Studio Building National Historic Site of Canada
© Agence Parcs Canada / Parks Canada Agency, 2004.
25 Severn Street, Toronto, Ontario
Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
1913 to 1914
Event, Person, Organization:
Group of Seven
R. Robertson and Sons
Dr. James MacCallum
Studio Building for Canadian Art
Research Report Number:
2004-012, 12A, 2004-032
Approved Inscription: 25 Severn Street, Toronto, Ontario
In 1913-1914, painter Lawren Harris and art patron Dr. James MacCallum financed the construction of the first purpose-built artists' studios and residence in Canada, a building intended to foster the development of a distinctly Canadian style of painting. Designed by Eden Smith, the light factory construction exemplifies the simplicity of early modern architectural design. For decades, many distinguished artists have worked and lived in the Studio Building, most notably Tom Thomson and members of the Group of Seven.
Description of Historic Place
The Studio Building is a modernist three-storey brick building with an industrial look which was constructed in 1914 as artists’ studios. Located at 25 Severn Street in downtown Toronto at the edge of the Rosedale ravine, its studio spaces have been used by many Canadian artists, among them members of the Group of Seven. The official recognition refers to the building on its lot.
The Studio Building was designated a national historic site of Canada in 2004 because: it is the earliest purpose-built artist studio in Canada representing the visions of a young generation of Canadian artists who would have a professional venue and gathering place to develop a distinctly Canadian art; it is directly associated with the Group of Seven and painter Tom Thomson; it is an example of early 20th century modern architecture in Canada that rejected ornamentation and drew on industrial design; and it is an important studio for many notable Canadian artists since 1913.
The Studio Building was designed by architect Eden Smith, FRAIC, in 1913 and built by R. Robertson and Sons in 1914 as an artists’ studio for painter Lawren Harris and Canadian art patron Dr. James MacCallum who made it available to artists needing space to work and live. It contains six purpose-built studio spaces that have provided excellent working accommodations for Canadian artists for almost a century. At one time, Tom Thomson, Arthur Lismer and Thoreau MacDonald lived and worked in a shack in the yard (now demolished).
The heritage value of The Studio Building National Historic Site of Canada resides in its associations with important Canadian artists including the Group of Seven, and its physical illustration of an early Canadian purpose-built artists’ studio in the modernist idiom.
Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, June 2004.
Key features contributing to the heritage value of this site include: the building’s siting at the edge of the Rosedale Ravine in downtown Toronto; its rectangular footprint and three storey flat-roofed cubic massing; its functional design as artists’ studios; its simple, functional aesthetic with an emphasis on the provision of natural light through the careful placement and size of its windows, with large windows on the north facade, and the application of Modernist devices such as a flat roof, metal multi-pane glass factory windows, a plain narrow facade cornice, and subdivision of the facade by the suggestion of pilasters; its concrete and steel construction technology; its red brick cladding with simple inlaid brick decoration framing the two bays of window; its minimalist interior decorative treatment; surviving evidence of use of the studios by major Canadian artists; the building’s interior layout, subdivided into two studios with living accommodations per floor as well as a living, working and storage space in the basement; continued legibility of original interior volumes, particularly the sizes and heights of studio rooms and connecting hallways; potential archaeological remnants of the former shack behind the building once used by Tom Thomson and other artists; its continued use as artists’ studios.