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Architectural Conservancy Ontario

The past. Our present. Your future.

York Memorial Collegiate Institute

LAST UPDATE: July 5 2021

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photo credit, courtesy of Bob Krawczyk

photo credit, courtesy of Bob Krawczyk

At risk status:
This building is at risk


York Memorial Collegiate is on fire for the second time in two days after a blaze broke out in the early hours of Tuesday morning — just a few hours after a fire at the school was believed to be under control.

The fire was called in by crews at about 3:30 a.m., and was upgraded from four to five alarms over the course of the morning, taking the number of responding trucks up to 25.

Just before 9 a.m., Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg tweeted that conditions were "deteriorating," and that a section of Eglinton Avenue was being evacuated due to smoke from the fire. No injuries have been reported. 

Pegg also said that it appears that Tuesday's fire is separate from Monday's. 

"While this is the same building we were at yesterday, all indications are that the fire we are dealing with now is separate and distinct," said Pegg. 

He said the damage so far is "substantial," adding that there have been some ceiling collapses on the first floor. Some bricks have also fallen from the school. 

York Memorial principal Donna Drummond said on Tuesday morning she was "devastated" and "heartbroken" to see the school go up in flames. 

"The school has a long standing history in this area, in this community," she said. "It's a wonderful school, with wonderful staff and students." 

York Memorial Collegiate Institute officially turned 90 yesterday — with its cornerstone laid on May 6, 1929. Anniversary celebrations had been planned for the end of the month. 

Drummond said the school is full of historically significant architecture, including an auditorium with stained glass windows and pillars. 

"It's a school named after those who sacrificed their lives for us, and the auditorium was a reflection of that," she said. 

Students and staff  have been asked to go to George Harvey Collegiate Institute, located about ten minutes on foot from York CI, on Tuesday morning.


Name & Location
York Memorial Collegiate Institute
2690 Eglinton Avenue West
Beechborough-Greenbrook, York

Toronto District School Board



1929: Council of the Township of York decided to build a school in memory of their youth killed in the First World War. 9.5 acres were purchased for the school. Architect Charles Wellington Smith designed the building. The cornerstone was laid on May 6. The school is ready for students by September. The building consists of 15 classrooms, 3 science labs, an auditorium, cafeteria, two gyms, a swimming pool, and various offices. It was built at a cost of $250 000.

1930: School officially opened on January 30.

1949: World War II memorial dedicated.

1954: First addition since begin constructed in 1929, 6 rooms added.

1961: Seven rooms and a library added.

1966: Fourteen rooms added, pool area converted.

1967: Pool built in the site of the Centennial building, with a gym and community centre.

1968: Seven rooms renovated.

1969: Another room converted.

1971: Building, which would house the cafeteria, library, and City of York board offices, constructed.

1973: Fire escapes added, space in the interior was converted for lockers.

1985: Building designated under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act by the York City Council.

1988: Some rooms converted for lockers.


Architecture of Original Building The building was constructed using Don Valley Brick and smooth faded stone. In the school, there is a tribute to architect C.W. Smith with his master key and photo of his house (602 Jane Street). Many of the design elements reference a war memorial and military themes are found throughout. The 11 terraced steps represent the armistice on November 11 at 11:00. Other design elements relate back to a war memorial, such as adornments of torches of remembrance and shields of honour. In the interior, a Roll of Honour names those lost during the war. The main entrance is flanked by a tower on each side and its doors are made of solid oak with plate glass. The school name is carved in a semi-elliptical head above the doors. The foyer's ceiling uses shaped plaster beams with carved shields and a book of remembrance. In the auditorium, the stage's supporting plaster columns are adorned with York Roses and open books. Above the stage a series of plaster crests represents the original nine provinces of Canada. Each side wall in the auditorium features 3 triptych stained glass windows designed by Will Meike, made and installed by Robert McCausland Glassworks. Four of these windows celebrate industrial heritage (farming, lumber, mining, fishing), others contain mottoes, the Provincial Coat of Arms, depictions of the Battle of Ypres and the Battle of the Plains of Abraham.


From the plaque outside the school Opened in 1930, York Memorial Collegiate Institute was built for York Township Council in memory of local youth killed in the First World war. C.W. Smith was the architect. While torches of remembrance and shields of honor flank the main entrance, the upper set of eleven steps to the front door symbolize Armistice Day, November 11, 1918. On the wall outside the school´s auditorium is a mural by John Hall honouring lives lost in the Second World War, and below hang York Memorial´s Hounour Rolls. Inside, above the stage, are plaster crests of Canada´s provinces alternated with roses of sacrifice. Stained-glass windows by Robert McCausland Glassworks commemorate two turning points in Canadian History. The battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759 and the Battle of Ypres in 1915.


Year Completed:

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Current use:

Designated under Part IV Ontario Heritage Act

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  1. Inventory of Heritage Properties
    Author - City of Toronto
    More information

  2. York Memorial Collegiate Institute: Our Heritage
    Author - Toronto District School Board
    Notes - TDSB school page, section about the history of the building and "tour" of architectural and design elements.
    More information

  3. York Memorial Collegiate Institute rich with military history
    Author - Aaron D´Andrea
    Date - November 9, 2017
    Notes - toronto.com about the military history and design elements of the buildings.

    More information

  4. Dictionary of Architects in Canada
    Notes - Entry for Charles Wellington Smith
    More information

  5. York Memorial Collegiate Institute
    Author - For King and Country
    Notes - History and war memorial transcription.
    More information

  6. York Memorial Collegiate Institute
    Author - Toronto´s Historical Plaques
    Notes - Picture and transcription of historical plaque for building
    More information

  7. York Memorial : a journey through time : 60th anniversary
    Date - 1989
    More information

  8. Modern collegiate completed: York Memorial Collegiate Institute, the third such school to be erected during the past three years by York Township High School Board, shown above, will be officially opened on Friday evening, when Sir William Mulock, who lai
    Author - Toronto Star; Toronto Public Library
    Date - 1930
    Page - tspa_0108796f
    Notes - Photograph.
    More information

  9. 5-alarm fire breaks out at York Memorial Collegiate Institute overnight
    Author - CBC News
    Date - 6 May 2019
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  10. What is next for York Memorial Collegiate Institute?
    Author - Ilya Bañares and Gilbert Ngabo, Toronto Star
    Date - 7 May 2019
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  11. Fire rages at nearly century-old York Memorial, 2nd one in 12 hours
    Author - 680 News
    Date - 6 May 2019
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  12. Officials say damage at York Memorial CI is extensive but structure is salvageable
    Author - Chris Fox and Joshua Freeman, CP24
    Date - 8 May 2019
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  13. May 6th and 7th Fire Updates
    Author - York Memorial Collegiate Institute
    Notes - Various updates from the school regarding the fire.
    More information

  14. York Memorial students start new year in new school
    Author - Megan DeLaire, Toronto.com
    Date - 3 September 2019
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  15. York Memorial Collegiate Institute fire deemed accidental but cause still unknown
    Author - CBC News Toronto
    Date - 29 August 2019
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  16. Fundraiser held for York Memorial students following fire
    Author - CityNews Toronto
    Date - 20 November 2019
    More information

  17. York Memorial students displaced by fire face transit issues
    Author - CityNews Toronto
    Date - 10 September 2019
    More information

  18. Fire marshal’s report on York Memorial Collegiate fire leaves some questions unanswered: Tory
    Author - CityNews Toronto
    Date - 30 August 2019
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  19. York Memorial CI teachers and students are back in class, but face uncertain future
    Author - CBC News Toronto
    Date - 13 May 2019
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  20. York Memorial students will be relocated to vacant school in Etobicoke next year
    Author - Codi Wilson, CP24
    Date - 20 June 2019
    More information

  21. York Memorial Collegiate Institute
    Author - Ontario Heritage Act Register
    More information

  22. York Memorial Collegiate Institute
    Author - Alexandra Studio; City of Toronto Archives
    Date - 5 February 1949
    Page - Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 276
    Notes - Photograph.
    More information


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