Humber Summit’s Knox Avenue church
By Tim Lambrinos
The growth of spiritual assembly began when a settler boom occurred in the early 1800’s with the arrival of Ontario’s initial wave of pioneers.
New immigrants from England, Ireland and the United States took advantage of 200 acre free land grants offered by Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe. He made conditions that allowed a settler to obtain a sizeable deed of land to operate a farm. In order to obtain the deed to the property, the settler would have to build a dwelling with shingled roof within two years, keep the main road that bordered their property clear and be a practising Christian.
Either by design or convenience, each main intersection developed small central villages that began to form naturally. As a result, centralized churches, schools and other commercial buildings arose near intersections of Simcoe’s newly cleared concession and side roads. The Village of Emery took hold at Finch and Weston Road and Pine Ridge became established along Islington Avenue. Pine Ridge was originally a water-driven mill town that fed off the Humber River. But, by the early 1900’s, with the arrival of steam powered mills, it transformed into something else.
Throughout this time, Humber Summit’s seasonal dwellers built new cottages along Riverside Drive and other new families built more conventional homes as early as the mid 1930’s. In 1937, Pine Ridge’s name was changed to Humber Summit in order to accommodate a post office that was operated by Garn and Vivian Evans. By 1950, many members of Humber Summit’s growing community began to feel there was a need to have a centralized Presbyterian Church and here is the story of how the church was created.
The need for this new church had become more necessary as post war urban sprawl began to fill Humber Summit.
On February 4, 1951, Mrs. Elsie Carson was sitting in her home and had an unshakeable feeling that she needed to do something vigorous to kick-start the construction of a church in the immediate community. This prospect for the new church had been commonly discussed for some time with some of her neighbours. Carson decided to put out a call to Dr. John Addison Ross who was a minister at the Woodbridge Presbyterian Church. The notion intrigued Dr. Ross and an organizing committee was formed that included residents Margaret McCully, Ray Norris, Vince Fox and Mrs. Dora Tansley.
On May 21, 1951, a community meeting was held at the Borden Avenue Public School where 29 locals attended. By January 28, 1952, a congregation was officially recognized which authorized the name of the Pine Ridge Presbyterian Church.
A property was located behind the community fire hall at Knox Avenue and Whitfield and purchased for $1,900 that measured one hundred and seventy five feet by one hundred and seventy five feet. An official sod turning ceremony occurred on December 6, 1953 and was headed up by Dr. John A. Ross and Mr. Herbert D. Carson.
Arrangements had been made to pour the concrete for the foundation of the building the very night before Hurricane Hazel hit the area on October 5, 1954.
The intense flooding delayed the concrete pouring for several weeks. Shortly after the setback, a cinder block building was completed and services were held starting early in 1955. However, the official dedication ceremony took place later in the year on October 16, 1955. Many locals contributed items for the church including Peter Muir who donated the bell for the tower. George and Angeline Rowntree donated the large stain glass centre window near the front alter. And a communion table and alter were provided by the Mount Dennis Brownies in memory of Mary I. Henry who had died on May 9, 1953.
Other community services began to make use of the church including a new venture for youngsters in the summer months of 1955 called Vacation School.
There, youngsters received religious instruction, handicrafts, games and refreshments.
A junior choir was formed in September of 1959 and by Easter Sunday 1960, the choir was adorned with new blue gowns and caps. Throughout this time, sessions were held for Brownies and Girl Guides at the church organized by Elsie Carson. New pews were purchased for the church in 1960 and they exist in magnificent condition to this day.
The church continued to serve the community very well and by the mid seventies became known as the Knox Presbyterian Church.
In 2011, the church was purchased by the Christadelphians and is currently operated by the Toronto North Christadelphians. Alan Ghent is the secretary and he welcomes all to attend the current service, which these days, is only being held online. Kevin and Karin Hill are also prominent members of the congregation.
Although the current members of the congregation commute to the church, they are looking forward to inviting more persons from the local community to get involved and assist with some of their sensational goodwill initiatives. One of their initiatives is a effort intended for children called, Snuggles4kids. It has the motto, “One Stitch, One Square, One Blanket, One Child. You Can Make a Difference.”
Church members get involved with knitting and crocheting 6” X 6” yarn squares to help make blankets, which are currently being sent to families in need in Jamaica. The church supplies the yarn, knitting needles or crochet hooks to anyone who would like to participate in the program. Unless of course if you prefer to use your own yarn and equipment. All of their supplies being used have been acquired through donations of materials or by separate donation funding.
Another outreach initiative in the fall of 2020 involved assisting the homeless with providing 20 sleeping bags to Albion Neighbourhood Services. The church also runs annual food drives and donates to local food banks.
For anyone interested in joining their services online, please telephone 416-745-3200 and members will provide a Zoom link to those interested.
The pews from 1960 still adorn the interior of the building as well as many other of the original artifacts. So give them a call and revisit, or visit, this fabulous location of Humber Summit history. In the words of Kevin Hill, their sermons have become much less “Insular” in today’s society. The congregation plans to make an announcement to the community in the near future when the doors will open for bible study and Sunday school. This is expected to be when the world turns around a bit.