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Visiting Bonar-Parkdale Presbyterian Church, Toronto, Ontario: 1888 Gothic Revival, Recalling the Bonar Family

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Bonar-Parkdale Presbyterian Church in Toronto

Bonar-Parkdale Presbyterian Church in Toronto

A fine, late Victorian example of Gothic Revival

[NB: Among the many notable buildings which are the subject of the hubpages, these may include religious buildings, described as churches, etc.; these descriptions centre on the buildings' architectural and historical interest.]

Dating from 1888, this Gothic Revival building executed in yellow brick today houses Bonar Parkdale Presbyterian Church. This local church is comprised of the amalgamation of the former Bonar Presbyterian Church and Parkdale Presbyterian Church. Interestingly, Parkdale as a suburb of Toronto was not incorporated into the City until 1889.

Situated at 250 Dunn Avenue, not far from its intersection with Queen Street West, Toronto, Ontario, features include — as, indeed one might expect, with a Gothic Revival (1) structure — many pointed arches, and solid, flying buttresses. The building's most conspicuous feature is its tower, visible from nearby busy Queen Street West, making it a significant landmark in the west of the City of Toronto. One particular, common feature of Gothic style buildings — pinnacles — seems to be absent from Bonar Parkdale; yet its other avowedly Gothic features are so strongly present that its Gothic Revival designation is manifestly deserved. Its architects were Gordon and Helliwell (2).

The Bonar designation alludes to the Scottish Bonar brothers, Andrew (1810-1892) and Horatius (1808-1889). Both were Free Church of Scotland ministers, and came from a family with not a few ministerial antecedents. Dr. Andrew Bonar was particularly active in overseas testimony work, and was the author of a noted biography of another Presbyterian minister Robert Murray M'Cheyne (1813-1843)(3). Dr. Horatius Bonar is particularly known as a prolific hymn-writer (4). Both brothers were acquainted with Robert Murray M'Cheyne, a fiery preacher who died at the age of 29: all three had similar convictions about keeping to the Biblical roots of doctrinal preaching.

Interestingly, and not least prior to Confederation, Andrew Bonar's biography of Robert Murray M'Cheyne was seemingly read, particularly among people of Scottish extraction. Indeed, in commemoration of the content of the book, which evidently impressed them, a Mr. and Mrs. Law in New Brunswick named a son Robert Murray Law and another son Andrew Bonar Law (1858-1923), who was to serve as Prime Minister of Great Britain from 1922 until 1923.

Bonar Parkland participates in the City's Doors Open Toronto (5) activities which seeks to enhance appreciation of the many works of architectural heritage in the City.

May 4, 2019


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(1) See also:

(2) Other works by Architects Gordon and Helliwell include: many Ontario church buildings, particularly in Toronto; Queen's Theological Hall, Kingston, Ontario, and Orillia's Opera House. The firm's main partners were Henry Bould Gordon (1854-1951) and Grant Helliwell (1855-1953).

(3) Andrew Bonar, The Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray M'Cheyne. This biography has often been reprinted; and was even translated into Dutch, because of assurance of a readership among members of Reformed congregations in The Netherlands. Another biography of Robert Murray M'Cheyne is: Alexander Smellie, Robert Murray M'Cheyne, London: National Council of Evangelical Free Churches, 1913; a recent biography is: David Robertson, Awakening – The Life and Ministry of Robert Murray M'Cheyne, Christian Focus Publications, Revised edition, 2010.

(4) Among the prolific Horatius Bonar's hymns, widely sung to the present day, are 'Blessed be God, our God' and 'I heard the voice of Jesus say'.

(5) See also:

Also worth seeing

In Toronto, other noted buildings in Queen Street West area include the imposing Osgoode Hall and the historic Campbell House. On Queen Street East are the United Metropolitan Church; adjacent to the Eaton Centre renowned among shoppers, is Old City Hall, dating from 1899. Further east along Queen Street East is the Ashbridge Estate, associated for over 200 years with the family whose name the property bears; the centrepiece building dates from 1854.


How to get there: Air Canada, flies to Toronto Pearson Airport, with wide North American and other connections, from where car rental is available. However, visitors to Downtown Toronto will find many visitor attractions to be easily walkable. TTC line 501 passes the intersection of Queen Street West and Dunn Avenue. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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