Renovation Story

Keeping You updated on

Asbury and West United Church Renovations

Home at Last
After what seemed sometimes to be endless delays, we held our first service on July 6, 2014.
Our beautifully renovated building is ready to welcome our neighbours, and we have space for community groups to use.  We have already hosted our first wedding and our first family party!

We present a picture album of the spaces in our home. 

3180 Bathurst Street now adds light to the neighbouthood

The New Sanctuary
Our sanctuary can seat 275 persons. We can add more seats by opening the  glass doors at the rear. In addition, the room can be reconfigured for conferences placing the movable pew chairs around tables. And the pew chairs are very comfortable!

Looking Forward in the Sanctuary

The Black and Moffat design preserves the feeling of spaciousness and uses colour to both unify the elements of the space and to create a warm ambience. Skylights make the room brighter. The chancel platform can be completely cleared of furniture, including the organ, to create a stage suitable for performing arts presentations.

The stained glass windows are as bright as new after restoration by McCausland Stained Glass, a restoration partly funded by Heritage Preservation Toronto's grant of $26,000.  

A new sound and light system by Grassby and Associates provides crystal clear broadcast of services and meetings.

The Phoenix Organ

The organ, with 52 stops and 9 audio channels was voiced by Tonal Director Don Anderson, of Phoenix Organs. Phoenix worked closely with architects to ensure an aesthetically pleasing speaker installation for the best sound possible. The instrument can produce over 200 sounds and can be used to play music from the baroque period, through to the latest styles.

The console is sitting on a rolling plinth in a pit and the floor behind the console can be lifted creating a channel, allowing the console to be rolled to the back of the chancel, out-of-the-way to allow full use of the platform.

This magnificent organ is dedicated to the memory of William R. Shewalter, who served as Minister of Music from 1963 to 1995. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16

The Upper Room
 A big adjustment for many of us - the church hall is no longer in the basement! Our new all-purpose room is a one stop ride UP on the elevator. A brief mention here; we are fully accessible to persons who find stairs difficult, or who use mobility aids.

The New Kitchen
 Located next to the all-purpose room, our new kitchen can be used to heat or cool food for catered events.

Meeting Room

Our smaller meeting room, on the main level, can accommodate up to 30 persons, and is already being used for meetings and educational presentations.

All our facilities are available for community use. Call 416-783-6503 or write to

Chapter 9,  January 8, 2014
Our blog has been idle for some time, but now we are back. And we are looking forward to final completion of our building in the spring.

The tower is complete and the water/ ice barrier is going onto the roof.

There are many systems in the renovated building: air, heat, light, sound, plumbing, elevators, sprinklers, fire alarms, and security. Each system is designed and then inspected by a mechanical or electrical engineer.  Then a city inspector must also approve each system before we can occupy our building. Many of these systems are inside walls, in separate rooms or on the roof! But we will have to become accustomed to seeing HVAC ducts and sprinklers on the ceiling of our church. 
The sanctuary, looking towards the back wall. The space at the bottom will be closed with sliding glass doors.
Looking towards the front of the sanctuary. The curved front of the chancel is visible.
Our stained glass windows are being re-installed, and our other windows are being restored, by McCausland Stained Glass. This firm, now run by the fifth generation of the family, was established in 1856. The Phoenix Organ Company has completed a new organ for us, which they will install when the dust settles.
We found a problem in the basement, with the original floors. There were abrupt changes in height between levels where old rooms were demolished. This added to cost as the contractor must make the floors level for installation of flooring.  Once that is done, the daycare will be complete, needing only plumbing fixtures installed.

One of the daycare classrooms, designed for toddlers. The windows were enlarged to met requirements of the Day Nursery Act: glass area must be at least 10% of floor area. This floor is new and therefore, level.

Our two lifts, the main elevator at the front entrance and the wheelchair lift from the garage, were well underway before the Christmas holiday, and will be completed in January.

Inside the elevator shaft. The ladder is resting on the floor of the elevator car.

The tile man at work in one of the new washrooms on the main level.

The new front steps are complete and awaiting the railings.  A restored main floor window is visible at top left.

History Lesson #9
The Asbury and West United Church congregation was bursting with new members as the baby boom got truly under way in the early fifties. The congregation raised funds to build another, larger sanctuary.  In 1958, the cornerstone was laid for the largest building yet. This new building was placed at the end of the 1951 administrative wing, and held a sanctuary that would seat 800, with a balcony for the overflow. There was large meeting room with Sunday School classrooms in the basement, a parlour on the main floor and a second meeting room on the second floor. The old sanctuary became an all purpose room.  The church now had room for a large congregation on Sunday, and mid week activities for children, youth and adults.
Chapter 8                                                                                   July 3, 2013
The Bad News and the Good News
Our renovation is running behind schedule by about three months. The work was slowed by the bad winter, and then the interior steel work was very slow. The cumulative effect of these problems has put off completion until the late fall. Nevertheless, we continue.
Now the good news:
Outside, the new front steps are going in; the new ramp to the south doors is finished, and the brick to clad the new concrete structures has arrived. Now it is time to place our new time capsule, which will go behind the bricks. Inside, wiring and plumbing continue, walls are going up and ductwork in the basement is almost complete. Once the roof is again closed in, the drywall will be installed for the rooms at the east end of the main floor.
And the really good news: Toronto Heritage Preservation Services have granted us funds to assist in restoring our stained glass windows. The grant will pay for 50% of the cost.

The hallway of the new daycare. 
The walls are up, and the framing for the dropped ceiling is visible.
Architect Marie Black approves the coolur of the new bricks
 The new entrance and elevator tower, looking east along Saranac Boulevard
 The creative team: Kembic Construction and Marie of Black and Moffat, Architects.

History Lesson #8
After the 1947 amalgamation of the Asbury and West congregations, the third building project began.  In 1951, the 1899 church was raised, moved back from Bathurst Street and placed on a new basement.  A narthex (foyer) and entrance were constructed at the front of the building. A flight of steps were built inside the entrance to give access to the sanctuary, which was now much higher than before.  An administrative wing with three offices was constructed parallel to Bathurst Street.

Chapter 7: June 20, 2013

- with apologies to our interested friends for the delay. We have been busy!

A great deal has been accomplished in the last 6 weeks. The wall of the sunken patio for the daycare is built and the new entrance addition is ready for topping off. Once the top of the new addition is on, then work will begin on the mechanical equipment that will sit on its roof

 Looking up at the new entrance, second floor

 The new ground floor entrance takes shape.

Meanwhile, inside there is a lot going on! Wall board is almost complete in the daycare.On our last visit, we had no access to the daycare because of all the different workmen in the space. We will post new pictures of the daycare after our July 3 visit.

The main level is beginning to take shape, and the walls for new offices and meeting rooms have been framed.The shape of the new nave and chancel can be seen. On the top floor, we can see the shape of the meeting room, and actually walk out onto the new second floor vestibule.
The roof is off! Looking out towards the new entrance addition.

 Looking towards the rear of the sanctuary. The framing for new offices and rooms is visible.

View from the new second floor at the new chancel.

Our crew inspects the new offices.
History Lesson #7
In 1925, Asbury Methodist Church joined with other Methodist, Congregational and Presbyterian churches to become the United Church of Canada.
In 1947, as the brick building approached 50 years of age, a new group of worshippers joined the Asbury congregation. This group of people came from West Church, originally in the downtown area. The amalgamated congregation, in practical fashion, decided to name the church, "Asbury and West United Church."

 Chapter 6:                                                                                                        April 2013
The interior of the building is taking shape.  In the basement, the walls have been framed and wiring conduits are being installed for electric power, data, telephone and security systems.  All the plumbing is roughed in.  Fireproofing and the sprinkler system will be next.
 Upstairs, the steel beams are slowly going up to support the second floor. This process is slow and painstaking, because of the weight of the beams. The steel workers are raising each beam with small chain lifts, then riveting and welding.  The re-structured sanctuary and the enlarged second floor are becoming visible.

View of daycare area: lower level of the church building

Structural steel for the new second floor

Tower: gone about as far as it can go and waiting for its brick skin.  The floor of the upstairs vestibule can be seen.

History Lesson #6.
The congregation of Asbury and West raised funds and worked to build a new brick church to replace the one that burned down, completing it in 1899.  This was the second building in a pattern that would be established: the congregation would build and rebuild every 50 years or so, to suit the needs of the time

March, 2013
The floor of the new entrance, looking east towards Bathurst Street
The floor of the new entrance and the elevator, looking west along Saranac Road.
Chapter 5:  March 2013
Interior steel work and exterior underpinning are now essentially complete.  K
embic Construction is calling for complete wiring diagrams, as the gypsum board arrives and the building of walls begins in earnest.  The plans for wiring have proved to be complex, due to the different requirements. We have: lighting, power, sound, organ speakers, visual projection, security, phone and data systems, which all require their own wiring plans.  
The operators of Forest Hill Montessori, our new daycare, have finalized their plans and work is progressing on the lower level.  The goal is to be ready for September opening.
Outside, the elevator tower continues to rise. The next big project here is to build the entrance structure between the elevator and the building.  That structure will also be a part of the support for the new upper floor of the church.
Tasks as we move forward include deciding where all our furniture and heritage objects will be placed when we move back to our home.

History lesson #5
When the Methodist congregation first moved onto the site at 3180 Bathurst Street, they decided to name their church in honour of Francis Asbury, one of the first two Methodist bishops in North America. A brief account of Francis Asbury’s life may be found in Wikipedia.
Asbury United Church prospered in their wooden building until 1899. That year, a fire destroyed the building. It was time to build again.

The church tower and the condo approaching completion

Chapter 4: Moving Along
The construction crew took a well-deserved two week break over the Christmas period, and have now  been hard at work since January seventh.  The elevator foundation is growing, and the new windows for the daycare are being installed.  We count on the double glazing to help with the heating costs! Meanwhile, inside the building the highly technical work of reinforcing the floor goes ahead, as the contractor prepares to build two giant supporting columns for the new second floor.  Co-ordination of audio-visual and church organ systems will be finalized, so that plans for wiring conduits can be completed.

History lesson #4
The congregation now worshipping  at 3180 Bathurst Street, began as a Methodist house church in 1812.  The specific address – is there were addresses at that time – is not known.   As the congregation grew, they moved to the local school, located near what is now known as the Bathurst and Lawrence intersection.  Then, in 1845, on a gift of land from the Henry Mulholland Family, the first church was built at what is now known as 3180 Bathurst Street.

Chapter 3:  More Giant Rabbit Burrows                               December 7,2012
The digging continues!  To the casual observer, the shifting of dirt around must seem like a children’s sand pit on a giant scale. But a close look will show that much has happened.  Cutting of the walls to enlarge the lower windows  has been completed, and concrete wells poured where the windows are below ground level.  City contractors are digging their own holes, in order to install new water and sewer connections.  Out of sight behind the building, the builders have completed the walls for a new furnace and equipment room, and the tunnel to the underground parking is complete!  The latest completed task was laying the pipes for new plumbing in the planned daycare on the lower level.  Next up: laying the foundation for the new church tower and elevator.

History lesson #3
The congregation voted to unlock the value of the land by selling a portion of the property, and using the proceeds to build a modern, “green” building that would include a new child care facility, and also be useful to the community in other ways.  We set out to explore the possibilities.  In this, we were aided greatly by the advice of Bruce Hemphill of Don Valley Presbytery.  There were several interested groups to begin with, including a long term care facility, two life lease retirement condominium builders, and an organization that builds affordable condominiums.  After considering the possibilities, the congregation decided that affordable family housing would best meet the needs that we saw in our community.  The trustees of the church agreed with Options for Homes to sell them approximately 75% of our lot, keeping the front corner of the property to construct a new church.  For more information about Options for Homes, try their website

 Black and Moffat, Architects' Working Model

Chapter 2:  Digging to China                                                       October 10, 2012

The building site looks today, as if giant rabbits have been burrowing.   A lot of the underpinning of the foundation is being completed at spots where new structures will need some reinforcing.  This process requires digging down to expose the areas to be reinforced.  There are holes everywhere, and a great hill of earth on the south lawn.

Meanwhile, the concrete cutters have arrived to enlarge the windows on the lower level, and the window well for the south daycare windows

Inside the lower level are more holes, including a deep excavation for the entrance to the underground parking.  On the main level, and upstairs in the former balcony, walls are coming down to reveal the bones of the building.  Soon, new walls will go up as our architects’ plans are made real.

History Lesson #2

Through 2004, the Long Range Planning Committee looked at possible ways to re-energize our ministry in the Bathurst and Lawrence neighborhood.  Examination of the finances showed that we were falling deeper into the red.  We had no funds available to modernize our building, which no longer met our needs.  However, thanks to gifts of land from the Mulholland Family over the years 1845 to 1939, we had one rich resource.  The church property totaled 1.75 acres.  The Planning Committee decided to recommend unlocking the value of the land.

 Chapter 1: The End of the Beginning                                        September 12,  2012

The Asbury and West United Church renovations have begun.  The general contractor is on site and beginning the exterior excavation.  First steps include underpinning the foundation where necessary, followed by construction of deeper window wells, to bring more light into the lower level. Next comes the base level of the elevator tower.  Meanwhile, the various trades’ people are planning out their approach to items like wiring, ductwork and plumbing. 
History Lesson #1
The Asbury and West United Church Congregation began its journey in 1812.  Over two centuries of ministry, the congregation has built several buildings to meet changing needs in the community. By the year 2000, there were five buildings on the site, stitched together to form one large, sprawling building.  By this date, the building was showing its age and becoming too expensive to maintain, and it no longer met community needs like full accessibility. To explore their options, in February 2004 the congregation struck a Long-range Planning Committee with the mandate to bring recommendations for the future.
More information about the history of Asbury and West United Church can be found on Wickipedia,
or in Pioneering in North York: a History of the Borough by Patricia Hart, 1968, available at the Toronto Public Library.