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Visiting the 1879 Church of the Redeemer, Toronto, Ontario: Continuities and Changes at Bloor Street and Avenue Road

Updated on May 15, 2020
Provincial flag of Ontario
Provincial flag of Ontario | Source
Postcard of the Alexandra Gate and Church of the Redeemer at Avenue Road and Bloor Street, Toronto, Canada. When Avenue Road was widened in 1960, the gate was moved to the Bloor Street entrance of Philosopher's Walk. (Photographer unknown)
Postcard of the Alexandra Gate and Church of the Redeemer at Avenue Road and Bloor Street, Toronto, Canada. When Avenue Road was widened in 1960, the gate was moved to the Bloor Street entrance of Philosopher's Walk. (Photographer unknown) | Source

Movement and stillness in time

[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 some months ago.]

At the intersection of Bloor Street and Avenue Road in Downtown Toronto, Ontario is situated the 1879 Church of the Redeemer. Executed in stone, with in some ways strongly Gothic Revival features, the building today looks virtually identical to the way it looked over a century ago (see photos above and below).

The Gothic-inspired styling of the building is seen mainly in the many windows with pointed arches, and in the similarly shaped entrance at the Bloor Street elevation. The architectural firm Smith and Gemmell were responsible for the building's design (1).

Curiously, among the most conspicuous features of the building — the bell tower — is also comparatively small, in proportion to bell towers commonly found at many church buildings.

In the circa 1901 photo, supplied above, the immediate environment around the Church of the Redeemer building is far from what it is today. Avenue Road — the northern continuation of The Avenue — in those days lived up to its name, being noticeably tree lined.

Today, the encroachment of the commercial (and, nearby, university and museum) buildings has altered the immediate vicinity beyond recognition; only the Church of the Redeemer building itself visually confirms that this is, in fact, the same locality.

In the circa 1901 picture is depicted the pillars of the Alexandra Gate, decades ago moved to the Philosopher's Walk, some hundreds of metres away.

Interestingly, in a Toronto Public Library inventory of photographic records, the Church of the Redeemer is depicted in 1956 already at a location with plenty of vehicular road traffic, but without the now adjacent high-rise buildings. There are also depicted a number of trees: a feature which seems to have survived at least up to the date of the photo (2).

Just off the picture, below, is the University of Toronto's Lillian Massey Building, significant in the history of the university education of women, as is Annesley Hall, a a short distance away. In the other direction on the opposite side of Bloor Street is the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM).The intersection of Bloor Street and Avenue Road / The Avenue is very much a demonstration of the strong competing of each of ecclesiastical, museum, university and commercial real estate claims.

May 15, 2020


(1) This source also points out that a relatively short time before the building was erected the Yorkville land on which it stands had not yet been incorporated into the City of Toronto.

(2) See also:

Church of the Redeemer, Toronto
Church of the Redeemer, Toronto | Source

Also worth seeing

In Toronto itself, historic buildings abound; some of these at the University of Toronto, include: Annesley Hall, the Lillian Massey Building; Victoria College; Trinity College; the Legislative Assembly building of the Ontario Parliament; Queen's Park; at a slightly further distance: Old City Hall, Campbell House, Osgoode Hall, and numerous others.


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. Some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent. You are advised to 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.

Map location of Toronto, Ontario
Map location of Toronto, Ontario | Source

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