St. Nicholas, Fisherman’s Island

Fisherman’s Island was a narrow sandbar which ran south from Cherry Street. As its name suggests, it was a favourable location for fishing.

For a brief period of time, there was an Anglican presence on Fisherman’s Island — St. Nicholas. Land on the island was purchased in 1907 by St. James’ Cathedral in order to establish a mission on the island. St. Nicholas was first listed in the Toronto Synod journal in 1911.

This is the only close-up photograph of the church that seems to exist. The building doubled as an overflow school house, and this photo shows a number of students standing on the front steps.

St Nicholas Island TPA photo 2

PC 1/1/739: 20 September 1915: Public School, Fisherman’s Island.  Photo: Arthur Beales. Reproduced with the permission of the Toronto Port Authority.

St. Nicholas’s can also be seen in this photograph, which is the view looking south along the Government Breakwater. St. Nicholas’s Church can be seen on the far right.

St Nicholas Island TPA photo

PC 2/178: 3 December 1913. Photo by Arthur Goss. Reproduced with the permission of the Toronto Port Authority.

The Diocese of Toronto archives contains a letter written in 1912, addressed to Canon Henry Pemberton Plumptre, rector of St. James’ Cathedral, pointing out that of the 35 households on Fisherman’s Island, only three were Church of England (the rest being mostly Methodists). “It seems therefore unreasonable that the only service on the Island should be of an exclusively Anglican character, and, there is a great demand for one more congenial to the large majority of the Islanders, unless such arrangement can be made steps will be taken to erect another church or hold services elsewhere.”  The letter concludes with the suggestion that the deed of the property be conveyed to the Islanders. This request was not met.

In 1915, notice was given to vacate the building, as Fisherman’s Island would be disappearing owing to infilling in the harbour area.It seems to have taken until 1921 for the congregation to wind down. In the same year land was purchased in Lakeview, a small community just east of Port Credit, and a new St. Nicholas was erected. The furnishings were moved from Fisherman’s Island to their new location by rowboat. (St. Nicholas’, Lakeview existed until 1968, when it amalgamated with Trinity Church, Port Credit.

My thanks go to Jeff Hubbell, archivist of the Toronto Port Authority, for helping me with this post, and the next one on Emmanuel Church, including providing photographs and permission to use them. This is his explanation of what Fisherman’s Island was, and is: Fisherman’s Island was a sandbar on the south side of the Ashbridges’ Bay swamp land.  After the Toronto Harbour Commission infilled the swamp (between 1912 and 1920 approx) the sandbar was now connected by solid ground to the rest of the Port Land’s development and was no longer isolated.  It now makes up most of Toronto’s Cherry Beach on the north side of the Outer Harbour.

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