Description of Historic Place
This large church building at the southwest corner of Spring and Winter Streets is home to the congregation of Trinity United Church of Summerside. Having been spared from destruction in the Great Fire of 1906, it is the oldest standing church building still in use in the original Town of Summerside. It is a Gothic Revival design by the prominent Summerside architect/builder George E. Baker. It is clad in white vinyl and decorative cedar shingles.
The church is valued for its Gothic Revival architectural style; its historical association with the history of Methodism in Summerside; and for its contribution to the streetscape.
The history of the congregation predates the building by several decades. The first Methodist congregation accepted a lot of land on First Street from Joseph Green. A building constructed in 1859 was used for services until 1884 when the congregation joined with the local Bible Christian congregation as part of a national union. The congregations decided to use the 1874 Bible Christian building on the northwest corner of Spring and Winter Streets and the chapel on First Street was sold. The combined congregations soon felt the need for a larger structure.
Tenders were called in February 1893, the plans having been drawn up by local architect George E. Baker. The contract was awarded to Schurman, Clark and Company of Summerside and the cornerstone ceremony took place on the 3rd of August with a Masonic ritual. Two dates were carved into two separate stones, one being A.D. 1893 and the other A.L. 5893, the Anno Lucis date known to the Masonic order. According to George A. Leard, who wrote a history of Trinity United Church in 1958: "this is rarely seen in church foundations."
The work of building the church continued into 1894. A Charlottetown Guardian article included the following details: "The church is Gothic in construction and has two towers... one large and one small with entrances to the church through each... The dimensions are: nave, 45 x 70; transepts, 8 x 30; choir, 25 x 15... The windows are tinted with different colored cathedral glass... The Methodists of this town are to be congratulated on having such a splendid church..."
For the official opening on August 12th, assurances were made that extra chairs could supplement the 500 seats available in the cushioned pews. Three services drew throngs of people, many coming from other parts of the province.
The former church on the opposite side of Winter Street was remodelled for use as a church hall and Sunday School and became known as Epworth Hall.
On June 10, 1925 a national union of Methodist, Congregational, and three quarters of the Presbyterian Churches in Canada led to the formation of the United Church of Canada. The local Presbyterians who joined with the Methodists helped to choose the name of Trinity United Church.
In 1938, the first of many memorial stained glass windows was unveiled. Later, others were presented and now all the windows in the sanctuary are stained glass. Some alterations were made to the basement of the church in 1947 when the original seven-foot foundation was further excavated in order to increase useable space.
The first major structural change to the building occurred in 1957. M.F. Schurman Limited extended the nave 56 feet to the west thereby creating seating for an additional 200 persons.
The continued growth of the congregation necessitated another major expansion to the building in 1982. Plans were drawn for a further expansion to the west, this time measuring 84 feet in length and shaped like a "U". The large addition resulted in an auditorium, a new kitchen, office space and washrooms on the upper level. On the lower floor, space was allotted for offices, meeting room, classrooms, washrooms, and a ladies parlour. In 1988, the original stone foundation was removed section-by-section and replaced with concrete.
Another addition to the building took place in 2007 when the eastern elevation was extended towards Spring Street which expanded the narthex/lobby and created a large multi-purpose room in the basement. The above ground foundation stones and the large stained glass windows on the east wall were removed and then replaced as the work progressed.
Source: City of Summerside Heritage Property Profile
The heritage value of the building is shown in the following character-defining elements:
- the rectangular massing and form
- the concrete foundation with decorative stone covering on the east elevation
- the large steeply pitched gable roof with asphalt shingles
- the Gothic Revival style buttressed small northeast tower with snub spire
- the Gothic Revival style buttressed southeast full tower with louvers and finial
- the decorative shingle pattern on the towers
- the transepts
- the batten board of the gables ends
- the small rose window in the east pedimented gable end
- the grouped tall multi-paned stained glass Gothic windows with eared caps on the east elevation which were retained in the 2007 extension
- the grouped tall multi-paned stained glass Gothic windows with eared caps on north and south transepts