Description of Historic Place
St. John's Church is located at 36 Henderson Street, on the northeast corner of Henderson and Smith Streets, in the former Village of Elora, in the Township of Centre Wellington. The one-storey red brick building was designed in the Gothic Revival style by architect Henry Langley and was constructed in 1875.
The property was designated, by the Township of Centre Wellington, for its architectural and heritage significance, under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act (By-law 01-40).
St. John's Church is significant for the contributions it has made to the social atmosphere of the Elora community. The Parish of St. John the Evangelist was formed in 1830 and the original Elora church was built in 1842, at the south end of the Village. The current church was built as a replacement, in 1875, and has served as a place of worship for over 125 years. In addition to its religious function, it also acts as a community centre, providing space for the Girl Guides of Canada, Canada World Youth, the Elora-Salem Horticulture Society, and Alcoholics Anonymous. A strong bond has also developed with the Portage, an organization offering a drug free therapeutic rehabilitation program, run from Salem. Church members also had a role in founding a private school, St. John's Kilmarnock, in 1972. In 1979 St. John's Church was the birthplace of the Elora Festival, which is a four week celebration of music held in July.
St. John's Church is home to the famous communion set, reportedly donated by Florence Nightingale, to her cousin and reputed lover, John Smithurst, Rector of the church, from 1852-1857. In 1945 the church began an annual service for nurses who strive to follow Nightingale's example.
St. John's Church represents an excellent example of the Gothic Revival style, which was commonly used for church designs. It was designed by Henry Langley, who was responsible for several other Gothic Revival churches, such as the Metropolitan Methodist, Jarvis Street Baptist, and St. Andrew's Presbyterian (now United) churches, in Toronto. The exterior features that characterize this style include buttresses, vaulted arches, steeply pitched gable roofs, and elaborate cast iron ornaments, exemplified by the rooftop cresting. The interior of both the nave and chancel contain fine stained glass windows and traditional symbolic art, by Gordon Couling AOCA, late professor of Fine Arts at the University of Guelph.
Sources: Township of Centre Wellington, By-law 01-40. “Council supports heritage designation of St. John's Church, Elora” News Express, February 21, 2001.
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of St. John's Church include its:
- continued use as a place of worship for over 125 years
- one-storey red brick construction
- vaulted arches
- exterior buttresses
- steeply pitched gable roof
- roof top cresting
- stained glass windows
- interior artwork and memorial plaques