Toronto Through My Lens

Bloor Street United Church

Passing by the Bloor Street United Church at 300 Bloor Street West a couple of weeks ago, I was quite surprised by the renovation/demolition taking place there.

Located in Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood, the 19th century Neo-gothic structure is undergoing a major interior and exterior restoration and renovation that includes the redesign of 20,000 square feet of community and commercial office spaces. For the time being the congregation is worshipping with St. Matthew’s United Church at 729 St. Clair Avenue West.

The mixed-use project aims to add approximately 40,000 square feet of leaseable space which will support the congregation’s ongoing programs. The completion of the project will carry out the original mission of the church, providing a community space for gathering and worship.

A glimpse into the future

Respecting the heritage building, the commercial and residential program form a podium and a 29-storey-high tower – the Cielo Condos – that is set back from the church. The tower takes cues in geometry and materials from its neighbourhood. The brick fabric of the Annex is reflected along the accordion-like podium of the building and features panels of windows that connect residents to the city and neighbourhood. In contrast to the intricate detailing of the church, the tower’s minimal form and gold detailing complement the existing structure.

A Bit Of History

The church began as a Presbyterian congregation in 1887 to serve the rapidly growing population of then-northern Toronto, with the church building opening in 1890. In 1924, the church voted by a substantial majority to join the United Church. Three years later, a portion of the church was demolished when the city decided to widen Bloor Street.

The church grew in size in the 1940s and 1950s as an influx of immigrants arrived in the area. The congregation was so large that on several occasions, Massey Hall was rented to hold some services. It was decided to renovate the church in 1954. As it was nearing completion, however, a fire broke out and the church was badly damaged, with most of the sanctuary destroyed. Money was quickly raised to rebuild the church; in the interim the congregation met at nearby churches and U of T’s Convocation Hall.

Renovation Pics

2 Comments

  1. David

    As usual Marvin, you do your research. Rick and I walked by this site just a couple of weeks ago. At that time, it looked like the church was coming down. But like many buildings in Toronto today, they keep the facade or part of the structure to incorporate into the new condo. I guess this is a good thing, since we can keep our history to a certain degree. Sometimes it is a hit and sometimes it is a miss. In this case I think it will work.

    • Marvin Job

      I think so too. Their objective is to keep as much of the original building as possible. When I was taking these pictures a resident of the neighbourhood approached me and gave me an extremely *in depth* analysis of what was going on. He said that when the construction company builds the new structure they will reuse the bricks and materials from the original church. Will be interesting to see how it all comes together.

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