St. John's West Toronto

100th Anniversary

at 288 Humbersode Avenue

Our Building(s)

THE BEGINNING:

  • It all began in August of 1879, when Mrs. B. W. Murray (nee Julia Henry) hitched her horse to the buggy and drove through the bush of Runnymede and Swansea, stopping at the scattered homes along the way.

  • The children of those homes became Mrs. Murray's passengers to her modest house sough of Bloor Street, there to begin the first Sunday School of the area. The road traveled that day became the nucleus of a parish to be later known as St. John's, West Toronto.

  • A plaque to the memory of Julia Henry Murray, on the east wall of the present church, testifies that "through her devoted energy and her great love for little children, the foundation of the parish of St. John's was laid."

THE MISSION CHURCH:

  • The first official house of worship was planned in 1880, the cost not to exceed $700. A simple wooden structure, without a cornerstone, was dedicated on November 20, 1881, by Bishop Arthur Sweatman, and served the congregation for eight years.

  • Classified as a Mission Church, it was designated St. John's Church, Runnymede, and was served by students of Wycliffe College. The clergy include such names as Canon Ardill, Cooper Robinson, J. Macqueen Baldwin, A. Gaviller and R. A. Sims.

  • By April of 1881 the Mission was referred to as St. John the Baptist. ...

  • In November there was a meeting to discuss the opening of the new building. ...

  • A six-month stipend of fifty dollars was offered to a Wycliffe student, for Sunday services and one weekly visiting day, with provision for his horse while there.

WIDENING HORIZONS:

  • In 1886, the Bishop was requested to set apart a Mission, bounded on the north by Davenport Rd. east by Keele and Dundas, south by Lake Ontario and west by Jane Street. ...

  • On March 31, 1888 the acting minister, Rev. Arthur Chipman Miles, was officially appointed Incumbent.

  • The need for expanded quarters became urgent, and in April plans were formulated for a new building, to cost no more than $2500. This was later revised to $8000.

  • The organ in use, owned by Mr. Murray, was donated to the congregation, provided that the services were conducted in evangelical methods, periodic checking to be done by the Chairman of Wycliffe Board of Management. If any deviation from evangelical influence appeared, the organ would revert to the owner.

THE SECOND CHURCH:

  • On May 11, 1889, a cornerstone was placed to begin a new building at St. John's Rd. and Dundas St. An attempt was made to limit the cost to $2500, providing a seating capacity of 350 souls. The old frame building became the Church Hall, and the Rev. R. P. McKim was inducted as Rector. Eventual cost of the structure amounted to $8737. By 1894 the congregation had grown to include twenty-four Confirmation candidates.

  • The turn of the Twentieth century brought an influx of British immigrants to the parish, drawn by the railway industry and the annexation of the Junction as Ward Seven of Toronto. Enlargements and renovations of Church facilities developed under the leadership of Rev. F. H. Duvernet and Rev. T. Beverley Smith.

  • The new Parish Hall. built in 1913, was later sold to the Y.M.C.A. and used in Y programmes until its demolition in 1980.

  • Thirty-four years later the cornerstone was moved to the site of the present building at Humberside and Quebec Avenues, where it stands as a tribute to 100 years of fellowship and ministry.

NEW CENTURY GROWTH:

  • In spite of enlarged quarters at St. John's Road and Dundas, the needs of the expanding parish could not be met from one location, and a mission was set up at St. Paul's [on Willard, now St. Paul's Runnymede] on December 5, 1909. Another was established as the Church of the Advent [on Pritchard Ave.] on February 26, 1912.

  • Rev. T. Beverley Smith carried on a burdensome ministry through the war years until his premature death in 1918. During his last year of service, a Rectory was erected on High Park Avenue [206 High Park Ave.], the geographical centre of the parish.

  • On May 5, 1923, the cornerstone of the present edifice was laid -- a building designed to hold 600 people. November 4, 1923 was a red-letter day for the people of St. John's, when the magnificent new building was dedicated by Bishop Sweeney.

  • Following the discharge of the mortgage in 1944, arrangements were made for a formal consecration. The service was conducted on Sunday, November 19, 1944 ... with the Most Rev. D. T. Owen, Archbishop of Toronto, officiating.

  • A dedication of new work on the building took place in 1953, during the incumbency of of Rev. Clinton D. Cross. The renovations included a new Holy Table and reredos, a mid-week chapel in the North Transept, a Baptistry in the South Transept, redecoration of the Nave, and completion of the Narthex.

  • The purchase of the Parish House [204 High Park Ave., now the location of the Holy Cross Priory] in 1959 extended the facilities for parish activities.

Originally published on the St. John's website in 2002