On May 5, Cardinal Thomas Collins blessed the Archdiocese of Toronto’s new satellite office at 830 Bathurst St., just south of St. Peter’s Parish.
The Paulist Fathers opened the Catholic Information Centre to attract new converts to the faith, says architect Mary Ellen Lynch of its origins. Located at Bloor and Bathurst, the building is central and accessible to all – something the Paulist Fathers wanted for welcoming those interested in Catholicism. The Paulist Fathers left their Toronto ministry in 2015.
“The location is excellent and easily accessible by transit, which is essential for both new refugees and youth – the two main user groups (with offices to serve them found) on the main level.”
While the Office for Refugees at the Archdiocese of Toronto (ORAT) and the Office of Catholic Youth are the primary occupants, Management Information Services has a training centre and space is also being rented to the Loretto Sisters Archives, explains Facilities Manager Amy Elliott. The Archives of the Roman Catholic Archives of Toronto, as well as Marriage Tribunal, have a storage area in the building that is built to museum-quality standard.
ORAT Director Deacon Rudy Ovcjak is impressed by the quality of the building. “This is a testament to the capability of the facilities team, architect and construction company who have done such a great job in updating the former Paulist Centre. It is a great space to work in, bright, clean and with a modern design.”
The open design of the office will help foster the personal interactions that have largely been absent during the pandemic, he adds.
Updating a heritage building is not without its own unique challenges.
The building is not what comes to mind when you think of a heritage building, explains Lynch.
“Some of the heritage attributes of the building are its situation directly at the sidewalk, nicely accentuating the grassy-open area surrounding St. Peter’s, as well as its limestone detailing, especially around the entry porticos. The buff brick is vintage Ontario stock and is no longer available today. The masons had to reuse bricks removed for the elevator opening and from other inconspicuous locations on the building to infill at the front.”
Lynch adds that the Archival spaces needed to achieve Class A museum standards, and this was a challenge for a building of this period with limited moisture control and insulation. “To protect the archdiocese's large collection of documents and artifacts, we had to incorporate watertight, fire-rated and climate-control systems.”
Protecting items of such historical significance comes down to is ensuring the right environment – temperature and humidity which requires a state-of-the-art HVAC system, explains Frances O’Regan, Director of Archives.
“The shelving is also open, that is its moveable, to ensure airflow and provide easy access to items without having to shift things around thus avoiding possible damage.”
In terms of its size, there is more than 5,000 linear feet of storage space in the vault.
At the moment, the building is only accessible to the public by appointment, due to the pandemic, but it is sure to serve the faithful of the archdiocese for decades to come.