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Visiting 1 Spadina Crescent, Toronto, Ontario: 1875 Gothic Revival and the sinister and the sublime

Updated on April 23, 2013
Provincial flag of Ontario
Provincial flag of Ontario | Source
1 Spadina Crescent, Toronto
1 Spadina Crescent, Toronto | Source
Amelia Earhart and Lockheed Electra, c. 1937
Amelia Earhart and Lockheed Electra, c. 1937 | Source
Northbound and southbound streetcars meet on the Spadina line, south of College.
Northbound and southbound streetcars meet on the Spadina line, south of College. | Source
Map location of Toronto, Ontario
Map location of Toronto, Ontario | Source

Presbyterians; alleged haunting; and Amelia Earhart

This craggy, Gothic Revival building was once the seat of sublime, theological reflection. Built in 1875, the pinnacled building with its frequent, Gothic arching was home until 1914 to Knox College (1), linked with the University of Toronto after 1887. During this period, Knox College was connected with the Presbyterian Church of Canada, which emerged as a result of events in Scoltand in 1843, known as the Disruption (2), led by ministers such as Thomas Chalmers, and others.

The building was subequently used for various purposes, including as a military hospital in World War One and subsequently. It currently continues to be an academic building belonging to the University of Toronto.

Some Torontonians believe the building to be haunted — or at least, jinxed — and, oddly, 1 Spadina Crescent has been associated with various people who have died in mysterious circumstances. A few years ago an unsolved murder was committed at the property. Also, a woman seeking to investigate whether the building was haunted sustained a fatal accident there.

A famous name also linked with the property is that of record-breaking aviatrix Amelia Earhart (not that her mysterious disappearance and presumed death in 1937 occurred anywhere near the building). But interestingly, it was at an air show at the Canadian National Exhibtion, Toronto, that her interest in aviation is sometimes purported to have been aroused. In any case, the famous aviatrix is known to have worked at 1 Spadina Crescent in 1918.

Not that I am superstitious, but as one looks at the gaunt features of this Victorian building it is all vaguely redolent of the set to a horror movie, as if, at least subliminally, a great pipe organ were just about to play a solemn piece in a minor key.

With its looming, central tower, 1 Spadina Crescent remains in my humble view one of the most striking buildings in Toronto, at least from its conspicuous situation at the top of bustling, tree-lined Spadina Avenue.

I suppose one can say: for the history of Calvinism, ghosts and aviation, go to 1 Spadina Crescent, Toronto.

April 23, 2013


(1) Named for the 16th century Scottish Reformer John Knox, for whom Knox Presbyterian Church at nearby 630 Spadina Avenue is also named.

(2) Rather than assuming that the term 'Disruption' referred to an apparent set of unfortunate events, as might otherwise be supposed, one should instead bear in mind that those Presbyterians following this persuasion actually tended to regard it as denoting their finest hour, so to speak. In order to enter into the reasons for the creation of an institution such as Knox College and the related Presbyterian Church of Canada (of which prominent members included Liberal Party co-founder George Brown), one would have to delve into modes of thinking from the epoch.

Also worth seeing

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


How to get there: Porter Airlines, flies to Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, with wide North American connections. Car rental is available at Union Station. Air Canada flies to Toronto Pearson Airport, with wide North American and other connections, from where car rental is available, but visitors to Downtown Toronto will find many sights to be easily walkable. TTC Streetcar 510 passes 1 Spadina Crescent, Toronto . Some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent. For any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities, please refer to appropriate consular sources.

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

For your visit, these items may be of interest


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