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Zion Baptist Church

454 Prince Street, Truro, Nova Scotia, B2N, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1997/03/01

Zion Baptist Church, Truro, western elevation, 2004; Heritage Division, NS Dept. of Tourism, Culture and Heritage, 2004
West Elevation
Zion Baptist Church, Truro, tree sculpture of Portia White, 2004; Heritage Division, NS Dept. of Tourism, Culture and Heritage, 2004
Sculpture of Portia White
Zion Baptist Church, Truro, historic site plaque, 2004; Heritage Division, NS Dept. of Tourism, Culture and Heritage, 2004
Historic Site Plaque Detail

Other Name(s)

Zion Baptist Church
454 Prince Street
Zion United Baptist Church

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)


Listed on the Canadian Register: 2005/03/01

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

Zion Baptist Church is a single-storey wood-frame church located at 454 Prince Street in the west end of Truro, NS. It is a Queen Anne style building, and features an apse-like wing attached to the street side of a side-facing nave, and a corner steeple tower containing the entrance. The designation includes the building and surrounding property.

Heritage Value

Spiritual and Religious Value

Zion Baptist Church is the spiritual home to a community whose roots in Truro extend back to the late nineteenth century. The congregation’s shared historical experiences forged a strong sense of community among its members, and led them in 1896 to seek separation from the Baptist churches they had originally worshipped with in Truro. This church building is a symbol of that sense of community, the events that led to the establishment of the church, and the history of the congregation since.

Historic Value

Zion Baptist is valued for its association with the African-Canadian community that settled in Truro in the nineteenth century, largely as labourers, during the period of construction of the railways and later in railway operations. The community initially worshipped at First Baptist Church and its daughter congregation of Immanuel Baptist Church. In 1896 they sought separation and organized into a new congregation, Zion Baptist, worshipping in rented quarters until construction of this building was completed in 1898. The first pastor of Zion Baptist, Rev. Abraham Clements, took up his responsibilities as regular pastor in 1897.

The church is also valued for its associations with other historical figures. Portia White (1910-1968), the first African-Canadian woman to win international acclaim, was born in Truro to a musical family and sang in the choir of this church where her father was pastor. Her career as a soloist and educator became a source of pride for all Canadians, and the tree sculpture in front of the church honours her memory and accomplishments.

A long-time member of this congregation, Stanley (Chook) Maxwell (1935-2001), was one of the first black men to play professional hockey, serving on a number of Canadian and American hockey teams in the 1950s and 1960s. Maxwell was also locally prominent in baseball, and was elected into the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame.

Architectural Value

Zion Baptist Church is one of two examples of ecclesiastical Queen Anne Revival architecture in Truro. Both are similar in form but this example is simpler in terms of massing, materials and surface details. The design was by James Charles Dumaresq of Halifax and Saint John, a prominent and prolific architect, and construction was by local carpenter Evan MacDonald.

The building is a basic gable-end Queen Anne form turned to the East and West. However, the apsoidal hipped-roof front wing, and a cross gable on the opposite side of the nave create a transept-like addition to the structure. The hipped-roof structures in three of the corners have the external appearance of abbreviated aisles, and balance the entrance tower with its prominent broach steeple.

Source: Planning Department, Town of Truro, file 10MNS0020

Character-Defining Elements

External elements that define the heritage character of Zion Baptist Church include:

- all original or historic building elements, including: basic gable-end Queen Anne Revival form and massing; hip-roofed apsoidal wing on the north with a truncated roof profile, and a gable-end wing on the south; hip-roof corner structure at the intersections of nave and wings; open entrance porch with square supports and brackets; corner entrance with a square bell-tower and six-sided spire;
- all original or historic door and window elements, including; Palladian stained glass windows at each end of the nave; rectangular stained-glass windows; narrow sashed windows with side surrounds;
- all original or historic building materials, including: wooden trim elements;
- original or historic site elements, including: placement of the church and neighboring manse at a deep offset from the street, with a broad lawn in front; memorial stone with plaque by the main entrance; tree sculpture of Portia White placed close to the street.



Nova Scotia

Recognition Authority

Local Governments (NS)

Recognition Statute

Heritage Property Act

Recognition Type

Municipally Registered Property

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Philosophy and Spirituality

Function - Category and Type


Religion, Ritual and Funeral
Religious Facility or Place of Worship


Architect / Designer

James Charles Dumaresq


Evan MacDonald

Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Planning Department, Town of Truro, PO Box 427, Truro, NS B2N 5C5

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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