Weston: Then and Now (Part II)

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This project was much more daunting than originally anticipated.

The way I began to tackle this comparative photo project was to print out all the photos from the Toronto Public Library site and various Weston-based groups on Facebook, find directions, map out my destination, and hop on the 89 bus.

The problem arose when I showed up to these spots and something else would completely be laid over in its wake. My assumption was that the many churches would remain untouched, or at least the structure’s skeletal remnants could be decipherable, as shown in the transformation of the old Fire Hall into what is now the Ward Funeral home.

But what threw me off completely was the Westminster Presbyterian (United) Church on Weston and Lawrence. The TPL seemed to have dozens of photos emphasizing on the busy lifestyle the church gave to the community; Sunday schools, picnics, and finding bones buried outside the church. I was excited to see this church of rich historical meaning that I thought I’d previously failed to notice.

When I walked down to Bellevue Crescent, just off Lawrence and Weston, my eyes were peeled for the colossal Georgian-styled building. I probably stayed at the intersection for a good five minutes wondering how come I never noticed this building before. Instead, I was met with the Weston Park Baptist Church.

The now current church is flanked by a empty lot of forlorn cement, and a TD bank to the left – ultimately dwarfing it. Of course my immediate question was, “What happened?”

Furthermore, I sat at Memorial Park on Little Avenue, scrutinizing the houses for something remotely looking like what was once the Weston Town Hall. Is the Weston Hotel still intact?

After spending countless hours walking around and trying to find the ghost of Weston’s buildings, my own personal wish is that the town could receive extended beautification jobs and the empty lots that pockmark the street could be used, or cleaned up. The houses nearing St. Phillips and Weston are particularly cute in style and historical novelty, yet are held in decrepit state.

Obviously, the change of demographics and town priorities would decide the fluctuation of infrastructure in any area. Towers begin to replace Victorian styled homes, large brand discount stores will show up at every corner major street corner. But these developments are essential in improving immediate living standards in the area. People begin to express their distaste in the lost of Weston’s historical uniqueness and charm because of the notorious crime rates and the grey-shabbiness that modern construction brings. Weston does have the potential to be a thriving hub of the GTA and reclaim any magic lost over the years, but only if we invest in establishing progressive community programs and buildings that successfully grab participation and honest concern from each demographic group.

I’d hate to express political favor because that’s totally not my realm of things to write about but these successful changes are so noticeable in programs like Urban Arts, and the active development that Councillor Frances Nunziata works towards. In another century past, would Urban Arts and other community developmental aspects be displayed the same way the now-gone Westminster Presbyterian Church was?

The town of Weston is leaving me further confused, yet intrigued at the possibility of change in the near future for Toronto.


This post is brought to you by:

Maureen Lennon, who is happy to encourage great writing by young Westonians!

Author: Natalie

Natalie attends Weston CI and loves many things, namely Star Wars.

9 thoughts on “Weston: Then and Now (Part II)”

  1. Natalie, with regards to the st. john’s church historical photograph, it was taken from where st john’s school yard is (behind the school) looking northwards (not from the rectory parking lot). if you notice in the photo, the current church building is just to the left in the photograph in front of the older church building. they moved the older church building behind the the currently standing church building. i wonder what ever became of the older structure. does it still exist somewhere else? interestingly, when they took that photograph, it looks like they had already moved the graveyard that used to be behind the church (where the white wooden church structure is in the photograph from what i’ve been told).

  2. The old church was supposed to end up at Black Creek Pioneer Village but unfortunately burned down before it could happen.

  3. Re the Westminster Presbyterian (United) Church, here is the story, as best as I can figure:
    The old photo you have is not of the church, but the Sunday School. As the caption says, it was located on the west side of Weston Rd, the Baptist church being on the east side. I don’t know if the Baptist Church building at one point belonged to that congregation and was later sold to the Baptists, but this seems likely, as it’s clear that the Presbyterians either held services in the Sunday school or in a church building in that vicinity. This was the cause of a major rift in the Weston Presbyterian community in early 1914 after the Sunday school building was built, as a small group wanted to continue to hold services at the present site on Cross Street.

    At some point the Westminster congregation moved to William Street and the old school building was torn down. As you likely know, Westminster United closed its doors in Spring, 2013. This, I suspect, is why the library has such an extensive collection of photos, as they probably donated their records to the library at that time.

    With respect to the town hall, it is long gone, replaced by a parking lot across from the Shoppers.

  4. Thank you for the clear up Eric and Chris. You don’t know how long I spent sitting on Little Avenue trying to figure something out.

  5. In researching for the Heritage Designation for Little Ave and surrounds, the Historical Society did a lot of research, including extensive work in the City Archives and the Planning Dept. If you’re not on overload with information and ready to move on, Adam can put you in touch with the people who did the work.
    It’s fascinating and thanks!

  6. From the Historical Society’s Facebook page:

    https://www.facebook.com/113972951953777/photos/a.422161041134965.106514.113972951953777/422169281134141/?type=3&theater

    The church was built in 1853/54 and St. John’s existed as a mission from 1852 to 1912 before finally being granted parish status. The building seen here was moved to the back of the lot in 1953 to make way for the new brick St. John’s Church. It survived for a further three years before being destroyed by fire. One clipping around the time of the fire suggested that it was being considered for use in what would become Pioneer Village.

  7. “Weston does have the potential to be a thriving hub of the GTA and reclaim any magic lost over the years, but only if we invest in establishing progressive community programs and buildings that successfully grab participation and honest concern from each demographic group.”

    Well said, Natalie, you are a much needed voice of optimism. In my opinion, you are beginning to map out how Weston can emerge from its 20+ malaise. Yes, the City of York made some horrible planning decisions, but it is time to get over it and begin to revitalise. I hope you explore this topic further. One of the best things Weston Web has done is bring you aboard.

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