166-year-old Fredericton 'gem' faces possible demolition

·3 min read
The former St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church was consecrated in 1856 and  deconsecrated last month. (Aidan Cox/CBC - image credit)
The former St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church was consecrated in 1856 and deconsecrated last month. (Aidan Cox/CBC - image credit)

One of Fredericton's oldest churches is set to be demolished if no one comes forward to offer it a new lease on life.

The former St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church on Main Street needs a new roof, and provincial officials have found dangerously high levels of mould inside the building.

It's also surrounded by gravesites that lie within inches of its walls, and there's little room to create parking next to the building.

However, in a bid to keep the 166-year-old building standing, congregation members, in collaboration with the Fredericton Heritage Trust, have issued a request for proposals in the hopes that a charity or non-profit will repurpose the deconsecrated church.

"The Fredericton Heritage Trust approached us with what we feel is a very constructive approach, and offering to help us with a process that they would have more experience with than us," said Bill MacKenzie, a warden with the church.

Aidan Cox/CBC
Aidan Cox/CBC

The two groups are calling for a proposal that would see the building leased out on a long-term basis, with the proponent taking the responsibility to rehabilitate and maintain it going forward.

The request for proposals also comes with the condition that "any tenant must ensure that no alcohol, cigarette, or other like substances will be sold or served on the premises."

MacKenzie said the ideal applicant would be a charity or nonprofit that does community outreach, historical work or promotes the arts.

"With enough resources that … the building would not continue to be a financial burden on the congregation."

Aidan Cox/CBC
Aidan Cox/CBC

A part of city's Loyalist past

The St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church was built in 1855 and consecrated the year after by Rt. Rev. Bishop John Medley, the same man who consecrated the Christchurch Anglican Cathedral and St. Anne's Anglican Chapel of Ease on the city's south side.

The church served Anglicans in the Nashwaaksis area for over a century, until the parish decided to build a new and bigger church across the street, which has been the primary place of worship since 2002.

The old church was deconsecrated last month.

Aidan Cox/CBC
Aidan Cox/CBC

Jeremy Mouat, president of the Fredericton Heritage Trust, said the church's construction followed the wave of British Loyalists who moved north following the American Revolution.

"The Anglican Church was a key entity associated with the colonial government and playing a really significant role," he said.

Mouat said he holds the old St. John the Evangelist church in similar esteem to the two other old stone-cut Anglican churches on the city's south side.

To have it demolished, he said, would be a significant loss for the city's heritage.

"We only have to walk around the downtown plat from the cathedral in the green to the downtown, to see … how important those churches are.

"And St. John the Evangelist over the north side is just is a gem, and it would be, be really tragic if we lost it, if we couldn't come up with a better use than to tear it to pieces."

Aidan Cox/CBC
Aidan Cox/CBC

The deadline to submit proposals is July 31, at which time the church will consider them and make a decision by the end of August, MacKenzie said.

If no appropriate proposals are received, the church will be demolished and a memorial will be erected in its place.

The adjacent cemetery will remain unaffected by the request for proposals, or any potential demolition, he said.

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