Secret Spaces


Tell us your Trinity ghost stories!
Trinity’s history is full of rumours of ghosts roaming the halls. Tell us your story for our October issue of e-trinity. Comment below or email us at



Follow our founder, John Strachan, as he takes you into some of Trinity’s forgotten spaces and unusual places. John will be updating this page on occasion with new spaces for you to explore.



Leave your comments below to let us know where we should go next or to share your stories of your hidden corners of the Trinity College campus.


Above the soaring vaulted ceilings of Trinity College Chapel, there is a framework of steel. Few have ever seen it. In 2004, some of the pilasters were repaired using long stainless-steel screws.

More than 60 feet below, underneath the floor behind the chapel’s main altar, is the original limestone high altar. Beneath this lie the ashes of Archbishop G.F. Kingston, former Dean of Residence and Primate of All Canada.

Consecrated in 1955, the Trinity College Chapel is the last and greatest work of famed British architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. Today, it is considered one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture on the continent and is often compared to some of Europe’s great Gothic cathedrals, including Scott’s famous Anglican cathedral in Liverpool. Scott also designed the Cambridge University Library and Waterloo Bridge.


A favourite space for some in the College community, the green roof on St. Hilda’s College Residence is completely unknown to others. The rooftop garden is just one of many projects spearheaded by members of the Trinity Environmental Protection Committee and the Trinity Environmental Club. Completed in the summer of 2008 and funded by a pledge from the Students of Trinity College and the class of 1958, the 2,000-square-foot space provides a leafy sanctuary for busy students and staff. It also helps to cool the building in the heat of summer due to its insulating properties.


Language stations with cassettes
Headphones still in place
How's your Latin?
Cassette tapes, reel-to-reels and records were all used at one point.

Stepping into the Trinity College Language Lab is like walking into a time capsule. Information on the lab is scarce, but according to one source, the lab was installed in 1960 and at that time contained 12 reel-to-reel student workstations.

The language lab offered the option of individualized language instruction through the use of tapes and headphones, or full-class involvement. It allowed teachers to listen to and manage student audio, and students to learn by simultaneously listening to instruction and recording their own voices.

In 1974 a new console, which incorporated a record player, was added and the student positions changed to the Sony cassette type. A second room was added in the 1970s. It housed a video cassette recorder, a large television monitor, and loudspeakers, making the room ideal for courses with an audio-visual component.

The lab likely closed in the mid-1970s, when Trinity’s French department fully integrated with U of T’s Faculty of Arts and Science.

The Great Organ is the heart of the Trinity Chapel. Installed in 1954, the two-manual Casavant was designed in consultation Dr. Healey Willan and Sir Ernest MacMillan, two of Canada’s foremost 20th-century musicians. Its maker, Casavant Frères of Sainte Hyacinthe, Quebec, has since become one of the leading organ builders in North America.

The organ’s nondescript wooden console, not much bigger than a baby grand piano, nestles in the choir loft at the rear of the chapel’s nave. The organ contains more than 1,400 pipes, both metal and wood.


Offers great views of the city
Bee keeping doesn't seem that hard
Did you know? The field to the East of Henderson Tower has housed Environment Canada’s climatological observation station since 1987. When you get your downtown Toronto forecast it’s straight from Trinity!

John Strachan tests out his urban apiculture skills on one of two beehives located on the roof of Henderson Tower. Welcomed to the Trinity community in 2010, the bees and their hives are looked after by The University of Toronto Beekeeping Education Enthusiast Society (B.E.E.S.), which also keeps three hives on the rooftop of the U of T Faculty Club.

Opened in 1942 along with the East and West wings of the Trinity College building, the tower is named for the Henderson family, who were generous benefactors to the College.


Photography: Nazerit Hagos

26 Responses to Secret Spaces

  1. Please do come and see the new archives, John (and everyone)! The space is beautiful. And you are correct, a great deal of care was taken in choosing a system that would serve our needs and have and be as environmentally friendly as possible. We’re very proud of the results!

  2. Good stuff; thanks.

    Couple of observations about the chapel. I’ve noticed before the organ being described as the “heart” of the chapel. I would have thought that at Trinity the altar would have been recognized as the heart. The organ is supportive of what goes on at the altar.

    If I understand correctly what the author describes as pilasters, that’s not how they were explained to me. As I was told it, they are real buttresses. Given the narrow site, Sir Giles had a problem: he needed buttresses but didn’t’ have the space on the exterior. To solve his problem he placed them half inside and half outside, and then used them also as a place in which to install interior lighting. Rather clever..

  3. Looking forward to re-visiting the Trinity College Archives, which is steadily undergoing infrastructure upgrades under the direction of our terrific Archivist, Sylvia Lassam. A geothermal system will be installed to provide environmentally-friendly heating & cooling for the amazing archival collections. Inspiring motto: “Building a future for Trinity’s past.”

    • Please do come and see the new archives, John (and everyone)! The space is beautiful. And you are correct, a great deal of care was taken in choosing a system that would serve our needs and have and be as environmentally friendly as possible. We’re very proud of the results!

  4. Wonderful idea, and really interesting entries.
    I too remember using the Larkin basement language labs in first year French.

    I also remember a friend being entrusted with the key to the roof of Henderson Tower so that he, (after voicing concern about such things), personally could ensure the Canadian flag would be raised and lowered so as to fly ONLY during daylight, and therefore not be shown disrespect by its being left up on the flagpole after dark. (I believe an automated light eventually was installed to permanently end such dire threats to our national honour.)
    As for other spaces you may want to explore and share…

    Few may have visited or seen the interior and belfry of the central tower above Sub-Heaven. Over the course of several years, I volunteered (or was volunteered) to ascend its old wooden ladder numerous times, often in the dark, to manually ring the bell the required number of times for various events. In 1982, we also worked to set up temporary flashing floodlights, and a dry-ice effect that sent “fog” rolling out of the belfry and down into the windowed area of the tower, while speakers hoisted up to the belfry played Disney’s “Sounds from the Haunted Mansion” at full volume. Even without all that, the tower and belfry are a really atmospheric part of the original Hoskin Avenue buildings, (with graffiti from visitors over the years), that probably hasn’t changed much since construction.

    You also might want to show people what it’s like up on the Strachan Hall balcony – – especially for its different perspective on the hall. Accessible only through the office located near the second floor landing on the way up to Angels’ Roost, the Lit used the balcony in the early 80s for one or two open “Bubbly on the Balcony” events; i.e., champagne gatherings, with a volunteer student string quartet for entertainment, before everyone went down to formal dinner on Friday evening.

    You know, the sort of things that happen at any college .

  5. There was a storage room at the north end of the hallway in the lower portion of Angel’s Roost. ( My room was there 76/77). From there one could get out onto the roof immediately south of Strachan Hall. There was a reasonable place to stand, looking down in to the laneway between Trinity and what were then the engineering residences of Devonshire Place.

  6. The chapel is beautiful, but hard to argue that it’s Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s “greatest” work, given that he also designed the spectacular Liverpool Cathedral, the Chamber of the House of Commons, Bankside Power Station (now the Tate Modern), and other gems. It was also not his last work.

  7. Interesting reading…where is the Language Lab? The basement of Larkin building?
    There must be lots of interesting things down in the tunnels…always so many locked doors when using those to get around the building in bad weather.

  8. I remember using the Language Lab in French class during my first year at Trinity in 1974-75. Mlle DeKir was the instructor. During “Labs”, each student worked through speech exercises individually but the instructor could choose to “listen in” on any given individual student and comment without warning! You could be casually working along, perhaps wandering into careless pronunciation, — or worse — and suddenly find that you were being listened to by the prof! For its day, it was an example of advanced IT !!

  9. I had forgotten all about my hours in the Language lab in the early 60’s until I went on the tour. Merci beaucoup.

    Is it possible to visit some of these special haunts?

    Would touring some of them be an option for Alumni week in May/June?

  10. I’d like to think it’s a typo: the organ was installed in the summer of 1955. I worked in the Library that summer, and passsed the pipes (tree- trunk to driniking-straw size) every day, since they were stored in the corridor across from the old Library. Later, working In the new Library in the basement, we had the joy of hearing the organ being tuned (like listening to a sick cow). In the new Library, with its metal shelves, a particularly hot and humid summer meant that I had to wipe the mildew off the spines of the books every morning. There was also a project where books that had “strings attached” were burned in the furnace.

  11. I particularly enjoyed reading about the Chapel and the organ, as well as seeing the photos. My husband and I were married in the chapel and have very fond memories of the beautiful architecture as well as the music. Living in Arizona, and infrequently back to Toronto, the photos are appreciated. Kathy Pearson

  12. Thoroughly enjoyed these views of some of Trinity’s “Secret Spaces” and hope there will be more in the future. The only complaint I have is that I wish there was a way to pause the rotation of the pictures. It went faster than I could take in some of the elements and captions and then when I was trying to read the text underneath, the constant changing of the pictures was a distraction. But other than that minor annoyance this was a great feature that made good use of this medium.

    • Thank you for the feedback, Michael. I have slowed the speed of the slides and activated the “pause on hover” feature. Hopefully that will work better.

      We plan on adding more in the future – do you have any Trinity Secret Spaces you would like us to cover?

    • Lucky you, Morgan… in my day the balloting for Henderson Tower meant it was the preserve of senior years, so I spent only my 4th year of res at the top of the tower. Great view, even of the Cakefight! Happy to hear about the bees.
      Geoff Nugent 8T1

  13. I remember using a language lab in first year IR French at Trinity in 1986-87 – and the photos look familiar

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