People & Culture

Documenting Massey Hall’s final days

Photographer Peter Power shares behind-the-scenes photos of Massey Hall’s final days — and early renovations. The building recently reopened after a massive two-year renovation

Stage-lit view of Massey Hall's stage
When the lights go down and its flaws are hidden, Massey Hall retains its magic. Here, Kathleen Edwards performs on the iconic Allan Slaight Stage in May 2018, two months before the building closed.
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Opened in 1894, the revered Massey Music Hall has hosted some of the world’s greatest performers. But by 2018, the Toronto icon was looking decidedly worse for wear. The brickwork was damaged and dirty, the original stained-glass windows boarded over and broken; inside, the seats were worn, the paint peeling, the plaster crumbling. 

Photographer Peter Power captured the facade of the beloved hall on a quiet night just weeks before it closed for three long years of renovations (it reopened in November 2021). This photograph ran in the January/February 2022 print edition of the magazine. The legendary venue seemed to wait for its glow-up to begin. 

That photo is in stark contrast to the bustling scenes taken just before Massey Hall closed, with music fans streaming in for one last show before the shutdown.

Power also captured the beginning of the extensive restoration work being done on Massey Hall’s stained-glass windows, an epic endeavour consisting of hours of detailed cleaning, repairing and glass artistry.

This pre-renovation photograph was taken in May 2018. Massey Hall closed July 2018 for a two-year-long renovation that includes a new seven-storey addition.
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Taken in May 2018, this view of the upper floor of Massey Hall shows how badly the building needed refreshing — scuffed walls and peeling paint were obvious at eye level. Looking up, the view is of netting protecting concertgoers from crumbling masonry.
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When Kathleen Edwards prepared to go onstage in May 2018, plans were well underway for the revitalization — the signs were everywhere.
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Walls of photos and posters of past performers line the walls of the bar in Massey Hall in a photograph taken in May 2018.
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When the lights are on for a pre-show sound check, the well-worn seats and carpets are hard to ignore (May 2018).
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This 2018 photo of a grimy exterior and pigeon peeking out through the broken stained-glass window gives a sense of just how much repair work is needed. The stained glass had been invisible from inside Massey Hall for years because a layer of plywood covered all the windows.
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Taken in early 2019 as work began, this close-up look at just one of Massey Hall’s windows gives a true sense of the monumental task awaiting EGD Glass and Vitreous Glassworks, which were tasked with cleaning and fixing each of the building’s many stained-glass windows.
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Each window has to be disassembled and each individual piece of glass cleaned.
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Finished windows, visible in the background, share space with the works in progress.
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 In the background, two glaziers move a flat of freshly cleaned glass pieces. A detailed architectural rendering documents Massey Hall’s many windows.
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January/February 2022

This story is from the January/February 2022 Issue

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