Not until 1928 was the need for a United Church in Leaside considered urgent. With the opening of the Leaside Viaduct in 1927, development of the community was rapid. Reverend James Miller canvassed the area and called residents affiliated with the United Church to a meeting at the home of Mr. and Mrs. G. D. Bird on December 6, 1928. He informed those present that the land, which had been purchased at the corner of Millwood and McRae as early as 1925, was available and that a portable building over on Manor Road was also available for use.
An agreement was reached that night and those present became the first Board of Managers: Gil D. Bird, Chairman; Cecil J. Woodard, Secretary; Edwin Smith, Treasurer; R. Hancock, Envelope Secretary; John Girard and John Dawson, Property Committee. The congregation was represented by J. Sherbett.
The Manor Road building was moved to its new location and the Canada Varnish Company provided the paint to freshen-up the new “church.” The Women’s Association made curtains for the windows.
One hundred chairs were purchased for $75.00, along with a stove and pipe for $23.90. The first minister was Rev. Dr. Alexander Mac-Gillivray who was paid $7.00 per Sunday. Mrs. Dawson conducted the Sunday school. A back room served as kitchen and minister’s study, as well as being the Sunday School room where Mrs. Gil D. Bird was one of the teachers; she taught there for twelve years.
Soon there were socials and concerts, sleigh rides and bowling nights, and Mrs. William Page found the means to buy hymn books. Meanwhile, the Building Committee was charged with the responsibility of investigating what it would take to erect a larger permanent church, but three years would pass before the new church could open.
In 1939, the auditorium of Leaside School (now Bessborough) became available for services and seventy new members joined, swelling the size of the congregation even more. The first sod for the new church was turned on October 5 and the foundation stone was laid on November 2, 1940. The architects for this new structure were J. Francis Brown and Son.
The exterior walls of the church were to be “of finest Credit Valley stone,” creating a very imposing building. In 194l, the church was completed and opened its doors for its first service, conducted by the minister Reverend Harry Mellow. The church membership continued to expand and, by 1949, when Reverend Charles C. Murray became the minister, the Sunday School attendance was 704 in total!
Soon, there was a need for a Christian Education Wing as the number of people attending Sunday School grew rapidly to 1,200. The school was operating four “shifts.” Correspondingly, the congregation grew from 900 in 1949 to 1,600 in 1951.
A Casavant organ was installed in 1950 and a beautiful memorial window was designed by Mr. Murray, of the old Leaside Murray family. This window, unveiled in 1955, commemorates those whose lives were sacrificed in the war. The window can still be seen today.
From Leaside, edited by Jane Pitfield.