St Andrew by-the-Lake Anglican Church is located on Cibola Ave, on Toronto Island. The picturesque church originally stood on the south side of Centre Island, facing the shore of Lake Ontario (southeast of today’s Island Water Treatment Plant). The church was moved from the beachfront to its present location in 1959 and continues as a place of worship for the island community.
St Andrew by-the-Lake Church was built in 1884 at the request of the Most Reverend Arthur Sweatman. Part of the Cathedral Church of St James parish, the church cost $2,000 to construct. Architect Arthur Richard Denison designed the wooden structure in a semi-Gothic and Medieval variation of the Stick-Style. Enlarged in 1895, the cream-coloured church with chocolate-brown trim features a porch, buttresses, Gothic windows, a rose window and a bell-cote. Beautiful stained glass windows throughout the church include a Robert McCausland-designed triptych in the north chancel.
Also built and designed by Denison in 1884 was the whimsical rectory for Reverend Sweatman. The pretty little cottage, known as “Happy-Go-Lucky,” was located next to the church on the west side.
Relocation of the Church
In 1959, St Andrew by-the-Lake church, rectory and parish hall were sold to the city’s Parks Department for $22,978. While the rectory and parish hall were demolished, the church survived. The church was leased back to the Synod and was relocated to Cibola Ave. Before the move, the stained glass windows were removed, and the structure was cut in half near the transept. Once at its new location, St Andrew by-the-Lake Church was repaired, and the stained glass windows were reinstalled.
The historic structure received heritage status from the City of Toronto in 1973 and Ontario Heritage Trust in 1979. However, in October of 1979, for fear the roof would collapse, Metro Parks condemned the church and put a fence around it. When the congregation arrived for Sunday service, using wire-cutters brought by bicycle, they cut through the fence. There was applause and cheering.
This marked the beginning of a five-year closure to restore St Andrew by-the-Lake. The stained glass windows were reconditioned, lighting was updated, and a new wood floor was installed. The exterior was also restored to give it the look of its early years. In 1984, the project was completed, and the church was reopened for the Centennial celebration.
St Andrew by-the-Lake Today
The quaint and charming island church has seating for 100 people in 22 pews. Along with Sunday services year-round, the church is also available for weddings, baptisms, memorial services, funerals, and more, plus the acoustics are lovely for concerts.
Did You Know?
When St Rita’s Roman Catholic Chapel, also on Toronto Island, was demolished in 1984, the Stations of the Cross and pews were moved to St Andrew by-the-Lake. For a time, St Rita’s remaining parishioners attended separate worship services at St Andrew on Sunday afternoons.
While the parish is responsible for maintenance and care of the church building, the City of Toronto owns the structure.
St Andrew by-the-Lake is about a 15 to 25-minute walk from the Algonquin and Ward’s Islands residential communities and 15 minutes from Centre Island dock.