St. Mary the Virgin, Dovercourt

When St. Cyprian’s, Manning Avenue closed in 1966, it amalgamated with its neighbouring parish to the west, St. Mary the Virgin, to form the new St. Mary the Virgin & St. Cyprian’s. Like many parishes in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the parish of St. Mary the Virgin began with Anglicans meeting in homes, and then in temporary quarters, in this case in a small brick building on Bartlett Avenue. In 1888, St. Mary the Virgin was set apart from St. Anne’s on Dufferin Street to the south. Sod was turned for the new building, located on the north-west corner of Bloor and Delaware, and the first services in the new space were held in 1889. The new facilities were designed by the architectural firm Langley & Burke, and included a school house to be used temporarily as a church and a rectory. The parish was known as St. Mary the Virgin, Dovercourt. Its parish boundaries were the area encompassed by Ossington, Dovercourt, Dufferin and Bloor. 

These buildings are no longer standing and I’ve been unable to discover when they were torn down. Today this is the site of St. Michael the Archangel Serbian Orthodox Church.

In 1912, vacant land fronting on Bloor Street was sold and a site was purchased two blocks west on Westmoreland, just north of Bloor Street, in order to build a larger church. The cornerstone was laid in 1913, the first service held in the basement in 1914 and the building completed by December 1914.

The diocesan archives contains a good series of photographs of the interior of St. Mary the Virgin.

My colleague Fr. Paul G. Walker, whose father Archdeacon R. P. Walker was rector of St. Mary the Virgin from 1950 until 1956, recalls that some 500 families moved out of the parish to the suburbs while his father was the rector. In 1966, the parish amalgamated with St. Cyprian’s. That same year, the parish organist Giles Bryant (later organist of the Church of St. Mary Magdalene) oversaw the rebuilding of the original Warren organ by David Legge. I recall playing the instrument one Sunday in the late 1980s or early 1990s, and a very small congregation in what was quite a large building. 

The parish of St. Mary the Virgin & St. Cyprian closed in 2002. Slated for redevelopment as housing for many years, the building sat derelict. The  project is now finally underway, under the name “West 40” (the street address being 40 Westmoreland Avenue). The project website shows how the space will be redeveloped into seventeen townhouses: west40.ca.

On a recent visit, the sales officer kindly allowed me to see the model townhome and the church space. It was a fascinating experience to walk up two floors in a beautifully designed townhome, walk through a curtain onto a small balcony looking down on the empty space below.

This is a photograph looking down on the kitchen/sales office:

The elegant washroom:

The heritage of the building is very prominent in the promotion material for the condo development, and the original 1913 architectural plans for St. Mary the Virgin are mounted and on display.

This shows how the footprint of the building will be divided into the seventeen units.

The exterior as it looks today.

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2 comments
  1. Doug Cowling said:

    With the closure of St. Mary the Virgin and St. Cyprian’s, St. Mary’s, Richmond Hill, became the only church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Diocese of Toronto.

    The capital carvings are some of the finest stonework in the diocese. Do we know who did them?

  2. Dylan said:

    I remember walking by this church while it was abandoned a few years ago and wondering what was intended for it. Nice to see that its heritage will be given its due in the new development.

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