Osgoode Hall is one of the oldest buildings in Toronto. It is now in the heart of downtown Toronto, but when it first opened, it was outside of the city limits. Everything about Osgoode Hall made it stand out: its scale in a district of single-family homes, its public purpose in a residential neighbourhood, its professional occupants in a working class area, its Anglo-Saxon character in what became the city’s main reception area for new immigrants, and its wealth in “The Ward,” once one of the city’s worst slums.
Osgoode Hall was named in honour of William Osgoode, the first Chief Justice of Upper Canada - now the province of Ontario. Today it houses the highest courts of Ontario. It is also home to the Law Society of Ontario, the regulator of lawyers and paralegals in the province. Osgoode Hall Law School, Ontario’s first law school, was located here before moving to York University in the late 1960s.
The Law Society purchased the land in 1828 and started construction the next year. Osgoode Hall was built to provide space for the Law Society offices and its library, and to house law students. You can still see the original Osgoode Hall: if you stand in front of the building, you will notice a recessed central portion, with wings on either side. The red brick wing with the stone portico, on the right, is the original Osgoode Hall built in 1832.
The courts moved in as tenants of the Law Society in 1846. Ownership of the part of the building the courts occupied was eventually transferred to the government in 1874. As the courts and the Law Society grew, so did Osgoode Hall. The building now occupies roughly 40% of the grounds.
It is difficult to describe the style of Osgoode Hall. You could say that it is an architectural hybrid with a dominant classical note.