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Old Centenary Methodist Church

95 Wentworth Street, Saint John, New Brunswick, E2L, Canada

Formally Recognized: 2008/08/18

This photograph shows a contextual view of the building from the corner of Wentworth and Princess streets; City of Saint John
Old Centenary Methodist Church - Contextual view
This photograph shows the interior of the large south window; City of Saint John
Old Centenary Methodist Church - Window
This photograph shows the elaborate Gothic entrance supported by small columns; City of Saint John
Old Centenary Methodist Church - Entrance

Other Name(s)

Old Centenary Methodist Church
Gothic Arches
Gothic Arches
Centenary Queen Square United Church
Église unie centenaire de Queen Square

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1878/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2009/11/23

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Old Centenary Methodist Church is a stone Gothic Revival church built on the highest point of the early City of Saint John. Its lot fronts onto three streets. The building displays beautiful Gothic arches and stained glass windows. It was built in 1878.

Heritage Value

The Old Centenary Methodist Church is designated a Local Historic Place for its architecture and for its association with the Great Saint John Fire of 1877. This structure is a good example of the architecture employed during the rebuilding process following the fire in 1877. This fire, which destroyed two-thirds of the City of Saint John, would prove to be one of the most catastrophic in the history of Canada. The use of stone and brick in the area sent a message that the city would be more fire resistant in the future. The elements and design in this building, as well as in the rest of the buildings in the area, demonstrated that the city was going to rebuild as well as, if not better than, what was destroyed in the fire. The resilient architecture of this building symbolizes the strong will of the residents of Saint John to rebuild the city. The building is situated upon two corner lots and stands alone upon the highest point in the Central Peninsula, contributing to this building’s status as one of Saint John's top landmarks.

The Old Centenary Church is also recognized for its illustrious history. In the centennial year of Methodism (1839), the first Centenary church was built on this site. The wooden church was destroyed in the 1877 fire. Methodists suffered greatly from the Great Saint John Fire as they lost their three principal churches. This church had the largest Methodist congregation in Saint John. The current church was dedicated on August 27th, 1882. In May, 1883, Saint John celebrated the 100th anniversary of the landing of the United Empire Loyalists. Among the events of that affair was a watch-night service held in this church. This church was selected for this celebration because it had the largest seating capacity of any of the Protestant places of worship. With the creation of the united Church of Canada in 1925, this church was known as the Centenary United Church. After the dwindling congregation moved to smaller quarters in 1999, this grand edifice was left vacant and was prey to vandalism until interested citizens obtained the building. It is currently a multi-purpose center and it is increasing in popularity as a concert venue, known as the Gothic Arches.

The building is also recognized for its grand Gothic Revival architecture. John Welsh of New York was the architect. The church has a beautiful array of lancet windows and trefoil and quatrefoil patterns that characterizes the interior and exterior of the building. The steeply-pitched roof is apparent internally, a construction technique known "hammer-beam", all the massive timber work being wrought out of hard pine. The short beams rise in steps from the top of a wall to the roof peak, creating a more open space. Although the timbers which made up the supporting elements in hammer-beam roofs were structural, they were also used as ornamental elements.

The church was built to seat at least 1600, and to accommodate 2000 people in total. The Princess Street façade has a handsome Gothic doorway flanked by stone columns. Heavy stone buttresses support the corners and sides of the building, which are surmounted with massive pinnacles. The beautiful stained glass windows were made by J. C. Spence, of Montreal. The side lancet windows are beautiful examples of artistic work in glass. The memorial windows in this church are the finest in the City of Saint John and one of the finest displays of biblical themes etched in stain glass in the country.

Source: Planning and Development Department – City of Saint John

Character-Defining Elements

The character-defining elements of this Gothic Revival church include:
- steeply-pitched roof made to appear internally, known as the "hammer-beam" mode of construction, all the massive timber work being wrought out of hard pine;
- carved stone cross on the apex of the roof;
- trefoil pattern along the eaves;
- lancet patterns throughout the exterior;
- lancet windows;
- heavy stone buttresses supporting the corners and the sides of the building, surmounted by massive pinnacles;
- large Gothic arches in window and entrance openings;
- Gothic doorway flanked by stone columns;
- windows with elaborate stone tracery;
- stained glass windows by J. C. Spence;
- memorial windows with biblical etchings;
- diagonal wainscoting in door;
- quatrefoil and trefoil patterns throughout the interior and exterior;
- Gothic arch pattern throughout the interior;
- balcony rail with trefoil pattern.

Recognition

Jurisdiction

New Brunswick

Recognition Authority

Local Governments (NB)

Recognition Statute

Local Historic Places Program

Recognition Type

Municipal Register of Local Historic Places

Recognition Date

2008/08/18

Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

1877/01/01 to 1877/01/01
1883/01/01 to 1883/01/01

Theme - Category and Type

Building Social and Community Life
Religious Institutions
Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Architecture and Design

Function - Category and Type

Current

Commerce / Commercial Services
Studio
Education
Special or Training School
Leisure
Auditorium, Cinema or Nightclub

Historic

Religion, Ritual and Funeral
Religious Facility or Place of Worship

Architect / Designer

John Welsh

Builder

James Thompson (masonry)

Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Planning and Development Department - City of Saint John

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier

932

Status

Published

Related Places

n/a

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