Search just our sites by using our customised site search engine


Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Click here to learn more about MyHeritage and get free genealogy resources

History of Toronto and County of York in Ontario
Part IV: Toronto: The Churches


Few cities of the same population are more liberally endowed in the matter of churches than Toronto. At a distance the city seems to bristle with spires, and in the streets they meet the eye at every turn. Of late years church-building has received a great impetus, and many congregations that were content to worship in modest edifices of wood or brick, have either been compelled by the narrowness of their accommodation and the increase of their membership to enlarge then quarters, or else, fired to emulation by the example of their neighbours, have launched out into building operations in order to keep pace with the times. Toronto is thus eminently a city of churches, counting within its limits upwards of a hundred places of worship. Some of these—such as are especially noticeable either for architectural beauty or historic association—will be briefly described in the following pages:—

I.—Episcopal.

The Anglican body have about a score of churches within the city Limits, chief of these being St. James' Cathedral, on the north-east corner of King and Church Streets. This metropolitan church — as a congregation, not an edifice—is the oldest in the city. Previous to 1803 services were held a secular building, but in that year the first edifice, subsequently to be dedicated to St. James, was erected. It was an unassuming frame structure, but answered all the purposes of the then scanty congregation. In 1832 it was replaced by a plain stone structure with a square tower at its southern end. This was destroyed by fire in 1839, and m the same year a third edifice, also of stone, but with a wooden spire, was erected. The flimsy character of the spire subsequently proved fatal to the church, for, ten years later, during the conflagration of 1849, the spire was ignited by the showers of cinders from the burning houses and the entire church fell a prey to the flames. Thanks to the energetic efforts of Bishop Strachan, a new building—the present cathedral —was soon under way, and in 1853 the congregation of St. James' once more worshipped under their own roof. At this time the cathedral presented a very different appearance to that with which the present generation is familiar. It was a plain, unadorned structure, without tower or spue, the former being only completed in 1867, and the latter, together with the pinnacles and porch, in 1874. Mr. T. W. Cumberland was the architect. The present building is about two hundred feet long, and has seating capacity for about two thousand persons. It is of white brick with stone facings, in style a modified Early English, and its entire cost, including that of the peal of eight bells, was §218,000. The tower s one hundred and forty feet high and the spire one hundred and sixty-six. The latter, with its illuminated clock, is visible far and wide, and forms a prominent feature in the distant view of Toronto. Internally the church consists of nave and transepts; the chancel, an apse in form, contains a richly-carved altar and reredos, erected by the congregation in memory of Bishop Strachan, and the choir is enriched with carved oak stalls. The rector of the cathedral is the Rev. Canon Dumon, who succeeded the late Dean Grasett in this high but, m view of recent litigation, onerous position. The Bishop of the diocese and President of the Synod is the Rt. Rev. A. Sweatman. In rear of the church, on the corner of Adelaide Street, is the Parochial School house.

Holy Trinity Church, in Trinity Square, was for many years conspicuous among the Anglican places of worship in the city on account of the ornate character of its ritual and the beauty of its musical services. Under the present incumbent, however, the former has been considerably modified, the cathedral (or choral) service being alone maintained in its entirety. The building is in the so-called debased Gothic style, of white brick, and cruciform in shape, with a shallow chancel and two shallow transepts. Its western end is adorned with two battlemented turrets. The circumstances attending the foundation of the church are of more than usual interest, and as much doubt seems to exist 011 the subject it may not be out of place to give the correct version. In 1845 Bishop Strachan received a letter from the Rt. Rev. Dr. Fongley, then Bishop of Ripon, informing him that £5,000 had been given by an anonymous donor—now generally supposed to be a lady—for the purpose of erecting a church in Toronto. It appears that the munificent founder had been so impressed by the statements made by the Rev. Geo. Hills—afterwards first Bishop of British Columbia—who had been deputed by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel to advocate the claims of the Church in the colonies, that he—or she—was led to devote £10,000 for the benefit of the Colonial Church. Half of this sum was appropriated by the donor for the purpose already mentioned, with the stipulation that the new church should be called "The Church of the Holy Trinity," that it should be built in the form of a cross, and that the seats should be entirely free. The anonymous founder further carried her generosity to the extent of presenting the future church with a set of beautifully-worked altar linen and surplices and costly silver communion vessels. It was also provided that a money gift of £50 sterling, or $250, should be presented on the altar on the first occasion of the administration of the Holy Communion, and that three similar sums should be offered respectively for gifts for the poor, for an altar-cloth for the church, and for beautifying the font. The plans of the church were prepared by Mr. H. B. Bane, an English architect, who had settled in Toronto, and who also designed St. George's and Little Trinity; and the building was erected on a site given by Col. the Hon. John Simcoe Macaulay, the corner-stone being laid by Bishop Strachan on July 1st,

1846. The opening and consecration service took place on October 27th,

1847. The first incumbent was the Rev. Henry Scadding, who was assisted by the Rev. Walter Stennett, these gentlemen, who were then engaged in scholastic wor k at Upper Canada College, having offered their services gratuitously. Subsequently the Rev. W. Stewart Darling was appointed assistant minister, and on the resignation of Dr. Scadding succeeded to the incumbency, with the Rev. John Pearson, of Frederic.ton, N.B., as assistant. In 1881 Mr. Darling gave up the entire parochial charge to Mr. Pearson, under whose administration it still continues.

St. George's Church, on John Street, and of which the Rev. J. D. Cayley is incumbent, was built m 1845. His of white brick, with Ohio stone dressings, and is surmounted by a spire one hundred and sixty feet height. The seating accommodation is about eight hundred. This is one of the lew Anglican churches n the city that possess a surpliced chon.

St. Stephen's, on the corner of Bellevue Avenue and College Street, was built in 1857 by R. B. Denison, Esq., son of Col. G. T. Denison. It is one of the prettiest specimens of the Early English style of architecture that the city possesses; if is built of red brick with stone facings, and consists of a nave with shallow transepts and a deep chancel. The service is semi-choral. Rev. C. J. Broughall is the rector.

Grace Church, on the south side of Elm Street, between Teraulay and Elizabeth, s an outcome of the Low Church movement in the Anglican Church in the city. It is a handsome edifice m second-pointed Gothic, and consists of a large nave and transepts. The most noteworthy of its architectural adornments are the " wheel " window in the northern facade and the rnediaeval iron-work adorning the doors of the main entrance. Rev. J. P. Lewis is the rector.

Trinity Church—commonly known as "Little Trinity," in contradistinction to Holy Trinity—is one of the oldest Episcopal Church edifices of the city. It is situated on the south side of King Street East, a little east of Parliament. It was erected in 1843 as a "chapel of ease," to accommodate the overflow from St. James', and was opened for service early in the following year. At that time it was a fine specimen of picturesque Gothic—the designs from which it was erected being by Mr. H. B. Lane, already mentioned in connection with Holy Trinity. Since then it has been twice improved and somewhat enlarged. The present incumbent is the Rev. Alexander Sanson, who has held office since 1852, and who is the oldest clergyman in charge of any city congregation of the English Church.

The other noteworthy Anglican churches are All Saints, on the corner of Wilton Avenue and Sherbourne Streets, an edifice of a modified Early English Gothic; the Church of the Ascension (Baldwin Memorial Church) on Richmond Street, west of York; the Church of the Redeemer, corner of Bloor and Avenue Streets—both good specimens of early English Gothic; St. Paul's, Bloor Street; St. Peter's, corner of Carlton and Bleeker Streets, one of the prettiest ecclesiastical structures in the city; St. Luke's, corner of St. Joseph and St. Vincent Streets, a handsome building of red brick; St. Philip's, corner of Spadina Avenue and St. Patrick Street, another red brick building, but without any pretensions to architectural beauty; St. Matthias', Bellwoods Avenue, the "ritualist" church par excellence; St. Bartholomew's, River Street; St. John the Evangelist's, Portland Street; St. Thomas', Huron Street; St. Anne's, in St. Mark's Ward, formerly Brockton Village; and St. Matthew's, in St. Matthew's Ward, formerly Riverside.

II.—Roman Catholic.

This body owns eight churches and two chapels in the city, including the mother church or Cathedral of St. Michael. The latter is one of the finest Gothic edifices m Canada, and its graceful spire, surmounted by a huge gilt cross—said to enclose a portion of the true cross—is a prominent feature of the city from all approaches. The cathedral, which is built of white brick, stands on the north side of Shuter Street, between Church and Bond Streets, with its main facade on the latter. The ulterior of the building is highly decorated, and contains a beautiful painted window, representing the Crucifixion, over the high altar. The musical portion of the services, under the direction of the present rector, the Rev. J. M. Laurent, who is well known in Toronto musical circles, has of late years assumed a high character, and attracts large crowds to the evening offices. To the north of the cathedral, facing Church Street, is the archiepiscopal palace, standing amid spacious grounds; and further to the north, on Bond Street, is the Loretto Convent, also in connection with the cathedral. Thus nearly the entire block enclosed by Church, Shuter and Bond Streets and Wilton Avenue is occupied by the cathedral and its dependencies.

To St. Paul's Church, on Power Street, belongs the honour of having been the first Roman Catholic church built in Toronto. It was erected in 1826, services having, previous to its construction, been held at the residences of private members of the Church. It has in connection with it a large separate school on Queen Street, and a hospital, orphanage and refuge for the aged—all three under one roof, and known as the House of Providence. The area occupied by this church and the buildings connected with it is even larger than in the case of St. Michael's. St. Paul's is under the charge of Bishop O'Mahoney.

The other Roman Catholic churches are St. Patrick's, on William Street, served by the Redemptorist Fathers; St. Basil's, in connection with St. Michael's College, which is in the hands of the Basilian Fathers; St. Mary's, on Bathurst Street; St. Peter's, corner of Bloor and Bathurst Streets; St. Helen's, in St. Mark's Ward, and St. Joseph's, in St. Matthew's Ward. St. Patrick's and St. Mary's each have a separate school attached. Besides the above are the Chapel of St. Vincent, attached to the archiepiscopal palace, and that of St. John, on Bond Street, opposite the Metropolitan. The latter was formerly a Baptist church, but was purchased by the Roman Catholics and dedicated to St. John the Baptist.

III.—Methodist.

The Mediodists are, both numerically and financially, one of the strongest religious bodies in the city; and their importance has been mater-ally increased by the recent consummation of the union of the various sub-divisions of the Church. They own twenty places of worship within the city limits, the chief of these being the well-known Metropolitan, the most happily situated of all the city churches. It is built of white brick, with cut stone dressings, and '.s m style a modernized Gothic. At the south end is a massive square tower one hundred and ninety feet high, which is flanked by numerous pinnacles and spirelets. To the north end is a pseudo-chancel, separated from the auditorium and containing lecture and class-rooms. The seating capacity of the church proper is about two thousand live hundred. The building stands in the centre of spacious grounds, between two and three acres in extent and occupying the entire space—formerly known as McGill Square — enclosed by Shuter, Bond, yueen, and Church Streets. Over $10,000 have been expended in laying out and beautilying the grounds, In addition to $150,000 spent upon the church building. The Metropolitan owes its existence largely to the energy of the Rev. William Morley Punshon, who was its first pastor, and who, on his arrival in Toronto in 1868, devoted much time to raising the funds for its construction. The task of preparing the plans was entrusted to Mr. W. G. Storm, the well-known Toronto architect, and the result was so satisfactory that Dr. Punshon himself pronounced the Metropolitan to be unequalled among the Methodist churches of the world. The present pastor is the Rev. H. Johnston. The choir of the Metropolitan is one of the best in the city, and the special musical services which from tune to time are held in the church never fail to attract large and appreciative audiences.

The Elm Street Church, under the ministrations of Rev. W. H. Laird, is a handsome building in Early English Gothic style, built of white brick, faced with stone, and surmounted by a graceful spire. It was erected in 1861-2 to replace the church which previously stood on the same site, but was burnt down on October 29th, 1861.

The Sherbourne and Carlton Street churches, also belonging to this body, are specially worthy of notice as specimens of ecclesiastical architecture. The latter, Norman Gothic iji style, is another of Mr. Storm's productions, of which the city may be proud.

The other principal churches of this denomination are those situated on, and taking their names from, Bloor, Berkeley, Queen, and Richmond Streets and Spadina Avenue.

IV.—Presbyterian.

The first Presbyterian church in Toronto was erected in 1821, on the site of the present Knox Church, the land having been given for that purpose by Mr. Jesse Ketchum. At the present time the Presbyterians possess over a dozen church buildings, some of them among the foremost in Toronto for architectural beauty or boldness of conception. Especially noticeable is St. Andrew's, on the corner of King and Simcoe Streets, a massive edifice in the Middle Norman style of architecture, with a battlemented tower and flagstaff, which, at a distance, give it the appearance of a feudal castle rather than that of a church. The material used in its construction is Georgetown rubble, with Ohio stone dressings. The northern facade of the building, with its three highly decorated arches, supported by polished red granite columns, and flanked at either side by a massive tower with pointed roof, is singularly imposing. This church, which :s presided over by Rev. D. J. Macdonnell, is an outcome of the division of the congregation which used to worship in the Adelaide Street Presbyterian Church, on the corner of Church Street, also dedicated to Scotland's patron saint. Of this congregation, one portion, under Mr. Macdonnell, moved to Sirncoe Street, while the rest continued to worship on Adelaide Street under the ministrations of the Rev. G. M. Milligan, until the erection of the new church, known as "Old" St. Andrew's, on the corner of Jarvis and Carlton Streets. The latter is built of reddish-grey freestone with Ohio stone dressings, in second-pointed Gothic style, but treated with an unusual simplicity that gives the building a severe character all its own.

St. James' Square Church, on the north side of Gerrard Street east, is one of the purest specimens of Gothic architecture in the city. It is built of Georgetown rubble, with dressings of Ohio stone, and is surmounted by a massive tower one hundred feet high.

Knox Church, on the south side of Queen Street, near Yonge, was erected in 1847 to replace the church of the same name destroyed by fire in that year. The material is white brick, and the spire is highly decorated; but within the last few months the appearance of the church has been entirely altered—by no means for the better—by painting it an unlovely chocolate brown.

Erskine Church, on Caer-Howell Street, at the head of Simcoe, was partially destroyed by lire early during the present year (1884), but has since been restored according to the original plans of the architect, Mr. W. E. J. Lennox. It is a neat Gothic edifice, built of white brick, with Ohio stone dressings and Kingston stone base. It has a frontage of eighty-three feet, by a depth of ninety-seven feet ?he latter including church and Sabbath-school room. The main feature of the building is a large and handsome tower on the south-east corner, nineteen feet square and one hundred feet in height, to balance the effect of which there is a small gable on the opposite corner. The roof is of slate, and the stone dressings of the facade are so arranged as to give the latter a very striking appearance. Within, the main building is divided into a vestibule, extending the whole width of the frontage, and the auditorium, which has a depth of about sixty-feet, with seating capacity for about nine hundred people, though provision is made to increase the accommodation by three hundred by means of sliding seats. The auditorium is in form an amphitheatre, the floor having a gentle downward slope towards the platform and pulpit at the north end. The organ also occupies this end of the church, standing behind the pulpit, while a gallery, supported on iron columns continued to the roof, Alls in the other three sides, the ceiling above the gallery being groined. Over the nave is one span ornamented with moulded ribs and bosses. Immediately in rear of the church, but under the same roof, are the Sabbath-school room and offices, this portion being thirty feet long by eighty-five wide, and consisting of two stories ; of these the lower is divided off into lecture and class-rooms, library and vestry, and the upper into infant and Bible-class rooms, visitors' gallery, and a large school room. The entire cost of the whole building was §28,000. The Rev. John Smith ;s pastor.

The Central Presbyterian Church stands on the corner of Grosvenor Avenue and St. Vincent Street, formerly the site of old Knox College, a building of historic interest as having been, as Elmsley Villa, the residence of Lord Elgin on the removal of the seat of Government to Toronto from Montreal, after the burning of the Parliament buildings in the latter city. The church is built in a moderized form of Gothic, and is an exceedingly handsome white brick structure, with the additional advantage of being situated in a commanding position. Other Presbyterian churches are Cooke's, on Oaeen Street East, erected in 1857-8, and those on College, Charles, King, and Queen Streets and Denison Avenue.

V.—Baptist.

The principal of the half-dozen churches which belong to the Baptist denomination s the fine Gothic building on the north-east corner of Jarvis and Gerrard Streets, which owes its existence largely to the munificence of the Hon William McMaster.

The Alexander Street Baptist Church congregation was organized in 1866, and was composed chiefly of members of the old Bond Street Church, who resided 1n the northern portion of the city. Its present membership is 246, and its revenue for the year 1884 was $3,861. The church building is a modest but convenient structure, in which Rev. Joshua Denovan has ministered since 1878.

The Bloor Street Baptist Church, on the corner of North Street, was built from the plans of Mr. E. R. Lennox, architect. It is a neat modern Gothic structure of red brick, with Ohio stone dressings, and includes under the one roof the church proper, with a frontage of seventy-seven feet and a depth of seventy-five and a-half, and the Sunday-school, etc., in rear, measuring forty-three by seventy-nine feet. One of the principal features of the exterior is a handsome tower with a short spiral roof, and, on one side of it, a circular turret with mock winding-staircase-windows and short spiral roof. The effect of the tower is counterbalanced on the other side of the church by large buttresses and a wing. Leading to the tower and forming one of the principal entrances to the building is an open brick porch, with an open timbered roof and heavy projecting gables, and closed on the outside by a very fine pair of wrought-iron gates. The auditorium is ha form an amphitheatre, fifty-eight feet in depth, and provides seating accommodation for about one thousand persons. Opposite the entrances is the platform, with the baptistry—entirely constructed of marble—behind, and above, a handsome choir and organ gallery, supported by carved columns. A gallery for the general accommodation of worshippers runs round the other three sides of the building. The ceiling is plastered, with groined ribs, dome-shaped in the centre and ornamented with carved capitals, bosses, etc. The Sunday-school building in rear contains the usual lecture * and class rooms, which, by an ingenious arrangement of sliding doors, may be thrown into one large hall. The entire cost of the building, including organ, upholstering, etc., will be about $30,000. Among the other Bapiist churches the principal are those situated on Parliament, Beverley and College Streets.

VI.— Congregational.

The Congregationalists have five places of worship in the city, viz.: Bond Street Church; the Northern Congregational, on Church Street.

between Alexander and Wood ; Zion Church, on College Street, at the head of Elizabeth; and modest edifices on Spadina and Hazelton Avenues, The Bond Street Church, on the north east corner of that street and Wilton Avenue, was designed by Mr. E. J. Lennox. It is a substantial modern Gothic building, of Georgetown stone, with Ohio stone dressings and slated roof, and has a frontage on Wilton Avenue of eighty feet, and on Bond Street of ninety feet. It has two towers, the principal one on the southwest corner, rising to a height of one hundred and thirty feet ; the other, on the north-west corner, being about sixty-five feet in height. On the north and south sides, and between the towers on the west side, are gables with large tracery windows and a number of small ones beneath ; the space between the gables and the towers is also filled in with windows. The roof forms an octagon from the cornice, and from that there is a second octagon, rising several feet and roofed to the same pitch as the church roof. This serves the double purpose of lighting the dome and ventilating the body of the church. The main entrances are through the towers, with additional doors through the old Sunday-school building to the east of the church. At the east end of the auditorium is the pulpit platform. A gallery with six rows of seats runs round the remaining three sides of the church, and is supported on columns which are continued to the groined ceiling. The centre of the ceiling forms a large dome of fifty feet span, terminating at its crown in a second ornamental stained glass dome eighteen feet in diameter and receiving its light from the external octagon lantern. The ordinary seating capacity of the church is one thousand four hundred, with additional accommodation by means of sliding seats for six hundred. The total cost of the building, including organ, upholstery, etc., was in the vicinity of $32,000.

In addition to the above denominations the Unitarians have a neat church on Jarvis Street, above Wilton Avenue; the Catholic Apostolic body, a handsome white brick edifice on the corner of Gould and Victoria Streets; and the Lutherans, an unpretending but commodious building on Bond Street. The Reformed Episcopal congregation have erected a white brick church, in the Byzantine style, on the corner of Simcoe and Caer-Howell Streets, and the Hebrews possess a red brick synagogue on the south side of Richmond Street, east of Victoria. The Newer Jerusalem Church and the Society of Friends each have a small place of meeting, and the Christadelphians hold services in the Temperance Hall, on Temperance Street, and in a private house on Alice Street. A purely undenominational orgamzation, not possessing any distinctive appellation, meets in Jackson's Hall, on the corner of Yonge and Bloor Streets. It is under the ministrations of the Rev. William Brookman, and was organized in June, 1881, when about thirty of the present members with their families, nearly all of whom had seceded from the Yorkville Baptist Church, formed a new congregation, unattached to any religious sect. Previous to the separation-—which was based upon the rejection of the doctrine of endless life in misery being the punishment for sin—Mr. Brookman had been m charge of the above-mentioned church for about a year, and prior to that again had ministered in the Church of England for nearly a quarter of a century. The main features of the belief professed by this little congregation, which numbers only fifty-six members, are, ip addition to that already mentioned, the adoption of the great central truth of life only in Christ; the acceptation of the Word of God as the sole rule of faith and practice, and, whilst holding alone to the immersion of behevers as true baptism, practising loving fellowship with all who love the Saviour.


Return to Book Index Page

This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus