Description of Historic Place
The church is a two-storey white building with a gable roof. A two-storey vestibule has been added to the entrance of the original structure. Decorative elements include eave returns and corner pilasters. The church is located in a suburban setting amid its cemetery.
The church is valued for its Georgian architectural style and for its association with the history of the Christian Disciples denomination.
The origins of this church begin with John R. Stewart, who came from Perthshire, Scotland. As early as 1810, he was holding worship services in his home. At this time, all of the adherents were of Scots ancestry and their faith was influenced by Baptist theology.
By 1813, the young congregation decided to establish their first meeting house - a crude log cabin which was only thirty feet long by twenty feet wide. The following year, the church was visited by the noted evangelist, Alexander Crawford, who was then also working in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. Crawford would remain with the Cross Roads congregation for almost two years before moving to Tryon.
In 1836, the congregation received a 999 year lease from the estate of Peter DesBrisay Stewart. This gave them legal title to the land and allowed for the establishment of a cemetery. The agreement also stipulated that the burying grounds would be open to all faiths and the planned new meeting house could be used by others if not being used by the present congregation. Construction on the current building began in 1836 and concluded in 1839, when the former log church was dismantled.
The design of the building was Georgian with a square configuration, symmetrical facade, corner pilasters, gable roof, and eave returns. The windows were all multi-paned and square. In the peak of the gable was a palladian style half moon window.
Another pastor with a long association with the church came from Albany, New York, in 1842. Dr. John Knox was a graduate of the University of Edinburgh in medicine and divinity. He would remain with the congregation until his retirement in 1874. Knox later made a celebrated return visit to preach in the church at a special service in 1890 when he was quite elderly and blind.
By 1907, the Cross Roads Church was combined into one charge with Baptist churches in nearby Alexandra and Hazelbrook. This arrangement lasted until 1947.
The building was renovated extensively in 1925, with the addition of Gothic windows on the first storey replacing the square windows. Inside, a false ceiling was added which effectively cut off light from the upper storey windows.
By 1972, changing demographics in the area led to the church ending its regular services. It was used only for occasional services, especially in the summer. In 1987, however, it experienced a resurrection. A national meeting of the Disciples of Christ denomination held in PEI in 1986 spawned renewed interest in the history of the building and a restoration plan was begun. The building was moved back to accomodate more parking and a new vestibule was added to the front.
It opened for services again in 1988 and the following year, a cairn was erected celebrating the history of the various groups who had used the building in its history: the Disciples of Christ, the independent Christian churches, and the PEI Baptist Association.
The surrounding cemetery is the resting place of notable people from PEI history including Premier Walter Jones (1878-1954) and Rev. Dr. John Knox (1817-1892). Some of the earliest interments were Loyalists from the American Revolutionary War: John Bovyer (1749-1818) and Alexander Mutch (1756-1828).
Source: Culture and Heritage Division, PEI Department of Communities, Cultural Affairs and Labour, Charlottetown, PE C1A 7N8
File #: 4310-20/S14
The heritage value of the church is shown in the following character-defining elements:
- the two-storey wood frame construction with pegged mortise and tenon joints
- the wood shingle cladding
- the corner pilasters
- the gable roof with eave returns
- the square and gothic style windows