BROCKTON: St. Helen's Roman Catholic Church, NE corner Dundas St. W. & Clarens Ave. Circa 1910.

A MAJOR BASTION of the Catholic church in Toronto's west end. The foundations for the first St. Helen's were dug in 1871 by parishioners and children from the local separate schools, a block west from where the church stands today, and the first church was finished by 1875.

A new church was built at the Lansdowne and Dundas location in 1889, but by 1901, the expanding parish was overwhelmed by a development boom that saw Toronto expand to consume formerly independent villages like Brockton and Parkdale. They bought land on Dundas at St. Clarens Avenue and began construction of the third St. Helen's in 1908. The church you see in this postcard is almost new, the streets around it filled with recently-built worker's row housing.

Designed by architect Arthur W. Holmes, and built by contractor William J. Keene, it was a respectable neo-Gothic edifice, but lack of funds meant that the steeple wasn't finally completed until years after World War One. Two hundred and seventy parishioners - the third largest number of Canadian recruits from a single area - enlisted in the war; half were killed or wounded.

The first St. Helen's on Lansdowne was used as an army barracks during WW1, and later became the first Ukrainian Catholic church in Canada. The confessionals from that church are preserved on either side of the main entrance of the current St. Helen's. Just a bit east of the church is the rather magnificent parish hall, built in a suitably neo-gothic style. As in many local Catholic churches, boxing matches were held there in the early days, and Walter Newton - who later had a professional career in Chicago, and represented Canada in the 1920 Antwerp Olympics - fought at St. Helen's.