A historic landmark in the Queen West neighbourhood, the building that houses the Great Hall was built in 1889 as the west end’s first YMCA. After changing hands over its last centennial, the building has seen use as a venue for lectures, speeches, entertainment, fund-raising drives in support of the Canadian war effort, a “well-baby clinic” installed during the post-WWI flu epidemic, a Polish printing press, a temporary refugee house during WWII, as well as a space for the the Royal Templars of Temperance, a fraternal organization promoting the prohibition of alcohol. In the mid-’80s, collectives from Toronto’s avant-garde art scene took over the building, with the Theatre Centre, YYZ Gallery, the Toronto School of Art, and the Music Gallery calling the Great Hall home. The Great Hall’s colourful past is woven into the space today, creating a hub for community and culture in one of Vogue’s “coolest neighbourhoods in the world.”
The building is split between four venue spaces. The Main Hall holds the biggest shows at a capacity of 480, while Longboat Hall, named after Tom Longboat — a world famous Onondaga distance runner — who trained in the room’s original gymnasium in the early 1900s, has a 400-person volume with a running track balcony that looks out over the main floor. The Conversation Room was designed under the Victorian tradition for small gatherings, and as such nurtures one of the most intimate spaces for smaller-size shows – a vibe felt during Moonface's 2013 appearance. The Drawing Room, towering over Queen West from the third floor, hosts a kitchen, wet bar, and fire-place, its own self-contained venue.
International icons have set the stages at the Great Hall, with 1960s English and French singer-songwriter Jane Birkin, the avant-garde sounds of Mount Eerie, and post-rock and electronic musician Four Tet all being Great Hall alumni. In consistent support of the flourishing Canadian music and arts scenes, The Great Hall has seen Grimes perform with Daniel Woodhead of Doldrums, Do Make Say Think headline alongside Evening Hymns and Sarah Neufeld, and the great Daniel Lanois play in promotion of his documentary in the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival.