Description of Historic Place
Saint John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church is located on King Street in Windsor, Nova Scotia. The excavation for this sandstone, Gothic Revival style church began in 1898 and was completed in 1909. There is also a wooden, Queen Anne Revival style Glebe House attached at the rear of the church. The building and property are included in the provincial designation.
Saint John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church is valued for its distinctive architecture, which demonstrates architect W.C. Harris' philosophy of both religious and domestic design particularly well.
One of the many buildings destroyed by the Great Windsor Fire of 1897 was the original Roman Catholic Church in Windsor. Monsignor Edmund Kennedy had barely arrived at Windsor to assume the position of parish priest at the time of the fire. Nonetheless, Monsignor Kennedy quickly and with considerable dedication, began the task of rebuilding. Perhaps the most notable decision was his choice of William Critchlow Harris as architect. Angus MacDonald, of Truro, was chosen as general contractor for the new Windsor church.
Excavation for the project began on April 6, 1898, with the cornerstone laid August 17 of that year by Archbishop Cornelius O'Brien. Three months later, on November 7, the first Mass was celebrated in the basement of the new structure. Although the new building continued to be used for services, it was not completed until 1909.
St. John the Evangelist Church is unique in the body of Harris' work in that it combines both a church and a residence within one structure. The church is a clear statement in Gothic Revival. Significantly, Harris convinced the parish to build in stone, a material that Harris considered more appropriate for churches. Using Wallace sandstone from northern Nova Scotia, Saint John's incorporates such Gothic Revival elements as wall buttresses, pointed arch window opening, and a much articulated bell tower, with spire. The plan form, with transepts and side aisles, also illustrate this style.
The Glebe House, or residential part of the structure is built of wood, a material more commonly associated with Nova Scotia's domestic structures. Not only its material set this part of the complex apart, however, for here Harris uses a much different style, a variant of the Queen Anne Revival style. Elements of this style, and found in St. John's Glebe, include: the round, squat tower, with steeply pitched conical tower; the broad, shallow arches of the verandah; and the clipped gable of the roof profile.
Even in its siting, the church and glebe are differentiated. The church is adjacent to the street, and looks out to the town; the glebe is to the rear of the structure, and looks out to a more rural aspect. While the combination of functions at St. John's is unique in Harris' work, it is accomplished successfully; and indeed, the resulting work provides a concise expression of his architectural philosophies.
The church continues to hold regular services.
Source: Provincial Heritage Program property files, no. 228, 1747 Summer Street, Halifax, NS.
Character-defining elements relating to the Gothic Revival style elements of the Saint John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church include:
- Wallace sandstone construction;
- wall buttresses;
- pointed arch window openings;
- articulated bell tower, with spire;
- plan form with transepts and side aisles.
Character-defining elements relating to the Queen Anne Revival style of the Glebe House of the Saint John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church include:
- wooden structure;
- round, squat tower with steeply pitched conical tower;
- broad, shallow arches of the verandah;
- clipped gable of the roof profile.