Only a few blocks from the Necropolis Cemetery, Toronto’s St. James’ Cemetery is its slightly larger and more prestigious brother. It in fact echoes the same aesthetic as Necropolis, with its numerous obelisks and grounded slab headstones. The two are so close together that it doesn’t make sense to visit one without the other, so I did just that on my first day back in Toronto after nearly a decade away.
This cemetery is the burial ground for St. James Cathedral (Anglican), the oldest congregation in the city of Toronto. Like many churches of era, it had a cemetery adjacent to its grounds, but as the congregation (and burials) grew, they needed more space, and the St. James Cemetery was established in what was then outside the city limits.
The first thing you see as you enter the grounds is the imposing chapel which sits on a small hill, the highest point of the cemetery. Although the cemetery is at the edge of a ravine, it’s only at the far edges that the grounds begin to slope down. I found this an interesting cemetery to walk around, although I was a little pressed for time as I came here late in the afternoon. Unlike the Necropolis cemetery, there are a number of statues here (including white bronze ones) and some family mausoleums.
Overall this cemetery is better than I remember from my previous visits in ’97 and ’06, but it could be that, having visited numerous cemeteries around the world over the years, that I’ve become more realistic in what to expect. There’s lots of interesting history here, one just needs to take the time to look.
As I left the cemetery and walked back to the subway station, I noticed that the iron fence that surrounded the cemetery was in various states of decay. Something unfortunate and I hope they are able to restore sometime soon.
Monuments: A nice variety of monuments, from slab-style headstones (mostly grounded), to some larger family mausoleums and statues
Grounds: Mostly flat, there’s a spot near the ravine that features some hillside tombs/mausoleums. Lots of trees for shade.
Visitors: I only came across two other people during my visit here, one was a woman on the phone in her car, she clearly was not there to visit the grounds at all.
Cemetery: St. James Cemetery
Notable Internments: James Austin, founder of what would become TD Bank; William Pearce Howland and James Cockburn, both Fathers of Confederation; Peter Gzowski, a well-known broadcaster; John J. McLaughlin, founder of Canada Dry
Location: 635 Parliament Street, Toronto. Castle Frank is the nearest subway station
Hours: 08:00-16:30 M-F, 08:00-12:00 Saturday, closed on Sunday
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