Description of Historic Place
This site located on the northwest corner of Spring and Winter Streets is the former site of the Epworth Hall. It is now a parking lot for the nearby Trinity United Church. The site of the former hall is commemorated in a small grassed area with two maple trees and a sandstone cairn with flowers in front. A plaque on the cairn faces the intersection. Its inscription reads: "Site of the first Protestant Church in Summerside, later known as Epworth Hall, 1860-1983."
A very large Greek Revival influenced wooden structure known as Epworth Hall once stood on the northwest corner of Spring and Winter Streets. When it was torn down in 1983 its historical significance was commemorated with a stone cairn facing the intersection.
The Methodist Church originally was opened on the north side of First Street in 1860 on land donated by Joseph Green. This is shown in an 1887 engraving from the Journal Pioneer newspaper. Around 1871, another Methodist group - the Bible Christians - decided to erect another building on Spring Street. This was a group which had emerged from the Methodist Church. The 30 by 50 foot church was constructed in 1874 and may have been built by John Cudmore, one of the leading members of the congregation. It was one of eight churches in the town at the time. In 1884, the Bible Christians and three branches of Methodism in Canada came together to form the Methodist Church in Canada. The local congregations thus combined under one minister and the building henceforth became known as the Summerside Methodist Church.
In 1894, the congregation opened a new church (now known as Trinity United) on the opposite corner to the south and the earlier structure was converted into a meeting hall and Sunday School classrooms. In the fall of 1894, the building formally became known as Epworth Hall. A branch of the Epworth League had been organized in Summerside in January 1890. This was a youth organization which began in Cleveland, Ohio in May 1889. An 1891 newspaper, described the League as "a temperance and literary organization, with a course of lectures and entertainments."
Major repairs and alterations were made to the building in 1914. An addition on the west side provided for a kitchen, ladies parlour, and extra classrooms. Another renovation was carried out in the summer of 1928 when an addition was built on the north end of the hall. This provided space for a stage as well as for three classrooms on the level above. The stage became a popular feature, allowing the congregation to host lectures, plays, and many concerts over the years.
The next significant change to the building occurred in 1951. Under the supervision of contractor, J. Harold MacLennan, the old kitchen extension was taken down and replaced with a two-story 33 by 25 foot annex to house a modern kitchen. The second floor was designed as the church parlor and the basement was made into a recreational lounge. The original part of the building was converted into a gymnasium on the main floor and a large youth group area on the second floor, the Sunday School classrooms having been moved to the basement of the church.
Over the next three decades, the hall continued to be used for a wide variety of congregational purposes, including as the Trinity Credit Union from 1949 to 1968. In its history, the hall was also used by the wider community. Following the Great Fire of 1906, it served as the meeting place of the congregations of the Baptist and Christian Baptist churches after their buildings were destroyed. In 1916 and perhaps in other years, the hall was used for the graduation exercises of the nurses of Prince County Hospital. In the fall of 1935, the first six grades of the Summerside School and Academy occupied the hall while repairs and rebuilding were carried out after a serious fire at the school.
When parking space became necessary for automobiles, the congregation purchased and demolished two houses to the north and one to the west of Epworth Hall. One of those homes had served as the Methodist Church parsonage before it was purchased by the Pridham family in 1910. After a very large extension to the adjacent Trinity United Church in 1982, the hall was no longer needed. It was demolished in 1983 and increased the size of the church's parking lot.
Source: City of Summerside, Heritage Property Profiles
The heritage value of the site is shown in the following character-defining elements:
- the sandstone cairn with simple plaque identifying the significance of the area as the site of the first Protestant church in Summerside