St. Lawrence Hall

St. Lawrence Hall

“…Canada is emphatically the only safe land of safety on the American continent for hunted refugees. She bids defiance to all fugitive slaves, and protects the colored man in the enjoyment of that liberty with which he is endowed by the great Author of his existence.”

– Voice of the Fugutive, July 30 1851

St. Lawrence Hall was built by the City of Toronto in 1850 as a public meeting hall for gatherings, concerts and exhibitions. The 19th century building was designed in the Renaissance tradition by William Thomas. St. Lawrence Hall opened its doors on April 1, 1851 with a lecture entitled “Slavery” by British Parliamentarian George Thompson. After its opening, the Hall continued to be a gathering place for abolitionists in Toronto, and was the venue for a series of anti-slavery lectures in April of 1851, including a lecture by Frederick Douglass.

“Call for a North American Convention.” Voice of the Fugitive, July 30, 1851 Source: INK – ODW Newspaper Collection

St. Lawrence Hall was the original venue for the North American Convention of Colored Freemen in the Fall of 1851. Toronto was chosen as the site of the Convention for its safety and proximity to the United States border for travelling delegates, and the Hall was an ideal venue for large gatherings. Today, St. Lawrence Hall continues to be a centre for social activity at the corner of King St. E. and Jarvis St.

“St. Lawrence Hall.” Photographed by Armstrong, Beere & Hime in 1859 (Source: Toronto Public Library)

Learn more

Learn more about Black settlement in Ontario from the Ontario Heritage Trust

Read more about St. Lawrence Hall from The Canadian Encyclopedia

Explore Heritage Toronto’s digital exhibition about the St. Lawrence neighbourhood