Toronto's Forgotten Landmarks: Metropolitan United Church Parsonage
On the south-west corner of Church and Shuter, nestled between two of Toronto's oldest, largest, and most spectacular churches is the beautiful Metropolitan United Church Parsonage.
I use the term 'is' here very liberally, for as you read this, the more modern portion of the building (1929 as opposed to the original 1906 western section) is being torn apart.
During my first visit a few Sundays ago, I was able to see the structure in its entirety, but upon visiting it again some 2 days later, I witnessed a large Lions tractor making a convertible of the eastern sections.
Now, I realize that that Lions and Christians do not have the most amicable history (almost as ironic as when I witness Priestly demolition co. tearing down a church), but what I find particularly irksome in this situation is twofold. Firstly, I had spoken to a foreman some weeks before, who informed me that they would be saving and transplanting the stones, even from the 'newer' section (consisting mainly of a recreation centre and a daycare), moving them adjacent to Bond street itself.
Secondly, what this older part of downtown Toronto is going to have instead of a gorgeous early 20th century neo-gothic structure is a massive underground car-park topped off with a shiny new glass-n-plastic condominium.
I have worked in this neighbourhood for almost a decade, and the vertical view of the beautiful twin steeples gazing south has always brought a bit of warmth to the area, reminding us of our city's past as bank towers stretch southward not a few blocks to the west.
Over the past half-decade, those who have lived and worked in this area have born witness to the sweeping changes that have taken place in this neighbourhood; from the loss of Toronto's last example of Georgian style homes to 'demolition by neglect' (in this case, the building had to literally start falling over before the city/owner took action), to the police-raids which ended the crime-haven pawn shop mis-dealings along Church St.
This unquestioned replacement of our solid cornerstones leaves me uneasy. I could go on at length about unbridled condo development, how the city has sold out every last inch of waterfront and whatnot, but sadly, these so called developments speak to a larger problem of cultural amnesia.
These are our neighbourhoods, and community is built on story and place. From an architectural point of view, I could hail signs of the times - show how Goya's doubt lead to a Corbusian, utilitarian reign, but if anything, this brings us farther away from the sidewalks we traverse.
We thrive on pattern and recognizability, and create our own stories from the necessary, given, 'built' environment in which we live. For me, beyond the annoyance of traffic derailment as the new structure goes up in the place of the old parsonage, the streets will become less and less recognizable, this place where I spend my days. And after all, how we spend our days is how we spend our lives.
(Below are a few more snaps from the Parsonage - I will be uploading more as the week progresses, when I get my film-shots back from the lab.)
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