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Church of Christ, Toronto, ON

August 1, 2017

Often, the history of an A-A candidate is long, convoluted, and, for the time being, unresolved. Such is the case of the 1891 Church of Christ (Disciples of Christ, that is) in Toronto, Ontario. Here it is from the pages of the American Architect & Building News for 07 February 1891:

Architects Knox & Elliot were “bi-national” with Scottish immigrant Wilm Knox meeting Canadian John H. Elliot in the Chicago offices of Burnham & Root. 19th century architectural firms often acted as shadchans (שדכן in Hebrew, meaning matchmaker) for their employees; one draughtsman meets another and they leave to form a partnership of their own, sometimes in competition with their previous employers. In this case, they opened a Toronto office and then on in Cleveland, as Knox & Elliot. The Church of the Disciples has many of the earmarks of Burnham & Root, who might have taken pride in their progeny. The corner entry, book-matched façades, and pyramidal roof bespeak the seeds of an A-A church. Here it is in a photograph of 1912, one of those rare instances where the rendering matches the finished product:

I’ve seen that bulging bell-house somewhere before. In the meantime, compare it with two of B&R’s Chicago churches (either of which might have been on the boards when Messrs Knox and Elliot were in the office): St Gabriel’s of 1887 and Lakeview Presbyterian church of the following year:

Shifting demographics forced its sale in 1925 and conversion as the Ostrovtzer Synagogue until 1966, when it became the home of Toronto’s Chinese Catholics. The City of Toronto purchased the building in 1978 for use as a community centre. Interior modifications over the years have obscured some of the evidence for A-A nomination but I’m not dissuaded.

Still handsome after all these years, though.



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