Description of Historic Place
St. Peter's Church is located at 9676 Highway #4 near the shores of the Tracadie Harbour, Antigonish County, Nova Scotia. This Gothic Revival style Roman Catholic church was built between 1861 and 1864. The building, property and adjacent cemetery are included in the municipal designation.
St. Peter's Church is valued for its religious ministry within this predominately French Acadian settlement of Tracadie. From the earliest days, the appointment of French speaking priests clearly demonstrated the recognition by church hierarchy for the need to have clergy communicate in the language of local people.
St. Peter's Church is valued for its association with Reverend Charles P. Martell, who served a seventeen-year appointment as pastor from 1860 through 1877. A native of Arichat born in 1829, he was the son of Joseph Martell and Barbe Foret. Prior to Martell's ordination, he was a merchant with training in commerce. Youthful and well-organized, he undertook the task of overseeing the construction of St. Peter's Church. Separate tenders were issued for supplying lumber, building the foundation and completing exterior work. The cornerstone was laid in June of 1861. Due to an unfortunate windstorm in September of that year, the newly erected frame was blown down. It was in the spring of 1862 that work resumed; by December shingling and rough boarding was complete. A newspaper article of October 1864 reports that St. Peter's Church was nearing completion. What is particularly notable is the fact that while St. Peter's Church was being constructed, Reverend Charles Martell was overseeing the construction of two other churches in his district, at Pomquet and at Havre Boucher.
St. Peter's Church is valued for the association with a well-known religious figure, Father Vincent de Paul. Born at Chalamont, France in 1768, he is best known for his role in efforts to establish a Trappist Monastery and Trappistine Convent at Tracadie. It was a continuous struggle for these monastic orders to exist, as there was a lack of vocations from Nova Scotia. Father Vincent de Paul died at the Trappistine Convent in 1853 and was buried there. In later years, his remains were transferred to St. Peter's Church Cemetery where they remain to the present day.
St. Peter's Church is a valued example of Gothic Revival architecture. The dimensions of the church are recorded as being ninety feet by fifty-six feet, with a vestry of forty-two feet by thirty-two feet. A Tudor arch appears above the grand, four-door entrance. Gothic windows are featured along both sides of the building, flanking, and over the main entrance. The church is symmetrical with gable roof, central tower with octagonal belfry and spire. Cornice mouldings, entablatures and return eaves decorate this structure. The cemetery adjacent to, and across the road from St. Peter's Church contains the remains and grave markers of many pioneer settlers, and clergy to the Tracadie district.
Source: Municipality of the County of Antigonish Registered, Heritage Property file no. 191
Character-defining elements of St. Peter's Church include:
- rectangular, wood-frame construction;
- symmetrical three-bay façade;
- four-door entrance, with Tudor arch above;
- Gothic windows and arches;
- simple cornice mouldings, entablatures and return eaves;
- central tower, octagonal belfry with louvered openings and spire;
- cemetery with grave markers of many settlers and well-known religious leaders.