In 1891, a young student of Christian Science by the name of Emily Shanklin began the public practice of spiritual healing in Toronto. Two years later, in 1893, another young woman by the name of Daisette Stocking came from Cleveland to receive treatment from her. She was healed, and remained in Toronto to pursue the public practice of Christian Science healing herself. Later that same year, the two moved together to a house at 317 Jarvis Street. As part of their practice, they began taking occasional patients who were receiving Christian Science treatment, who also needed nursing care, into their home to provide them that care.
A year or two later, a young Presbyterian minister who had taken up the study of Christian Science,returned to Toronto, and became a frequent visitor in the young ladies’ home. Among other things,William P. Mackenzie had a penchant for giving things poetic names, and began to refer to the house on Jarvis Street as “Sharon.” The plain of Sharon is referred to in the Bible (e.g. Isaiah 35) as a place of rest, renewal and healing, and Mackenzie’s poem of that name may have been written about this time:
Safely when the flocks are folded,Called from heights they scaled in vain,On the night air breathes a sweetness From the blooms of Sharon’s plain.
Lowly are the modest lilies,Humbly their white bells they swing;But the roses, ah, the roses,—Sunset fires to earth they bring.
Like the lily of the valley Love may hide in humbleness; But behold, the rose of Sharon Lifts its heaven-sent joy to bless.
Yet in sweetness, or in gladness, It is love that issues thence; And the giving forth of blessing This is Sharon’s excellence!
The Cambridge Tribune Press, 1928
Mackenzie was eventually called to serve at the home of Mary Baker Eddy in Concord, New Hampshire, and Stocking was asked to serve there shortly afterward. They soon were married(eloping, in fact!), and later Shanklin wed Gavin Allen, an early practitioner and teacher of Christian Science in Toronto. The refuge called “Sharon” was no more.
However, about 1953, two Toronto practitioners, Florence Hamilton and Ethel Goss, began holding informal meetings to discuss the idea of establishing a Christian Science “nursing home.” One of these ladies, most likely Mrs. Goss, had had some connection with the early “Sharon,” and suggested the name “Sharon House” for the new facility.
Meetings continued, and the Sharon House Trust was established, the purpose being to provide income to “maintain Sharon House activities.” By 1964, $100,000 had been donated to the trust, as well as a further $30,000 to purchase a house. Informal groups throughout Ontario contributed through their prayers, donations, and collective effort, the funds often coming from fund-raisers like bake sales.
By the end of 1968, Sharon House Corporation had been founded and registered as a charitable organization, and a house had been purchased at 173 Lyndhurst Ave. With Margaret Sorby as the head (and initially, the only) nurse, Sharon House began operation. Nurses were required to wear traditional white uniforms, and the night nurse spent much of her time ironing sheets! The lovely brick house was situated in a neighbourhood of gracious homes, with a big front yard and a lovely garden overlooking a ravine at the rear. There were four bedrooms (two other rooms were later converted to guest rooms), a third floor apartment which the head nurse used, and offices in the basement. However, features like the shared bathroom facilities and the many stairs made the building far from ideal, so when zoning difficulties arose in 1979 the decision was made to move on.
Another house was purchased at 2133 Bloor Street West and a building fund was announced. Bloor Street was to be considered a temporary home for Sharon and a goal was set for building a new facility in five years. Sufficient renovations were undertaken to make the house more serviceable than the Lyndhurst property had been, but there were still no private bathroom facilities, and the staff was still faced with the stairs in a three-level house. The five-year time frame eventually stretched to over 20 years. Donations and interest had brought the building fund to $354,000 by 1990, but a lack of consensus as to the form the new facility should take had delayed progress. In 1991, the Sharon House Board of Directors undertook a fundamental
rethinking of Sharon’s purpose, and a new vision of Sharon’s role in supporting Christian Science nursing began to emerge.
Concurrent with this, several large donations were made, and in 1996 the search for a new location began anew. After seven months, two adjacent properties came on the market in an ideal location, and were purchased. A design for a gracious and efficient 7 room facility was executed, and an existing bungalow was renovated to provide office space. In August of 2000, the present facility at 24 Montgomery Road opened its doors.
This was the culmination of a long-held dream: that members of the Christian Science community in eastern Canada could have a place ideally suited to support the work of the Christian Science nurse, and the efforts of individuals to achieve healing through radical reliance on Christian Science treatment. Also, for the first time Sharon House was able to provide gracious Rest & Study accommodation, in comfortable rooms apart from the nursing area, for those who wished a quiet retreat for study, prayer and reflection.
The drawing of the sheepcote, which has been used as the Sharon House logo since the beginning, was a gift of Thoreau MacDonald. A recognized designer and illustrator, he was the son of the painter J. E. H. MacDonald, member of the famous Group of Seven Canadian painters. His mother had been a member of First Church of Christ, Scientist, Toronto, and he had attended Sunday School there.
N. D. “Jack” Young, one of the Founders of the Sharon House Trust, and his wife Beatrice, were not only energetic workers in the establishing of Sharon House, but also patrons of the arts. They were close to the Group of Seven, and the MacDonalds were frequent guests in their home. When the plans for Sharon House began to take form, Thoreau kindly contributed this little sketch, in illustration of one of the Biblical passages about Sharon, “And Sharon shall be a fold of flocks.” (Isa.65:10)