Backgrounder - Heritage Façade of Jazz

167 Church Street

Originally known as the Athenaeum Club, the building was designed and built in 1891 by the architectural firm of Denison and King. Completed in a Moorish Revival Style, a rarity in Toronto, the building is architecturally significant for its brick craftsmanship.

  • In 1904, the building changed hands to become the Labor Temple, the symbolic home of Toronto’s labour movement until 1967.
  • During the unemployment crisis of 1909, the assembly hall was the scene of large meetings for the unemployed.
  • In 1923 James McArthur Connor wrote in a volume of Municipality of Toronto: The Labor Temple is now recognized as the greatest free-speech centre in Ontario, when restrictions have been placed and halls refused to advocates of unpopular causes, the Labor Temple has been thrown open, the directors believing that the best thing to prevent revolt is the public discussion of grievances.
  • Later in the Hungry Thirties, the Labor Temple again provided a platform for the unemployed to meet.

The building’s façade stands four stories high on a proud, quarry-faced stone foundation that is punctuated by paired square basement windows. Smooth ashlar on the first level is combined with round-headed windows that exhibit decorative, pierced wood divisions. Features on the principal façade of the building include the intricate brickwork, notably the upper floors, clad with finely executed basket weave, mouse-tooth, zig-zag and raised diaper patterns.

Windows on the second and third levels have flat stone lintels or Moorish arches. The central tower of the Church Street façade is asymmetrically planned with a tower that is offset from the centre.

At the foot of the tower the main entrance is recessed and displays a decorative stone surround beneath a pressed metal cornice, further emphasized by the recessed balcony above. The significant Moorish design influences include the window arches and the cast-iron column of the balcony adorned with a striking exotic capital.

The building’s tower contains an oriel window and a smaller pair of windows with Moorish arches that is capped by a pyramidal roof with exposed eaves and a chimney.

Adjacent to the south of Athenaeum Club/Labor Temple, the row-houses of 163 and 157 Church Street are a significant aspect of Toronto’s original architecture and these buildings provide an early example of the city’s residential design.

163 Church Street

Constructed in 1844 by Thomas Preston, 163 Church was rebuilt with an additional floor prior to 1856. Key elements of the façade include rectangular massing, triangular and segmental arched pediment window surrounds composed of reinforced stone, side pilasters, decorative scrolls, a row of dentils between the first and second storey, continuous sills beneath the window openings and three double courses of brick stringers below the cornice line.

157 Church Street

Constructed between 1845 and 1849, the row-houses at 157 Church Street are an excellent example of the Georgian style. The principal two-storey façade rises beneath a pitched roof with exposed eaves and paired wooden brackets. Gable-style dormers on the roof of the north row-house feature flush eaves. Fenestration on the second storey feature multi-paned windows cased in flat-headed openings with wood trim and splayed lintels.

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