St. Philip’s, Spadina

St. Margaret’s was the second church built on Spadina, the first being St. Philip’s, located a short distance north, on the south-west corner of Spadina and Dundas.

When the site was purchased in 1875, this was the west end of the city. Residential growth (suburbs!) was fuelling church growth. The city was expanding northward and St. Philip’s was an offshoot of St. John’s Church on Portland Street to the south (near King and Bathurst). The congregation initially worshipped in a small cottage that existed on the site. A larger school house was then built and, finally, in 1884, the church building proper was opened.

St. Philip’s was (apparently unlike St. Margaret’s down the street) an establishment parish. It was built on land that was originally part of the Denison family estate (which included the land west of Spadina in what is now Kensington Market). The architect was A.R. Denison, a member of this notable Toronto family, and members of his family were parishioners. Also a parishioner was Sir Casimir Stanislaus Gzowski (1813-1898), an engineer known for his work in developing railways (and ancestor of the journalist Peter Gzowski). It would also seem that St. Philip’s churchmanship was middle-of-the-road, in contrast to St. Margaret’s. The third rector was James Fielding Sweeny, who later became the compromise choice for Bishop of Toronto in 1909, following a protracted electoral stand-off between the Evangelical candidate and the Tractarian candidate.

The congregation moved out of this building in 1942 and the building was sold in 1943. (I’m hoping the diocesan archives will shed light on the events that led to this decision. Certainly, Spadina Avenue by this time was thoroughly commercial.) But the parish lived on, moving to a new location on Caribou Road near the intersection of Bathurst and Lawrence. At first, the transplanted parishioners worshipped in a tent on their new site, eventually building a new church in 1951. St. Philip’s, which became known for its liturgical innovation in the 1960’s, closed in 2010 and the building has now been demolished. (The March 2012 edition of The Anglican (page 10) has a short article about the time capsule that was unearthed when the last St. Philip’s was torn down.)

What happened to the building? It was sold and became St. Elizabeth of Hungary Roman Catholic Church. After renovations performed by its new parishioners, the building re-opened and was consecrated in 1944. History repeated itself when this congregation left the site in 1984, moving north to its current location on Sheppard Avenue near Bayview. The building was demolished in the mid-1980’s. Below is a picture taken as it was being readied for demolition. The school house, the first building erected by Anglicans on the site, can be seen at the back of the church. Note the changes to the top of the tower from the historic sketch above. 

Here’s what the corner looks like today (interesting how the glass tower is located where the church tower was):

A postscript about the last St. Philip’s. Many of its furnishings have found new homes. The Sylvia Hahn reredos from its side chapel is now at St. Luke’s, Peterborough. Some of the Sylvia Hahn reredos which was a prominent feature of the 1951 (notable for its autumn leaves) has found its way into the organ casing at Church of the Advent near St. Clair and Jane. (Personal note: I spent quite a bit of time at St. Philip’s deputizing for the organist in my late teens and early 20’s. Last year, after the parish was closed but before it was torn down, I visited again to see if there were any furnishings we might use at St. Mary Magdalene’s. We picked up two candelabra — you can never have enough candles!)

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