Nfld. & Labrador

Repair money for Twillingate church mired in red tape, heritage group says

The North East Church Heritage Association says the historic church is going to ruin, and they're blaming federal foot-dragging for the problem.
This church in Twillingate was built in 1868, and closed its doors to public service in 1987. Since then, the building has been converted into a museum and cultural centre, and is in dire need of repair. (Howard Butt)

Money to fix up a historic church in Twillingate has been tied up in federal election red tape, says a local heritage association.

The North East Church Heritage Association says the church is going to ruin, and they're blaming federal foot-dragging for the problem.

Treasurer Howard Butt said that the building's roof is in desperate need of repair, and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency still hasn't delivered its share.

The Bevington pipe organ was installed in the church in 1906. It was completely restored in 2006. (Howard Butt)

The Newfoundland and Labrador government has contributed $117,000 for the project — with ACOA expected to match the amount. 

"We found out just last week from a person in the ACOA office that they were given orders when the election writ was called not to pass out any more money" Butt told CBC Radio's On The Go

"Our application went in in April — obviously it's politics."

Converted into museum, community centre

The church was deconsecrated in 1987, and a group of concerned citizens acquired the building when it became in danger of demolition. It has since been converted into a museum and cultural centre.

Butt said the roof needs reshingling, and the siding needs to be replaced. The association says ACOA advised that a new heating system should be installed.

"The roof's been leaking since last fall. The leak is extremely bad, particularly when the wind is in a westerly direction, it leaks more," Butt said. 

"And that's a painted ceiling inside, and there are scabs of paint just hanging down, a foot long," said Butt.

Butt said there's also significant damage to the floors in the building.

"We have a wrap-around gallery. And that gallery floor, there's nothing on it, just the pine board that's original there. That's leaking and dropping down to the first floor," he said.

There is significant damage to the building's roof, with many leaks that have affected the ceiling. (Howard Butt)

Butt said due to safety concerns, it's too late in the season to get the roof repaired, so the building will endure another winter of water damage to the ceiling and floor, and what's inside the heritage structure.

'Will we still have the money?'

The building has a hand-carved pulpit and communion rail, as well as a rare Bevington pipe organ, which was fully restored in 2006.

Butt said although the building is 150 years old, the heritage structure is state-of-the-art in many ways.

"Everything was provided locally, and workmanship that's unbelievable," he said.

"They had no electric tools back in those times. The craftsmanship is magnificent. And the acoustics — you don't need a PA system."

Butt wonders what will happen after the federal election on Oct. 19.

"Will we still have the money?" Butt said.

"Because our understanding is that if the money is not started to be spent, then it has to be returned, by January I think it is. It doesn't make sense at all, because it's government." 

Meanwhile, in an email sent to CBC, an ACOA spokesperson said the agency does not comment on individual applications "which may or may not be under evaluation."

Buckets line the original pine flooring in the church. (Howard Butt)


With files from Ted Blades


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