St. Anne’s Anglican Church holds first Sunday service since fire

By Dilshad Burman

Parishioners gathered in the parking lot of St. Anne’s Anglican Church for an outdoor service on Sunday, one week after the national historic site was destroyed in a devastating fire.

The service was led by Father Don Beyers and St. Anne’s Choir led the signing of hymns. A folding table covered in a white tablecloth served as a makeshift altar.

Those attending were advised to bring a hat or parasol for sun protection and a folding chair if needed.

Emergency crews were called to the church, located on Gladstone Avenue near Dundas Street West, just before 8 a.m. on June 9.

In videos posted on social media, flames could be seen shooting out from the top of the church and CityNews received reports the smoke could be seen several blocks away.

Toronto firefighters can be seen responding to a blaze at St. Anne's Anglican Church.
Toronto firefighters can be seen responding to a blaze at St. Anne’s Anglican Church. HANDOUT / B Diaz

The church was built in 1907 and 1908 and was designated a national historic site in 1996. In 1980 it was designated under the Ontario Heritage Act by the City of Toronto.

“Built in the Byzantine style, St. Anne’s was designed by the noted Toronto architect Ford Howland to serve a large and vigorous parish,” the Ontario Heritage Trust noted.

“Renowned for its role in the development of Anglican congregations in western Toronto and for its social mission in the Parkdale district, St. Anne’s remains active in community life.”

At the time, Beyers said the loss of the church was devastating not only to the parish, but to the community at large.

Early paintings by three Group of Seven members and other prominent Canadian artists were installed along the interior in the 1920s. The murals decorated the chancel and the dome, which was destroyed in the blaze.

“This was the only church that featured artwork by members of the Group of Seven and I’m sorry to say that has been lost based on what I see,” he said.

No injuries were reported as a result of the fire. Toronto police said it is not being treated as suspicious at this time, although investigators are still trying to pinpoint the cause.

With files from Nick Westoll

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