Toronto Through My Lens

Category: Churches (Page 1 of 3)

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

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