Toronto Feature: Temple Building | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Toronto Feature: Temple Building

This article is from our Toronto Feature series. Features from past programs are not updated.

This content is from a series created in partnership with Museum Services of the City of Toronto and Heritage Toronto. We gratefully acknowledge funding from the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, and the Department of Canadian Heritage.

Dr Oronhyatekha
Dr Oronhyatekha, Mohawk physician, scholar and businessman (courtesy Woodland Cultural Centre).
Temple Building
The 10-storey Temple Building dominated Bay Street, circa 1907 (courtesy McCord Museum-MP-0000.766.2).
Bay Street
Bay Street as it appears in 2012. The site of the former Foresters' building is at 381 Bay (photo James Marsh).

"Mohawk Fraternal Leader Erects Skyscraper"

When the Temple Building went up in 1895, it was among Toronto's first skyscrapers. The ten-storey Romanesque Revival building dominated the skyline until 1905. In the Temple Building's spectacular lobby stood a life-sized bronze statue of the man responsible for its creation, Oronhyatekha, Supreme Chief Ranger of the International Order of Foresters.

Born on the Six Nations Reserve near Brantford, Oronhyatekha (baptised Peter Martin) saw his life change at the age of 19. He was chosen to make a speech welcoming the Prince of Wales to the reserve. The prince was so impressed that he arranged for Oronhyatekha to study at Oxford. When Oronhyatekha returned to Canada, he earned a medical degree, the first by an Aboriginal Canadian, and entered practice.

Meet Dr. Oronhyatekha, or Burning Cloud as he was known in Mohawk. Oronhyatekha grew up on Six Nations reserve and attended residential school where he trained to be a cobbler - but life had bigger plans. Hear how he became one of the first Indigenous doctors in Canada.

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But he set his sights even higher. An extraordinary individual who surmounted the commonplace racial barriers of his time, he joined the Orange Order, the Freemasons and other societies and then, in 1878, the International Order of Foresters - an organization for white males only - and his life's work truly began. He soon became Supreme Chief Ranger and took the Foresters from near-bankruptcy to the leading fraternal society in North America. A tireless promoter of fraternalism, Oronhyatekha travelled the world, meeting heads of state and captivating audiences.

The Temple Building was demolished in 1970, after it had become too small for the ambitions of Bay Street. Parts of its exterior sit in the Guild of All Arts grounds. The statue of Oronhyatekha resides in the Foresters' new headquarters in Don Mills.

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