Toronto Through My Lens

Category: Churches (Page 1 of 2)

A Walk Down Roncesvalles Avenue

I love Roncesvalles (aka Little Poland) – it has such a welcoming village-feel to it and exudes a laid-back yet slightly hip vibe. Roncesvalles Avenue itself stretches for 1.8 km, and is filled with gardens and charming, independent shops along the way. About 15,000 people live in Roncesvalles Village’s vintage buildings.

Known as “Roncy” to the locals, Roncesvalles consists of the stretch of Roncesvalles Avenue from Bloor Street south to Queen Street West.

“They Came From Roncesvalles”
The mural wall which greets visitors. The artists who painted this mural are Spud1, Wales, Random & Cruz.
More of the Mural
Artists: Spud1, Wales, Random & Cruz

A Very Brief History of Roncesvalles

Roncesvalles Avenue was originally owned by Colonel Walter O’Hara who named the street after the Roncesvalles gorge in Spain, where he had won a battle against Napolean’s army circa 1813. British settlers began to arrive in the early 1900’s as residential homes appeared. After WWII large numbers of Polish immigrants arrived and set up all sorts of businesses; that is why this neighbourhood celebrates the Roncesvalles Village Polish Festival every year.

Little Poland

Culturally, the area is known as the centre of the Polish community in Toronto with prominent Polish institutions, businesses and St. Casimir’s Catholic Church located on Roncesvalles Avenue. The businesses along Roncesvalles have formed the Roncesvalles Village Business Improvement Area and hold the largest Polish Festival in North America, which takes place every September.

Mural Outside “Jimmy’s Coffee”
2210 Dundas Street West. You know the area is urban-hip when there’s a Jimmy’s Coffee in the ‘hood.
The Revue Cinema, 400 Roncesvalles Avenue
Built between late-1911 and early-1912, the theatre is a designated heritage site and is Toronto’s oldest standing movie theatre in use for showing movies. When news of its closure became public, a grass-roots community movement sprang up in order to save the cinema. After a great deal of effort, the movement was ultimately successful and the Revue reopened in October 2007. It is now operated by the not-for-profit “Revue Film Society”.

Roncesvalles is very well known for the large number of small restaurants, cafés and specialty food shops of various cuisines. There are several bakeries and delicatessens found along the full length of Roncesvalles.

Patios along Roncesvalles Avenue
One of the many fruit and veg shops along Roncesvalles Avenue
Sweetpea’s Floral & Gift Boutique
This is a floral studio located at 294 Roncesvalles Avenue. It’s widely recognized as Toronto’s Best Florist (Toronto Life, BlogTO).
Another shot of Sweetpea’s
Sweetpea’s was just so colourful and inspiring I had to take yet another shot…
Neighbourhood garage doors, Roncesvalles Avenue
St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church
263 Roncesvalles Avenue
St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church
Pope John Paul II Monument
The piece was created in 1984 by Alexander von Svoboda. The bronze statue sits outside St. Casimir’s Polish Parishes Credit Union Limited at 220 Roncesvalles Avenue.
The Chopin Restaurant
Polish cuisine, 165 Roncesvalles Avenue
More fruit & veg shops
Old-style barber’s pole on Roncesvalles
In window of Roncesvalles restaurant. Plenty of restaurants in Roncesvalles.
Grafton Community Garden
In Grafton Avenue Park, 23 Roncesvalles Avenue. Resident Walter Ruston painted the mural (on wall behind the garden) of the Sunnyside Amusement Park. This area used to be a neglected scrap of land but was turned into a thing of beauty by local gardening committees.

I’ll leave you with a couple of sites to explore it you’d like to learn more about Roncesvalles:

From Destination Toronto:
An excellent post on their website

Roncesvalles BIA:
Local info found here

Jarvis Street Baptist Church

The Jarvis Street Baptist Church is located at 130 Jarvis Street, on the northeast corner of Jarvis Street and Gerrard Street East.

The Church has its origins in a small group of people who first gathered in October of 1818, in what was then York, Upper Canada. By 1832, the congregation had moved to Lombard Street, and by 1848, to Bond Street. In the late 1860s, church membership was such that a new, larger building was needed.

In 1875, the church moved to the current location at the intersection of Jarvis and Gerrard Streets. A fire in 1938 destroyed much of the church building. At this point, a rebuilding was accompanied by an expansion of the Sunday school and offices.

The Jarvis Street Baptist Church was designed in the Gothic Revival style by the architectural firm of Henry Langley and Edmund Burke who served for many years at Jarvis Street Baptist Church as a Sunday-school teacher, chair of the choir committee, and deacon.

It was one of the first churches in Canada to be built with an amphitheatre-shaped interior. The ground floor seating is grouped in a semicircle, while the gallery above is horseshoe shaped. The gallery is supported by iron columns. Above the gallery, another set of columns support a faux-Gothic ceiling.

The church has been protected under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act since 1999.

The main facade of the building is made from brown stone obtained from the regions of Queenstown. The stone is laid unevenly with a pattern that varies in different shades of browns and dark yellows. The material used for the roof is Canadian slate.

The roof is constructed from a series of pitched segments centrally connected by a horizontally sliced dome. There are eight entrances, each consisting of solid oak double doors framed with pointed sandstone arches.

References: Jarvis Street Baptist Church website

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church

St. Andrew’s is located at 73 Simcoe Street, on the southeast corner of King Street West and Simcoe Street. The church was built in the Romanesque Revival style and opened for worship in 1876. At that time, its location at King and Simcoe Streets was a busy place and most of the congregation lived within easy walking distance of the church. Across the street stood Government House, the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. Upper Canada College stood on a second corner and on a third was a popular tavern. With St. Andrew’s, the four corners were known locally as Legislation, Education, Damnation and Salvation!!

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

St. Paul’s Basilica

St. Paul’s Basilica is the oldest Roman Catholic congregation in Toronto. It is located at 83 Power Street in the Corktown neighbourhood, near the intersection of Queen and Parliament Streets. Created by architect Joseph Connolly in the Romanesque Revival style, it opened in 1889.

For the following text I’ve borrowed heavily from the History section of the Church’s website:

Established in 1822, St. Paul’s is the mother church of the Archdiocese of Toronto. The first St. Paul’s, of red brick and Gothic style, was completed in 1824. After the diocese was created in 1841, Bishop Michael Power used St. Paul’s as his cathedral until the completion of the construction of St. Michael’s Cathedral in 1848. In 1847, a typhus epidemic raged through the city, killing 850 people, including Bishop Power. Many were buried on the grounds of St. Paul’s Church and School, though the majority were moved to St. Michael’s Cemetery at Yonge and St. Clair Avenue West.

In 1880, Bishop Thomas Timothy O’Mahony was appointed Pastor. He had served in his native Ireland and Australia and was a man of great vision and energy. The old St. Paul’s had to be replaced in order to accommodate the rapidly growing Catholic population of Toronto. Bishop O’Mahony soon began planning a new church with architect Joseph Connolly. They designed a large structure in Italian Romanesque style, which was rather extraordinary in a city of Gothic churches. The cornerstone was blessed in 1887 by Elzear-Alexandre Cardinal Taschereau, Archbishop of Quebec. The first Mass was celebrated just before Christmas of 1889. The statue of St. Paul was placed above the centre door in 1899.

To the memory of the Irish immigrants who were buried in the adjacent ground during the year of 1847, and in honour of the Right Reverend Michael Power, First Bishop of the Diocese of Toronto, who laid down his life for the fever stricken members of his flock, this monument is devoutly dedicated.
Untitled sculpture in churchyard

Dean John Lawrence Hand was appointed Pastor of St. Paul’s in 1892 and served to 1936. If Connolly designed St. Paul’s and Bishop O’Mahony built it, Dean Hand completed the church and made it the work of beauty one sees today. He was responsible for commissioning most of the artwork inside St. Paul’s. The four major paintings in the sanctuary and the side apses were finished in 1893. The all-wood organ was installed in 1898 by R.S. Williams & Son, Toronto, and is the only one of its kind in North America. The stained glass windows were installed a year later, and the Stations of the Cross in 1901. The campanile (bell tower) with the bell from the original church was erected in 1905.

Scenes for the life of St. Paul were painted on canvas in 1911. The angels behind the altar were created with the same technique in the 1920s. The bronze Pieta on the front lawn was erected in 1933 as a memorial to Bishop Michael Power and hundreds of parishioners who died during the typhus epidemic of 1847. A plaque at the front entrance bears the names of 81 members of the congregation who died during World War I. Beside the front steps is the grave of Bishop Thomas Timothy O’Mahony.

In 1998, Father Tom Day began the process of restoring the church to its original splendour. This continued under Monsignor Brad Massman in collaboration with the architect Charles Hazell.

On August 3, 1999, Pope John Paul II elevated St. Paul’s to the rank of Minor Basilica by an Apostolic Decree. To be given this Papal honour, a church must be a centre of liturgical and pastoral life in the diocese and renowned for its antiquity, beauty, canonical significance or devotional popularity. Minor Basilicas receive special concessions such as the privilege of granting plenary indulgence on certain days in a year. The insignia of a Minor Basilica include the Ombrellino or Pavilion (a red and yellow umbrella) and the Tintinnabulum (a processional bell). St. Paul’s is the twentieth church in Canada to receive this honorific title.

Blessed Sacrament Church

The Blessed Sacrament is a Catholic Church located at 24 Cheritan Avenue, which is on Yonge Street just south of Lawrence Avenue. Construction of this church began in the spring of 1929 at the (then) cost of $180,000.00. In June 1930 the church was opened and dedicated.

The Blessed Sacrament is one of the largest church structures in the Archdiocese of Toronto. It’s architect, J. Gibb Morton, based his look for the building on two periods of medieval Gothic architecture.

A Walk Up & Down Avenue Road

It was a crisp fall day when I started my Avenue Road photowalk at Bloor Street West. I made my way up Avenue Road, reached Dupont Street, then returned south until I hit University Avenue and Dundas Street West. Here’s a little of what I encountered along the way.

The Prince Arthur Condo
38 Avenue Road
The Prince Arthur Condo, 38 Avenue Road
I’ve always loved this entryway – so elegant, dramatic
New Condo Construction: 183 Avenue Road
Construction on the northeast corner of Avenue Road and Pears Avenue in Yorkville. This is a proposed 10-storey mixed-use condominium building designed by BBB Architects for K P Isberg.
Hazelton Lanes Residences
55A Avenue Road
Galerie de Bellefeuille
87 Avenue Road
Future Site of “The Webley”
121 Avenue Road
Bike Memorial For Adam Excell
On the corner of Avenue Road and Davenport Road. Adam Excell was riding his bike on Avenue Road, near Davenport Road on June 13, 2015, when he was struck and killed by a car that did not remain at the scene.
David Drebin Mural
On the northwest corner of Avenue Road and Davenport Road. David Drebin is a Toronto-born professional photographer.
David Drebin Mural & “Super Convenience”
Northwest corner of Davenport Road and Avenue Road
The Hare Krishna Temple
The Hare Krishna Temple is located at 243 Avenue Road. The building is the former home of Avenue Road Church. It was built in 1899 and was originally the Presbyterian Church of the Covenant. The building was designed by Toronto architects Gordon & Helliwell.
The Church of the Messiah
240 Avenue Road. This Anglican church was founded on March 24, 1891 by members of the Church of the Redeemer further south on Avenue Road. The building, and the rectory next door, were designed by Gordon & Helliwell, the same architects who designed what is now the Hare Krishna Temple across the street.
Fall Leaves
Somewhere on Avenue Road
Mural Outside Havana Coffee Bar
233 Davenport Road, southwest corner of Davenport Road and Avenue Road
Flower Markets
Avenue Road, south of Davenport
Giant Ring
Outside Louro & Sons Jewellers, 104 Avenue Road
“Mixer”
These cast bronze figures are entitled “Mixer” by sculptor An Te Liu, a Taiwanese-Canadian artist living and working in Toronto. “Mixer” envisions its installation as a stage inhabited by a pair of cast bronze figures engaged in dialogue with passersby, hotel visitors, and each other. Bold and distinctive in silhouette and richly finished in a lustrous deep gold patina, the sculptural ensemble forms a vivid and iconic tableau establishing the Park Hyatt as a singular destination. As a public artwork, “Mixer” is monumental in scale – visible from afar and instantly recognizable. Open and intimate, the work invites visitors to experience the artwork fully and in the round. People become a critical part of the scenography, which unfolds within the architectural proscenium and extends out into the city.

“Mixer” finds shape and expression in the rich history of Park Hyatt Toronto, merging classical figurative allusions with industrial, artisanal, and organic forms culled from glassware, vessels, and couture. The forms also stem from a reinterpretation of the artistic legacy of Henry Moore, a seminal figure in the history of the modern era in Toronto. “Mixer” captures the allure of social encounters and celebrates imbibing in all the senses. They form a continuity between the illustrious past of Park Hyatt Toronto and its present renaissance as an exemplar of elegance and luxury. An Te Liu’s inspiration for this work comes more specifically from an archival photograph of the Park Hyatt Rooftop Lounge, commonly known as “The Rooftop bar at Park Plaza,” years ago. An Te Liu would visit during his years as a student at the University of Toronto – understanding its’ social significance as a landmark in the city. Park Hyatt Toronto invites visitors to experience the artwork in the round, as this ensemble of works seems like an encounter or conversation. The hotel program inspired this meaningful concept as a place of social convergence, where friends and strangers cross
Lillian Massey Building
Building used by University of Toronto, 125 Queen’s Park
“Freedom Fighters”
Queen’s Park
“Freedom Fighters”
Queen’s Park
Fall Leaves
Queen’s Park
Al Purdy Statue, Queens’ Park
Al Purdy was a 20th-century Canadian free verse poet. Purdy’s writing career spanned 56 years. His works include 39 books of poetry; a novel; two volumes of memoirs and four books of correspondence, in addition to his posthumous works. He has been called the nation’s “unofficial poet laureate” and “a national poet in a way that you only find occasionally in the life of a culture.”
Iranian Demonstration
There was an Iranian demonstration happening that day at Queen’s Park, and this guy was ripping up and down Queen’s Park and University Avenue with his balloons and flag
U of T’s Schwartz Reisman Innovation Centre
112 College Street, at University Avenue
“Happy Lunar New Year”
Canada Post box at University Avenue and Dundas Street West
The United Building
481 University Avenue. On the corner of University Avenue and Edward Street. Converting into luxury condos.
The United Building
481 University Avenue. On the corner of University Avenue and Edward Street. Converting into luxury condos.

The Church of the Redeemer

The Church of the Redeemer, at 162 Bloor Street West, sits at the very busy intersection of Bloor Street West and Avenue Road. This Anglican Church was founded in 1871 and opened its doors at this site on June 15, 1879. At that time the area was still on the fringe of the city (hard to imagine now…). The Church’s architectural style is Gothic Revival.

The Church of the Redeemer is known for its progressive stance on social issues, especially gay rights. In 1998, the congregation published An Honourable Estate: Same Sex Unions and the Church, advocating the blessing of same-sex unions. The parish uses exclusively the Book of Alternative Services.

From time to time the church also hosts a range of musical events and concerts. I remember seeing singer-songwriter Gary Jules here several years ago and thinking what a cool venue it was for a concert.

I love the stately and dignified architecture of this building. The condos/offices behind the Church wrap around the building, hugging it; a great contrast of old and new.

“The walls were covered with rubble stone from the Credit Valley, near Georgetown. The term rubble stone means that the stones were the rubble that remained after stones were cut in the quarry. They were irregular in shape and their sizes varied. However, though rough in texture and inexpensive, they created a pleasing effect when assembled on the church walls. Ohio sandstone was imported for the stone ornamentation and the trim around the windows of the church. The interior walls were of white and red bricks, enhanced by including geometric patterns. The support columns in the interior were constructed of polished granite from the Bay of Fundy area.”1

The Church underwent major renovations in the 1980s. At that time the parish hall on the north side of the Church was sold; because of this the Church lacked sufficient space for offices and meetings. The problem was solved by raising a section of the floor of the Church to expand the basement level. Pews were removed from the raised section at the rear of the nave and replaced with chairs, as you see here:

1Doug Taylor’s website: Historic Toronto: Information on Toronto’s History

The Cathedral Church of St. James

The Cathedral Church of St. James is an Anglican cathedral at 106 King Street East, at the corner of Church Street. It is the location of the oldest congregation in the city, with the parish being established in 1797. The cathedral, with construction beginning in 1850 and opening for services on June 19, 1853, was one of the largest buildings in the city at that time. It was designed by Frederick William Cumberland and is a prime example of Gothic Revival architecture.

The Cathedral has been designated as an Ontario Heritage Property by the Ministry of Culture and also designated as a heritage site by Heritage Toronto.

St. George’s Chapel in St. James Cathedral
St. George’s Chapel was dedicated in 1936, and the organ was overhauled at that time. It is a 30-seat Chapel. A design overview of St. George’s Chapel can be found here.
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