Massey Hall is one of Toronto’s most iconic music venues, and it’s just next door to us. It has hosted thousands of performances over its fabled 125-year history. Artists from Luciano Pavarotti to Bob Marley and personalities from Winston Churchill to Jerry Seinfeld have graced its stage. Now the historic concert theatre is undergoing its most extensive renovation ever. We’re looking forward to its grand (re)opening later this year!
What makes Massey Hall unique?
From the stunning Art Deco style lobby with its terrazzo flooring to the plaster ceiling in the main concert theatre, Massey Hall — a designated National Historic Site — is an architectural gem. It’s also an example of true “Made in Toronto” craftsmanship: the bricks were manufactured at the Don Valley Brickworks and the beautiful stained-glass windows featuring life-size portraits of famous composers including Bach, Beethoven and Mozart are believed to be the work of the Toronto-based Faircloth Brothers.
The year 1994 saw the opening of the lower-level Centuries Bar, decorated with photos of hundreds of the artists who have performed there over the years. If you’re hoping for a chance celebrity sighting during your visit to Toronto, Centuries is a good bet — it’s a popular venue for album-release and post-show parties for visiting artists.
What’s being renovated?
For all its glory, Massey Hall was showing its age before renovations began in 2018. The crumbling plaster ceiling in the main hall has been covered in wire mesh since 1968, there were significant accessibility problems and the stunning stained-glass windows were covered in plywood — to protect them and to block out the noise and light of the modern city. The renovation project will provide a complete top-to-bottom overhaul of the building. The newly unveiled windows will have better temperature insulation and noise isolation. Some of the most exciting developments are the revitalization of the lobby which will be restored to its original grandeur, and the repair of the iconic exterior marquee sign. Centuries Bar will also receive an upgrade — instead of impromptu performances by visiting talent, the new version will have full staging capabilities and offer an alternative space for live shows.
How will Massey Hall’s character be preserved?
Maintaining the hall’s historic integrity and legendary acoustics are top priorities. In order to do so, the city has called in the top experts in the field. Toronto-based KPMB Architects are overseeing the project, working closely with Heritage Toronto and a team of highly specialized expert consultants in acoustics, lighting design, architectural history and conservation. Vitreous Glassworks company will handle the restoration of the windows. These experts in stained-glass glazing have worked on heritage projects elsewhere in the city including the Keg Mansion and Mount Pleasant Cemetery. The priceless artworks (there are over 100 windows) will be the focal point when Massey Hall reopens.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to experience Massey Hall, make sure to take a stroll past and see how the renovation is going – and keep an eye out for event tickets once the Hall reopens!