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Visiting College Street United Church (formerly Presbyterian), Toronto, Ontario: 1885 Gothic Revival building

Updated on January 12, 2013
Provincial flag of Ontario
Provincial flag of Ontario | Source
College Street United Church, Toronto
College Street United Church, Toronto | Source
College Street Presbyterian; the original College Street United Church in 1904
College Street Presbyterian; the original College Street United Church in 1904 | Source
Map location of Toronto, Ontario
Map location of Toronto, Ontario | Source

Changing, and staying the same

This Toronto, Ontario building, the subject of a condominium conversion, dates from 1885, when erected as College Street Presbyterian Church. When built, its basic style was regarded as Gothic Revivial (1).

The condominium conversion work was carried out from 1988 to 1989. Income from 89 residential units are said to fund activities of the church. The original architects were John Gemmell and James Smith (2).

This building has a certain historical importance in that in 1925 it was the venue of the 51st General Assembly of the former Presbyterian Church in Canada. This also turned out to be the final General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, because it was then resolved to merge with Methodists and Congregationalists (3) into what became the United Church of Canada. Some people at the time regarded this change as an act of administrative progress, and of increased corporate profile. Historian Desmond Morton made the following pithy — if detached — comments about this event:

'Enthusiasts had seen the new church as specifically Canadian and a challenge to a secular age. Others, with less idealism, saw it as a sensible business merger or as an answer to the numerical challenge of the Catholics. The first Moderator, George Pidgeon, firmly suppressed any vestiges of the old Methodist radicalism; wealthy contributors might be upset.'(4)

To these comments I would prefer not to add any further ones of my own (except, I suppose, to say that, regarding the history of this church building, with its in my view highly successful condominium conversion, the truism applies that it is nevertheless easier to convert a building than to convert people...)

College Street United Church (formerly Presbyterian) is located at 452 - 456 College Street, Toronto, Ontario.

January 5, 2013


(1) With the frequency of the occurrence of rounded arches also, the influence of Romanesque Revival also suggests itself.

(2) Other works by Architects Smith and Gemmell include the Millichamp Builiding at 39 Adelaide Street, East, Toronto, and the Church of the Redeemer, 162 Bloor Street West, Toronto.

(3) Some Presbyterians, with roots in the 1843 Disruption which brought the Free Church of Scotland into being, declined to joined the merger.

(4) Desmond Morton, A Short History of Canada , Toronto, Ontario: McClelland & Stewart, 1997, p. 192

Also worth seeing

A few of the outstanding sights in Toronto include: Old City Hall, the Royal York Hotel, Osgoode Hall, Campbell House, the Ontario Legislative Assembly Building at Queen's Park, 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. However, visitors to Downtown Toronto will find many sights to be easily walkable. TTC Streetcar 506 stops at College and Bathust. Some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. For up to date information, you are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent. 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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