The oldest operating public cemetery in Toronto, it was opened in 1844, when the corner of Bloor and Parliament Streets, was well out in the country. In those days most people lived south of Queen Street between John Street on the west and the Don River on the east. King Street was the main street and the lake shore was at Front Street. But even then the city was starting to expand rapidly. The records tell us that in ten years the population
doubled from 9,254 in 1834, when Toronto was first incorporated, to 18,402 in 1844. Today, St. James’ Cemetery is one of the few open areas left in the heart of the city. In 1859, F.W. Cumberland was engaged to design a chapel where burial services could be held. Two years later, in 1861, the beautiful chapel of St. James’-The-Less with its tall, graceful spire was consecrated.
Many well-known Torontonians are buried in the tree shaded grounds of this old churchyard, including such famous names as Jarvis, Gooderham, Ridout, Osler, Strathy, Seagram, Cassels, Wadsworth, Baldwin, Austin and Gzowski. In 1948, the crematorium was installed. A few years later a columbarium, designed by F. Hilton Wilkes, was built in the south porch of St. James’-The-Less providing walled-in niches for cremated remains. Quiet gardens have also been created where ashes of loved ones may be buried. The responsibility for the care and operation of the cemetery rests with the Rector and Churchwardens of St. James’ Cathedral.