St. Mary's Church, Indian River
St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church
Links and documents
1900/01/01 to 1902/01/01
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
Located in a pastoral setting on the Hamilton Road in Indian River, this French Gothic style church features a unified nave and chancel with transepts. The stone foundation is Wallace freestone from Nova Scotia. A dominant feature of the building is the circular tower on the southwest corner. It is decorated with statues of the twelve apostles located in niches.
This building is valued as a fine example of the work of Island architect, William Critchlow Harris; for its well preserved French Gothic architectural style; and for its contribution to the landscape of Indian River.
Early pioneers to the area were Roman Catholic Scottish Highlanders from Uist and Barra who began arriving in the 1790s. By 1814, a mission church was constructed by the shores of Malpeque Bay. It was later hauled inland to the site of the present day St. Mary's Church. By 1843, this was dismantled and taken to Summerside and a larger second church was built to replace it.
This second church was struck by lightning on August 4, 1896 and burned down while Father Gillis watched helplessly from the verandah of the parish house. Immediately, plans were developed to construct the current building. Rev. Monsignor D.J. Gillis approached the noted architect, William Critchlow Harris, to design the new church. He directed Harris to "build it like Kinkora's church only bigger and better !" Harris also designed St. Malachy's Roman Catholic Church in Kinkora which was completed in 1899.
The entire community was involved with the project which cost $20,000. Parishioners hauled stones for the foundation and laboured in the forest to cut lumber for the building. Work began in 1900 and the builder was Nathan MacFarlane. It was completed by 1902.
The result was a magnificent example of Harris' skill. The exterior elements include a circular corner tower featuring twelve niches for the apostles. The main body of the building has alternating shingle patterns, drilled hole bargeboards, and an array of pointed arch Gothic windows. The interior design includes an original altar also designed by Harris and an acoustic quality which has made the building the perfect host for the music of the annual Indian River Festival.
The building was decommissioned as a church by the diocese in September 2009 and purchased by the Indian River Festival. Restoration of the building's fine architectural features was undertaken in 2010 and 2011.
Source: Culture and Heritage Division, PEI Department of Tourism and Culture, Charlottetown, PE
File #: 4320-20/S6
The heritage value of the church is shown in the following character-defining elements:
- the Wallace stone foundation
- the wood frame construction and cruciform plan
- the alternating wooden shingle patterns
- the gable roofline
- the drilled hole bargeboard
- the beltcourses
- the various sized pointed arch Gothic windows
- the window cap moulding
- the large multi-paned Gothic windows
- the circular side tower featuring representations of the twelve apostles
- the decorative lantern on the roof in the middle of the transept
- the decorative bartizans
Prince Edward Island
Province of Prince Edward Island
Heritage Places Protection Act
Designated Historic Place
Theme - Category and Type
- Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
- Architecture and Design
Function - Category and Type
- Auditorium, Cinema or Nightclub
- Religion, Ritual and Funeral
- Religious Facility or Place of Worship
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
Source: Culture and Heritage Division, PEI Department of Tourism and Culture, Charlottetown, PE C1A 7N8
File #: 4320-20/S6
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