New Brunswick

Saint John's historic Stone Church hall to be demolished

The architecturally significant "L wing" on Saint John's Stone Church will likely be demolished over the next few weeks.

The small congregation of a historic church in Saint John cannot pay over $2M required for repairs

The congregation of Saint John's historic Stone Church will have to demolish its architecturally significant church hall wing, Reverend John Paul Westin confirmed on Thursday.

The noteworthy 'L' wing, situated next to the back of the church on 87 Carleton St., will have to be torn down over the next few weeks.

The small congregation of approximately 80 church members is unable to pay the more than $2 million required to fix leaks and deal with mould and other issues in the hall.

"We looked into the possibility of renovating the hall and repairing it, and the price was just exorbitant for our congregation," said Westin.

"There's financial challenges for us, and we want to stay and be able to minister in the community, so it's been a long process of a number of years trying to discern what we think the right thing to do is."

Westin says they will concentrate on fixing up what is well regarded as the first stone church built in the city.

"Our church building is a national historic site. And something that's been part of the city of Saint John," he said.

"We felt that the church building was more important to save than the hall."

'It's a loss'

Saint John's Stone Church was completed in 1825 and was named a national historic site in 1987.

The church hall wing, which resembles the church, was added in the 1890s. It is not designated or protected in any way, however, and was remodeled a few times over the years.

Robert Boyce, chair of the city's heritage development board hopes the stone facade can be saved.

"It would be marvellous … to see it standing supported in some fashion so we could have a piece of it," he said.

"In its entirety it forms a nice backdrop towards the city, it's part of the picture of uptown Saint John … it would be a loss."

Boyce couldn't estimate the cost of preserving the facade, and is realistic about its prospects with the wrecking ball.

"We don't deal well with ruins in this city of ours. We like to keep things tidy," he said.

The hall is planned to come down before the end of this year, and renovations started on the church early in the new year.

"We hope it will reduce our carbon footprint and our outlay of resources for heating and maintaining two buildings down to one, and I think it's more responsible. It enables us to remain and work and live in worship in the area," said Westin.

"So instead of it being used for a couple of hours for worship we'll be able to use it seven days a week for ministry, and outreach and community groups."

Saint John's Church got the nickname, Stone Church, because the stones for the structure were brought from England as ballast on returning cargo ships.

It is the second oldest church building in Saint John, next to St. George's St. Jude's Anglican Church on the city's west side.

The first service was held on Sunday, Sept. 11, 1825.

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