Description of Historic Place
Bethlehem Aboriginal Fellowship Church is a large brick structure built in a north Winnipeg residential neighbourhood in 1907-08. The City of Winnipeg designation applies to the building on its footprint and the whole of the interior auditorium, including the organ.
Bethlehem Aboriginal Fellowship Church (formerly St. Giles Presbyterian), a red brick building with restrained limestone highlights and many stained-glass windows, stands on its prominent corner site as a dignified expression of Late Gothic Revival architecture. The design by C.S. Bridgman relies for effect on bulky massing in simple forms rather than on the liberal use of decoration that characterized the flamboyant Victorian Gothic compositions of preceding decades. The stately discipline carries through to the interior where a beautiful vaulted auditorium and sweeping gallery radiate in curved seating from a magnificent platform and choir-organ loft finished in golden oak. This church recalls the substantial population of Scottish descent that settled in Winnipeg's North End. It is now the home of a mainly First Nations' congregation affiliated with the Baptist Union of Western Canada and engaged in extensive outreach programs.
Source: City of Winnipeg Committee on Environment Minutes, February 29, 2000
Key elements that define the site character of the Bethlehem Aboriginal Fellowship Church include:
- the corner location at southwest Burrows Avenue and Charles Street in a quiet, older residential area of north Winnipeg, opposite the Ashkenazi Congregation and next to the former St. Giles manse
- the building's placement, with two highly visible elevations modestly set back from public sidewalks
Key exterior elements that define the building as a large Late Gothic Revival church include:
- the monumental, vertically oriented massing, based on a modified cruciform plan and executed in red brick over a high limestone base, including the elevated main volume with prominent cross gables, the tall northeast corner tower and the two-storey segmented administrative wing at the west end
- the complex, varied roofline, including hipped and cross-gable sections, the crenellated tower parapet, tall brick chimneys, etc.
- the shallow and centred gable pavilions accented by stone-capped brick buttresses, raised ends with finials and large trios of pointed arched windows with elegant tracery
- the many other openings throughout, arranged mostly in singles, pairs or threes under flat or segmental-arched heads, or in pointed arches, etc.
- the pointed arched double doors with large transoms, including the elevated main (east) entrance in a stone-capped Gothic frontispiece, etc.
- the details, including the stonework of the base and main stairway, the stone belt courses, the fine brickwork above windows and openings, the brick stringcourses, the metal-clad coping and finials, etc.
Key elements that characterize the church's spacious and well-appointed interior include:
- the unaltered plan, incorporating a roomy vestibule, a large-capacity nave and sanctuary organized on the auditorium plan, office and service areas and a full-use basement
- the impressive two-tiered auditorium, including the sloped main floor, curved seating, a gallery that sweeps around three sides on slender iron columns, a vaulted ceiling, delicately detailed stained glass, etc.
- the quality details and finishes, including the auditorium's subdued colour palette, modest plaster ornamentation, pendant light fixtures and oak woodwork, the Casavant Freres Ltd. organ, etc.
- the west wing with its offices, children's room, library, vestry, etc.
- the large basement hall and kitchen with terrazzo flooring, pressed metal ceiling, slender iron columns, etc.; also, a nursery and teaching room, service and storage areas, etc.