St. Mary's

Toronto's Forgotten Landmarks: Back To Old St. Mary's

For over half a decade, I have watched this vacant church sink further into the ground. Despite two failed developments and three zoning violations (that I am aware of, anyhow), the building still stands, overlooking the low-lying Annex which surrounds it - at least for now.

This beautiful Church, built in 1889, which once served its community so well, is now just a hollow shell. After the most recent zoning infraction (the building was to be completely gutted, and stuffed with condo-space), a neighbourhood meeting was convened to decide the building's fate. One resident informed me that their decision to oppose zoning adjustments, which would effectively prohibit condominium-development, was almost unanimous. Their decision, however, leaves me torn: understandably, the residents want to preserve the character of the neighbourhood, but their decision was probably a death sentence for St. Mary's.

St. Mary'sSt. Mary's


My goal, here, is primarily an aesthetic one. Much of what I learned from various workers and neighboring residents over the years about this place should be taken as opinion, rather than fact...

Even in its current state, minor details of the place still retain a wonderful charm in their decay.

St. Mary's


St. Mary's


St. Mary's

The first time I bumped into workers here some years back, they were very curious as to why I would want to photograph such a place. After showing me a bit of what their (then) work entailed, and even offering me a beautiful wooden railing-sculpture, one jokingly warned me about the bell tower. Access to this required climbing three of the sketchiest ladders I have ever seen - the final of which is a solid piece, 2-stories tall! The gentleman who showed me where the access-point is made the claim that even

St. Mary's

he would never make the ascent - which seemed more of a dare than a warning to someone like me...

The climb has always been well worth it, considering the spectacular view - perhaps the one thing that has not changed in this place over the years...

St. Mary'sSt. Mary's


St. Mary's

The nave has become increasingly barren over the last little while...

St. Mary's



On my final visit, I found a previously inaccessible area missing its door - the priests' quarters....

I am curious as to how many more visits, if any, I will make to this eerily beautiful, quiet place.

St. Mary's



While the fate of the building remains unknown (there is little doubt that condominium developers are watching the lot carefully), it looks like few good options are available. While urban developers are always making more room, they can only do so by clearing away our own vital past, erasing our memories so that we may make new ones. It may be unavoidable, but it is sad that a building that was once so vital to the neigbouhood is now just in the way.

[As always, if you have any questions or concerns, you may e-mail me (jonathan [[at]] blogto [[dot]]ca), or leave your comments below. To see the rest of the photo-set from St. Mary's, as well as high-res. versions of the ones above, have a look at my Flickr slide-show below.]


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