Early Canadian history is often plagued with dull stories that continue to propagate the old narrative that nothing really interesting happens in Canada — the problem is that it is simply untrue. One of those interesting and little-known stories is the Sharon Temple in Sharon, Ontario (formerly Hope, Ontario).
Founded in the early 19th C. by David Willson, who hailed from New York state and was the charismatic leader of a breakaway sect of Quakers called the Children of Peace, Sharon Temple is often described as a “wedding cake.” Architecturally unique for its time and place, the Temple was also a laboratory of many progressive ideas of its time. At this idyllic site, the Children of Peace formed Canada’s first farmers’ co-operative, built the province’s first shelter for the homeless, established a credit union, and created the first civilian band in the province of Ontario (then known as Upper Canada).
The citizens of this small and wealthy (thanks to their co-op) agricultural community also joined in the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837, and they played a key role in the development of democracy in Canada by ensuring the elections of both “fathers of responsible government,” Robert Baldwin and Louis LaFontaine, both of whom ran in their area.
If the ideas of this small group of citizens live on in different ways in local, provincial and national policies, the Sharon Temple compound is all that physically remains of the quirky religious sect. Built from 1825-1832, the building is fashioned after the Temple of Solomon and is dominated by a centrally placed ark of the covenant, a distinctive Jacob’s ladder, a forest of columns, a golden peace ball on top and a few paintings.
Unlike the Quakers, the Children of Peace strongly believed in music and the second tier of the Temple was occupied by musicians who filled the building with song. Nearby we can also see David Willson’s study (built in 1829), which is the closest example of a historic ”glass house” I’ve ever seen.
Visiting the site, you can’t help but be overcome by the beautiful proportions of the building and its grand geometric forms. View my complete photoset here.
Ever since we published Luna Park’s lovely photo essay on New York’s sculptural street art, I’ve been looking more closely at work that projects out into public space.
Yesterday, I spotted one of the oddest works of street art I’ve yet encounter (and there has been quite a bit). It reminded me of the work of NE Thing Co., while remaining very contemporary and even more abstract than the work of that 1960s Canadian art group. The object was connected to the wall by a small strip of wood near the top, and it projected out an inch or two.
I spotted it around 11am and then by 9:30pm the same night it was gone. I don’t remember it being there the day before. Good things never last.
Two questions … What the hell was this thing? And who was it by?