Time Travel Carlaw: Queen Street East Presbyterian and 181-183 Carlaw Avenue

1921-3Come with us way, way back to Carlaw Avenue 1921. We are going to walk up the east side of Carlaw all the way to Gerrard, experiencing some of the views and imagining some of the sounds and smells of Leslieville’s main industrial district. As we walk north away from Eastern Avenue towards Queen, we see how closely housing and factories sit. There was no city planning legislation in Ontario until just before World War One. Small working class houses line Carlaw up to Queen. Meet some new immigrants, mostly from England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, along with some families who’ve been in Leslieville for years — Fogartys, Snooks and others.

British immigrants. - [1911?]
Immigrants from Britain, around 1911. City of Toronto Archives.
Queen St E Presbyterian Church and Leslie trees
From the Toronto Public Library.

A Presbyterian Church anchors the southeast corner of Queen and Carlaw. On November 16, 1877 local Presbyterians with the help of Rev. J.M. Cameron founded Leslieville Presbyterian Church. They worshipped in the Orange Hall (Gowan’s Hall). George Leslie, prominent nurseryman, is the first name in the Church’s register. On November 25th, 1877 they celebrated Holy Communion for the first time. Members built a new red brick Gothic church that opened on July 14, 1878. Henry Bauld Gordon (1854-1951) was the architect. It was laid out in the shape of a cross and seated 400.

18780712 Canada Presbyterian New Ser V 1 No 37 2
The Canadian Presbyterian, Vol. 1, No. 37, 2, July 12, 1878

The Rev. Abraham was the first supply, and helped organize the Sabbath school, but William Frizzell was the first pastor, inducted on October 17, 1882. His pay was $400 a year. The small congregation was united with Chalmers Church and Rev. Frizzell filled both pulpits. Frizzell was an Ulsterman like many in the church. From the start, the congregation was close to the Loyal Orange Order.

In 1883 the congregation built a large Sunday school.  They had a Young People’s Association and a Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavour.  A Willing Workers Society, formed in 1882, helped poor people. They raised money in concerts, lectures and social events. Annual picnics were held as excursions across the Lake to Port Dalhousie, nearer to home at places like the Humber or Victoria Park.  In 1887 about 150 children went to the Sunday School. That year Leslieville Presbyterian Church and Chalmers Church separated. Rev. Frizzell became Leslieville’s full-time pastor. The congregation was self-supporting and had over 300 members. In 1891 the Women’s Missionary Society formed.

Visiting speakers packed the church. Missionaries were popular.  The Church also held special services to spread the Gospel among local people. By the 1890s Leslieville was industrializing. Poor families packed houses along Eastern, Carlaw, Logan, etc.  Many were illiterate. They suffered from tuberculosis, typhoid and other infectious diseases. The Board of Education could not keep up with the growth in population.  The Church offered its Sunday School rooms until public schoolrooms were built. The area was no longer a rural village. In 1894, the congregation voted to change the name. In 1895 the name became Queen East Presbyterian Church. That year two members of the Women’s Missionary Society sailed to China as missionaries.

In 1895 Rev. Frizzell was a leader in the Sabbath Observance Alliance. On May 10, 1897, they packed churches to fight against Sunday streetcars.  William Frizzell argued:

A Sunday service would not be a benefit to workingmen; the day would become a holiday instead of a holy day; the day was set aside for rest and worship.

However, the referendum against Sunday street cars failed.

Many members fought in World War One. 31 died; many more were wounded. The 36th Ulster Division, famous for its bravery, was closely linked to the church. Later a stained glass window was dedicated to the “Red Handers”. The Great War changed Canada profoundly, giving women the vote, for example.  Presbyterians led the movement to women’s rights. For example, Rev. W. Hardy Andrews called for extension of the right to vote to women. Between 1912 and 1925, there were several votes on church union. In 1925, most Presbyterians joined the United Church of Canada.   Queen Street East Presbyterian Church voted against union.

On a Sunday night in 1924, while Hardy Andrews preached on “The Perils of the City”, including in crime among teenagers, two youths broke into the vestry and stole the collection.

In 1928, the congregation built a new Sunday School on Carlaw Avenue beside the church. In 1929 they had the church remodeled at a cost of $45,000.00. S. B. Coon & Son were the architects. Even in the Great Depression the church continued to sustain itself and reach out to the community around it. Queen Street East Presbyterian Church raised $9,055 in 1935.  The Women’s Auxiliary had raised $1,050 that year, a considerable sum at that time.

About 170 from the congregation served in World War Two. Nine died.

Fire almost destroyed the church on January 12, 1968. The banquet hall and most of the sanctuary were saved. Before the fire, Rev. John Robson and Sam Campbell, chair of the Board of Management, had planned to appeal to local businesses for money to modernize the structure. Thus the fire presented opportunities and dangers. There were many ideas about what should be done with the church and grounds. Some had wanted to build a seniors high rise with a church built in. Others worried about red tape and regulations surrounding government grants. Sharp disagreements lead to some members leaving the congregation. On Dec. 19, 1968 the re-built church was re-dedicated. The congregation decided to build a new addition on Carlaw. The tenants of the new building were needed to help defray costs. In 1970 John Robson and members of the congregation helped found the Riverdale Community Organization. In 1987 Rev. John C. Robson retired June after 33 years at Queen Street East Presbyterian Church. He died the next year. The South Riverdale Health Centre dedicated the meeting room which faces the church yard in memory of Dr. Robson.

Challenging times faced Queen Street East Presbyterian Church. Church attendance declined rapidly as society became secular and multicultural.  More people work on Sundays and William Frizzell would have been shocked at stores, malls, sporting facilities, etc., all open on the Sabbath. Virtually all of Leslieville’s churches have faced shrinking congregations. Some church buildings closed as there are no longer the revenues to support them. Queen Street East Presbyterian Church itself went through a long period of rapidly succeeding ministers, far different from the days of Frizzell, Andrews or Robson. The size of the congregation shrank, but became more multicultural, reflecting the neighbourhood. Moreover, these Presbyterians were well placed to deal with change as leadership had always sprung from the congregation itself. They called the pastors and governed the church’s life and had been tested in fire.

For more info:

Queen Street East Presbyterian Church
947 Queen St East (at Carlaw)
Toronto, ON M4M 1J9
Church Voice Mail: 416-465-1143


The first big factory we see on the east side of Carlaw as we cross Queen Street and head north is Kent McClain Ltd. But it won’t be the last. Both sides of Carlaw are lined with factories from Queen to Gerrard.

Here is a listing of the larger factories from the Toronto City Directory of 1921.

Carlaw Ave East Side
181-199 Kent-McClain, Ltd., showcases
201-213 Rolph, Clark, Stone Ltd., lithographers
235-245 Wm Wrigley Jr Co. Ltd. Gum makers
D. Shoup Co. Ltd., paper boxes
British American Wax Paper Co. Ltd.
235-245 Dunlop Tire Rubber Goods Co storage
Eaton Co. Factory
319      George Le Monte & Son, Ltd. Paper manufacturers
325      Connell Anthracite Mining Co. Ltd.
345      Roden Bros. Ltd., silversmiths
347- 353          Flexible Shaft Co. Ltd.
Stanley Piano Co., piano manufacturers
Toronto Hydro Electric System East End Station

GTR Bridge [CNR overpass at Gerrard and Carlaw]

Carlaw Ave West Side
254      Palmolive Company of Canada Ltd.
258 – 326        Phillips Manufacturing Co. Ltd., mouldings
328      Pratt Food Company of Canada Ltd.
330      The Canadian B. K. Morton Co. Ltd.
346      Frederick G. Harrold, coal
388      Jefferson Glass Co. Ltd.
Gerrard St. intersects

Kent-McClain, Ltd., 181-199 Carlaw Avenue, was a major employer manufacturing showcases, bookcases and other furniture for retailers, libraries, etc. As we walk by their factory, the sound of saws, lathes and other heavy equipment pours out of the open shop windows. The air is rich with the smell of sawdust.

torontoonkentmcclainlogoThis three-storey building was built in 1911 in the Edwardian Classicist style and was occupied by Kent-McClain until 1935. Many factories of this period were built in this style. But what is Edwardian Classicism? According to http://www.OntarioArchitecture.com

Edwardian architecture can be split into a few main categories. First there is the Edwardian Classicism which evolved from the Beaux Arts, and often overlapped with the Beaux Arts style. It was extravagant and powerful, perfect for public buildings as well as for new types of buildings that arose in response to the changing social climate of the time. Train stations, libraries and police stations were often built in the high style of Edwardian Classicism, as were commercial buildings and factories. The new electrical power stations in Niagara Falls were also in this overblown classical style.

Edwardian Classicism was popular from the late 1890s through to the First World War. These buildings were meant to impress with their solid massing and impressive facades, but they were also practical and sturdy, much valued in 2016 for condominiums and office space, as well as ground floor retail stores.

Many of the buildings on Carlaw were built with brick from Greenwood Avenue brickyards or the Don Valley brickyard. This building has the large windows typical of the period when electricity was first being introduced into factories. Cheap hydro-electricity helped make Carlaw the industrial success it was in the 1920s. The door way and windows are accented with a light grey limestone.  Like many factories of its time, it has a cornice with modillions with dentils and plain frieze below. If this is all Greek to you, you are on target. These architectural terms come from the buildings of ancient Greece like the Parthenon.

For a definition of building terms go to: http://www.ontarioarchitecture.com/Terms.html

Inside 183 Carlaw, there is a big eight-unit stained glass window featuring the Kent-McClain shield.

For more information about this and other Carlaw  Avenue buildings go  to: http://www.ontarioarchitecture.com/Terms.html

Back to the future of 2016, the building now hosts offices and studios.

181-183 Carlaw Avenue, the Kent-McLain factory. Photo used with the kind permission of Lennard Commercial Realty, Brokerage http://www.lennard.com/
181-183 Carlaw Avenue, the Kent-McLain factory. Photo used with the kind permission of Lennard Commercial Realty, Brokerage http://www.lennard.com/



In the 1920s Kent-McLain is major employer. This photo shows what the inside of their shop probably looked like.

A worker in a similar woodworking factory. Canadian Woodworker and Furniture Manufacturer, Vol. 22, No. 2, February, 1922
Toronto Star, February 6, 1918
Toronto Star, Dec. 12, 1910






A Kent-McClain showcase manufactured for a store at Yonge and Bloor. Canadian Woodworker and Furniture Manufacturer, Vol. 22, No. 10, October, 1922.
A Kent-McClain showcase manufactured for a store at Yonge and Bloor. Canadian Woodworker and Furniture Manufacturer, Vol. 22, No. 10, October, 1922


Proximity to the rail line allowed Kent-McClain to bring in materials such as oak, walnut and other high-quality hard woods as well as to ship out their products across Canada.

In the 1920s the rail sidings on Carlaw served the factories below. Future posts will take us to many of these buildings:

Brandram-Henderson Ltd. (paint & varnish) 377 Carlaw Ave.
Frank A. Bowden & Sons Ltd. (lumber) 377-387 Carlaw Ave.
International Varnish Co. Ltd. 371-375 Carlaw Ave.
Martin-Senour Co. Ltd. (paints) 371-375 Carlaw Ave.
Connell Anthracite Mining Co. Ltd. yd#5 325 Carlaw Ave.
Wrigley Building 245 Carlaw Ave.
Delco-Light Co. of Canada Ltd. 245 Carlaw Ave.
Dyment Ltd. (window displays) 245 Carlaw Ave.
Diamond State Fibre Co. of Canada Ltd. 245 Carlaw Ave. (fibreboard)
De Forest Radio Corp. Ltd.
General Fireproofing Co. 235 Carlaw Ave.
A. D. Shoup Co. Ltd. (paper boxes) 245 Carlaw Ave.
Blachford Shoe Mfg. Co. Ltd.
Geo. LaMonte & Son Ltd. (paper mfgs.) 319 Carlaw Ave.
Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. Ltd.(gum) 235-245 Carlaw Ave.
Rolph-Clarke-Stone Ltd. (litho.) 201-213 Carlaw Ave.
Kent-McClain Ltd. (showcase mfg.) 181-199 Carlaw Ave.
The Palmolive Co. of Canada Ltd. (soap) 58-64 Natalie St.
Phillips Mfg. Co. Ltd. (mouldings) 258-326 Carlaw Ave.
Pratt Food Co. of Canada Ltd. 328 Carlaw Ave. (poultry remedies)
Sturgeons Ltd. (painters supplies) 330 Carlaw Ave.
Frederick G. Harrold’s Coal Co. 346 Carlaw Ave.
Dominion Glass Co. Ltd. 388 Carlaw Ave.

This list was compiled from:



First Train on the new Toronto Viaduct 1927 Globe Sept 24 1927
First Train on the new Toronto Viaduct. Globe, September 24, 1927




Published by Leslieville Historical Society

Welcome to the Leslieville Historical Society's website. Please feel free to join us, to ask questions, to attend walking tours and other events, and to celebrate Leslieville's past while creating our future. Guy Anderson, President, Leslieville Historical Society and Joanne Doucette, local historian and webmaster.

One thought on “Time Travel Carlaw: Queen Street East Presbyterian and 181-183 Carlaw Avenue

  1. Hi here is my grandparents information from Craven Rd
    Herbert Charles Powell (Grandfather)
    Born Friday May 11 1877
    United Kingdom
    Died Sat Feb 9 1946 Toronto

    Alice Eliza Englefield (Grandmother)
    Born Wed Dec 26 1877
    United Kingdom
    Died Thurs Oct 10 1929 @ 557 Craven rd

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