Lost Churches of Toronto

Lost Churches of Toronto

On June 5, 2014, Fr. David Harrison, rector of the Church of St. Mary Magdalene and "Lost Anglican Churches of Toronto" blogger (lostanglicanchurches.wordpress.com), led a tour of various historic sites in the western city core. This event was a project of the Pastoral Care Committee of St. Thomas's. Thank you to Fr. Mitchell and the other members of the committee for organizing the outing, including bus transportation. It was great to have parishioners from St. Mary Magdalene's participating as well; afterward there was interest expressed in doing other joint parish tours.

Fr Mitchell of St. Thomas's (left) invited Fr. David Harrison to lead St. Thomas's on a Lost Churches of Toronto tour.

Some are long gone. Some hide in plain sight. Whatever they have become, the lost Anglican churches of Toronto trace the city's progression from its Anglo beginnings to the multicultural metropolis it is today. Some of the properties were bought up to address the religious needs of successive waves of immigrants. Bits and pieces of the old parishes live on in other places – the bell from St. Jude's, Roncesvalles, moved to All Saint's the Kingsway, for example.

Entering Christ the Saviour Russian Orthodox Cathedral on Manning Avenue, awash in gold leaf and the vibrant icons of the Eastern church, its pews long gone, there is little to suggest that this building (designed by Eden Smith) was once St. Cyprian's, a mission church of St. Thomas's, established to address poverty in Seaton Village. Farther west, St. Edmund the Martyr is now home to St. Nektarios Greek Orthodox Church and its English congregation, St. Theodore of Canterbury Orthodox mission. St. Cyprian's amalgamated with St. Mary the Virgin, but it too closed and is now morphing into that most Torontonian of establishments, a condo. St. Philip's, Spadina, near Dundas, became St. Elizabeth of Hungary Roman Catholic Church, in turn to be buried under an Asian shopping mall. Down the street, St. Margaret's, Spadina, after a very short life as a church, has hung on as a building, currently housing a fabric shop – with very large windows betraying its past. St. John the Evangelist, more commonly known as the Garrison Church, served the British military, then successively smaller and more impoverished congregations until, finally, all that remains is a memorial spire, a plaque, cornerstone, and tombstones in a park at Portland and Wellington.

The site of the Church of the Epiphany, Parkdale, encapsulates the trajectory not just of Anglicanism, but of religious worship in downtown Toronto. It was established as a mission church from St. Mark's, itself a mission church by way of St. Anne's. When its numbers forced closure, the property was sold to a Maronite Catholic congregation. Interestingly, the memorial plaques from the Anglican era and the organ survive. However, Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Church, like its predecessor, faces the inevitable changing tide of demographics. Its members have moved out of the city core, which means this church will follow within a few years. Whether the building welcomes a later immigrant group wishing to establish a religious home in their new city or whether it is turned into condos remains to be seen.                                      

Jennifer Grange

Photos above (by Jennifer Grange): Pictured at St Nektarios Greek Orthodox Church are Fr Mitchell of St. Thomas's (left), who invited Fr. David Harrison (right) to lead St. Thomas's on a Lost Churches of Toronto tour. Above are members of the tour viewing the tombstones of the Garrison Church. Photos below (by Jessica Nee): Our Lady of Lebanon Church; Christ the Saviour Russian Orthodox Church (bottom left); and St Nektarios Greek Orthodox Church (bottom right).