From Village to Inner City” was the tagline attached to the celebration of the 125th anniversary of the Church of St. Mark & Calvary in 1979.
The “village” was the village of Carlton (or, as it is now spelt on neighbourhood street signs “Carleton”). Carlton was first settled in the late 1840’s in the area of today’s St. Clair Avenue West and Old Weston Road. It was in this community that St. Mark’s, Carlton was established in 1854. The parish history describes the early days of what would become the St. Mark’s community: “These were God-fearing women and men who brought with them from their homes in Britain a love for their God and their Church. Although they lacked a church edifice they found comfort and fellowship by worshipping in each others’ homes.”
Although today we think of this area as urban (even “inner city”, as the tagline to the parish history suggests), St. Mark’s was established as an outgrowth not from a city parish, but rather as a mission of a country parish, now known as St. Philip’s, Etobicoke. (St. Philip’s, established in 1828 on the west side of the Humber River, was the ninth parish created in what is now the Diocese of Toronto.) The first St. Mark’s building was completed circa 1858. It was a small, English-style building on the south-east corner of Ford Street and Connolly Street (just south-east of the intersecton of the heart of the village of Carlton at St. Clair and Old Weston Road). The land was the gift of a “hard-working English Churchman” named Samuel Thompson.
This very faint photograph shows the interior of the first St. Mark’s.
St. Mark’s liturgical tradition was high. John Ross Robertson’s Landmarks of Toronto says that Holy Communion was celebrated every Sunday and on festivals, and that the service was sung. One of the first clergy to take occasional services at St. Mark’s was the Provost of Trinity College.
As the population of the geographical parish of St. Mark’s grew, new parishes were carved out its area. The parish history points to the predicament that this created: “[S]hrinking parish boundaries became a problem as numerous other churches cane into existence, each one’s parish being carved out of the parish of St. Mark’s — St. Mary’s Dovercourt, St. Martin’s, Calvary, St. Chad’s, and indirectly St. John’s, West Toronto. This left St. Mark’s no longer centrally located as before, thus with three thousand Anglicans in the parish it was decided to build a new and larger church building on a new site. It must have been rather a heart-breaking decision to abandon the lovely old church but future events proved the wisdom of the move.”
In 1929 a new site was acquired on Blackthorn Avenue, just a few blocks north and east. The site of the first St. Mark’s was sold to the Toronto School Board. Today it is the site of Constable Percy Cummins Parkette, in honour of the police officer killed in the line of duty in 1981.
Although the new site of St. Mark’s was but a few blocks from its old site, it was north of St. Clair, a fact that created consternation for its daughter parish of Calvary Church. It seems that St. Clair was an important psychological divide between mother and daughter parishes. As the blog entry on Calvary Church explains, that parish believed there was an understanding that St. Mark’s would not move north of St. Clair, and its decision in 1929 to do so was not well-received.
In 1930, the new St. Mark’s opened. It was a much larger building, and the original intent was that it would eventually become the parish hall, with a new church built next to it. Instead, in 1955 a new two-story parish hall was built next to the church, which remained the parish’s worship space.
The photograph below, from the diocesan archives, is mislabelled as being the interior of the first St. Mark’s. It is, in fact, the interior of the second Mark’s, before the reredos behind the altar (described below) was added after the Second World War.
It would seem that St. Mark’s tradition as a high church continued. Its rector during the 1930’s was Robert Rayson. This picture of Fr.Rayson, complete with biretta, is an indication of the parish’s churchmanship. (I remember Fr. Rayson, who later became Dean of Newfoundland, at the end of his life when he served as an honorary assistant at St. James’ Cathedral.)
In the 1950s, a new reredos was installed behind the altar as a memorial to members of the parish who had lost their lives in World War II. It was painted by the well-known Toronto artist Sylvia Hahn. (Sylvia Hahn also painted the triptych behind the Lady Altar at my parish. Both triptychs depict St. Michael the Archangel, and there is a resemblance.) Also worth noting is that the figure of Christ in the centre is wearing a chasuble.
The histories of St. Mark’s and Calvary Church were drawn back together in 1970 when the parishes were amalgamated in the St. Mark’s building under the new name St. Mark & Calvary. (As the blog post on Calvary explains, this was enabled by the sudden death of the new St. Mark’s rector, which allowed the rector of Calvary Church to assume responsibility for the newly-amalgamated parish. St. Mark’s kept is buildings; Calvary kept its priest!)
The parish of St. Mark & Calvary held its last service on Christmas Day 2011, and is now closed.