Description of Historic Place
The Northwest United Baptist Church sits on a small embankment at the end of the Big Lots Road in Fauxburg, Lunenburg County. Built in 1818-1820 in the Transition Phase Meeting House style, Northwest United Baptist Church has a height of two-and-a-half storeys, a gable roof and symmetrically placed windows. Its plain design combines both ornate and simple decorative elements and features an off-centre door on its gable end. The building, cemetery and property are included in the provincial designation.
Northwest United Baptist Church is valued for its age, historical association with the spiritual history of Lunenburg County and its Meeting House style construction.
Built between 1818 and 1820, Northwest United Baptist Church is the oldest documented Baptist house of worship in Nova Scotia. The congregation was formed in 1809 under the guidance of the New Light preacher Joseph Dimock, leader of the dissenting members of the Christian faith who followed more evangelical teachings such as those professed by Henry Alline, founder of the New Light movement.
Reverend Dimock led the Northwest congregation, while tending to his own parish in Chester until a permanent pastor was assigned to the congregation in 1817. Reverend Dimock continued throughout his life to be a leading religious figure in the province and was partly responsible for the conversion of many New Light churches to a more organized type of religion, which we now know as the Baptist faith.
Reverend Dimock's evangelistic spirit remained with the small congregation and was highly influential in the continued existence of the congregation. This spirit of commitment is also evident in more recent endeavours of the congregation to preserve the churches architecture and tradition. So not to risk disturbing the original appearance of the church, the congregation voted to dig the church basement by hand, to accommodate a kitchen and furnace room.
The Meeting House style of the church, of which Northwest United Baptist is an excellent example, features a plain symmetrical design which was common to buildings owned by dissenting religious groups in the eighteenth-century. This church is particularly unique because it exhibits characteristics of the Transition Phase, which saw the slow adoption of more traditional church designs including the addition of simple decorative elements.
The Northwest United Baptist church features several ornamentations such as corner boards styled as Greek Revival pilasters and an off centre doorway that indicate the movement away from the traditional New England Meeting House style of basic design anchored in symmetry. In addition, the layout of the church with the main entrance on the gabled end instead of along one of the longest faces is indicative of a shift from the traditional Meeting House style. The pews in the church are situated with their backs to the main entrance as would be found in a traditional Meeting House layout; however, this means they are perpendicular rather than parallel to the longest face where the main entrance was traditionally located.
The later addition of a triple set of Gothic Revival arch windows on the rear elevation in the twentieth-century also indicates a continuation of the movement toward more ornately styled buildings.
The Meeting House style is unique within Lunenburg County and the clear illustration of the Transition Phase in architectural design makes the Northwest United Baptist Church a unique example of architecture within the province.
The congregation and cemetery of the Northwest United Baptist Church remain active.
Source: Provincial Heritage Program property files, no. 254, 1747 Summer Street, Halifax, NS.
Character-defining elements of Northwest United Baptist Church relating to its Meeting House Transition Phase style architecture include:
- off-center single main entrance on the gabled end;
- two-and-a-half storey wood frame structure;
- medium pitch gable roof;
- return eaves;
- corner boards designed as Greek Revival pilasters with simple capitals;
- two sets of one-over-one vertical sashed windows on the gabled end, with main entrance off to side, and with top window located near return eave;
- a centered paned window in mid peak of gabled end with main entrance that form a point, with diagonal corners;
- three bay façade of vertical sashed windows over another three bay façade of vertical sashed windows on the elevation facing the Northwest Road all with 12/8 panes;
- two vertical sashed windows on rear face flanking a triple set of Gothic Revival arch windows;
- cemetery in continuous use.
Character-defining elements of Northwest United Baptist Church's relating to the interior and include:
- a second floor balcony;
- benches at right angles to the longest side of the building;
- hand-dug basement.