Demolition of historic church begins next week

It has taken more than five months for the congregation of Trinity United Church to assess the damage done by the May 21 tornado, to reach the difficult decision that restoration of the building was not a viable option, and over the last few weeks, to go in and salvage whatever could be saved. Now, beginning Nov. 7, will come the most heart-breaking part of the process: watching its treasured home, the oldest parts of which date to 1888, slowly but steadily be disassembled.

According to Ted Meyers, chair of Trinity’s board of trustees, the demolition of the church and adjoining additions will be substantially complete by the end of November, hopefully before the snow is on the ground. Then it will be a matter of sorting through the debris, to recycle as much as possible, including as many as 3,000 bricks which the congregation hopes to use for fundraising.

In the past month, many of the pews have been purchased and removed by local residents or businesses (those remaining will be among the items auctioned off later this month by Gary Hill Auctions). The balcony railings have been taken down and donated to the Township, which will use some to refurbish similar railings at the Music Hall. The music from the choir room has been rescued and will be catalogued for future use by other choirs in other places (the choir robes will be auctioned). The bell from the tower will be saved to ring again. A large variety of other items, including furniture, dishes and appliances will also go to auction.Fifty of the stained glass windows have been salvaged, either for auction or for use in the new building. What could not be saved, however, is the large round window in the church’s First Avenue facade. The demolition company’s estimate for trying to remove that window was about $250,000, with no guarantee it would emerge in any usable condition; the trustees decided they could not afford that risk.

Even while the salvage operation has been ongoing, the process has already begun to design a new building for the site, one that would combine a smaller worship centre with offices, community spaces and several dozen affordable housing units. This work is being led by Kindred Works, the development arm of the United Church of Canada. The aim is to bring a preliminary design to the congregation, the municipality and the wider community by the end of this year. By next summer, it is hoped that construction can begin, with a target date for completion of the summer of 2025, the centennial of the United Church. The new building will encompass the church’s property on Main Street North, meaning that three small buildings there will need to be vacated and demolished by late summer of 2023.

“By the end of this year,” says Meyers, “the most difficult part of this will be over, having to oversee the slow disappearance of a building that has meant so much to us all. But we’re looking forward to the creation of a new place that will serve the congregation, and the entire community, just as well.”

Conrad Boyce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Uxbridge Cosmos