Jarvis Street Baptist Church is located at 130 Gerrard St E (at Jarvis St on the northeast corner) in the Garden District neighbourhood of Toronto.
Built in 1874/75, architects Langley, Langley & Burke designed the church in the Gothic Revival style. The structure was made from rough Queenston brownstone with Ohio stone dressings. Initially, the main entrance was through the impressive cater-cornered tower, which is decorated with gargoyles and polished granite pillars.
The amphitheatre-shaped interior was one of the first in Canada, with its gallery and groined arches supported on iron piers. The beautiful church could seat approximately 1,250 parishioners, and its first service was held in December 1875. The Jarvis Street Baptist Church cost $103,000 to construct, with $60,000 from the Honourable William McMaster. Mrs McMaster donated a 2,240-pipe organ valued at $8,000.
In March 1938, a 3-alarm fire gutted the church. First, the slate roof that featured ornamental green and red bands with iron cresting came clattering to the ground. Then, the slim spire crashed down onto the street. It could be heard for blocks.
Rebuilding on the same site began almost immediately, and during that time, parishioners attended services at Cooke’s Presbyterian Church and Massey Hall.
Architects Horwood & White, the successor firm to the church’s original architects, made significant design updates. A main entrance flanked by gargoyles was built on Jarvis St, a 13 m or 43 ft diameter rose window was fitted into the roof, the tower was topped with a new spire, and seating capacity was nearly doubled. A new organ and indirect lighting were also installed. Jarvis Street Baptist was the first church in the country to be built with a heat-sensitive fire alarm.
While the corner tower remains a focal point of Jarvis Street Baptist Church, other architectural highlights include double-wooden doors that feature a transom with quatrefoil and trefoil motifs, buttressed walls, narrow lancet windows and a steeply pitched roof. The rebuild was completed in May 1939.
The church building received heritage status from the City of Toronto in 1973.
The congregation of Jarvis Street Baptist Church was established in 1829. Three years later, their first chapel was built on Lombard St and in 1848, they relocated to a church on Bond St. They moved to their present-day location in 1875.