The second half of the nineteenth century was a time of wealth, optimism and growth in Toronto. Architecturally, it was an era that would drastically change the appearance of Toronto forever. A small but dedicated number of architects would infuse Toronto’s landscape with a variety of structures, possibly, the most striking being the churches, with their soaring spires, ornate towers and other Gothic Revival attributes. This exhibition honours one of these architects, Henry Langley, and features the Toronto churches that he designed, built and completed.

Henry Langley, 1836-1907, was born in Toronto. He obtained his architectural training by apprenticing for seven years with an established architect, Scottish-born, William Hay, 1818-1888. During an impressive career spanning over forty years, Henry Langley designed more than seventy churches throughout Ontario, approximately a quarter of them in Toronto, as well as many handsome commercial buildings and lavish private homes.

The highlight of the exhibition is thirty architectural plans, from the Library’s Baldwin Room, chronologically displayed. The plans represent thirteen churches of five major denominations: Methodist, Baptist, United, Anglican and Roman Catholic. Although some of these churches have been demolished, others continue to offer sanctuary to community worshippers and those in need. Complementing the plans are photographs that show the transformation from designs on paper to the stately churches and beloved landmarks that they have become.

Supporting the plans are books, pamphlets, ephemera, manuscripts, postcards, photographs and artwork, mostly from the Toronto Public Library’s Special Collections Department. Materials are related primarily to the Langley-built Toronto churches. However, a selection of Langley’s non-Toronto commissions and his Toronto secular commissions are also included. In addition, one section focuses on business-related matters.

We hope that these rarely seen architectural plans by Henry Langley, with their fine lines and impeccable detail, will inspire an appreciation for his contribution to Toronto’s architectural heritage.

Click on the link below to continue on to the first of the churches, Gould Street Presbyterian Church. Or if you prefer, click on the "Contents" menu button at the top left of this webpage to explore this site.

» Gould Street Presbyterian Church