Sandford Fleming Building
|Sandford Fleming Building|
|Location||10 King's College Rd|
|Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering|
|Engineering Society Office|
|Engineering Communications Centre|
|Hard Hat Cafe|
The Sandford Fleming Building, located on 10 King's College Road, was built in 1907 (originally for the physics department) and designed by architects Darling & Pearson. It is named after Sir Sandford Fleming, the chief engineer of the Intercolonial Railway of Canada, the chief engineer on Canadian Pacific Railways surveys, and is famous for helping to establish a standardized twenty-four-hour system of international time zones.
The building is the hub of engineering student activity as the home of the Engineering Society office, Engineering Stores, the Lady Godiva Memorial Bnad room, the Hard Hat Cafe, the Engineering and Computer Science Library, and "The Pit", a central student common space for events and gatherings.
In 1977, the building was largely destroyed by a massive fire, leaving only the exterior structure intact. The interior was reconstructed based on a design by Page and Steele architects.
The Sandford Fleming Building Fire of 1977
Fire in the Pit
It is difficult to imagine the Sandford Fleming building, the heart of engineering student life at the University of Toronto, engulfed in flames. That is the sight that students and faculty members were faced with in the early morning of February 11, 1977. The fire, which began in the east corner lecture room and spread for eight hours before being contained, destroying virtually everything but the building’s shell. Classes were diverted to other buildings as the Sandford Fleming building underwent a major reconstruction from February 1977 to June 1982. June 2012 marked the thirtieth anniversary of its reopening.
Nobody was injured in the blaze, but almost 50,000 square feet of classrooms, laboratories, and faculty and graduate offices were lost. Emergency crews were able to save much of the computer centre in the South wing and brought most of the library books to safety, but several documents were unrecoverable. The Faculty suffered a significant loss of valuable research and archives. Among the losses were faculty and graduate research, as well as the Faculty Historical Collection.
In the midst of ongoing relief efforts, classes continued for students in order to avoid a disruption to schedules. The following week was the Faculty of Arts & Science’s Reading Week, so classes were relocated to their nearby buildings. The University was then able to obtain a four-year lease of the Toronto Reference Library (the building that is now the Koffler Centre on St. George Street) to hold classes while the Sandford Fleming building was rebuilt.
The renovated Sandford Fleming building opened in June 1982. Several improvements were made including new facilities for the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Departments, a new structures laboratory for Civil Engineering, and a much improved Faculty Library.
In the end, the building received a much-needed revitalization of its facilities. Originally built in 1907 and known as the Physics Building until 1967 when Engineering took occupancy, it was an outdated building in desperate need of a facelift. It is for this reason that Dean Etkin saw the benefit of a new facility and optimistically regarded the incident as a “blessing in disguise.”
Thirty years after its reopening, the Sandford Fleming building is the hub of engineering student life. Its basement is home to the “atrium”, where you can find engineering students working, eating, lining up to buy school supplies, or socializing. It is also the centre for most events during F!rosh Week and Godiva Week, as well as the construction site of many mysterious and unexpected pranks. Several student-run operations including Suds, the Lady Godiva Memorial Bnad, the Hard Hat Café, Engineering Stores, and the Engineering Society can also be found here. Located on the second floor is the Engineering Library, and some of the Faculty’s largest computer labs are located on the first floor. These spaces are constantly buzzing with students throughout the school year.
Despite the devastation that struck our Faculty over thirty years ago, the new building that emerged boasted several improvements. The Sandford Fleming building has evolved into the centre of engineering student life, and will continue to foster engineering culture into the future.
Written by Stephanie Fata, Archivist 1T2-1T3
R. White, The Skule Story: the University of Toronto Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering, 1873-2000, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001, p. 235-237.
B. Levine, A Century of Skill and Vigour, Toronto: Barry G. Levine, 1985, p. 66-71.
R. Brown, " The Life of Sir John Cunningham McLennan, Ph.D., F.R.S., O.B.E., K.B.E., 1867-1935," Physics in Canada, Vol. 56, no. 2, , March/April 2000.
The Wreck of Sir Sandford Fleming
The legend lives on from King’s College on down,
Of the briquette they call Sandford Fleming.
The place, it is said, became one of the dead,
When Room 126 was a’flaming.
With computers in store, several thousand times more
Students’ names and their marks could be kept there.
The maintenance crew was a bone to be chewed,
For not once had a janitor swept there.
The place was a sty, and the home of Eng Sci,
Which somehow avoided fire checks.
As old buildings go, it was older than most,
It was older than even the Annex.
In spite of cold spells, it was hotter than Hell,
Though the temperature soon would get higher.
And later that night, when the fire bells rang out,
Could it be that the place was on fire?
The smoke and the flames made a tattletale sign,
As the cruel wind gave fuel to the tinder.
And everyone knew that an Update was due,
And Sir Sandford would soon be a cinder.
But the warnings came late, and this sealed the fate
Of the biggest of all Eng Sci smokers.
The firemen they came and they preyed for some rain,
They thought it the work of some jokers...
When two o’clock came, many men were on hand,
In an effort to save all the tape reels.
By 3:30 A.M. the whole roof had caved in,
And eight men were hurt in the ordeal.
Then Galbraith wired in, she had water coming in
And the basement was practically swimming,
And later that day, all anybody would say,
‘See the wreck of the Sir Sandford Fleming?’
Does anyone know where the love of God goes,
When the flames turn the these to powder?
The fireman say it would still have decayed
In five years if the flames hadn’t got her.
Well, it might have decayed if it hand’t burned down,
But it surely did take on some water.
And all that remained was the sign with the name,
And even that was starting to totter.
The damages rise, while Sir Sandford dies,
And the EUT goes underwater.
Oh, estimates soar, ten million and more,
The 370 just missed being solder.
But classes did go, as the engineers know,
As if the blaze never had started.
And the people did stare at the shell standing there,
Remains of an era departed.
In old Simcoe Hall, in the Council they said,
‘We’ll just start to rebuild another.
If something remains, an it can be reclaimed,
It will carry the name of its father.’
The legend lives on form King’s College on down,
Of the briquette they called Sandofrd Fleming.
The place, it was said, became one of the dead
When Room 126 was a ‘flaming.
Published in the Book of Skule 8T0