Toronto Feature: The Arts and Letters Club of Toronto

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Thunder Cloud
At the Arts and Letters Club, 6 April 1913 (courtesy Archives of Ontario/I0014540).
Dinner at the Arts and Letters Club
Canadian authors' dinner, circa 1930s (courtesy Toronto Reference Library/971-3-4).
Arts and Letters Club
On Elm Street, circa 2012 (photo \u00a9 by James Marsh).

"Comradely Haven for Kindred Souls"

This text is from the free Toronto in Time app, which was created by The Canadian Encyclopedia and is available from the App Store and the Google Play store. Visit its companion website, which is linked below, to explore all the features of the app online.

The Arts and Letters Club of Toronto (which permitted men only until 1985) was evicted twice from other locations before finding a permanent home in St. George's Hall at 14 Elm Street in 1920. It was established in 1908 under the encouragement of journalist, teacher, and critic, Augustus Bridle, to champion the arts in English Canada.

The Arts and Letters Club was founded to serve as a meeting place for people of diverse interests to engage in "mutual fellowship and artistic creativity," as a kind of "comradely haven for kindred souls." Over the past 100 years, its members, many of whom are among Canada's best known cultural figures, also knew how to have fun. According to Governor General Vincent Massey, who served as club president 1920-22, one of Bridle's "greatest contributions" was to lose the club's constitution, so that "we were not duly concerned with machinery." Nonetheless, the constitution did survive in plainsong, a medieval form of ecclesiastical music, composed by Healey Willan.

Among the club's members, perhaps none have become more famous than the members of the celebrated Group of Seven. According to A.J. Casson, a later addition to the Group, the artists met at the club daily "for company and a good meal." Arthur Lismer drew caricatures of his fellow club members, while J.E.H. Macdonald designed the club crest. The building is a National Historic Site.


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