Wilmot United Church
Fredericton Methodist Church
Église méthodiste de Fredericton
Links and documents
1851/01/01 to 1852/01/01
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
Wilmot United Church is an impressive landmark on the corner of King and Carleton Streets in the centre of downtown Fredericton. It is one of the finest examples of carpenter-Gothic architecture in New Brunswick.
Wilmot United Church is designated a Provincial Historic Site for its location, its architecture and its congregation of Methodists.
Known originally as the Fredericton Methodist Church, its prominent location in the centre of Fredericton’s downtown reflects the important role of Wilmot United Church in the religious and social life of the capital city. The growing influence of members of the Methodist community in business and politics is reflected in the ambitious architectural detail of the church’s façade. This building boasted the largest auditorium in 19th- century Fredericton, seating in excess of 800 people. In 1925, the church was named after New Brunswick’s first native-born Lieutenant Governor, Judge Lemuel Allan Wilmot (1868-1873), who exemplified the integration of civic leadership and church life through his efforts to plan and finance the construction of the church, his service as a church trustee, Sunday School Superintendent and leader of the choir.
Built in 1851-52, Wilmot United Church is also significant architecturally because, both inside and out, it exemplifies a key transition in Victorian aesthetic preferences. Architect Matthew Stead and chief contractor, John Purvis achieved a convincing balance of two architectural traditions – the Georgian and the Gothic. Behind the amassing of well-executed Gothic decorative detail, stands the familiar rectangular configuration of a Methodist meetinghouse inspired by earlier Georgian forms brought to New Brunswick in the late 18th century by the Loyalists. The attention to Gothic detail is most in evidence around windows, doors, and especially in the church tower and belfry. Leading Methodists in mid-19th-century Fredericton borrowed and adapted these Gothic designs from Anglican sources and most particularly, they were influenced by the design of Christ Church Cathedral which was being constructed at precisely the same time just a few blocks away from Wilmot United Church.
Wilmot United Church is also a symbol of the growing influence of the Methodists in the colonial capital. It was no accident that the steeple of the Methodist church exceeded the height of the steeple atop the nearby Anglican Cathedral. The 206-foot steeple was surmounted by a distinctive 7-foot carved hand, fashioned from a single piece of white pine, with the index finger pointing upward to heaven. This remained as a prominent landmark on the Fredericton skyline for 122 years until it was removed in 1974 due to structural problems. The carved hand remains on display inside the church. Having joined the United Church of Canada in 1925, today this building exists as the last of the large wooden frame churches that once dominated the Fredericton skyline.
Source: Department Wellness, Culture and Sport, Heritage Branch, Site File: Vol.IX-122
The character-defining elements that describe the Georgian Church with Gothic embellishment include:
- context and location;
- overall proportions of this rectangular wooden building, with its relatively low-pitched gable roof, no chancel extension and the dominant tower centring the front façade;
- array of striking gothic elements applied to this essentially Georgian model, most notably the windows, the largest of which is a four-lancet composition at the base of the tower, complemented by six double-lancet stained glass windows, all with elegant tracery and Gothic tops along each side of the church;
- abundance of Gothic embellishment on the church exterior including the simple and conical finials, columns, applied buttresses, various floral motifs and pointed arches above windows and doors, and an elaborately recessed Gothic door;
- attention to Gothic aesthetics in the church interior where a pair of stairways ascend to the left and right of the main floor of the church consisting of a large, rectangular auditorium with galleries on three sides supported by ten moulded columns rising to the vaulted ceiling, 50 feet above the floor of the nave;
- box-pews that typified New Brunswick’s Georgian churches;
- carved hand on display in the church.
Province of New Brunswick
Historic Sites Protection Act, s. 2(1)
Historic Sites Protection Act – Historic
1925/01/01 to 1925/01/01
Theme - Category and Type
- 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
Location of Supporting Documentation
Department Wellness, Culture and Sport, Heritage Branch, Site File:Vol.IX-122
Cross-Reference to Collection