his Gothic Revival Anglican cathedral is home to Toronto’s oldest congregation, founded in 1797. The first church built here in 1807 was constructed out of wood. In 1818, the building was enlarged, and a bell tower—which did double duty as York’s fire bell as well as its church bell—was added. In 1833 the wooden church was replaced with a neoclassical stone building that would, somewhat ironically, catch fire twice, once in 1839, and then in 1849 when the building was completely destroyed by the great fire of 1849. The present building was begun in 1850 and completed in 1875, though services resumed in the chapel in 1853. It boasts the tallest steeple in Canada (and second tallest in North America after New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral). Inside is a Tiffany-style window in memory of William Jarvis, one of Toronto’s founding fathers.
In addition to being a great work of architecture, St. James is a good place to stop and rest for a bit. Unless there’s a service going on, it doesn’t draw much of a crowd, so it feels like a private oasis in the middle of downtown. St. James hosts free organ recitals every Tuesdays at 1pm and Sundays at 4pm. The adjoining park is pretty, too, especially in summer months. Free concerts also take place in the park from June through September, on Thursdays from 7 to 9pm.