Nova Scotia

Tense moments for church on the move

A church once destined for demolition in Nova Scotia has a new lease on life now that it has been floated several kilometres down the Avon River.
A 167-year-old church is hauled from a barge on the Avon River. (CBC)

A church once destined for demolition in Nova Scotia has a new lease on life now that it has been floated several kilometres down the Avon River.

About 300 onlookers watched with anticipation as the church came ashore in Newport Landing, on the shore of the Bay of Fundy.

This was the last leg of the journey for the 167-year-old former St. Matthew's Anglican Church, which was built in 1844 and deconsecrated in 2008.

The building is being moved to Avondale to become part of the new Avondale Sky Winery, owned by Stewart Creaser and his wife, Lorraine Vassalo.

Crowds cheered as the barge carrying the church came into view.

"I'm very excited to see the church come around the corner on the barge," said Selina Blois. "I lived here all my life — I grew up just up on the hill — I've never seen anything like this and I don't think it'll ever happen again."

Everything appeared to be going smoothly as the barge was pushed to the wharf by two tugboats.

But as the church was being pulled up the bank on the back of a flatbed truck, things began to change.

A hard rain began to fall, causing the wheels of the truck to sink into the mud under the weight of the 30-tonne load.

Sounds of gasping could be heard as the church looked like it was going to tip over.

"I was just trying to get a good picture and the next thing I know it was tipping," said Chelsea Barkhouse. "I don't think anyone really expected that, so I just tried to get out of the way as fast as I could."

Lorraine Vassalo, co-owner of the Avondale Sky Winery, said it was a tense moment.

"I had no idea my heart could beat that fast. It was high anxiety."

An excavator was quickly brought in to take some of the weight, while a dump truck came to the rescue to help tow the truck carrying the church. A few moments later, the church was back on level ground.

Stewart Creaser bought the church for just over a dollar after its congregation dwindled and it could no longer be supported.

He rode on the barge as it made the journey along the river.

"The part that made me nervous was being out on the bay, because if waves came up we would have been in trouble. They came up a little bit, but as it turns out it wasn't too severe."

The church will remain parked near the Newport Landing wharf for about a week, after which it will be moved about a kilometre down the road and placed on its new foundation at the Avondale Sky winery.

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