The Church of the Holy Trinity opened in 1847 following the gift of an anonymous donor (later revealed as Mary Lambert Swale of Settle, England). Mrs. Swale had stipulated that all pews were to be free and unreserved, a tenet of the High Church party in England at the time.
The new church was in the midst of what was becoming known as The Ward, St. John’s Ward, a home to immigrants, escaped slaves, and other marginalized people of Toronto.
The site was previously home to Terauley Cottage, the home of the previous landowner and Taddle Creek flowed just to the south.
The architect was H.B. Lane, who also designed Little Trinity (on King Street) and St. George the Martyr. The interior was originally extremely plain. During the 1930s — the depression years — the church became known as a home of the social gospel under the then rector, The Reverend John Frank. In 1937 Patricia Frank, his wife, began producing The Christmas Story from a script used at her former home parish of St. Martin’s in the Fields, London. It is still being performed here some 80 years later.
James Fisk, Rector from 1962-1976, made a dynamic impact on Holy Trinity. During his rectorship the laity came to take a larger part in worship and governing the parish. The congregation, with supporters from the larger community, successfully fought efforts by a developer to have the church torn down. The efforts of the congregation also led to the establishment of Trinity Square park and through access from Yonge Street (Trinity Way).
A fire on May 9, 1977 caused damage to the original ceiling and south windows. In 1989 the interior walls of the church, painted in the nineteenth century, and the organ were restored.
From the early 70s to the present day, HT has been a home and incubator to members of the LGBTQ+ community in struggles for recognition and equality. The Community Homophile Association of Toronto held their first meetings and dances here and the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto met here before they had a permanent home of their own.
We worked with the labyrinth network and the city to establish a layrinth in the square beginning in 2000 and it was permanently built in 2005. It is a popular and calming activity in the square.
In 2007 Holy Trinity was joined by the Hispanic congregation of San Esteban. It has proven to be a great relationship with a number of joint bilingual services through the year.
Today Holy Trinity is in a strong position geographically, to minister to the urban core. Holy Trinity strives to work with others in the community to uproot the systemic injustice which entraps the weakest members of our society.
Links to more HT history
- Many old photos of HT at the Toronto Archives here and here.
- A long and fascinatingly detailed history of HT at Torontoist
- A brief history of our membership in the LGBTQ community
- Gerald Robinson talks about our post-fire reconstruction
- Posts on our site in category ‘history’
- Anita Sott, York University – Holy Trinity’s Stained Glass Windows
- Sermons preached in the Church of the Holy Trinity, Toronto, on the four Sundays in Advent, 1868