Walking tour takes in Toronto’s historical downtown churches

  • April 16, 2009
TORONTO - Looking for a free guided tour of historic churches in downtown Toronto? Just look for Eric Parker and Bill MacDonald and their blue umbrellas.

Both are volunteers with the Royal Ontario Museum who lead guided walks as part of the museum’s community outreach.

The annual “Sacred Stones and Steeples” walk will take place on May 3 at 2 p.m and another tour called “Jarvis Street: Mansions and Churches of the Rich and Religious” will be on May 20 at 6 p.m. Each walk will be repeated throughout the summer.

The “Sacred Stones and Steeples” walk starts at King and Church Streets and ends at Ryerson University, passing by several churches along the way, including St. Michael’s Cathedral, St. James’ Anglican Cathedral and St. George’s Greek Orthodox Church.

MacDonald, a 74-year-old former history and geography teacher, said he will talk about the history of the St. Michael’s Choir School and some of the famous people who studied there, including Les Miserables star Michael Burgess, jazz singer Matt Dusk and tenor John McDermott.

Parker, who has led the “Jarvis Street: Mansions and Churches of the Rich and Religious” walk for the past 15 years, said one of the highlights will be a stop at the original home of the Massey family, reportedly among the richest families in Toronto’s history. What’s impressive about the home, aside from its Queen Anne-style Victorian architecture, is that it still stands today, said Parker, 77, a retired executive with a manufacturing company.

The walk— beginning at the corner of Bloor and Church Streets — also highlights economic transformation of the Jarvis Street neighbourhood which is experiencing a revitalization, Parker said.

“One of the most interesting comments we get all the time is ‘I lived in the city all my life but I never knew this was here,’ ” he said.

For more information, contact:  (416) 586-8097 or e-mail visit@rom.on.ca or see www.rom.on.ca .

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