Built in 1872, the Toronto Necropolis Chapel remains a stellar example of Gothic Revival architecture in Cabbagetown, attracting many visitors from around the world each year. Known literally as the “City of the Dead”, the Necropolis Church’s 7 hectare grounds became Toronto’s second non-sectarian cemetery, after replacing Potter’s Field of Old York. During the transition, 984 bodies were transported from Potter’s Field to the Necropolis Chapel, where they were buried in a special section known as “The Resting Place of Pioneers”. Of the bodies currently buried at 200 Winchester Street, William Lyon Mackenzie, Toronto’s first mayor, and George Brown, a confederate father, are among the most famous.
The construction of the Toronto Necropolis Chapel cost $8,632 in 1872, with later additions in the 20th century. In 1933, the Necropolis Chapel opened Ontario’s first crematorium. Over the years, the changes made to the chapel have not affected the overall presence of Gothic Revival architecture, a reason as to why the structure remains a part of the Cabbagetown Conservation District and stays so well preserved. The Necropolis Chapel is the oldest of the ten Commemorative Services properties across Ontario.
The Toronto Necropolis Chapel has many strong elements of the Gothic Revival architectural style. Henry Langley, the Toronto architect assigned to the construction of the chapel in 1872, had been known to employ similar characteristics in all of the chapels he constructed. Langley’s tombstone can also be located in the cemetery today. Of the Gothic revival elements, the Toronto Necropolis Chapel includes:
- A stone vault entrance
- Steep, jagged gabbled roof
- Asymmetrical east-side tower
- Yellow brick and barge-board building materials
- Iron fences, detailed trefoils, ridge cresting, and finials