Survey, documentation and research – these are the first steps in the conservation process. How can decisions be made about our heritage without first acquiring a comprehensive understanding of its breadth, history and condition?
For several years, the Ontario Heritage Trust has been assembling critical information on the province’s religious architecture – including: documentation on thousands of churches, synagogues, mosques, temples and meeting houses, as well as historic persons, events and themes spanning more than 85 religious traditions and over 400 years of Ontario’s history. The inventory is as inclusive as possible, but for pragmatic reasons we have limited the study to purpose-built houses of worship more than 25 years old. Some of these sites have already been identified by federal, provincial and municipal governments; others have been recognized by architectural historians, local plaques and markers, walking tours and Doors Open Ontario events. The vast majority of these identified places of worship, however, are unknown and unappreciated outside their immediate communities. They include vernacular masterpieces, postwar gems of modern architecture and new architectural forms and expressions associated with the diverse range of faiths that reflect and contribute to Ontario’s remarkable multicultural society.
The information in the inventory has been collected from a variety of public sources, including: municipal, provincial and federal heritage inventories; local histories and architectural publications; Doors Open Ontario participation; local walking tours and commemorative programs. These and other secondary sources have been augmented by fieldwork and photography.
Fieldwork, undertaken in every region of the province, includes sites still in religious use as well as former places of worship that have been converted to new uses, such as theatres, community centres, museums, galleries, retail stores and residences.
The Ontario’s Places of Worship inventory is a work in progress. It is designed to be participatory, and we encourage the public to tell us more about the sites listed. Aspects of the project will be launched in phases as additional sites are inventoried and research continues, with feedback from our partners, local historians, faith communities and the public.
The Trust is pleased to launch this new resource. We hope it will prove useful to academics and researchers, owners and property managers, heritage advocates and planners. Most significantly, the inventory provides objective, useful information that will help municipal councils make decisions about protecting the province’s religious heritage.
The Trust wishes to thank the Ministry of Culture for its financial assistance and ongoing support for the development of this significant inventory and planning resource. As well, we wish to thank the many students, municipal partners, volunteers and members of faith communities who have shared information with us to make this unprecedented inventory so successful.