Description of Historic Place
The Irricana United Church was built in 1919. It is a one-and-a-half storey, wood-frame building clad in wood siding with a concrete foundation. It has a steeply pitched, cross-gable roof and large gable ends. The main entry is located in the base of a three-storey, square tower with crenellations, which is situated at the northeast corner. All sides of the building and the gable ends feature flat headed Trinity windows. The church and its associated cemetery are situated on 1.2 hectares in the Municipal District of Rocky View. The site is located at the junction of Township Road 272 (Highway 567) and Range Road 274, approximately 10 kilometres west of the Town of Irricana.
The heritage value of the Irricana United Church lies in its identity as an excellent example of a small rural church built on an Akron plan.
The Irricana United Church is constructed on an Akron plan. This type of church design reflects the importance evangelical denominations, particularly the Methodist church, placed on life-long education and religious training. In the mid-1800s, the Methodist Church adopted the Uniform Lesson Plan, under which all congregants received the same basic lesson. In the late-1860s, Lewis Miller, a businessman, inventor and Methodist Sunday school superintendent in Akron, Ohio, saw a need for a new church and Sunday school design that would accommodate the Uniform Lesson Plan ideal. He developed an innovative layout which included a large auditorium or open space for introductory and closing group meetings. Radiating from this space was a series of classrooms for smaller, more age-appropriate sessions based on the day's lesson. A further refinement of the Akron plan was the inclusion of diagonally oriented or auditorium style seating in the main sanctuary, which was intended to optimize space and improve visibility of the altar from the classrooms. By the turn of the century, the Akron plan became extremely popular amongst the evangelical denominations - notably Methodists, Presbyterians and Baptists - and examples were built across the continent. Large urban churches tended to build separate, but adjoined Sunday schools accessible from the main church sanctuary via removable walls or partitions. Smaller, rural churches, which typically did not have the numbers or finances to allow the construction of a dedicated school building, tended to remain closer to the original Akron plan conception. These small churches tended to build a suite of small classrooms that opened directly off the main sanctuary.
The Irricana United Church is an excellent representation of a small rural church built on an Akron plan. Following 1908, members of the Church of the Brethren migrated from North Dakota and began to settle in the Irricana district. The Brethren, more commonly know in Canada as the Dunkards for their practise of full-body, adult baptism, were a group of German, fundamentalist Baptists with theological roots in the Anabaptist and Wesleyan traditions. They built this church in 1919 to replace an earlier, smaller church, which had been in use since 1910. The 1919 building incorporates many aspects of the Akron plan churches that were popular in the United States around the turn of the century. The seating in the sanctuary is arranged in a diagonal manner with the baptismal tank, raised altar and pulpit located in the southwest corner. Additional seating is provided by an upper gallery on the north side. The north and east walls also feature suites of small, irregularly shaped classrooms with blackboards. These rooms are separated from the sanctuary by folding, wooden, five-panel doors. An additional classroom is also located off the gallery. Natural light is provided through sets of flat-headed Trinity windows, which are set in each gable end and line the sides of the church - one set on the west side, two sets on the south side and three sets on the north and east sides. To further facilitate community and church events, the basement contained a kitchen and a large space for gatherings. The wood frame, wood siding-clad building has a cross-gable roof around a crenellated, square, three-storey tower at the northeast corner. This roofing and tower arrangement was a common pattern followed by many Akron plan churches of various sizes.
Source: Alberta Culture and Community Services, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 1258)
Key elements that define the heritage value of the Irricana United Church include such elements as its:
Akron Plan Elements
- steeply-pitched, cross-gable roof with large gable ends facing north, east and west;
- three storey, crenellated, square tower situated at the northeast corner;
- suite of small, irregularly shaped classrooms with blackboards, located along the north
and east walls of the sanctuary and an additional, larger classroom accessible
from the gallery;
- folding, wooden five-panel doors separating main floor classrooms from sanctuary;
- diagonally arranged pews in the sanctuary;
- raised platform, altar and lectern situated in the southwest corner of the sanctuary in
front of a curved, tongue-and-groove clad section of the wall;
- upper gallery with tiered seating located on the east wall.
- fenestration pattern of a series of flat-headed windows arranged in a Palladian style, one
set located in each gable end, three on the east and north elevations, two on the south
elevation and one on the west elevation;
- stained glass windows in both of the west facing openings;
- fenestration pattern of the tower with sets of three windows located at the second and
third storey level of both the east and north elevations;
- wide main entry with double doors and transom, accessed by a wooden staircase,
located in the base of the tower's east elevation;
- stark, white painted, wood siding clad exterior walls;
- extant historic windows frames and storm windows;
- relationship with the associated cemetery and the rows of trees that define the church
yard and the vegetation that defines the southern boundary of the property.
- large, metal baptismal tank, covered with a trap door and situated in the southwest
corner behind the altar;
- extant historic wood trim, wood strip flooring, staircases, window and door frames,
doors, altar rails, pulpit and pews.
- relationship of the church with the associated cemetery, located to the west beyond a
row of trees;
- cemetery accessed through double, swinging metal gates with silhouettes of two doves,
all set within a metal cemetery arch;
- two outhouses situated on the property, one with two separate stalls the other with a
sign reading LADIES, one seat at regular height and two seats at lower height for
- rows of trees that define the church yard and separate the churchyard from the cemetery
- line of vegetation that defines the southern boundary of the church property.