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Rochdale College is long gone, but the radical vision of its flower-child residents continues to shape the city.

Established by an act of the Ontario Legislature in 1964, Rochdale College became Canada’s first free university and the largest of over 300 such free universities in North America. Rochdale was an experiment in student-run alternative education and co-operative living in Toronto. It provided space for 840 residents in a co-operative living space when it opened in 1968. The project ultimately failed when it could not cover its financing and neighbours complained that it had become a haven for drugs and crime. It was closed in 1975.

The Globe and Mail

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Rochdale College provided a co-operative living space for 840 residents when it opened in 1968.

Franz Maier/The Globe and Mail

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Margaret Reid, with guitar, visits Elizabeth Stewart in her room at Rochdale College, Dec. 5, 1968. Established by an act of the Ontario Legislature in 1964, Rochdale College became Canada’s first free university and the largest of over 300 such free universities in North America. Rochdale was an experiment in student-run alternative education and co-operative living in Toronto. It provided space for 840 residents in a co-operative living space when it opened in 1968. The project ultimately failed when it could not cover its financing and neighbours complained that it had become a haven for drugs and crime. It was closed in 1975.

James Lewcun/The Globe and Mail

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Decision time today for Toronto's community-education experiment: these are four members of the 18-man Rochdale College council -- from left, president John Bradford, Jack Jones, Wilfrid Pelletier and Paul Evitts -- which recommended that the 18-storey college building be put up for sale because of chronic money problems. Established by an act of the Ontario Legislature in 1964, Rochdale College became Canada’s first free university and the largest of over 300 such free universities in North America. Rochdale was an experiment in student-run alternative education and co-operative living in Toronto. It provided space for 840 residents in a co-operative living space when it opened in 1968. The project ultimately failed when it could not cover its financing and neighbours complained that it had become a haven for drugs and crime. It was closed in 1975.

John McNeill/The Globe and Mail

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By the time it closed in 1971 Rochdale had become known as a drug haven filled with biker gangs and squatters.

John Wood/The Globe and Mail

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Rochdale College residents (background) mingle in the college food store and restaurant after closing today, while two Toronto police offices have a look around, Sept. 12, 1974. The Etherea Natural Food store was served a notice of eviction this afternoon and is now permanently closed. Established by an act of the Ontario Legislature in 1964, Rochdale College became Canada’s first free university and the largest of over 300 such free universities in North America. Rochdale was an experiment in student-run alternative education and co-operative living in Toronto. It provided space for 840 residents in a co-operative living space when it opened in 1968. The project ultimately failed when it could not cover its financing and neighbours complained that it had become a haven for drugs and crime. It was closed in 1975.

Don Grant/The Globe and Mail

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Police and sheriff's agents encountered opposition when they entered a commune on the 17th floor of Rochdale College, May 30, 1975, to evict the occupants. Established by an act of the Ontario Legislature in 1964, Rochdale College became Canada’s first free university and the largest of over 300 such free universities in North America. Rochdale was an experiment in student-run alternative education and co-operative living in Toronto. It provided space for 840 residents in a co-operative living space when it opened in 1968. The project ultimately failed when it could not cover its financing and neighbours complained that it had become a haven for drugs and crime. It was closed in 1975.

Tibor Kolley/The Globe and Mail

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Jane Barnett, who is handcuffed, had to be carried from the 13th floor to a police van when police and sheriff's agents entered Rochdale College to evict occupants today, May 30, 1975. Established by an act of the Ontario Legislature in 1964, Rochdale College became Canada’s first free university and the largest of over 300 such free universities in North America. Rochdale was an experiment in student-run alternative education and co-operative living in Toronto. It provided space for 840 residents in a co-operative living space when it opened in 1968. The project ultimately failed when it could not cover its financing and neighbours complained that it had become a haven for drugs and crime. It was closed in 1975.

Tibor Kolley/The Globe and Mail

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Its occupants now evicted, Rochdale College in Toronto needs a $1-million clean-up job to clear it of excrement, garbage, bugs and damaged ceilings. Established by an act of the Ontario Legislature in 1964, Rochdale College became Canada’s first free university and the largest of over 300 such free universities in North America. Rochdale was an experiment in student-run alternative education and co-operative living in Toronto. It provided space for 840 residents in a co-operative living space when it opened in 1968. The project ultimately failed when it could not cover its financing and neighbours complained that it had become a haven for drugs and crime. It was closed in 1975.

Don Grant/The Globe and Mail

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Tom Penny helps to install a new elevator panel in the lobby of Rochdale College in Toronto, Sept. 19, 1979, where psychedelic art will be the only reminder of the original 'free college' student days. Established by an act of the Ontario Legislature in 1964, Rochdale College became Canada’s first free university and the largest of over 300 such free universities in North America. Rochdale was an experiment in student-run alternative education and co-operative living in Toronto. It provided space for 840 residents in a co-operative living space when it opened in 1968. The project ultimately failed when it could not cover its financing and neighbours complained that it had become a haven for drugs and crime. It was closed in 1975.

Don Grant/The Globe and Mail

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If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

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