Long the spiritual and emotional heart to a community, churches have often been the anchors around which towns and cities have flourished. With architecture and decoration that reflect the values of the surrounding population, and locations that confirm their high status, churches are often the spiritual and social homes for many successive generations.
Churches offer aesthetic and architectural merit that defines the character of the built environment and adds value to the landscape and urban context.
In the past fifty or sixty years, churches have needed to evolve in numerous ways in order to retain relevance to a swiftly changing society. Churches have long been associated as spiritual sanctuaries, community centres, and public service providers, but today these can have different meanings and approaches. Those buildings that no longer function according to their original purpose have been transformed into accommodations, business centres, galleries and performance venues. For those that do not manage the transition, closure and possible demolition is a certain fate.
Historic churches face numerous threats:
Holding its first service in 1925, First Presbyterian Church is situated near Prince Rupert’s downtown with a view of the harbour.
The gothic-style wooden structure sits on a concrete foundation and features wooden floors, stairs, railings and pews and stain glass windows. A prominent feature is the 65-foot bell tower.
The church was renovated in the 1980s; it has also functioned as a performance venue.
The last service took place on March 30, 2018. The church was listed for sale the following day.
The City of Prince Rupert passed a bylaw in 1991 designating the church as a heritage site. Recognizing “the value of its buildings and unique town plan as a heritage resource”, the bylaw indicates the City’s desire “to maintain and preserve the integrity” of First Presbyterian, as a building “of architectural distinction in gothic revival style, with the principle exterior cladding of the total structure being cedar shingles, and having a bell tower sixty-five feet in height.”
Over the years, as church-goers passed away or moved away, the congregation was reduced to six people. The operation and maintenance of the 5,500 sf building no longer were sustainable.
The City of Prince Rupert does not have a heritage commission, committee or bylaws in place to guide possible heritage-altering renovations proposed by the new owner.