St Andrew’s Church – Toronto’s Historic, Medieval-Style Treasure

2020 - St Andrew's Church at Simcoe St and King St W, looking southwest
2020 – St Andrew’s Church at Simcoe St and King St W, looking southwest

St Andrew’s Church is located at ‪73 Simcoe St‬ (at King St W on the southeast corner) in the Entertainment District of Toronto.

The First Church of St Andrew

The church was founded in 1830 in association with The Church of Scotland. One of the oldest Presbyterian congregations in the country, St Andrew’s first house of worship was built that same year on the southwest corner of Church St and Adelaide St E. In the early 1850s, St Andrew’s was the first Presbyterian church to have organ music. This was very controversial at the time.

With a growing congregation, the church structure became too small. The decision was made to construct a new one on a small piece of land the church owned at the corner of King St W and Simcoe St.

St Andrew’s Church Architecture

1876 - St Andrews Church at 73 Simcoe St and King St W, southeast corner
1876 – St Andrews Church at 73 Simcoe St and King St W, southeast corner (Toronto Public Library R-6460)

Built in 1874/75, the Romanesque Revival style gem was designed by William George Storm. The first service was held in 1876.

St Andrew’s Church is constructed of Georgetown blue and brown sandstone and trimmed with Queenston red-brown stone. Its polished columns are made from Bay of Fundy red granite. The main entrance on King St W is flanked by two towers. It features richly decorated doorway arches springing from carved capitals with a stunning wheel window above. On the Simcoe St side is a great tower that holds the belfry. Topping the 35 m or 116 ft tower are four circular turrets with crow-stepped gables.

Under the roofline on the west and east sides of the church are the words “ST ANDREWS 1875.” Interspersed between them are faces and Masonic symbols, including a heart, square and compass, Jacob’s ladder, a cable tow and a sheaf of corn.

Interior elements include rich woods, galleries and many stained-glass windows. The church initially had a capacity to seat 1,200 people. While today the south end of the church is the chancel, it was initially a Sunday school and assembly area. In 1885, a new SR Warren & Son organ was purchased for $13,000. The organ loft occupies the north gallery.

2020 - Looking south towards St Andrew's Church at King St W and Simcoe St with the CN Tower in the background - the church is constructed of Georgetown, Ohio blue and brown sandstone, trimmed with Queenston red-brown stone, and the polished columns are made from Bay of Fundy red granite
2020 – Looking south towards St Andrew’s Church at King St W and Simcoe St with the CN Tower in the background

Social Work

St Andrew’s Church became one of the most influential Presbyterian churches in Canada and, in 1890, founded St Andrew’s Institute. The centre was a trailblazing organization for social work in Toronto.

An Extensive Renovation

In 1906, St Andrew’s closed to make updates and reopened the following year. There were no alterations to the exterior. The rounded south end became the chancel with choir pews and a second organ. The chancel was painted in peaceful blue and gold colours.

The 48th Highlanders

St Andrew’s has a long history with the regiment, and in 1934, they gifted the oak memorial Communion Table to the church. Three years later, the 48th Highlanders stained glass window, one of the most unique in Canada, was installed.

2020 - The tower at St Andrew's Church
2020 – The tower at St Andrew’s Church

The Neighbourhood Through the Years and the Church Today

By the mid 20th century, downtown Toronto was filled with offices and factories, and many people were moving to the suburbs. There was talk of leaving the downtown core, but the congregation always decided to stay. In the 1970s, the area began to transform once again, becoming the Entertainment District. People started moving back into the apartments and new condos in the neighbourhood.

The church continues to minister to the growing City. It’s open for self-directed tours, ‪Monday through Friday. Visit St Andrew’s Church website for details and a virtual tour.

Did You Know?

  • St Andrew’s medieval style is based on the historic St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall in Scotland.
  • Architect William Storm, also a Freemason, was known for incorporating Masonic symbols into his designs. Other Toronto treasures he designed include Victoria College at the University of Toronto, portions of Osgoode Hall, the tower at the Cathedral Church of St James and the demolished Great Western Railway Station.
  • Church member John Andrew Pearson designed the Communion Table. He was the architect of the Centre Block and The Peace Tower in Ottawa.
  • The church received heritage designation from the City in 1979.
  • The Flag of Scotland flying above the church is the Saltire. Also known as St Andrew’s flag, the X-shaped cross represents the crucifixion of St Andrew, one of the Apostles.
  • On the church’s lower level is the 48th Highlanders of Canada Museum. In its collection is a wooden Vimy Ridge cross.
  • 2020 marked the congregation’s 190th anniversary.
  • In 1852, the 71st Highland Light Infantry attended services at the original Church of St Andrew (at Adelaide St E and Church St) and played instrumental music. In that decade, a choir was formed, a melodeon and later an organ was purchased. Not everyone was happy with the organ music which sparked a debate. A higher church council ordered the organ removed. While it was never taken out of the church, it also wasn’t played. When organ music became more accepted, the General Assembly in Scotland discussed its use, even citing St Andrew’s in Toronto as an example of successful use in the church.
  • The original Church of St Andrew at Adelaide St E and Church St was demolished in 1878.

The Four Corners of King & Simcoe Sts

The four corners of King St W and Simcoe St were once known as Legislation, Education, Damnation and Salvation.

  • Legislation: The Lieutenant Governor’s home was once on the southwest corner. Today it’s the site of Roy Thomson Hall.
  • Education: Upper Canada College was once located on a large piece of land on the northwest corner. Today the Canadian General Electric Company Building is on a portion of the site.
  • Damnation: While the British Hotel once occupied the northeast corner, today it’s home to an office building.
  • Salvation: St Andrew’s Church has been on the southeast corner for more than 140 years.

St Andrew’s Church Photos

1876 - St Andrews Church at 73 Simcoe St and King St W, southeast corner - notice the pattered slate roof
1876 – St Andrews Church at 73 Simcoe St and King St W, southeast corner – notice the pattered slate roof (Toronto Public Library R-6460)
2020 - Looking southeast towards St Andrew's Church at King St W and Simcoe St
2020 – Looking southeast towards St Andrew’s Church at King St W and Simcoe St
2020 - St Andrew's Church at Simcoe St and King St W, looking southwest
2020 – St Andrew’s Church at Simcoe St and King St W, looking southwest
2020 - Looking south towards St Andrew's Church at King St W and Simcoe St with the CN Tower in the background - the church is constructed of Georgetown, Ohio blue and brown sandstone, trimmed with Queenston red-brown stone, and the polished columns are made from Bay of Fundy red granite
2020 – Looking south towards St Andrew’s Church at King St W and Simcoe St with the CN Tower in the background – the church is constructed of Georgetown, Ohio blue and brown sandstone, trimmed with Queenston red-brown stone, and the polished columns are made from Bay of Fundy red granite
2020 - The entrance to St Andrew's Church at King St W and Simcoe St
2020 – The King St W entrance of St Andrew’s Church – notice the chevrons and mouldings richly decorating the arches which spring from ornately carved capitals
2020 - The top of St Andrew's Church Simcoe St tower - notice the circular turrets with crow-stepped gables
2020 – The top of St Andrew’s Church Simcoe St tower – notice the circular turrets with crow-stepped gables
2020 - The principal feature of the Simcoe St facade of St Andrew's Church is the large tower - notice the polished red granite columns supporting the decorative arch trimmed with Queenston red-brown stone
2020 – The principal feature of the Simcoe St facade of St Andrew’s Church is the large tower – notice the polished red granite columns supporting the decorative arch trimmed with Queenston red-brown stone
2021 - Hood mould stop on St Andrew's Church
2021 – Hood mould stop on St Andrew’s Church
2018 - The nave, gallery and chancel of St Andrew's Church
2018 – The nave, gallery and chancel of St Andrew’s Church (Google Maps)
2020 - The back of St Andrew's Church
2020 – The back of St Andrew’s Church
1979 - St Andrew's Church with the Toronto skyline, looking east
1979 – St Andrew’s Church with the Toronto skyline, looking east (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 26, Item 16)
1978 - St Andrew's Church and future site of Roy Thomson Hall at Simcoe St and King St W, looking southeast
1978 – St Andrew’s Church and future site of Roy Thomson Hall at Simcoe St and King St W, looking southeast (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 124, File 3, ID 67)
1981 - Looking southwest from University Ave towards St Andrew's Church and Roy Thomson Hall
1981 – Looking southwest from University Ave towards St Andrew’s Church and Roy Thomson Hall (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 67, Item 9)
2020 - St Andrew's Church at Simcoe St and King St W, looking southwest
2020 – St Andrew’s Church at Simcoe St and King St W, looking southwest
2020 - St Andrew's Church heritage plaque
2020 – St Andrew’s Church heritage plaque
2022 - "ST ANDREWS 1875" along with faces and Masonic symbols under the roofline, on the west and east sides of the church
2022 – “ST ANDREWS 1875” along with faces and Masonic symbols under the roofline, on the west and east sides of the church
2022 - The main entrance of St Andrew's Church at 73 Simcoe St‬, looking south
2022 – The main entrance of St Andrew’s Church at 73 Simcoe St‬, looking south
2022 - One of the towers at St Andrew's Church. Notice the faces and masonic symbols under the roofline
2022 – One of the towers at St Andrew’s Church. Notice the faces and masonic symbols under the roofline
2022 - St Andrew's Church manse at 73 Simcoe St
2022 – St Andrew’s Church manse at 73 Simcoe St
2022 - Looking northeast from Simcoe St, south of King St W towards St Andrew's Church and manse
2022 – Looking northeast from Simcoe St, south of King St W towards St Andrew’s Church and manse
1899 - Sketch of St Andrew's Church, the present-day building at King St W and Simcoe St
1899 – Sketch of St Andrew’s Church, the present-day building at King St W and Simcoe St (Landmarks of Toronto Volume 4 by J Ross Robertson – 1904)
1867 - The first Church of St Andrew on the southwest corner of Adelaide St E and Church St
1867 – The first Church of St Andrew on the southwest corner of Adelaide St E and Church St (Toronto Public Library R-6708)

Four Corners of King St W & Simcoe St Photos

1907 - St Andrew's Church and the British Hotel at Simcoe St and King St W, looking southeast
1907 – St Andrew’s Church and the British Hotel at Simcoe St and King St W, looking southeast – Salvation and Damnation corners (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 7033)
1908 - The British Hotel at Simcoe St and King St W, northeast corner - Damnation corner
1908 – The British Hotel at Simcoe St and King St W, northeast corner – Damnation corner (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 525)
Circa 1912 - The residence of the Lieutenant Governor at Simcoe St and King St W, southwest corner - Legislation corner
Circa 1912 – The residence of the Lieutenant Governor at Simcoe St and King St W, southwest corner – Legislation corner (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1587, Series 409, Item 58)
Between 1908 to 1912 - Upper Canada College at Simcoe St and King St W, northwest corner - Education corner
Between 1908 to 1912 – Upper Canada College at Simcoe St and King St W, northwest corner – Education corner (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 300)
SOURCE