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Travel

GTA Tripping: Cemetery in a Parking Lot

Posted by Christopher Reynolds / April 11, 2009

Christie's Methodist CemeteryThough Canada's oldest will always have my heart, Christie's Methodist Cemetery in the L'Amoreaux part of Scarborough at Warden and Finch, in the middle of Bridlewood Mall's parking lot and surrounded by cars (which, the management says, are wont to run into the monuments from time to time), definitely takes the cake for most novel.

Bridlewood Mall

If you're like me, visiting cemeteries is always a worthy adventure. There is a distinct mix of silent awe and boyish delight I get when standing in the presence of those who have helmed our world before us. There's never anything to say, but the subtext is staggering.

Christie's Methodist Cemetery

The feeling was no different here. The traffic and the Price Chopper had no effect on my imagination as I wandered from name to name and date to date, enrapt in the palpable history.

But how did we end up with a sacred burial ground practically in the middle of a bargain grocery store?

The story goes like this: Irish couple Isaac Christie and Isabella Graeme buy some farm land in Scarborough in 1836 from United Empire Loyalist, Huguenot and famous Scarborian Josué L'Amoreaux. Soon after, Wesleyan Methodist leader Reverend T. Turner convinces the Christies to allow him to build a small frame church on their land.

People are baptized, worship, and are buried in the church burial plot here for a good 80 years, until the United Church absorbs and closes the place twice, first in 1925, and then in 1936. The church is dismantled, moved and reconstructed in Buttonville. Of course, the deceased do not make the trip.

Years later, the land is redeveloped to create a large indoor horse racing track, which is later bulldozed. Plans for the Bridlewood Mall are drawn up. Luckily, the Scarborough Historical society, acting through the Borough of Scarborough, was able to jimmy a clause into the lease signed by developers Robert McCintock and Verity Investments Limited in 1973 to let the almost-forgotten graves be.

Soon the land is redeveloped, a mall fulla bargains is built and voila! Cemetery in a Parking Lot.

Christie's Methodist CemeteryIt's worth it to note that this peculiar cemetery, as sort of roundabout in the middle of a bargainful mall's parking lot, also fortuitously serves as a perfect model for urban planners in being a sort of de facto green space. Imagining the Price Chopper and surrounding mall without this greyness-interruption, the value added by the space, both esthetically and in a "mental environment" sort of way, becomes obvious.

Simply put, that gross barren mall-sprawl feeling is completely turned on its head by this small patch of green, making the Price Chopper feel like a cultural institution. Take note, developers!

Christie's Methodist Cemetery

We spent a good hour relaxing in the parkette, occasionally asking local workers about ghosts. We failed to find stories of apparitions lowering prices in the night, but everyone we talked to commented on how lovely it was to have such a thing. And lovely it was.

Christie's Methodist Cemetery

Discussion

21 Comments

Sean / April 11, 2009 at 11:46 am
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Wonderful and insightful story. May those buried rest in peace.
Miroslav Glavic / April 11, 2009 at 12:42 pm
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There is a cemetery on the SOUTHWEST corner of Finch and Warden (I have passed it a billion times on my way home but never actually read the name of it. Even Google maps does not have a label/name for it.

Anyways, is this cemetery have any relation to the one of your story in the northwest corner? or two completely seperate ones?

Wait a minute, are you saying that when this morning I walked to the Warden bus stop (southbound) on the northwest corner from the mall I walked over dead people? If I get ghosts haunting me, I am going to blame you for that. :D
J / April 11, 2009 at 05:10 pm
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There are large plans to redevelop the mall and surrounding lands into a high rise apartment neighbourhood. Here's the status page of the ward councillor Mike Del Grande if you're interested.

http://www.mikedelgrande.ca/bridlewoodmall.htm
Colin / April 11, 2009 at 05:25 pm
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I thought I was the only one who has this odd fascination with exploring cemetaries. I agree, see the grave of those who preceeded you fills you with an awe that nothing else can.

Love the article. I've been by that patch of grass many times, but never realized there were graves there.
Mark Moore / April 11, 2009 at 06:17 pm
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What about the Richview Memorial Cemetery surrounded by 401 & 427, enter off Eglinton Ave. West. Google that one.
Michael / April 11, 2009 at 06:27 pm
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Photos and some info about .......... <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/highplainsdrifterphotography/sets/72157604022066090/";>Richview Memorial Cemetery</a>
Christopher / April 11, 2009 at 06:34 pm
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@Mark Moore: Yes! I've seen that one. Cemetery surrounded by highway. It seems like there's no easy access point there... can one really visit that one without getting hit by speeding cars?

@Miroslav Glavic: Right, the southwest corner is St. Paul's... the former site of a different old church, which burned down in 1935. On our trip we spent a good amount of time here, too. Some of the tombstones are pretty beautiful, and many of them are in pretty good shape despite being 150ish years old. Check it out here: http://www.torontohistory.org/Pages_STU/St_Pauls_Church_LAmoreaux.html


Christopher replying to a comment from Michael / April 11, 2009 at 06:37 pm
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Awesome.
Alan L / April 12, 2009 at 03:34 am
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Here's the plaque the Scarborough Historical Society erected in the cemetery:
http://www.torontohistory.org/Pages_ABC/Christies_Methodist_Cemetery.html

More historical plaques in Toronto's cemeteries:
http://www.torontohistory.org/Menu_Subjects.html#Cemeteries
ayl / April 12, 2009 at 05:12 am
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I grew up about a block away on the Markham side of Warden and we used to go to this plaza a lot. I've never noticed this little cemetary.

Steeles and Brimley, another cemetary I believe.
Christopher / April 12, 2009 at 10:17 am
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@Alan L: Thanks for the good work, love the torontohistory.org website!
Par King replying to a comment from Christopher / April 12, 2009 at 10:41 am
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"can one really visit that one without getting hit by speeding cars?"

Yes. You'll see the entrance if you go to the satellite view of any online map service.
Michael / April 12, 2009 at 07:37 pm
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I love these types of articles, Christopher.

Keep up the good work!
Christopher / April 13, 2009 at 02:38 am
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Thanks, Michael^^ Great photos... I too was at that procession (being careful not to call it "a parade") on Friday.
Christopher replying to a comment from Par King / April 13, 2009 at 02:40 am
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I love that using intense turbo-Bond Google spy satellites is common enough to be like, "duh" at this point. The future is now!
Born&RaisedInTO / April 14, 2009 at 02:30 pm
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This is a very timely article. The province currently has a private members' bill (Bill 149, Inactive Cemeteries Protection Act, 2009) on the books which received 2nd reading on March 12th and is now under review by the Standing Committee on General Government. This Bill has a lot of MPP support - and apparently (I'm happy to say) public support as evidenced here. Move over Mt. Pleasant Cemetary!
Alicia / December 3, 2009 at 10:00 pm
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I moved into this area a couple of months ago and use this price shoppers, I noticed it about 2 months ago when I walked over from warden. I usually drive over and never noticed. I wanted to find out more so thanks.
Margaret Johnson / October 11, 2012 at 10:12 am
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Isaac and Isabella Christie are my great grandparents. I did not know where the farm was or when they had arrived in Canada. I had been trying to find out about them for years and where they had been buried. It is so touching and wonderful that the stones have been preserved and that some people cared enough to create and maintain this memorial cemetery with the plaque telling that they came from Ireland.I am going to try to trace them back further. The story was passed down in the family that these Christies had been in Scotland and were supporters of Bonnie Prince Charlie. After the terrible defeat at the Battle of Culloden in 1746 they fled to Ireland for their lives. Isaac, then would have been the next generation and was born there.
Margaret Johnson / October 11, 2012 at 10:14 am
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As a follow-up correction Isaac and Isabella Christie are my second great grandparents.
embee1010 replying to a comment from Christopher / February 5, 2014 at 09:45 am
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yes, you park on the road under the highway over passes.
Dwayne La Rose / May 28, 2014 at 10:29 am
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I lived there for years and had NO idea about the history of that graveyard. Thanks

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