Description of Historic Place
First Presbyterian Church, constructed in 1926-27, is an imposing multi-storey stone structure denoted by its two towers and Gothic Revival detailing. Overlooking Winnipeg's Vimy Ridge Park, the church is situated between the busy commerce and traffic of Portage Avenue and the tranquil stately homes of the Wolseley neighbourhood. The provincial designation applies to the church and the eight lots it occupies.
First Presbyterian Church is a refined example of Gothic Revival architecture and one of the last large churches built in Manitoba in that style. Designed jointly by Pratt and Ross and James McDiarmid, the structure is noted for its cruciform plan, including transepts and nave containing straight rows of pews between centre and side aisles. This return to British traditions departed from the then-popular American-influenced auditorium plan with its curved, sloped seating and stage-like pulpit and service platform. First Presbyterian is the principal of four churches established in the last half of the 1920s by Winnipeg congregations that did not join the 1925 union of Presbyterians, Methodists and Congregationalists into the United Church of Canada. The church's location, facing west onto Vimy Ridge Park, makes the building a notable local landmark.
Source: Manitoba Heritage Council Minute, October 16, 1987
Key elements that define the heritage character of the First Presbyterian Church site include:
- the church's location on the northeast corner of Picardy Place and Canora Street
Key elements that define the church's external Gothic Revival style include:
- the multi-storey stone structure composed of a variety of volumes and steeply pitched roofs, dominated by a lofty south tower and smaller crenellated north tower
- the south tower featuring angled piers at the corners, a stepped parapet, three stone belt courses with the middle course's midsection arched, and a limestone date stone in the southwest corner
- the various components expressed through changes in roof height and shape, as seen in the long rectangular volume of the nave with gable roof and clerestory windows, the transepts denoted by the cross-gables perpendicular to the nave, and a flat roof, stone parapet and piers in the partially below-grade L-shaped volume at the east end
- the variety of sizes and arrangement of openings, including double and triple lancet windows throughout with pointed arched or flat-headed smooth-cut stone surrounds, cinquefoil tracery, limestone labels, etc.
- the details, including the horizontal orientation of the rusticated stone, wooden entrance doors, buttresses, pinnacles, etc.
Key elements that define the church's interior layout, finishes and details include:
- the cruciform plan composed of the nave, chancel and transepts
- the centre aisle with pews on either side, bordered by arcaded side aisles
- the nave's soaring gambrel ceiling with elaborate brackets and decorative, darkly stained diagonal wood planking segmented into cubes by the grid of the purlins and beams
- the raised chancel and choir area, made intimate by being recessed in the east wall, with lowered ceiling height and ornamental wainscotting
- the elaborate recessed leaded- and stained-glass windows throughout
- the superior acoustics resulting from the high quality of the design in combination with the Von Beckerath organ
- the details and finishes, including the hardwood floors, plaster and lath walls, wooden doors with pointed arched windows, period woodwork on the stairs, banisters and mouldings, period light fixtures, modest wooden pews, etc.