With its tall limestone clock-tower, this assembly and concert hall, completed in 1905, is Queen’s best-known landmark. Fittingly, it is named after Queen’s most important principal, George Monro Grant, a national figure in his own right who gave Queen’s, for the first time, a national mission and profile. The hall seats 900 people and is used for public lectures and meetings, concerts, convocation ceremonies, dances, and exams. It was also used as a military hospital during the First World War. During WWII, Grant Hall was used as an entertainment centre for troops and a meal hall (see Wartime at Queen’s). The building was originally supposed to be funded by the Frontenac County Council and named Frontenac Hall.
However, the citizens of Frontenac County voted overwhelmingly against the idea. One theory on why Frontenac refused to fund the building states that it was simply too much to ask, as Frontenac was not a rich county and was populated mostly by farmers. The other theory is that the refusal was the result of a grudge: Grant publicly opposed abstemious county councillors’ plan to ban the sale of alcohol in the county. As a result, in 1901, they withdrew their support – despite an emotional plea by the now weak and ailing Principal.
Such was the devotion that Grant inspired in his students that they stepped in, raising the necessary $35,000 over the winter of 1901-1902, one third of which came from the students themselves, many of whom lived on the poverty line. They named the building Grant Hall to honour the 25th anniversary of his Principalship in December 1902.
Grant, unfortunately, died in May, several months short of that anniversary, and so the building was named for him posthumously on its completion in 1905. Grant Hall was designed in the Victorian Romanesque style by Symons and Rae, an architectural firm from Toronto that also designed Kingston Hall and Ontario Hall. The original tower clock was designed by Nathan Dupuis, a professor of mathematics and other sciences and Dean of Practical Science at the turn of the century. After years of unreliable service, the old clock was replaced in 1993 with an electrical mechanism designed in England and – like the building itself – paid for by students. The old clock mechanism is on display in Stirling Hall. Grant Hall is located at the south end of University Avenue.
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