Voices of history within the walls of Hart House
Voices of history within the walls of Hart House

Our walls tell us so much if we only pay attention. For each nook and cranny in our castlesque buildings are a thousand memories, both happy and sad, uplifting and cruel. To all of those long-forgotten names scrawled upon our bricks; for each ghost of an etched penmanship; in honor of all who left at the University of Toronto a date, a sketch, a message; here is our small tribute to the many now-anonymous lives, minds and spirits that have walked the halls that we today laugh in. Here’s to a handful of people who left graffiti behind in the turret of the Hart House Great Hall:


She marched into the Hart House Great Hall, one last time. She snuck into the convention—something about sustainable energy—and walked around the room, slowly, deliberately taking in each detail, each portrait, each name, each word of the Latin scripture that he never understood.

Finally, she made her way to her favorite corner of the room. A small turret, a spiral staircase which once, long ago, had led to another hall but today leads only to a locked glass door. She walked the steps and paused at each window to look on to the room: laughter, the exchanging of business cards, and just a few social drinkers.

She reached her step. The step she had long sat on, the step she had come to in the moments of her strongest emotions. The center column now bore a worn, shiny mark the shape of his back. Thinking back to the past month, to the heart-wrenching farewells and the sheer happiness and effervescent joy that accompany long-coveted and fervently fought-for success, she fumbled in his pocket and found her room key.

She inspected the grey stone and brought his new treasure—he’d make a new copy of it, use his dorm key as a keychain—to the wall.  May 2011: It Was a Good Month. And Boom Boom! Boom Boom indeed, boom boom like a racing heartbeat, boom boom like the cannons fired during frosh and boom boom like the doors rhythmically shutting on his last University classes.

Long, fast, aggressive, lost strides meandered into the dining hall to find this tower, this closed space. Hatred, hatred in bold, black letters, at the top of the stairs. Hatred in 68-point font; but it wasn’t font, it was penmanship, and it, too, was hated. Loathing towards the man serving coffee on the other side of those glass panels—glass panels that could easily be broken, shattered if only a balled fist were brought to them.

A sharpie—thick and nearly out of ink—shook as it was dragged across the ledge by a quaking hand and the six letters were now forever destined to stay there, on that ledge, and condemned to the weight of loathing.

He sat and opened his sketchbook. Here’s the girl from the café; here’s the waitress; here’s a sketch of his coffee (black) and here’s his omelette. There was the charcoal he had used for the sketches, loose in the pocket of his jacket (two sizes too big). His fingers were darkened by the charcoal dust—as, certainly, were his phone and apartment key, but he’d deal with that later.

His mind drifted—to the girl in the café, to her soft curls, to the dimples when she smiled after a sip of her drink (dirty chai latte, two shots of espresso). His mind drifted to his violin, its smooth curves and the beauty of the notes it played. To Sonder, the realization that each person he had seen today while walking campus, each of them had a life, a home decorated with things that held meaning to them, maybe a pet and maybe a favorite freckle on a significant other’s shoulder.

He swayed backwards—nearly fell—and looked back up at the wall to find a sketch in his own hand, the study of a skull. A slightly lopsided, goofy skull—teeth that are completely uneven and nasal cavities that were unaligned. Just like that, in the whirlwind of thoughts that had taken him over the past few minutes, the Hart House now bore an accidental mark of his existence, his life.


Our halls hold ghosts, etchings, doodles, names—as many reminders of lives, of the existence of the students who sat in our places before us.

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