In 1901, the Ontario Agricultural College, which would later merge with other schools to become University of Guelph, had just celebrated its 25th year, and was quickly outgrowing its campus.
The Ontario Agricultural College’s president, James Mill, was in Toronto to lobby the provincial government for funds to expand the campus when he happened to run into Walter Massey on a streetcar. The Masseys, with their business in agricultural machinery, were one of Canada’s wealthiest families, and James knew that they were interested in funding education. Just a few months after that encounter, their donation was confirmed, and Massey Hall was set to be built as a multipurpose library. It was only a few months after he laid the cornerstone that Walter Massey was dead from typhoid at the age of 37.
Massey Hall was finished in 1903 and functioned as the University of Guelph’s library until 1968. Since then it has been housed English and theatre departments.
In 1951, a group of students got permission to excavate Massey Hall’s basement, which they did in just three nights. It was renovated into the Campus Co-operative, which sold coffee and baked goods until its closure in 1998.
Massey Hall has several fascinating architectural features, including a stained glass window with the 1892 OAC coat of arms. This incredible building has been designated a historic place on the Canadian register.
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