Toronto’s St. Paul’s church, Bloor Street, which completed a four-year, $23-million restoration and expansion project in 2006, recently received the Award of Excellence for the William Greer Architectural Conservation and Craftsmanship Award at the 33rd Annual Heritage Toronto Awards.
The prestigious award, named after an architect and heritage consultant who has been working to conserve Toronto’s architectural heritage for more than 50 years, recognizes individuals, community organizations, industry professionals and associations “in promoting and conserving Toronto’s history and heritage landmarks.”
St. Paul’s, one of the largest Anglican churches in Canada, was chosen from eight nominees.
Harry Klassen, who served as volunteer project manager, described the award as “well-deserved, reflecting both the excellence of design and workmanship.”
Heritage Toronto, meanwhile, cited the successful incorporation of St. Paul’s three buildings – the ‘Old Church’ (1860), the ‘New Church’ (1913), and ‘Cody Hall’ (1928) -into one development. “The goal of this project was to provide universal access, security and flexibility while transforming the existing heritage buildings into a functional, cohesive facility that retained the historic architectural design. The project involved extensive restoration work on the masonry, roof and stained glass windows of the old church, as well as interior renovations and the intervention of new architecture to join the three buildings into one space.”
Aside from renovating about 65,000 square feet, the development – one of the largest restoration projects undertaken in any church in Canada – involved adding 45,000 square feet of new space, which almost doubled the amount of functional space in the complex. The new space includes a glass atrium, which connects the three buildings into one facility, and allows natural light to stream into the open space. Magnificent stained glass windows and the original 19th century wooden cathedral ceiling in the old church were restored to their former glory.
Cody Hall, which had been designed by renowned Canadian architect E. J. Lennox and built under the leadership of then-rector Canon Henry J. Cody, was also refurbished and includes a youth room equipped with audio and visual technology, a gymnasium, auditorium and meeting rooms.
“During the reconstruction we focused on building a new container for ministry, not just beautiful new space,” said Canon Barry Parker, rector of St. Paul’s, in a news release. “We’re growing into the new space carefully and continue to be vigilant in sorting out how God is calling us to serve, what makes us effective to serve various community needs.”
The redevelopment plan, dubbed “The Nehemiah Project,” was designed by Black and Moffat Architects, Inc, with J.D. Strachan Construction Ltd.
The project was grounded in a biblical reference in the Old Testament book of Nehemiah (2:18): “I told them that the hand of God had been gracious upon me and also the words that the king had spoken to me. Then they said, ‘Let’s start building!’ So they committed themselves to the common good.”
Mr. Klassen said the project dates back to 1988 when St. Paul’s entered into a sale of its density rights. He said that as a condition of the sale, the City of Toronto imposed an easement agreement to preserve the Old Church, which is designed in the neo-Gothic style popular in the 19th century, and the early-gothic style New Church; Cody Hall was exempted.
Prior to the renovation and restoration project, he said that the three buildings “were each separate entities and did not work well together.” Thus, the objective was “to restore the fabric of the three buildings” while refurbishing the interiors to provide suitable worship space, children’s and adult educational facilities, and social facilities for St. Paul’s membership and the community, added Mr. Klassen