Wednesday, 24 June 2015

The Former St. Giles Presbyterian (United) Church at 294 Burrows Avenue

Article by Laura McKay, on behalf of Heritage Winnipeg Corp.      
To follow up on this or any other articles on the blog, contact Heritage Winnipeg's Executive Director.


North facade of St. Giles ca. 1999. Photo courtesy of the City of Winnipeg Historical Report.
North facade of St. Giles ca. 1999. Photo courtesy of the City of Winnipeg Historical Report.
 
The church building at 294 Burrows Avenue has been in the news a great deal in the last week or so, as the current congregation applies for delisting the property, essentially removing its heritage designation and any protection that may provide.  
Here is some background information to give you an idea as to what all the fuss is about! 

In the News 

December 26, 2010 - Who cares if a church closes? You should (Winnipeg Free Press)
June 17, 2015 - 107-year old church in the North End faces demolition (Winnipeg Free Press)
June 19, 2015 - Church heritage status to stay - for now (Winnipeg Free Press)
June 20, 2015 - House of God for sale (Winnipeg Free Press) 

History 

Gallery seating ca. 1999. Photo courtesy of the City of Winnipeg Historical Report.
Gallery seating ca. 1999. Photo courtesy of the City of Winnipeg Historical Report.
The church on Burrows Avenue is the legacy of the Kildonan community, which in the late 1800s mostly consisted of Scottish settlers and their immediate descendents. The North Presbyterian Mission of St Andrew's Presbyterian Church was formed in 1884 to meet the spiritual needs of this community. Meeting in Bishop's Store, a 2-storey frame building at the corner of Main Street and Burrows Avenue, the mission was supported by the students of the Manitoba College (one of the founding colleges of the University of Manitoba, established by a Presbyterian minister in 1871) and drew heavily from the surrounding area. 

The first church building constructed by the mission, dedicated in 1886, was on the corner of Main Street and Limit Avenue. Image courtesy of the City of Winnipeg Historical Report.
The first church building constructed by the mission, dedicated in 1886, was on the corner of Main Street and Limit Avenue. Image courtesy of the City of Winnipeg Historical Report.
Not long after it had begun, it became clear that the mission needed more space for its growing membership. In 1886, a small frame building was constructed at the corner of Main Street and Limit Avenue (now Aberdeen) but this too, was quickly outgrown, and within two years, plans were once again in the works for a new church

The congregation's new brick church, St. Giles Presbyterian on Selkirk Avenue, was dedicated on Sunday, December 1, 1889. Still, the congregation grew, forcing the expansion of the facility before they once again began to look at building a new place of worship. 

The second church building, dedicated in 1889, was on Selkirk Avenue. Image courtesy of the City of Winnipeg Historical Report.
The second church building, dedicated in 1889, was on Selkirk Avenue. Image courtesy of the City of Winnipeg Historical Report.
With the growth of the congregation, 36 families decided to break off to form the St. John's congregation, which held services in a frame house of worship at 250 Cathedral Avenue until the construction of St. John's Presbyterian (United) Church in 1923. This church was later converted to a multi-unit housing cooperative in the late 1980s. 

The former St. John's Presbyterian (United) Church, ca. 1988. Photo courtesy of the City of Winnipeg Historical Report.
The former St. John's Presbyterian (United) Church, ca. 1988. Photo courtesy of the City of Winnipeg Historical Report.
 In 1906, the Building Committee selected a new site at the corner of Burrows Avenue and Charles Street. A church building already on the site was moved just to the west of the newly planned church to be used as a manse, the residence of the minister. Architect Charles S. Bridgman, a New York-trained local, was hired for the job along with contractor Imperial Plumbing & Building Company.

Architect's plans for the "Main Church Floor". Image courtesy of the City of Winnipeg Historical Report.
Architect's plans for the "Main Church Floor". Image courtesy of the City of Winnipeg Historical Report.
The cornerstone ceremony was held on July 25, 1907 with the new and final church dedicated on March 15, 1908. The congregation numbered nearly 500 at the time and promised to continue to grow. The new church was designed to seat 1100 people at one time, with a basement featuring Sunday School, Bible Class, and Infant Class rooms and even a small gym. 

Built in the Late Gothic or Modern Gothic style, the church reflects the Gothic traditions that came before but with simpler silhouettes and more subdued ornamentation than some of the earlier Gothic Revival architecture. 

The Tier Building at the University of Manitoba, built in 1932, is another example of Late or Modern Gothic architecture, which is also known as Collegiate Gothic because of its frequent use on university campuses. Photo courtesy of the City of Winnipeg Historical Report.
The Tier Building at the University of Manitoba, built in 1932, is another example of Late or Modern Gothic architecture, which is also known as Collegiate Gothic because of its frequent use on university campuses. Photo courtesy of the City of Winnipeg Historical Report.
Along with many other churches, the congregation of St. Giles voted to join the United Church of Canada, becoming St. Giles United Church in 1925. With a considerable congregation, the church boasted one of the largest Sunday School program in the city at the time. However, by the 60s, membership was in decline as the demographics of the local community changed, and in the early 70s the United Church Mission Board withdrew its annual $6000 grant. Shortly thereafter, the modest congregation of 100 mostly First Nations and Metis members was forced to disband. 

East and north facades ca. 1999. Photo courtesy of the City of Winnipeg Historical Report.
East and north facades ca. 1999. Photo courtesy of the City of Winnipeg Historical Report.
In March 1973 the building was sold to a new congregation and became the Elmwood Bethel Mennonite Church. When that church too disbanded in 1995, the building was given to the congregation of the Bethlehem Aboriginal Fellowship, a Baptist community that worshipped there until very recently. Designated in 1999, the former St. Giles Presbyterian (United) Church is a landmark testifying to the days of Winnipeg's creation and the Scottish Selkirk Settlers that were an integral part of shaping our community.  

Sources/Links


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