Sites listed in the Ontario’s Places of Worship inventory are purpose-built religious buildings designed for worship, located in Ontario and more than 25 years old. A building need not still be in religious use or be in use by the organization that built it in order to qualify for inclusion. The inventory does not include cemeteries or other non-architectural sacred places, such as natural or archaeological sites.
Ontario is home to the widest diversity of faiths in Canada. There are currently 55 religions represented in the Ontario’s Places of Worship inventory. These physical and cultural landmarks reflect our diverse society and help to define Ontario’s communities.
When this resource was launched in September 2009, it held approximately 1,500 records. By 2010, the Trust will have uploaded more records and refined the information in the inventory. As the Trust continues to update the inventory, it is expected to house more than 5,000 records.
The Ontario’s Places of Worship inventory – the only comprehensive listing of religious properties in the province – began its development in 2006 when the Ministry of Culture asked the Ontario Heritage Trust to undertake a provincial inventory of religious buildings. Ontario’s Places of Worship was developed to address the ongoing stewardship and adaptive reuse of Ontario’s religious properties.
Ontario’s religious properties are increasingly at risk as a result of demolition, neglect and deterioration. Some of the challenges facing religious properties include shifting demographics that have led to closures, the amalgamation of congregations in some faith communities and a trend toward constructing new places of worship rather than reusing existing religious buildings. In order to better understand the nature and gravity of this issue, it was first necessary to survey the province to determine its scope. The Ontario’s Places of Worship project is the culmination of that work.
Over 80 per cent of culturally significant religious buildings in the province are not identified in existing local heritage inventories.
All information included the inventory is public information. The records have been assembled from provincial, municipal and federal sources, such as lists, plaques, walking tours, Doors Open Ontario events and academic publications. Properties have also been documented through site visits by Trust staff.
Inventories are the first step in the conservation process. They permit one to know the extent of a region’s heritage resources, as well as the relative place of each resource within that region. In order to make informed decisions about the future of heritage resources, one needs to fully understand their context, background and significance.
This project will help improve our knowledge of Ontario’s places of worship through documentation – the first step in making informed decisions about these sites – to ensure that our significant religious architecture is well preserved and protected for the future.
This inventory is an extensive survey of religious buildings that will assist faith groups, municipalities, academics, heritage organizations and the province with capital planning, conducting heritage evaluations, assembling preservation strategies and developing adaptive reuse options for religious sites.
Based on the information included in each record, the Ontario’s Places of Worship inventory will assist users in understanding the context of each site, its rarity and typology, as well as its comparables in the community and across the province.
The inventory is intended to give communities the basic information about the places of worship in their area to make decisions about which ones possess cultural heritage value, which are representative, rare or unique and which should be recognized through listing or designation for their heritage significance.
An inventory takes time to grow and develop, especially one as complex as the Ontario Places of Worship inventory. The public is encouraged to provide input on specific sites through the Comments form, Feedback form and email (firstname.lastname@example.org). If you see an error or a piece of information currently listed as unknown – and you have the answer – please share your information with us.
The Ontario Heritage Trust will continue to add to the inventory and post additional resource materials to this website as they are developed. The status of any properties in the inventory, including demolition or change in use, will be updated regularly and users are encouraged to provide input using the Comments form, Feedback form and email (email@example.com).