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Priory For Sale: The Story of a Building, Brothers, & St. John’s

“The Priory” of the Order of the Holy Cross at 204 High Park Avenue is currently for sale, (MLS Listing) sparking interest in it as a heritage building, the long religious service of the brothers of the Order based in this building, and the brother’s and the building’s close connections with St. John’s West Toronto next door. 

The Building

204 High Park Avenue was built in 1890-91 as an iconic villa from the early days of the West Toronto Junction settlement, when impressive residences built for local entrepreneurs were located in park-like "beauty spots" around the area. Originally known as the James T. Jackson house, it was designed by local architect James Ellis. In 1893, Jackson was the town treasurer and a partner in the firm of Hoover & Jackson, which were real estate agents, money loan brokers, appraisers, coal, and lumber dealers, as well as the publishers of the Daily Tribune newspaper. In 1973, 204 High Park Avenue was added to the inventory of Toronto Heritage buildings, one of the first to be listed in recognition of its outstanding architectural merit.  

St. John’s and 204 High Park Ave.

In 1959, 204 High Park Avenue first became linked with St. John’s when the parish purchased the building to serve as a much-needed an extension of St. John’s church space. There was especially a need to accommodate a very active Sunday School, as well as various church groups and activities in what was to become known as the Parish or Church House. 

However, by the mid-1970s, as church attendance declined and financial constraints grew, St. John’s opened up parts of the house to generate rental income. The tenants included several religious organizations, such as the Disciples of Christ Christian Seminary, the Dominican Order of the Catholic Church, and the Order of the Holy Cross, which was based in West Park, New York. The Order established its first house in Toronto in 1936 on Bloor Street West.

In the early 1980s, the Order of the Holy Cross initially rented space in St. John’s Rectory House, at 208 High Park Avenue, next door to the Church House, when Rev. Gordon King was appointed St. John’s Rector in 1983 and did not require accommodation in the Rectory. In 1984, the Order began renting parts of 204 High Park Ave., and then in early 1985 purchased the property. The proceeds of the sale were placed in Trust and the interest supported much needed maintenance and upgrades in St. John’s building.

St. John’s and the Order of the Holy Cross

Despite selling its Church House, St. John’s maintained a close relationship with the building, now known as “The Priory,” and especially with the brothers of the Order of the Holy Cross during the 1980s and through the 1990s. The building continued to provide space for church activities, meetings, and events, especially during the construction of the Day Care in the church basement during 1988-89.

A more formal relationship with the Order and The Priory began in 1987 with the appointment of a team of brothers to serve as St. John’s rectors. They were led by Brother Robert Hagler and supported by Brother William Silby and Brother Brian Youngward. In July 1990, external demands of the Order of the Holy Cross in the U.S. led to this team of brothers leaving St. John’s. However, in December 1990, Father Christian Swayne of the Order was appointed St. John’s rector and would lead the church for the next decade.

The retirement of Father Christian in December 2000 ended the formal linkage between St. John’s, the Order and The Priory, although the brothers were always welcome at St. John’s, and several led services periodically. Then, in June 2021, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Father David Hoops, leader of the Toronto Order of the Holy Cross, served as St. John’s Interim priest until September 2021 and the appointment of Mother Alexandra Stone. 

To learn more about the Order of the Holy Cross and its difficult decision to sell its Toronto home at 204 High Park Avenue, see the recent article in The Anglican,

The sale of 204 High Park Avenue represents a transition not just in ownership but also in the narrative of the neighborhood's religious heritage. As the property changes hands, it prompts reflection on the enduring contributions of religious communities like the Brothers of the Order of the Holy Cross and St. John's Church to the social and spiritual life of Toronto.

Photo of 204 High Park Ave. from current real estate listing

Article about history and features of 204 High Park Ave. from “The Leader & Recorder” journal of the West Toronto Junction Historical Society, Nov-Dec 1991.

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