Congregation of St. Basil Holy Rosary Church
Brief History of Holy Rosary Church

In 1882, Father Lawrence Brennan, C.S.B., then Parish Priest at St. Basil's Church on St. Joseph Street, purchased 50 acres of land with a frontage of 320 feet on St. Clair Avenue West. At that time, this was farmland well out in the country from Toronto. Father Brennan bought it as a farm for St. Michael's College and subsequently, for the building of a novitiate to train young men who aspired to become priests. He had no idea of the eventual value of such land today.

On May 8, 1892, the corner stone was laid for the novitiate together with a chapel, which would also serve as the parish church for the large Irish community then developing at Bathurst and St. Clair. By October 1892, both the novitiate and the chapel were ready for use. The chapel was dedicated to Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary. The original parish hall opened in 1914 and became a gathering place for teaching, community social events, active parish groups, and events for relief of war victims.

In August 1924, Father Michael Oliver was appointed pastor with instruction to plan for a new church to accomodate the growing Parish. Father Oliver had a particular love for the churches of England, and he modeled the new Holy Rosary Church after the 15th century Gothic church St. Mary the Virgin in St. Neots, Huntingdonshire, England. His Grace Archbishop Neil McNeil laid the cornerstone for the new church on May 30, 1926. The completed church cost about $150,000 and was opened and blessed on May 8, 1927.

The first stained glass window was installed over the main altar in 1928 and was dedicated to the memory of the donor's son, John Franklin Brown, Jr. who was killed in the First World War. The installation of the great tower window over the choir loft began in 1931 followed by the installation of the other windows continuing through to their completion in 1945.

As a result of the efforts of Father Oliver, today we have one of the most beautiful churches in Toronto with its classical Gothic simplicity and beautiful stained glass windows.



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