Monday, August 23, 2010

What to do with an old church...

Another church is closing. Hyde Park United is shutting down after 134 years. Built as a Presbyterian Church in November 1876, the congregation has served its community well. But sadly, its dwindling congregation has decided it cannot afford the upkeep. A September 19 open house service will celebrate the church's long history and a final service will take place on September 26.

Many of you might say, so what? In our increasingly secular age, the United Church of Canada is closing a church a week. Other denominations aren't doing much better. But from the point of view of heritage preservation, the closure means another historic building is threatened. What will happen to this old sanctuary and its manse? Well, they're likely to be put up for sale and, as a Free Press reporter euphemistically put it, the land "redeveloped." To put it more candidly, a land developer will likely regard the property as a fine place to put about 30 "luxury" condos. And does Hyde Park have a Timmies yet?

Here are some better ideas. Check out this - if Stratford can do it why not our very own H.P.? Or this. Or how about this. I know, some people will be offended at the thought of church structures being used for culinary or domestic purposes. And they'll like it even less when they're used as galleries for sculptures of naked women. But as we say in the heritage world "it's better than tearing it down."

Update, January 26, 2011: And for another wonderful example of what to do with an old church, right here in London, Ontario, see my post on the Church of the Redeemer.

Update, March 23, 2011: Rumours are circulating. A potential buyer wants to remove the steeple, stating it would cost too much to repair. Stay tuned.

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