Canadian Historical and Pioneer Sites group on 6 December 2009
Rural Canada Coast to Coast to Coast group, pre 1960’s..4 december 2009
Location: On River Road just north of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
Make: Canon Model: Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XTi 55mm lens, F stop: F/9.0 Exposure: 1/250 sec. Focal length: 22.0 mm Iso 100
This humble but beautiful stone building, located just north of Winnipeg along River Road, is the oldest Anglican stone church in Canada, west of the Great Lakes. Built between 1845 and 1849, the church is still used by local parishioners (check out the kneelers—that’s well-worn buffalo hide!), but also recognized as a provincial heritage site under the Heritage Resource Act in Canada. Just across the road, a National Historic Site, St. Andrews Rectory, houses a tidy collection of period artifacts in a stone house that was one of the historic Red River settlement’s first permanent homes. The church was consecrated on December 19, 1849 by Rev. David Anderson, the first Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Rupert’s Land. The Venerable William Cockran designed the church. The stonemason was Duncan McRae.
The church’s history and architecture have been recognized both by the Dominion of Canada and by the Province of Manitoba. In 1970 the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada recommended that, “St. Andrew’s Church is of national architectural and historical importance” and a plaque was unveiled at a special service in 1974. In 1990 St. Andrew’s was designated as a provincial heritage site under the Heritage Resource Act and a plaque was unveiled at a special service on November 30, 1991. Both plaques are now fixed to the stone monuments in front of the church.
The people of St. Andrew’s Parish have worked faithfully over the years to enrich and preserve their church. In modem times this has required a series of major and extensive repairs to the building. In 1931 the east wall was dismantled and rebuilt. Additional work was done to the other walls, windows, the tower and the balcony. Flagstones were installed on the floor of the tower. The area under the balcony was partitioned off from the main church to become a small chapel for winter services. All this work cost $4,000.00.
In 1932 the southeast corner of the church collapsed. The work to repair this catastrophe was completed in 1934 at a cost of $1,500.00.
Further repairs were needed in the following decades. In 1942 concrete piles were placed under the southeast, southwest and northeast corners at a cost of $600.00. In the 1950’s the narthex floor was replaced with new boards laid over concrete pads and beams. In the 1960’s the wooden spire was rebuilt and repairs to the tower and balcony were carried out. A major restoration of the church planned in the late 1960’s did not come about. In 1979 further work on the church repaired cracks in the walls, repaired the roof, fixed the chimney, painted the spire, enlarged the furnace room and installed a new furnace.
In 1978 the governments of Manitoba and Canada signed an agreement for recreation and conservation on the Red River Corridor. This agreement provided funds for major repairs to the church in 1983. The roof was replaced with cedar shingles, the roof trusses were reinforced, a four-foot crawl space was excavated beneath the nave, and the floor was re-installed on an independent foundation and a new carpet installed. Rev. R.L. Brownlie was rector of the parish at this time.
In the late 1980’s serious cracks began to appear in the walls of the church. This led to a careful study of the building and a recommendation that a maj or intervention would be necessary to preserve the building. In 1988 the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada noted that the church was in “an advanced state of decay” and recommended that the church be a candidate for funding through a cost-sharing agreement. After careful negotiations involving St. Andrew’s Parish, the Diocese of Rupert’s Land, the Province of Manitoba represented by the Historic Resources Branch, and the Government of Canada, represented by the Canadian Parks Services/Parks Canada, a cost-sharing agreement was signed. The agreement included Rev. S.C. Sharman, Incumbent and Hugh T. Reid and Ron Tocholke, Churchwardens on behalf of the Parish and the Hon. Pauline Browes, Minister of State for the Environment, on behalf of the Government of Canada. The Most Rev. Walter Jones, Archbishop of Rupert’s Land, and David Bjornson, MP for Selkirk-Red River witnessed it. Now the work could begin.
When the project was completed, almost one million dollars had been spent. Part of it, $426,000, came from the Government of Canada through the cost-sharing agreement, the Province of Manitoba contributed $75,000 and the Thomas Sill Foundation $10,000. A large number of individuals and organizations, including the Knights of Columbus and the Manitoba Grand Lodge of Freemasons made generous donations. The rest came from the parishioners who held a series of fund-raising events and dug deeply into their own pockets.
The project placed a new foundation of concrete piles under the existing foundation. The walls were strengthened and repainted. The interior was repainted. The woodwork in the tower was strengthened. A kitchen area, a washroom and a new furnace were installed. Throughout all this work services continued Sunday by Sunday, as well as weddings and funerals.
The consultants for the project were the architectural firm of Geremia Blackie and the engineering firm of Boge and Boge. The foundations were installed by Subterranean (Manitoba) Ltd.
A large number of people contributed hours of their lives to the project. They were Margo James, Hugh Reid, Josh Milne, Roger Staff and Rev. S. Sharman for the Parish. William McKay for the Diocese of Rupert’s Land, David Firman for the Province’s Historic Resources Branch and Susan Algie and Greg Thomas for the Canadian Parks Service. Behind them were the untiring work of the parishioners, the staffs of the Historic Resources Branch, the Canadian Parks service and all the friends of the church who supported the project with their time, energy and money.
On Sunday May 4, 1995, we celebrated with a special service and a party to rededicate the church. The Rt. Rev. Patrick V. Lee, Bishop of Rupert’s Land presided and brought greetings from the Province of Manitoba. Ron Fewchuk, MP, represented the Government of Canada. The work was done.
Information obtained from The Rural Municipality of St. Andrews.