HistoryThe structure called Trinity East is the oldest standing church building in the City of Toronto. The cornerstone was laid on July 20, 1843 and worship services began on February 14, 1844.
- Architecture of the Building
- Church Furnishings
- Little Trinity House
- The Congregation of Little Trinity
Architecture of the Building
A recent immigrant from England, architect Henry Bowyer Lane was 25 years old when he designed Trinity Church.
Local craftsmen donated the bricks (made for Don Valley clay) and the labour to build the structure. Funds were raised by Bishop Strachan and wealthy benefacts such as brewer Enoch Turner and the millers and distillers Gooderham and Worts. A city alderman, Alexander Dixon, helped get the church established. No endowment was given: all contributions were voluntary.
The building is similar to many churches in England built in the early 1800s where a neo-gothic revival dictated architectural styles.
The pointed window arches and the strong vertical lines are typical of Gothic design. In Europe, original Gothic design predominated in the 1300-1500s.
The bell tower is 60 feet tall and has an octagonal buttress supporting each corner. Wishbone shaped drip mouldings topped with fleur-de-lis protect each front door.
The south-west buttress cleverly hides a chimney. Some walls are topped with decorative brick crenelations.
In 1889 a south extension enlarged the church so that it could seat 600. A split chancel was added and the choir and organ were installed six steps up from the nave.
A fire in 1961 destroyed the addition of 1889, though the communion table was only scorched. Reconstruction took 14 months, and in March 1962, worshippers returned to the church. The chancel was replaced with offices and the large window behind the communion table was installed following the design of the original church. The floor of the nave was raised about 4 feet to create a church hall downstairs.
The original communion table has been moved to its Elizabethan' position, close to the people. At the surrounding rail, 40 people can gather at one time, as a church family, to receive the Lord?s Supper.
The two piece carved limestone baptismal font was given by the boys of Upper Canada College in 1844.
Original Tudor-style chairs are used by church dignitaries and representatives of the Crown. A prayer desk is located by the west wall. The pews date from the 1850s. The pulpit is original. Blue pew cushions were stitched by parishioners and friends in 2000.
The rear gallery (balcony) was restored in 1962. The three manual Casavant organ was originally owned by R. Y. Eaton.
Little Trinity House
The church offices and the Sunday School classrooms are in the house at 417 King Street East, which was renovated in 1996.
The rectory was built in 1853 at a cost of �1400 ($7,000) and was designed by Frederick Cumberland in the middle of his architectural career. The minister of Trinity Church at the time was the Reverend Alexander Sanson. He moved into the new house when it was completed. He was 35 at the time. He lived at the rectory for 50 years and died in 1904.
Two years later, the Rev'd Hilliard Dixon moved into the rectory and lived for 21 years until his death in 1927. The neighbourhood was very poor and he was very involved in ministering to them. Extra soup would be cooked in the kitchen of the rectory to be given to local residents.
The next rector, Rev'd Widdows, owned his own house and the rectory took on new uses. A construction company used it as office space. For a while it was rented out to a landlord for $450 per year who oppressed tenants by renting it out for $4000 per year. Up to 11 apartments were created in the house. Later it was used by the Church Army as a home for young men in trouble with the law. It was called Beverly Lodge then.
Due to these other uses, the church purchased another house near Danforth and Broadview as a rectory for Maurice Flint in 1952.
In May 1953, Erin Street was conveyed in trust from the City of Toronto for use as a park and playground. Earth from the newly enlarged church basement filled in the roadbed.
A large fire in 1961 destroyed part of the church. Some offices were installed at the back of the church during renovations.
With the turn over of the Sunday School Hall to the Enoch Turner Schoolhouse Foundation in 1961, the church needed more space and the offices were relocated to the house. The Boys' Home was closed.
The rooms in the building are currently used as church offices and Sunday School rooms. Renovations in 1994-95 improved access to the building, changed the configuration of the rooms upstairs and downstairs, and created offices for more staff.
The Congregation of Little Trinity
The people who form the congregation of Little Trinity come from across the metropolitan region of Toronto. About 400 people attend the three Sunday services each week.
The congregation was started on July 12, 1842 to serve the needs of the working class Irish protestants who lived in the east end of Toronto. A year later, a third Anglican church was established to serve Toronto?s west end (St George the Martyr). The Cathedral Church of St James is located at King and Church streets.
In the 1840s, Toronto had about 17,000 people and Trinity Church was located in "the centre of a thickly inhabited and spiritually destitute suburb... containing about 3,000 people, chiefly of the poorest class."
As the city grew, the church became too small. Renovations were made in 1889 to enlarge it. Population continued to grow. On Easter Sunday, 1909, 1,074 people attended. Sunday School had over 900 children. In 1918, there were 50 Sunday School classes. More than 560 men of this parish volunteered to fight in World War I. A small cenotaph outside the building commemorates the 63 men who gave their lives.
Under the leadership of Canon Dixon (Rector 1906-1927) the church provided a strong social service role providing much practical assistance to what continued to be a very poor neighbourhood.
As the city structure changed, the area became more industrial. The number of parishioners diminished. In World War II, 55 men went to fight. The names of five who died are on a plaque inside on the west wall.