Davenport United Church

Davenport

1900 Davenport Road. Davenport -Perth Neighbourhood Centre. Long shot,  front entrance.  Photographer John Huzil.

The earliest incarnation of what was to become the Davenport United Church (formerly Methodist) would have been prayer meetings held at the home of area pioneer Bartholomew Bull from around 1818.  Between 1826 and 1840, Egerton Ryerson preached often at the Bull home.  In the 1850’s, the population of the Davenport was more than 2,000 as brick manufacturing developed around the Village of Carlton (now Weston Road and St. Clair) and the congregation outgrew Bull’s cabin.  George Cooper donated a cabin for the purpose to the west of Bull’s on Dundas.   In 1857 a brick church and a cemetery were built on the current site.  Prominent members of the congregation included Allan Royce, a town councillor (Royce Avenue and Victoria Royce Presbyterian church are named after his family); William Rowntree, the Davenport postmaster and proprietor of Rowntree’s Grocery Store; Dr. John Taylor Gilmour, who started the York Tribune newspaper and was Member of the Provincial Parliament for West York and later warden of Toronto’s Central prison (Gilmour Avenue is named after him.)

James Ellis was commissioned to prepare plans to enlarge the church circa 1900. Ellis incorporated the east wall of the existing building into his design, the rest was demolished.  The new building “was square in plan with a cross-vaulted ceiling of wood trusses on iron columns.”  It accommodated more than 400 people.  The building underwent later extension in 1912 to accommodate a pipe organ in the rear and in 1913 the cemetery was transformed into an ice rink.  In 1938 the Memorial Gardens were created nest to the original east wall.

gate

Gates to Bull Family Memorial Garden at Davenport United Church, now Davenport-Perth Community Centre, affectionately known as the “bull pen” to the congregation of the church. Monument to Maria Scott Brennen Bull.  Photographer Deborah Cox. Source Deborah Cox.

Architectural Notes

  • Dominant visual features are the grand entrance steps leading to a wide flattened romanesque (almost tudor in style) arched main  doorway, and the 2 towers flanking the front facade.
  • The main entrance leads to a vestibule which provides a transition space between the exterior and the sanctuary.
  • The vestibule roof is kept low so as to not obstruct the main  sanctuary’s grand romanesque arched windows, which at night would act as a beacon to the faithful. The windows reflect a typical Christian theme of three windows grouped together, making manifest the Holy Trinity.
  • The tallest tower is the traditional campanile or bell tower, made plain by the louvred openings at the top. The tall narrow windows combined with the parapet wall at the roof give the tower a martial feel.
  • The second tower, completes the framing of the entrance and provides street access to the basement level public rooms. The doorway has clerestorey lights over the pair of doors, underneath a massive rough-hewn stone lintel (which makes the connection to the fact that this entrance leads down to the lower level and differentiates it from the main entrance).

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