Description of Historic Place
Westport Baptist Church is a large wood frame structure with a simple gable roof, pointed arch windows, and a large square tower projecting from the center of the front elevation. The church is located in Westport, Nova Scotia, high above the village, overlooking St. Mary’s Bay. Both the building and the surrounding property are included in the designation.
Westport Baptist Church is valued for its association with the history of Brier Island; for its mainly unaltered Gothic Revival architecture; and for its association with famed sea captain Joshua Slocum.
Westport Baptist Church is valued for its over one-hundred-and-forty year association with the fishermen of Brier Island, to whom the steeple has served as a navigational landmark. Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries many Brier Island residents were directly involved in the fishery. The church also represents a significant development in the history of the Island. Baptist services on Brier Island began in 1799 when Rev. Enoch Towner held the first service in the home of Andrew Coggins, where a public school had been established fifteen years earlier. For the next ten years members of the Baptist congregation from across the island sailed more than 25 kilometres, crossing St. Mary’s Bay, to attend Rev. Towner’s services at the baptist church in the town of Weymouth, then known as Sissiboo. Built in 1850 to accommodate a growing congregation, the large Gothic Revival church dominates the landscape as it is located high above the village, overlooking the St. Mary’s Bay.
Westport Baptist Church is also valued for its connection with the family of Captain Joshua Slocum. Slocum was the first man to sail alone around the world and was internationally celebrated. As a child Slocum and his family worshiped in pew No. 13, bought by his grandfather John Southern in 1850. In the church there is a plaque marking pew 13 with the inscription “Southern Family Pew.” Besides the pews, many other original and historical interior elements have survived including the chancel, choir room and the stained glass rosette window. It remains a landmark in the community.
Source: Notice of Registration of Property as a Provincial Heritage Property, Provincial Property Heritage File no. 131.
Character-defining elements of Westport Baptist Church include:
- large square tower projecting from the center of the front elevation forming an entrance porch;
- clad with shingles up to the ball peak of its steeple spire;
- dominating location overlooking St. Mary’s Bay.
Character-defining elements of the Gothic Revival style of Westport Baptist United Church include:
- steeply pitched gable roof;
- pointed arch windows;
- tower is topped with belfry and spire;
- large pointed window over the entrance, with detailed tracery pattern.
Character-defining elements of the interior of Westport Baptist United Church include:
- all original interior details including, ceiling finishes, pews with carved walnut arms and paneled to the floor, and chancel;
- diamond-design vault with planking typical of ship’s carpentry;
- later additions such as the choir rooms with Victorian fret work at the top, the choir, the pulpit and the stained glass rosette window;
- plaque marking pew No.13, inscribed “Southern Family Pew.”