Our History

A tradition of service
since 1874

Establishing a Parish

St. Matthew’s Anglican parish was established in 1874, when the first service was held on Sunday November 8 at 4 P.M. in the brick schoolhouse near the corner of Allen Avenue and Boulton Street. The first St. Matthew’s Church was built on the corner of DeGrassi Street and Grover, now Cumming Street, in 1875. The site is now a City park. The Church was a roughcast structure, 40 feet by 30 feet, built at a cost of $1,500. The Church opened for public service on July 11th 1876 by Bishop Bethune. The congregation had passed through eight years of pioneer work when Rev. J. Scott Howard took charge on September 28th, 1882. This marked the beginning of a period of growth for St. Matthew’s.

Building 135 First Avenue

On the 25th of March, 1884, the territory north of Queen Street and south of Danforth Avenue, from the Don River east to Greenwood Avenue, was annexed to the City of Toronto as St. Matthew’s Ward. This resulted in considerable subdivision of properties and the building of new homes in the area. St. Matthew’s became a City Parish.

Although the St. Matthew’s church building had been enlarged and a schoolhouse erected, the growth of the congregation and the need for repairs raised the question of a new church. At the Easter Vestry Meeting of 1889 it was decided to build and move to a new location. The Church Wardens at the time were Mr. John Benjamin Vick and Mr. Noel Marshall, both of Riverdale Avenue and prominent Toronto businessmen. A plot of land of 184 feet on First Avenue and 130 feet deep, was acquired.

Designed by the architectural firm of Strickland and Symons, the Church building is of red brick with brown Credit Valley Stone and Ohio Stone dressings. The interior roof is an open timbered one with six principals, fitted with tracing and curved braces with the rafters exposed. The screen separating the choir from the nave is a beautiful example of carved oak work in later Gothic. Over the years the church windows have been fitted with an imposing array of stained glass by the firm of Luxfer, including a great memorial east window dedicated to those who died in World War I and a window of arabesque design removed from the first St. Matthew’s Church. The cost of the building was $19,794.86, exclusive of the gift of brick by 11 eastend brickmakers, and other gifts. The seating capacity is 600. The new St. Matthew’s was opened on Easter day, April 6th, 1890, by Bishop Sweatman.

“Over the years the Church has been an important part of the Riverdale community and contains an impressive array of memorials to its citizens.”

Through the Years

Over the years the Church has been an important part of the Riverdale community and contains an impressive array of memorials to its citizens. The land behind the Church was the original site of the St. Matthew’s Lawn Bowling Club, which was moved to city parkland on the present St. Matthew’s Road in 1906, when the Church hall was built. The St. Matthew’s Lawn Bowling Club Clubhouse, designed by City Architect Robert McCallum, was built on the new site. It is a fine example of Arts and Crafts design and a heritage Toronto designated property. The Club was closed and the Clubhouse moved in 2009 to Riverdale Park East on Broadview In 1959 St. Matthew’s entered into a pioneer joint venture with the City of Toronto. The City purchased the
14 room Dr. Cleland House at 301 Broadview Avenue which was operated by the Church as St. Matthew’s Lodge, a home for the elderly, until 1971. There was also a St. Matthew’s Tennis Club beside the Church for a number of years.

In 1985 the Chinese St. John’s Parish began worship in the St. Matthew’s Church, reflecting the diversity of Toronto’s growing population. St. John’s is today a large and thriving congregation and, in 2008, relocated to their own building in North York. In 1986 the Matthew-John Daycare began operation in the Parish Hall behind the Church. Today the Daycare is a flourishing institution, regarded as one of the finest in the city and reflects the long history of involvement of the St. Matthew’s Church in meeting the needs of the Riverdale Community.

– Gerald Whyte

Riverdale Historical Society
November, 2013