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Visiting the Former Victoria Presbyterian Church, The Junction, Toronto, Ontario: Romanesque Revival Style From 1891

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Provincial flag of Ontario

Provincial flag of Ontario

Annette Street Church, Toronto

Annette Street Church, Toronto

A looming monumentality with a history

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

As a separate jurisdiction and subsequently a suburb of the City of Toronto, West Toronto Junction attracted a great deal of immigration. The congregation which used to meet at what was known as Victoria Presbyterian Church, at 152 Annette Street, The Junction, Toronto, Ontario, had its origins in meetings which used to held from 1885 in a room at the Canadian Pacific Station, Toronto Junction (1).

This congregation subsequently moved to a church building in Pacific Street; interestingly, in contrast to the later structure which this article describes, this building was made of wood.

Such were the demands for a larger building, however, that the congregation commissioned Messrs. Knox and Elliot, architects, to design the existing structure, which was completed in 1891 (2).

Its Romanesque Revival lines reflect a strong assertion of the style during the last decade of the 19th century. Executed in red brick and limestone, the building has features which include conical corners to a conspicuous tower with a copper spire and a profusion of Syrian arching. In recent years, Architect Paul Oberst designed the building's transition into a loft conversion (3).

Known today as the Victoria Lofts, the building — and the congregation which once met in it — previously went under various names. Originally those who met in church capacity were known as West Toronto Junction Presbyterian Church. Subsequently, the 1891 building was referred to for many decades as Victoria Presbyterian Church. From 1969, when the congregation amalgamated with another, it was known as Victoria-Royce Presbyterian Church.

I am struck by the way in which this former church building has been successfully converted into residential accommodation. When I passed this building, it also gave me pause to reflect that the whole social context of the building's likely history — subsequently researched — would have changed enormously from the beginnings of the congregation which would have meet there. When one thinks of the sheer motivation of early settlers at Toronto Junction to meet in a hired room at the Canadian Pacific Station in a local Presbyterian church capacity, and of their later, continuing gatherings at a small wooden building in Pacific Street, one may muse that there is something about the tenacious, "ungentrified zeal" of recent immigrants — perhaps more unbreakable than the most monumental of buildings — which can make up much of the vibrancy of local church life.

Could this even be part of the story also of longstanding church buildings which in the future may be similarly converted to residential use? I leave the question open.

January 26, 2021

Notes

(1) See also: https://www.sg.jeffreyteam.com/victoria-lofts-152-annette-street/

(2) See also: http://dictionaryofarchitectsincanada.org/node/1548 This source includes details of these architects' many other designs.

(3) See also: https://www.urbaneer.com/listings/152_annette_street_305

Also worth seeing

In Downtown Toronto, visitor attractions include: Old City Hall, St James's Cathedral, Osgoode Hall, Campbell House, the CN Tower, the Ontario Legislative Assembly Building at Queen's Park, Fort York, Union Station, and many others.

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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 sights to be easily walkable. The general vicinity of 152 Annette Street, The Junction, Toronto may be accessed via TTC services #26, #30, #40 and #89. Some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent.

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

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