Stop 9 – Congregation Knesseth Israel

Maria Street

56 Maria Street. Knesseth Israel Shul. date October 1993, photographer Pat Russell
Source: Heritage Toronto Project, date acquired July 1995

Maria Street Synagogue, Congregation Knesseth Israel
photographer Francine Dick, Source Francine Dick,
date acquired 1980s

The Junction Shul, Congregation Knesseth Israel, was established in 1909 at the corner of Runnymede and Maria.  The building permit for this Ellis and Connery-designed building was issued in 1911, and is believed to be the only synagogue that Ellis ever designed.  Maria Street was, at this time, home to a thriving Jewish population.  In addition to the synagogue, Maria Street was also home to many Jewish businesses including bakeries, scrap metal dealers, and a kosher butcher.  It is now the oldest, purpose-built synagogue in Ontario.

Architectural Notes:

  • simple brick box capped with pyramidal roof
  • facades rise up and break through roof eaves to allow the walls to rise up
    towards the heavens
  • additional height of walls allows lots of wall space to accommodate the large
    circular windows with unique mullion placement
  • architect is trying to create new design language for shul, avoiding Christian
    associated design elements, witness the aprons (brick panels below the windows
    sills) mimicking antependiums, or altar coverings
  • corner buttresses anchor building and visually reinforce facades

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