1840s church in Port Hill, P.E.I., to be preserved
'We don't want anything of its heritage to be lost'
The Old St. James Church in Port Hill, P.E.I., will be protected for years to come, thanks to its new designation as a heritage place.
The old church has been used only on special occasions since the congregation began using a newer church building, but the parish felt it was important to safeguard the old building's future.
"The whole parish doesn't want the old St. James building to disappear, and so we feel it was worthy of a heritage designation and we wanted that to sort of help us keep it as a sort of monument to the very early days of Anglicanism here on the Island," said Rev. Ann Bush, the rector at the parish of Port Hill.
"It's important for us to keep our heritage, I think, and look after it."
Bush said she has been told the stained-glass window in the front of the church contains glass from some of the old ships that sailed to P.E.I. from England.
'New' St. James Church built in 1885
The designation means the parish can get financial help if major repairs are needed in the future, Bush said. However, it also means that parishioners can make no changes to the building's exterior without approval from heritage officials.
"Nor would we want to," Bush said. "We want to keep it as it is. We don't want anything of its heritage to be lost."
The church was already recognized as an important landmark by the Canadian Register of Historic Places a decade ago. According the register's website, the church was built from 1841-43 and was first called the Old Shipbuilders' Church.
The building is "valued for its fine Georgian architectural features; its association with the history of the Anglican parish of Port Hill; and for its contribution to the community," the website says.
The church was used until a newer one was built across the road in 1885. It was then used as a Sunday school. The Anglican Church de-consecrated it as a place of worship in 2011, Bush said, but a summer service and concert are held there because the acoustics are very good.
"It's a happy place to be in the summer," she said, noting there is power to the building but no heat. "It's much loved by everyone, not just in the Anglican Church."
The designation will be marked by a plaque that will be placed on the building.
Bush said the designation process took a long time — more than eight years. She believes it will give parishioners a sense of comfort.
"The people that helped to establish this parish, or their families did, really want to see this first example of a beautiful church building that was built by hand and hard labour — they don't want to see that just allowed go to wrack and ruin," she said.
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With files from Angela Walker