The people at Toronto Bell Cote Heritage Preservation are holding an open house and orientation session on Sunday November 24 between 1 and 3pm. The purpose is to encourage high school students to learn about and participate in volunteer opportunities with the charity that looks after this important landmark in our neighbourhood. All Ontario high school students are required to volunteer 40 hours to a community organization in order to graduate.
Incidentally, this building is one of the few in the area using geothermal heating and cooling throughout the year.
The Toronto Bell Cote will be hosting a remembrance of Hurricane Hazel’s impact on Toronto some 65 years ago. Readers may remember that the building was known as St Matthias Anglican Church in 1954 and served as an operations centre during the rescue and relief efforts following the event.
“A small, white frame church (provided) non-stop service of mercy … St. Matthias Anglican, capacity 88 churchgoers — and the parson, Reverend Paul Glover, 24, wearing mud-stained jeans and jacket — administered to the urgent needs of the flood-devastated area of the Westmount flats.” The pews were piled high with clothing, blankets, food and other life necessities brought by neighbouring families, and the church was billed as “a haven for the homeless”.
In the light of climate change and increasingly damaging hurricanes, guest speakers will discuss the likelihood of whether a similarly catastrophic event could affect our community and how we can be prepared. After the discussions, participants are invited to visit the commemorative plaque in Raymore Park.
The heritage preservation people at Toronto Bell Cote at 691 Scarlett Road are holding a fundraising bazaar on Sunday August 25 between 1 and 3pm. Funds raised will go to support local artisans and the maintenance of the former St Matthias church.
It’s never too late or too early to stock up! Please come to the Toronto Bell Cote Heritage Preservation’s Neighbourhood Bazaar. Flowers, baked goods, handicrafts, paintings will be on sale to support local artisans and an award-winning Heritage Building.”
There is a small white church on Scarlett Road (in Greater Metropolitan Weston) that featured large in the aftermath of Hurricane Hazel. Then named St. Matthias Anglican, (the congregation relocated in 1957) it became a centre for community donations to assist victims of the disaster that killed and rendered homeless many people in the area. Even without that role, it has a fascinating history having been built in Malton in 1895 and was moved to its current location on Scarlett Road in 1923. Eighty years later, in 2003, the site was given Hertitage Site designation by the city thanks to the hard work of local historical societies. An application to have the site redeveloped as a townhouse complex came in 2004 but the City and then the OMB said no (demonstrating the worth of a heritage designation).
In 2010, current owners, the Sukyo Mahikari organization tried to have it demolished, justifying demolition with a report which stated that:
the building has fallen into disuse and disrepair, it has been neglected and is in a rapid state of deterioration
the foundation walls are on the verge of collapse, and there is an immense amount of energy loss given the original construction materials and methods
The building is a major eyesore in the community
When the application was made for heritage designation, critical structural and material analysis were not completed which would have revealed unsafe conditions
In order to maintain and rehabilitate the current building, the cost would be overwhelming
City planners recommended against demolition, and mercifully, Etobicoke York Council unanimously voted against the application. The group was told by then Councillor Doug Hoiyday to have a re-think and look around for grant money which they did – very successfully – and the rest is history so to speak. The costly renovation that has been done is very sympathetic and has ensured many more years of existence for the 120 year-old building and the preservation of a local landmark. The installation of a geothermal heating and cooling system will ensure low running costs for many years to come.
The Sukyo Mahikari organization has only one location in Toronto and this is it.
The church is one of 16 buildings competing for a Heritage Toronto Architecture award in the category of projects which “restore or adapt buildings or structures that have been in existence for 40 years or more, or are included on the City of Toronto’s Inventory of Heritage Properties.”
The church is still working on further restoration and a major project will be to replace the bell that went missing a few years ago.
If readers would like to have a tour, one may be arranged by phoning 647-748-2683.