While initially this structure seems to defy description, the rectilinear plan and symmetry of the Sharon Temple in Sharon, Ontario, evokes the essence of Classical architecture. Each facade of the square building is identical and the tall windows and soaring ceiling fill the airy, spacious interior with light. Every element has been carefully chosen with a symbolic meaning.
The Sharon Temple was built by the Children of Peace, a group of men and women who had broken away from the Quakers in 1812 under the leadership of David Willson. Willson embraced music, which the Quakers rejected, and wrote so many hymns that no hymn was ever sung twice in the Temple. Willson also designed this temple for special celebrations and Ebenezer Doan, the master builder, brought his design to realization. The architecture is full of Christian symbolism, reflecting the Holy Trinity through groupings of three elements, the twelve apostles through twelve interior columns, the four corners of the earth by the building’s four identical facades and entrances, and the four virtues. The temple was filled with chairs, rather than pews, and could seat 300 people. The choir, made up of women, stood around the ark which stood in the center of the temple and held the Bible. Musicians ascended the steep, narrow, curving staircase almost 30 feet to the second mezzanine level, where they played while looking down on the ark.
The Children of Peace held most of their meetings in a square meeting house and used the Temple for services fifteen times a year. The group declined following Willson’s death and the 1880s saw its demise. The Temple was saved from demolition and opened as a museum in 1918.
If you ever find yourself remotely in the neighbourhood, I highly recommend that you visit this amazing building (http://www.sharontemple.ca) . We are fortunate that it was rescued from abandonment and looming demolition by dedicated volunteers. Many communities have lost large chunks of their built heritage in the name of progress, and with those buildings they lose part of their identity.