Vacant New Maryland church 'an absolute stunner,' says Fredericton architect

St. Mary the Virgin Anglican Church in New Maryland has sat empty for nearly 30 years, but Fredericton architect John Leroux says it is a treasure worth saving.

John Leroux says St. Mary the Virgin Anglican Church deserves to be saved

For nearly 30 years, the St. Mary the Virgin Anglican Church in New Maryland, N.B. has sat empty and unused, but now some people want to save it. (Sarah Petz/CBC )

For nearly 30 years, the St. Mary the Virgin Anglican Church has sat empty and unused behind a chain link fence on the side of the New Maryland highway.

The door of the church has a large florescent yellow  'No Trespassing' sign, next to a plaque that states the church is a provincial heritage site.

It's shame the distinctive wooden church isn't valued as the treasure it is, says well-known Fredericton architect John Leroux.

The door to the church warns trespassers to stay away. (Sarah Petz/CBC )

A committee formed by the Anglican Parish of New Maryland to determine what to do with the church asked Leroux to evaluate what condition the church was in, and report back to them.  

While the building will need some work, Leroux says it's an "absolute stunner" inside.

Pre-Confederation building

Its history also makes it one of the most important churches in the province, he said.

The church was built between 1863 and 1864, making it a pre-Confederation building.

It was designed by Edward Medley, who was the son of Bishop John Medley, the man responsible for the Christ Church Cathedral in Fredericton.

Edward Medley designed five or six churches in New Brunswick after being trained by one of the most important architects in England. He was also an Anglican priest.

The church was built between 1863 and 1864, making it a pre-Confederation building. (Sarah Petz/CBC )

"It's a spectacular gothic revival building. It's one of the most important churches in New Brunswick and it's been kind of abandoned or forsaken for the last 30 years," Leroux said.

"I alway say, we shouldn't ignore our treasures, we should embrace them, and I think we have a chance to do that now."

Parish mulls options

Leroux presented his findings to the parish committee at a public meeting last week.

New Maryland Mayor Judy Wilson-Shee, who is the chairperson of the committee, said since the meeting she's heard from several people who are interesting developing some options for the use of the church.

"I think what stuck with a lot of people, they've never seen the inside of that church," she said.

"The inside is in excellent condition, it's really is."

New Maryland Mayor Judy Wilson-Shee is the chair of the parish committee looking into whether the church can be saved. (Sarah Petz/CBC )

The next step in the new year will be to come up with a business plan for the redevelopment of the church, she said.

But as both the mayor and chair of the committee, Wilson-Shee says she's trying to stay neutral about the best option for the building.

In any case, a solid business plan will be necessary if the church is to be re-purposed, she said.

"Anyone can have an idea, but you have to have a business plan. You have to know how you are going to accomplish, what you're setting out to do," she said.

A community project  

Ultimately, it will be up to the parish, who still own the church, to decide what happens with the church.

Leroux said he thinks the building could be used as a community centre where concerts or lectures are held.

"We want to make this a community project. This isn't about an Anglican church, this is about a beautiful piece of architecture and about returning it back to the community," he said.

With files from Information Morning Fredericton