The Sharon Temple is truly an architectural wonder.
Meant to mirror Solomon's Temple, it places itself as the seat of the “New Jerusalem” for the Children of Peace. The symmetry on all sides is meant to welcome people from all four corners of the earth. Although many refer to it as a church, it was never used for regular worship. Instead, the Temple was used monthly to collect alms for the poor, as well as to hold a yearly feast and illumination to give thanks to God.
The building took exactly seven years to complete, again mirroring Solomon’s Temple. Many of the features in the Temple are meaningful, not just the Temple itself. Jacob’s Ladder, located directly in front of the eastern door, leads up to the hidden second story. It is named for the biblical Jacob's Ladder, a ladder that led Jacob to heaven. Musicians would climb this ladder and play music from the second story, so that it appears to be coming down from heaven.
At the very centre of the Temple sits the Altar, or the Ark, containing a bible open to the Ten Commandments. A common myth about the Temple is that it was built entirely without the use of nails - this is false. The Temple contains thousands of nails. The Ark, however, does not contain a single one! It is instead slotted together by joints, built by skilled craftsman John Doan. This Ark is held up by twelve small pillars, representative of the twelve apostles. In the 1990’s, a secret compartment was found in the Ark containing thousands of papers that had been concealed at the building's dedication in 1832. Many of these papers were David Willson’s original writings, and provided valuable insight to the Children of Peace.
There are a total of sixteen pillars holding up the temple, each with a different meaning. The four central pillars bear the four core virtues of the Children of Peace (love, hope, faith and charity), and together these virtues would lead to peace. Peace itself is represented by the golden ball atop the building. These pillars hold up the entire Temple, both symbolically and literally. The other twelve are symbolic of the disciples. Similarly, the twelve lanterns on the outside of the Temple also symbolize the twelve apostles going into the world and preaching salvation.
The Children of Peace gradually fell apart after David Willson’s death in 1866. The final use of the Temple under the Children of Peace took place in the 1890s.
For years the Temple lay abandoned, falling into disrepair and being used as grazing grounds for cattle. Finally, the Site was purchased by the York Pioneers in 1917, officially opening the Temple as the York County Museum in 1918. This was one of the earliest examples of historic preservation in early Canada.
The Sharon Temple, in partnership with Point3D Commercial Imaging Ottawa, is excited to announce the launch of its virtual tours. Take a walk through six of our heritage buildings, including our exhibit space. Explore artifacts, and immerse yourself in the Museum from any computer or cell phone!