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Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Athabasca United Church is an early twentieth century one-storey wood frame structure located on a sloping, double corner lot in the Town of Athabasca. It features twin corner towers of unequal height, pointed arched windows, and a gable roof.
The heritage value of the Athabasca United Church lies in its association with the growth of Athabasca prior to World War One and its Gothic Revival architecture.
Founded as a Hudson's Bay Company (H.B.C.) post in 1875, the settlement at Athabasca initially developed as a vital transportation hub for the fur trade and the Klondike Gold Rush, connecting traders and prospectors with a vast land and river network extending into Northern Alberta and the Western Arctic. The community's transportation system was further developed in 1912, when the Canadian Northern Railway (C.No.R.) completed construction on the Edmonton and Slave Lake Railway to Athabasca. A land rush ensued the following year as settlers attracted by the area's abundant land and resources - especially natural gas - boarded trains and flocked to the town. The heady optimism of the times is evident in the large-scale of the Athabasca United Church (originally the Athabasca Methodist Church) built in 1913. One of Alberta's largest frame structures with a capacity exceeding 600 people, the church was built at the height of hopes for Athabasca, before railway lines bypassing the settlement brought the town's rapid expansion to an abrupt halt.
Adapting the Gothic Revival style of architecture to the particular needs and sensibilities of the community in Athabasca, well-known Edmonton architect Ernest William Morehouse designed the Athabasca United Church as an elegant, spacious building. The Gothic Revival style in evident in the twin corner towers, the trefoil gable window, and the pointed, arched windows. The church resembles other Protestant houses of worship in Alberta derived from the Gothic Revival style, but is distinguished by its use of wood as the primary building material and its roof supported by walls, rafters, and ceiling joists without any interior pillars. The plan of the church, with its many windows and almost square design, was intended to create an atmosphere of spaciousness and grandeur centred on the preacher proclaiming the Gospel.
Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 1118)
The character-defining elements of the Athabasca United Church include such features as:
Elements of the Gothic Revival style, including:
- mass, form, and style;
- gable roof with cross gables;
- twin corner towers with pinnacles and spires;
- pointed, arched windows with coloured glazing and arched doorways;
- wooden brackets and beams supporting roof;
- incidental Gothic detailing, including wood trefoils in gable ends.
Other significant features, including:
- taller north tower featuring three vented, pointed arched wood frames on each side;
- clapboard siding, diachromatic wood shingled roof and gable ends;
- decorative exterior elements, including dentils;
- fenestration pattern and style, including double-hung sash windows;
- floor plan;
- original mouldings, wainscoting, and doors;
- collection of original furnishings and religious artifacts;
- hardwood flooring.
Province of Alberta
Historical Resources Act
Provincial Historic Resource
Theme - Category and Type
- Peopling the Land
- Building Social and Community Life
- Religious Institutions
- Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
- Architecture and Design
Function - Category and Type
- Religion, Ritual and Funeral
- Religious Facility or Place of Worship
Architect / Designer
Ernest William Morehouse
Location of Supporting Documentation
Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (File: Des. 1118)
Cross-Reference to Collection