Did you know that in the delivery area of the Beach Metro News there are over 100 houses of worship?
This is not an article about religion. It’s an overview of a few historical facts that I have gathered regarding some of these places.
They say that the number of people that believe in a higher power or belong to a religious affiliation is supposed to be down considerably when compared to the late 1890s or early 1900s. While doing some research on this topic, I found that in our area alone there are thousands of people who frequented these places of worship and in fact still do today.
Let’s take a look at some historic facts and figures about our community.
Take for example what was once called ‘East Toronto’ and the Beach area as it is still known. The population of East Toronto was about 5,000 people while the population of the Beach and surrounding area ranged between 5,000 to 7,000.
In the surrounding area you could count the houses of worship on 10 fingers. Some statistics show that of these religious places only 45-50 per cent of the population were members.
How many of you were members of these houses of worship? I have some questions and anecdotes for you, dear reader, so read on.
So, back to the town of East Toronto. I am going to present you with some questions, some of which are easier to answer than others. I plan to answer them in a future column, so here goes:
1. This area at the time had a busy railroad industry and there were two houses of worship known back then as “railroad houses” of worship. What were the locations, names and religious affiliations of these places? I can tell you that one was developed for use by the people on the Danforth.
2. How many religious denominations do you think were on the Danforth at that time?
3. What is the name of one of the oldest houses of worship in our area that has its own cemetery?
4. Do you know the name of the religious building on Queen Street East across from Kew Gardens that has been turned into a condo building? That one is easy!
I will now give you some questions (and hints) about the religions and denominations.
5. What church used to be there known as Tent Church? Although there were other tent churches, which one was the Baptist church, which later was a theatre then became a synagogue?
6. There was a religious building that looked like a lighthouse, located just east of Coxwell Avenue on the north side of Queen Street East.
7. There is a religious building on Kingston Road that used to be on Beech Avenue?
8. What is the name of the older religious building that was built through the generosity of the Massey family, one of the richest families in Canada, over 110 years ago?
Now, here is one of the hardest questions.
9. Where was the religious building that was associated with the Ashbridge family, who lived at the time at 1449 Queen St. East, nearly 140 years ago? Hint: It is located just east of Greenwood Avenue, on the north side. You can only see it from the south side.
I could go on and on about how many religious buildings existed at one time on Kingston Road and Dawes Road too.
There are so many different architectural styles that these houses of worship have showcased throughout the ages. Some were small and others were very large, while some offered all kinds of architectural delights and have since become store fronts throughout the area.
I salute the people who helped contribute these buildings to our area and for adding to the quality and rich history of the east end.