What in heaven’s name is going on at the corner of St. Cuthbert’s Rd. and Bayview Ave. at St. Cuthbert’s church? No, not another condo project on Bayview! But there is something exciting happening on the grounds. First some history.
The original Lea family donated property for an Anglican Church on this site. As time went by, a proper church rose up with room for a lawn-bowling green just to the south. The problem, though, was that the bowls might wander onto Bayview Avenue, so a drystone wall was constructed all along the Bayview frontage for the protection of bowlers and balls.
In 1999, with grant money from the Ontario Seniors’ Secretariat, and in honour of the International Year of Older Persons, a small garden and seating area were created just to the north of the church near the front doors. Flagstones were laid up the slope from the St. Cuthbert’s Road sidewalk to show that the space was welcoming to all.
And it worked. Sort of. A few people do know about this special area and do sit there.
Trouble is, it’s never been very welcoming…until now.
That forbidding northern portion of the drystone wall is going to be partially reconstructed to add more welcoming steps to the church. An electronic sign on a plinth will be visible to pedestrians and drivers on Bayview. An extended plaza with seating will replace the area where the garden is now. And in place of a random collection of trees and bushes along the north side of the church property, there will be a planted, forested contemplative prayer garden and another seating area with a water feature. There will even be a street number on the property! Yes, the official church address is 1399 Bayview Ave., but you wouldn’t know to walk by. That info will also be on the new sign.
The incentive to make these changes was frustration that the current church sign wasn’t terribly functional. In fact, the electrical connection had disappeared years ago. Thanks to a dedicated team, led by parishioner Ian Beverley, and with the landscaping skills and services of Amy Turner Landscape, there was an extensive consultative process involving church parishioners and neighbours.
Luckily, the process pre-dated the pandemic, and Covid actually gave some breathing room to get the project up and running. As Ian says, “this project provides an opportunity for St. Cuthbert’s to reintroduce itself to our community with a new plaza and front entrance and to provide badly needed amenity space for the community with a tranquil garden for quiet reflection and relaxation.”
Funds have come from parishioners, both current and past, our neighbours, as well as The Anglican Foundation. The Anglican Diocese of Toronto supported our application as it made its way through Diocesan and City of Toronto approval processes – including making sure that our heritage oak and its companion, an elderly Norway maple, are protected as work is done.
And I’m sure if you hadn’t guessed, I am a parishioner of St. Cuthbert’s, and looking forward to seeing this imaginative work completed – if not this fall, then by next spring.