Bathurst Street Theatre
Bathurst St Theatre housed in a former church
|Architect||Gordon & Helliwell|
The Bathurst Street Theatre is a theatre in Toronto, Ontario, that is housed in a former church. The Gothic revival building is located at 736 Bathurst Street at Lennox, one traffic light to the south of Bloor Street, Honest Ed's, the Bathurst Street Subway Station, and across Bathurst from Central Technical School. The 500 seat theatre is in the former church sanctuary while the smaller 100 seat Annex Theatre is in an adjoining building at 730 Bathurst Street.
The buildings are owned by and house the Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts. The theatres are used for the school's production and are also rented out to travelling shows and local theatre companies.
The building was originally home to Bathurst Street Wesleyan Methodist Church. This congregation was an extension of Elm Street WMC, and started in 1860. In 1862, services were being conducted in a cottage on nearby Markham Street, and the area was still known as Seaton Village, still outside of the Toronto city limits.
After a gift of land on Bathurst Street from the son of John Strachan, the first building on this site was constructed in 1866. Following a congregational split in 1869 when Primitive Methodists in the area formed their own congregation), this congregation continued to grow, and was joined by the former Primitive Methodist congregation in 1884, following the union of Methodists across Canada.
The present building (Bathurst Street Methodist Church) was erected by the congregation in 1888 to meet the demands of the growing population, and the United Methodist presence in Toronto. The building was designed by the architectural firm Gordon & Helliwell.
In 1925 the congregation joined the new United Church of Canada and became Bathurst Street United Church; a minority of Presbyterians from St. Paul's PC (then located north of Bloor) joined, as St Paul's (who merged with Dovercourt Road PC in 1968, Chalmers in 1980, Dufferin Street PC in 1994, and closed in June 2005), remained within the Presbyterian Church in Canada.
In the 1950s, as the earlier families emigrated to the suburbs, the congregation shrank. A number of strategies were tried to increase attendance, one of these was the Sunday Evening Forums wherein the Sunday evening sermon was replaced by a panel discussion on social issues among prominent guests. Running from 1944 to 1951 noted panelists included Tim Buck, who lived nearby.
The small congregation had difficulty maintaining the old structure and increasingly they began to rent out the building for concerts and plays. Increasingly the building became better known for its role as a theatre than for being a church.
In 1985 the congregation finally opted to leave the building and it now meets at nearby Trinity-St. Paul's United Church. The building became a permanent and well known theatre. In 2000 the United Church of Canada sold the building to George Randolph Jr..
Currently, the Bathurst Street Theatre remains home to the Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts.
The theater seats 500 people at full capacity (when the upper balcony is full).
- Early History source; T.E. Champion, The Methodist Churches of Toronto, 1899 William Briggs, Toronto.
- "Theatre needs angel ; Parking requirements doom venerable Bathurst unless saviour comes to the rescue", Ariel Teplitsky. Toronto Star. Toronto, Ont.: Mar 6, 2000. pg. 1