The Olivet Congregational Church once occupied the building at 33 Hazelton Ave (at Scollard St on the northeast corner) in the Yorkville neighbourhood of Toronto. The building has been converted into a commercial property.
Olivet Congregational Church
In 1868, a mission Sunday school was organized in an old Methodist chapel that was once on the site of Yorkville Fire Hall. Worship services soon began, and this was the start of the Olivet congregation. In 1875, the property on the northeast corner of Hazelton Ave and Scollard St was acquired. The following year, the wooden Congregational church (today known as Heliconian Hall) and schoolhouse opened in Yorkville.
As the number of parishioners was steadily growing, a larger church was needed. The original structure was moved directly north to 35 Hazelton Ave, and in 1890, construction began on the new building at 33 Hazelton Ave.
Architects Dick & Wickson designed the Olivet Congregational Church in an adaptation of the Romanesque style. The red brick structure features a Credit Valley stone base, Ohio stone trim and two corner towers. Over one of the main corner entrances through the southwest tower is a name band inscribed with “OLIVET” and intricate stonework carvings, which include the date “1890”.
The interior was set up in an amphitheatre plan with seating for about 650. The pulpit was angled so the minister could see everyone. Opening services were held in January 1891. The cost to construct the building was just over $20,000. The church was commonly referred to as the Hazelton Avenue Congregational Church.
In 1925, when Congregational, Presbyterian and Methodist churches came together to establish the United Church of Canada, Olivet church declined to join.
Over the next couple of decades, membership decreased, and in 1947 with plans to dissolve the Olivet congregation, the building was sold. It became the Olivet Presbyterian Church.
Adaptive Reuse of the Church Building
By the mid-1960s, the Yorkville neighbourhood had become an arts community, home to hippies, music venues and coffee houses. The church had fallen into disrepair; however, Toronto architect Sheldon Rosen formed a corporation, purchased the church building and saved it from demolition.
In 1973, after $1 million in restorations and renovations, Mr Rosen transformed the historic structure into 15,000 sq ft of office and commercial space. It was a merger of modern style with the old church as a backdrop. The building’s stained glass windows were refurbished, and the beautifully crafted wooden beams were preserved. Mr Rosen moved his own company into the building’s church loft, and his office was in the tower.
Today the Yorkville landmark continues to be home to various businesses.
Did You Know?
- Olivet Congregational Church was thought to be named after the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.
- In the early 1970s, the church was temporarily the Toronto Korean Presbyterian Church.
- The building received heritage status from the City of Toronto in 1973.
- While it would have been cheaper to tear down the building and start fresh when it was repurposed, the new building would have had to be set back from the street and possibly only permitted 6,000 sq ft of space instead of 15,000.
- The walls of the former church are as much as 0.9 m or 3 ft thick in some areas.
Olivet Congregational Church Photos
- City of Toronto Heritage Register: 33 Hazelton Ave
- The Globe Newspaper Archives: Feb 22, 1890, pg 11
- The Toronto Daily Star Newspaper Archives: Mar 7, 1925, pg 5
- The Globe and Mail Newspaper Archives: Sep 10, 1947, pg 4
- The Globe and Mail Newspaper Archives: Jan 7, 1948, pg 5
- Toronto Star Newspaper Archives: Apr 3, 1971, pg 56
- Toronto Star Newspaper Archives: Oct 25, 1973, pg E10
- Toronto Star Newspaper Archives: Nov 3, 1973, pg E1
- Toronto Star Newspaper Archives: Aug 18, 1975, pg D1
- Toronto Star Newspaper Archives: Nov 8, 1975, pg F7
- Landmarks of Toronto: Volume 4 by J Ross Robertson (1904), pgs 486-488
- Photos: Denise Marie for TorontoJourney416
- Vintage Photos: City of Toronto Archives & Toronto Public Library