Osgoode Hall is located in downtown Toronto, right next door to the City Hall. In the last couple of decades I’ve walked past and around this building at least few hundred times, never knowing what is hidden inside. It took me a while, but what I found was amazing.
History of Osgoode Hall
To give you some perspective, back in 1826, the Law Society of Upper Canada purchased an empty lot on the outskirts of town to build a home base as grand as the organization itself. When completed in 1832, the building was named after William Osgoode, Ontario’s first Chief Justice. If this sounds lofty to you, you’re not wrong.
Today, the building it home to a number of courts, the offices of The Law Society of Upper Canada and the Great Law Library. It was because I recently saw a pic of the library somewhere that prompted me to check it out. I went in strictly to look at the staircase of the library, not expecting much else. Boy, was I wrong.
“The interior of Osgoode Hall possesses unique architectural achievements. The heritage courtrooms are from the late 1800’s. Convocation Hall boasts ten gorgeous stained glass heraldic windows covering 4,000 years of law. The Great Library touted as the most beautiful room in Canada has an intricate ceiling, cork floors and triple cube design. The rotunda is spectacular from the original tiling on the floor to the elegant arched pillars surrounded by elaborate oil paintings of former Chief Justices of the Province.” ~ Osgoode Hall website
Outside the hall
While the outside of Osgoode Hall is a pretty sight, the surrounding garden provides a little bit of tranquility in the middle of otherwise busy intersection. As a result, during the day you will find students and people of all ages hanging out, doing typical things people do in parks. From reading and taking pictures to Tai Chi, there is always something going on. Not too many, however, know about the spectacular gems hiding in plain sight.
From the beautiful tiled floors, to intricate columns and arches, to glass windows and breathtaking ceilings, Osgoode Hall is a work of art. In the library, law students quietly peruse the books and online articles, and there is a stillness there that makes you pause and stare. Or maybe it’s just me. I wonder if studying in a place like this makes you wanna study harder or does it become mundane after a while.
When we finally found the room with the spiral staircase, I felt a little bit giddy. There were books on all four walls, stacked in orderly rows from floor to ceiling. And those stairs! The iron steps spiral between the floor and the small mezzanine that circle the entire parameter of the room. From there you get a closer look at the stained glass ceiling and the five-lamp chandeliers, as well as the rows of bookshelves in the middle of the room.
First of all, it is quite spectacular even if the books themselves are rather ordinary. There is an impressive collection of legal knowledge held here, legal precedents and all. Because I used to work for a lawyer while in university, I was quite familiar with law books. They definitely brought back memories. While the experience didn’t bring back any regrets of not going to law school, I must say I would have enjoyed having a reason to hang out there more. 🙂
There is a distinctive cast iron fence that surrounds the property. The intricate gates have been rumored to have been designed with the purpose of keeping out the livestock. Difficult as that might be to imagine, back in the day, Toronto was very rural. While the stories are deemed a myth, they add a quirky element to the history of the property.
Ahhh, they just don’t make them like they used to.
What you need to know
Thinking of visiting? You’re in luck.
Public tours are offered between July and August during the week at 1:15 pm. In addition, group tours can also be arranged. The library is open during the week until 5 pm and there no access to the public on weekends.
Judging by how many people wandering around with cameras, it is a spot that is frequented on a regular basis.
Have you ever found something amazing in your own back yard that was off the beaten path? How did you find it?