Houses of Holy | St. Paul’s United Church (1853)

Despite being Ontario’s fastest-growing town, Milton was once a rural backwater, a milling town with a notable agricultural background. This made it the ideal spot for many of the Methodist tradition to find themselves. St. Paul’s reminds me of that connection to the past and a church I have my connection to, attending the Milton Community Nursery School before elementary school.

Houses of Holy - St. Paul's United Church (1853)
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The first Methodist circuit riders came into Milton in 1827, Rev Anson Greene holding services at the farm of Elizabeth Harrison. The Harrisons were among the earliest settlers of Milton, arriving even before Jasper Martin. The Milton congregation remained at the Harrison farm and associated themselves with the Wesleyan Branch of the Methodist Church, becoming a stop on the Trafalgar Circuit. As the congregation grew, the need for a meeting house became clear. Purchasing a plot on Main Street at James, the congregation erected a small brick chapel in 1852. Construction lasted a year, and the first service was held in 1853. As the Methodist church expanded, a Milton circuit was created in 1875 and would become a part of the Methodist Church in 1884, uniting with a small New Connexections Congregation that formed back in 1852. As Milton grew, so did the congregation, who began to investigate building a larger church. Construction of a larger sanctuary started with the laying of seven cornerstones in 1890. The Toronto Pressed Brick Co provided the brick, with masonry and plastering led by Joseph Cookson and the carpentry led by Josiah Mason. The Gothic Revival structure featured a large sanctuary complete with gas lighting. The official dedication took place on 8 March 1891. The original chapel was retained and converted into a Sunday School wing. An Edward Lyle Pipe Organ was installed in 1905, and electrical lights replaced the gas lights in 1907. The iconic rose window was installed following World War One to memorialise the war dead in 1919. In 1925, the modern name of St. Paul’s United Church was adopted on the creation of the United Church in Canada. The congregation welcomed several members of Knox Presbyterian Church in Milton who supported the Union. Although the two churches retained a close relationship, they often shared spaces during the Great Depression and the war when fuel was scarce. The old chapel was demolished in the post-war boom, and a new Christian Education Wing, designed by Hanks, Irwin, & Pearson, opened in 1962. The new wing added multi-use rooms, a large and small hall kitchen and offices. Renovations improved the front areas of the sanctuary in 1995, and new cooper cladding was added to the steeple’s top to repair and prevent water damage. In 2006 new structural concerns were brought to light, and support columns were added to the sanctuary to stabilise the church roof and walls. These columns only delayed the major work. In 2010 the matter came to a head, and the question of whether to restore or rebuild caused some division, with the choice to restore getting a majority vote. This was made even more desperate during a fire that caused damage to the sanctuary. The congregation also decided to include a complete redevelopment of the Christian Education Wing. V.G. Architects complete the design work and construction work by Zanatha. The new community building was completed in 2013, and the restored sanctuary was rededicated in 2016. Today St. Paul’s remains an active community member, with the community wing being home to several groups and a Montessori School.

Despite being a downtown Church, St. Pauls is easy to photograph. I took the photo in the evening, and the sun’s position precluded photographing the church from Main Street. But I also wanted to show off the iconic rose window, so I set up on James Street. I had initially put on my 125mm lens but found it too wide and didn’t want to set it up in the middle of the street. So I switched to 150mm and raised the front standard, which helped fill the frame with the church.

If you wish to worship with this congregation, they will be happy to welcome you! Please check out the congregational website for details on attending services worship either in-person on online streaming!

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