The old Eglinton United Church on Sheldrake Boulevard, in north Toronto, is one of the most exclusive authentic loft conversions in Toronto. Now know as St. George on Sheldrake, the massive edifice found new life when it was converted into some of the most exclusive lofts in Toronto.
From 2001 to 2003, the church sanctuary at 65 Sheldrake Boulevard (which had been vacant at the time) was converted into lofts for residential use by Rosecorp. The church hall and Sunday school buildings, which had been used for private day school purposes, were demolished and rebuilt in substantially the same form. In 1978 The Lower School and York Montessori School rented the basement of the church with classes up to grade 3. They left in 1999 and moved to 1320 Yonge Street.
The detached house at 39 Sheldrake Boulevard was also demolished to create room for the ramp to the underground parking for 75 cars and 26 bicycles that was carved out from beneath the converted church (which also includes 15 visitor and 5 handicapped parking spaces).
Most of the lofts at St. George on Sheldrake are well over 1,000 square feet, with some larger than many homes at over 4,000 square feet. Since only 34 lofts were created in the church’s large space, the developer managed to make every loft a large alternative to a house.
Finishes are obviously high-end, with hardwood floors, granite counters and stainless steel appliances. Ceilings start at 10 feet and some units have soaring cathedral spaces with 24-foot ceilings. Optional gas fireplaces warm those chilly winter nights. Most of the lofts have private outdoor space in the form of balconies or gardens. Indoor and outdoor common amenity space is also provided.
Oddly enough, my father used to lived directly behind the church. I remember when the conversion started, I used to hop the back fence and go poke around inside. It is too bad that the developer did not keep more of the original features. The most vivid memory I have is standing in the basement, looking all the way to the ceiling, a good 40 feet above me. There was almost a dome, tiled in a lovely turquoise. While it was not in great shape at the end, the massive old church still had some lovely bones.
What came to be known as Eglinton United Church began as a Wesleyan Methodist brick chapel in 1830 on rural Yonge Street, north of the town of York. Several additions were made and finally a new church, with space to house a large Sunday School, was built on the present site of 65 Sheldrake Avenue. Its name then became Eglinton Methodist.
The award-winning Eglinton United Church building that we see today was built in 1923 to a design by Toronto architects Horwood and White. The exterior was to resemble Keble College at Oxford University, with elaborate brickwork and limestone trim. Personally, I don’t think they look very much alike at all. But it is a good example of the kind of religious architecture that flourished at a time when many Canadians believed unquestioningly that God was an Englishman.
With its red brick facades, simplified Romanesque proportions, and solid four-square aesthetic, this was an unspectacular but impressive building. It managed to speak of prosperity and piety, without one tripping over the other. By 1940, the total membership was almost 2,000, with over 1,000 children in Sunday School! In 1957, a large Christian Education wing was constructed.
Between 1930 and 1994, the Eglinton congregation was served by individual ordained ministers, but by 1980 the concept of “team ministry” was developed, with two “ordered” ministers sharing the ministry. Rev. Joe Brown deserves a special note in the history of Eglinton United both for his pastoral work and his role in the development of low income housing in North Toronto. Throughout its history, Eglinton valued its Methodist heritage and expressed this through groups such as Peace with Justice, support of Amnesty International, and concern for the poor and marginalized, locally and abroad.
The new Eglinton St. George’s United Church opened its doors in 1999 following the amalgamation of the former Eglinton United Church and the former St. George’s United Church. The new congregation makes its home on 35 Lytton Blvd in North Toronto, the site of the former St. George’s United Church.
Who wouldn’t want to live in a beautiful loft in North Toronto? Wandering the leafy streets of these neighbourhoods, there’s an essential modesty and restraint to the area that one can’t help but admire. Even the architectural monuments possess a kind of homeliness that makes them almost irresistible. The old fire station on Montgomery Ave., for example, with its mock-Tudor façade, looks more like a local pub than what it is. The 1932 police station, at the corner of Montgomery and Yonge, may be an Art Deco building, but toned down so as not to compete with the calm and quiet appropriate to such a residential district.