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Toronto Athenaeum Club: Labor Center Report (Assessment)

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Updated: Dec 3rd, 2020

The history of the Canadian labor market is rich, which is due to many sights of different eras that are relevant to this sphere of social life. One of these places is the Athenaeum club, a place that was very popular in the middle of the 20th century and has survived by today. This showplace is located in Toronto, a major economic and commercial center of Canada, and this place is a well-known labor house that has lost its main role and is an architectural monument and an echo of the past today. Many events are connected with this house, and its history is proof that the change of political and market interests directly affects the amendments of labor preferences; therefore, the Athenaeum club can hardly be called a tourist attraction with a simple and unequivocal fate.

Site Description

As the object of the analysis of the historic landmark, the Athenaeum club is suitable since it is the house with a rich past that has not been forgotten so far. In addition to its attractive architecture and monumental appearance, it also has other significant features that relate to the history of formation and development. The sphere of labor in Canada at the end of the 19th century, like in many other countries, was much weaker than it is now, which was due to a number of reasons: the lack of efficient and high-quality equipment, financial crises, the lack of financing, etc. (Boswell, 2015). Nevertheless, the Athenaeum club received the name “Labor Temple,” which is a confirmation of its popularity among the population and the opportunities that it provided (“Mapping Our Work,” 2018). Therefore, this landmark deserves attention both from the point of view of the tourist site and the object of research analysis.

Brief History

Initially, the Athenaeum club was created as a sports facility where people could train (“Mapping Our Work,” 2018). However, in the early 20th century, this building was purchased by the local authorities who converted it for their own purposes (“Mapping Our Work,” 2018). Most of the shares were bought out, and the place was completely taken over by the government. For sixty-four years, the club was the center of the Toronto labor movement and represented a gathering place for urban trade unions (“Mapping Our Work,” 2018). There was a large library in the building, and many important and relevant issues related to not only labor movement but also other urgent issues were discussed here. Over time, new and more modern homes appeared. The Athenaeum club became a part of the historical heritage of the city, and today, it is a cultural site with a rich history.

Historical Significance

The site under consideration was not only a place for workers’ and elites’ gathering but also as an important center for discussing pressing urban problems. Decisions regarding both world wars were made here (“Mapping Our Work,” 2018). Also, as Hracs and Leslie (2014) remark, aesthetic work in Toronto gained wide popularity after the global changes that took place in the society because of the influence of various economic and social factors. However, even today, the club is used as a part of the “Jazz” apartments, which allows talking about the relevance of this place and its importance for the city and its history (“Mapping Our Work,” 2018). Moreover, for many ensembles, it is an honor to perform with their musical programs in this place. Therefore, the historical significance of the club for Toronto is essential, which proves its popularity even after the loss of the labor center status.

Connection with the Present

The fact that the Athenaeum club has not lost its popularity today and is an important object of the cultural heritage of Toronto is largely due to its connection with the present. The building is not dilapidated and is still maintained, albeit not for its intended purpose. According to Thomas and Tufts (2016), the Canadian crisis of the 21st century, which has already been left in the past, did not affect the aesthetic preferences of residents who still respected their cultural heritage, despite temporary difficulties in the country’s economy. The building is under the protection of the city municipality and is sometimes used as a place for solemn meetings. The appropriate appearance of the olden time is maintained purposefully to give the building additional color.

Outcomes and Consequences

The importance of the club for residents and visitors of the city will certainly make a significant contribution to the preservation of this building and possibilities for its further exploitation. Today, trade union committees have separate institutions, and libraries are almost entirely replaced by the Internet. Nevertheless, excursions to the club are held regularly since the opportunity to touch history and visit this essential place for Toronto is unique. It is possible that over time, the site will lose its popularity. However, today, looking at the outcomes, it can be noted that the Canadian history has many valuable cultural sites, one of which is the Athenaeum club.


Boswell, R. (2015). New light on the origins of the Ottawa Field-Naturalists’ Club. The Canadian Field-Naturalist, 129(2), 207-213.

Hracs, B. J., & Leslie, D. (2014). Aesthetic labour in creative industries: The case of independent musicians in Toronto, Canada. Area, 46(1), 66-73.

Mapping Our Work: Toronto Labour History Walking Tours. (2018). Web.

Thomas, M. P., & Tufts, S. (2016). Austerity, right populism, and the crisis of labour in Canada. Antipode, 48(1), 212-230.

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