Wymilwood Women’s Union

150 Charles Street West, Toronto, ON.

“Wymilwood is a mixture of Northern European models and local building culture: the use of wood cladding, a generous balcony and sunken landscaped courtyard, are all elements that interact with the street in an openness and with an informality atypical for Toronto. Particularly interesting is the fact that Wymilwood is attached to a historic building.”

-Michelangelo Sabatini, “Eric Arthur: Practical Visions,” JSSAC, 26, No. 1,2 (2001), 33-42

Today part of the Goldring Student Centre of Victoria University, the Wymilwood Women’s Union was designed to accommodate activities that had outgrown their home at the former residence of Mrs. E.R. Wood, the original Wymilwood, nearby at 84 Queen’s Park.

Designed by Eric Arthur, the Wymilwood Women’s Union abutted a handsome Queen Anne Revival building, Annesley Hall.  Designed by G.M. Miller (1903), the historic, red brick building was the first residence built specifically for women in Canada, and is now a National Historic Site of Canada.

Arthur’s design deferred to both historic Annesley Hall and the residential character of Charles Street at the time.  The Wymilwood Women’s Union comprised a gabled wing of two storeys above grade along the street, and a one-storey cafeteria wing extending north.  The materials included red brick, concrete and timber.  The interior features a dramatic open stair connecting all three floors.  Exposed brick walls and wood ceilings lend warmth to the meeting spaces.

Wymilwood is a significant work of architect, Eric Ross Arthur (1898-1982).  Arthur was a celebrated author, educator, heritage conservation architect and companion of the Order of Canada.

Arthur’s two additions, planned for the southwest and northeast, were never built.  However in 2013, the Wymilwood building was significantly expanded to form the Goldring Student Centre (Moriyama and Teshima Architects).  The existing building underwent a sensitive rehabilitation and a major addition to the east.  The project garnered a Heritage Toronto Award of Merit in 2014.

The building remains a much-loved meeting place on the Victoria University campus, most notably its lower level coffee shop and terrace that enjoy sunshine even in the heart of winter.  The former Wymilwood Women’s Union building and its activities continue to make a significant contribution to the cultural heritage landscape of the University of Toronto.