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|History of the Association|
The beginnings of the TLA
The Toronto Lawyers Association was founded over 130 years ago in 1885 as the County of York Law Association (CYLA). There were approximately 400 members at the time of founding and the initial annual fee was $2.00. The first president of the CYLA was Britton Bath Osler.
The main purpose for the founding of the CYLA was to expedite the construction of a new court house in Toronto. At that time Osgoode Hall was the hub of law in the city. Osgoode Hall was infamous for its bad odours, lack of ventilation and poor lighting. Prior to plumbing being introduced in the 1880s at Osgoode Hall chamber pots were emptied by “office boys.”
The Memorandum of Association stated:
“The formation and support of a law library for the use of its members to be kept and maintained in the courthouse in the said City of Toronto and to provide for the general interests of the profession and good feeling and harmony among members.”
Construction of the “new” courthouse at Old City Hall began in the fall of 1889. On November 2, 1891, the laying of the cornerstone ceremony took place which included a box (constructed of two thicknesses of copper, lined with asbestos and hermetically sealed) being placed in a cavity of the cornerstone where it remains to this day. The box includes, among other things, the by-laws of the association, a list of its officers, a map of Toronto, several newspapers and coins and paper currency from 1891. The new courthouse officially opened on September 18, 1899, approximately 10 years after the commencement of construction.
The first law librarian was fittingly named Ada M. Read. At the library’s first Annual General Meeting in 1887 it housed 1,128 volumes valued at $3,000.
In 1996 the CYLA changed its name to the Metropolitan Toronto Lawyers Association (MTLA).
In 2004 the MTLA changed its name to the Toronto Lawyers Association, the name it retains to this day.
A detailed account of the TLA’s history can be found in The County of York Law Association: A History of the First Hundred Years, 1885-1985, by John D. Honsberger, QC, LSM. Copies of which are located within the law library.