Our Heritage

Our Heritage

"The 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour ...
we will remember them."
1929 - 2018 
Nearly 90 years of Academic Excellence

In 1929 the Council of the Township of York decided to build an institution of higher learning in memory of their youth killed in the First World War. It is that Pride in Heritage that we will share together in this tour.

Charles Wellington Smith designed that building, grand in concept. It is constructed of Don Valley Brick, laid in stretcher coursing,combined with smooth faded stone. Sir William Mulock laid the cornerstone May 6, 1929 and officially opened and dedicated the building on January 30, 1930.

We will look together at some of the memorial aspects of the school including the Eglinton fa├žade with its imposing central entrance, the foyer, and the auditorium.

You will note the terraced steps are interrupted by a broad landing. Then we have 11 steps symbolizing the 11th hour of the 11th day of the11th month when peace was declared. These steps are flanked by cut stone balustrades with smooth stone caps.

If you look up from the stair landing you will see the two imposing towers on either side of the main entrance, which have a rather military appearance.

The four entrance doors are of solid oak with plate glass, with uprights of modelled stone and topped by a semi-elliptical head in which the school name is craved.

As well as the Old English script, note the torches of remembrance, and shields of honour, all underscored by symbolic carvings of grapes, acorn and oak leaves, pine cones and ferns.

Surmounting the crenellated balcony above the entrance are tall carved torches enclosing a large shield of honour, all beautifully shown off in the varying tones of brick and faded stone.

Inside we find a vestibule paved with light terrazzo and another set of four oak frame doors opening into the foyer. Notice the plate glass, and solid brass handles.

At the auditorium entrance we pause for a closer look at the mural painted by John Hall and dedicated on February 27, 1949 as a Second World War memorial.

The large centre panel represents family and community life, and those ordinary events in which are found beauty, love, and freedom for which our young people fought and died.

The panel on the left depicts the sciences, through which we control the forces of nature, understand and utilize our nature resources, and become aware of a sense or order in the universe.


On the right, the artist portrays the various arts which enrich our lives, help us to understand ourselves and the world about us, and shape our individual world within a code of moral and spiritual values.

Under it and between the doors are two oak panels. On them are inscribed the names of the forty-five who give their lives. This is York Memorial’s own Roll of Honour. Their names are read aloud at our Remembrance Day services. Each is recalled by his photograph, framed with a cross in the centre of the facing walls.
York Memorial has always been prominent in sports and athletics. You will see some trophies and banners in the cases, with some recent student art work below.

After we have visited the auditorium we will look at some pictures of school teams of former years and a section dedicated to the memory of the architect, Charles Wellington Smith.

Before we leave the foyer, look at the beautiful ceiling, with its interesting shaped plaster beams, with craved plain shields at either end, and on the surface, the book of remembrance on a bed of maple leaves. The intersections are marked with moulded roses.

We are standing on a terrazzo floor inlaid with yellow diamond shapes radiating from green squares to form a flower design, all enclosed in an attractive border.

Inside the auditorium we turn to see the second floor balcony enclosed by its wood railing. Beneath it is a Lake Superior scene by Fred Brigden. The two plaster casts are by the noted Toronto sculptor, Frances Wyle.

The front of the auditorium is dominated by the stage. Note the york roses and open books on the two supporting plaster columns. Above the stage are moulded plaster crests of the original nine provinces alternating with roses of sacrifice.

Each of the two side walls is highlighted by three tryptych stained glasses windows designed by Will Meike and fabricated and installed by Robert McCausland Glassworks. They are set in squared frames of smooth finished stone with cast bronze lamps at either side, with opalescent shades in the Tiffany style.

Four of the windows celebrate our industrial heritage; farming, lumbering, mining and fishing. The side panels portray various mottoes, name the Virtues, and depict the Provincial Coat of Arms. The two centre windows recall two famous battles, the Battle of Ypres where thousands of Canadians gave theirs lives, flanked by the maple leaf fleur de lis and a central inscription “For God and country” opposite it, the death of Wolfe in the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, 1759. Under the fleur de lis is Quebec’s motto “Je me souviens.”