The Toronto Drill Hall…

In the final pages of All Else is Folly, Alec Falcon sits alone in the gallery (i.e. the balcony) of the unnamed Toronto Drill Hall, waiting for the pipers to lead the men of the regiment into the armoury.

Falcon reflects that it has been “ten years since that day in August, 1914, when the regiment marched out through the shouting crowds” (341).  And now in 1924, with an old wound and clad as a civilian, Falcon grips the rail and leans forward as the pipes grow louder, hearing the commands “thundered out above the pipes and drums” (343).  He continues to reminisce and to question what he and his comrades had experienced, as a new generation of men march into view.

“Yet now, with the skirling of the pipes in his ears, he would have signed away his liberty, his life, for another war.  At this moment, it wouldn’t have mattered, much, what the War was about.  Not when this vast hall rocked with the tread of two thousand feet and his hot blood leaped to the pipes” (343).

The Toronto Drill Hall was a magnificent neo-Gothic style armoury designed by Thomas Fuller and opened in 1894.  At the time, it was the largest building of its kind in Canada, featuring a drill hall that measured 125′ x 280′ (that’s 42 yards x 93, or just smaller than an American football field).  The armoury faced onto University Avenue at Armoury Street, with Osgoode Hall situated behind.  The building was demolished in 1963, when it was determined the building was no longer needed.  I thought I’d gather together some pictures of the armoury to add some colour to the scenes Acland describes.

This image, taken from Wikipedia, shows the 48th Highlanders, the 12th Infantry and the 10th Royal Regiments, forming up and marching past the Toronto Drill Hall on their way to Valcartier, Quebec, 1914.

The image above is the scene Falcon recalls, “the regiment marched out through the shouting crowds” on page 341.  A further shot of the crowds was found in the City of Toronto Archives, below.

The crowd is gathering on one of the sides of the armoury here; I believe this shows the southern side, with the crowd walking west towards University Avenue.

This is a head-on shot of the front of the armoury, looking west onto University Avenue.

A view of the north western corner of the building, taken from University Ave and looking down Armoury Street.

Now there are three relatively modern shots, taken in the late 50’s (speculation based solely on the vehicles seen in them).

Magnificent old building, isn’t it?  Its a shame some shortsighted decision makers didn’t feel that this armoury was worth keeping simply for its own sake.  The Seaforth Armoury in Vancouver is a newer building than the old Toronto Drill Hall by about forty years, but it has a similar style and feel to it.  There was some concern expressed when I was there (probably just another rumour in the ranks) that DND was considering tearing it down and putting up a modern building instead.  Happily, they’re going to restore it over the next three years.  Here’s a link to an article if you’re interested.  There’s some good photos there.

Oh, and just to add insult to injury, the photo below is of the Moss Park Armoury, the current home of the 48th Highlanders.

Hardly an architectural wonder is it?

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One Response to The Toronto Drill Hall…

  1. Thank you for viewing my blog. As your blogs concern the Canadian Army during the First World War I thought you might like to hear about the Canadian Army’s links with my village of Liphook in Hampshire, United Kingdom.

    Each day we walk our dog through the woods and open areas that was once Ontario Camp. There were five camps in the area named after the Great Lakes. These camps were, I think, transit camps for troops preparing to embark from nearby Portsmouth for the battlefields in Flanders.

    Sadly many did not make it that far succumbing to the influenza pandemic. Many of the troops were from remote Canadian villages and had no immunity to the disease. They are buried in a Commonwealth War Grave in Liphook churchyard and Catholics were buried in the nearby village of Grayshott. Further information and photographs can be gleaned from The Bramshott and Liphook Heritage Centre (http://www.liphookheritage.org.uk/)

    Thank you again for visiting my blog (Paul Robinson’s Amazing Books)

    Best wishes

    Paul Robinson

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