulating colonial society’s fascination with science.” 

For several years, the site served as U of T’s admissions office; however, in 2012, the building underwent a transformation. 

With a $35 million gift from Peter and Melanie Munk, it was restored to its original historic beauty, becoming the new face of U of T’s northern entrance. 

The exterior was polished, revealing golden tan stones. Today, this facility houses U of T’s Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy.

This Bloor Street building has stood the test of time and remains an important educational facility.


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