Description of Historic Place
Church of Holy Redeemer is a two-storey stucco condominium building and former church located on Brunswick Street near downtown Halifax, Nova Scotia. Retaining much of its original ecclesiastical appearance, the building is an important landmark of Halifax’s inner north end (the old North Suburb) and is situated in a residential neighbourhood near the busy intersection of Brunswick and Cornwallis Streets. The designation extends to the building and the land it occupies.
The historical value of the Church of Holy Redeemer lies in its association with the Unitarian Universalist Church of Halifax; the West family of Halifax; architects John A. Mitchell and Edward Elliot; its connection with the 1917 Halifax Explosion; and in its architectural features. It is also valued as a good example of adaptive re-use of a heritage building.
The Universalist faith in Halifax dates to 1843. An offshoot of Christian Protestantism, Unitarian Universalism encourages followers to search for truth along many paths and incorporates a wide range of principles from humanist, Jewish and Christian traditions. In Halifax, members of the church were often chastised for their pluralist beliefs by mainstream religious affiliations; public denouncements published in newspapers called members of the church “children of the devil.”
Architects John A. Mitchell and Edward Elliot designed the brick-and-stone church in 1874. Following this project, Elliot went on to design other well-known buildings such as Halifax City Hall, the Newman Store, the gates at Point Pleasant Park, Nova Scotia Furnishings, the Truro Agricultural College and the Dartmouth Post Office.
The West family, a prominent Halifax trading family that lived in the neighbourhood and active members of the Universalist Church, influenced the founding and construction of the church and its properties (which included a nearby manse, sexton house and double house). Brothers William and Nathaniel West made significant donations toward the building costs for all of these properties. The West’s shipping holdings in the city included three wharves, ten stores, one warehouse, two offices and eight ships.
From the 1850s to the 1870s, the Church of Holy Redeemer grew and held a prominent position in the community for its activities. However, during a time of decline on Brunswick Street in the 1880s, the church faced financial difficulties as funds for pew and property rentals and membership tithes dwindled.
The decline culminated in 1917 following the Halifax Explosion, which severely damaged the church and destroyed its spire. Private donations and a grant from the Halifax Relief Commission paid for the repairs but in the wake of the disaster, the neighbourhood surrounding the church went into rapid decline.
By 1941 the church had just 35 members. In 1949, it was sold to a real estate company for a few thousand dollars more than it had cost to construct the building. It was then transferred to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Halifax and functioned as a social centre for nearby St. Patrick’s Church for the next 30 years.
In 1984, the building was converted into 17 condominiums and named the Marley in honour of reggae singer Bob Marley who died during the planning phase of the renovation. The developer retained some of the original elements, including the building’s ecclesiastical appearance and parapet gables. Today, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Halifax is located at 5500 Inglis Street.
Architecturally, the building has changed significantly over the years but its exterior features are obvious reminders of its historic use as a church. Elements of the church’s Gothic-Revival style include its steeply pitched cross-gable roof and the two circular towers located on each side of the back of the building. Romanesque details include the front porch arcade and round-headed windows on the second storey.
- HRM Planning and Development Services, Church of Holy Redeemer
Character-defining elements of the Church of Holy Redeemer include:
- asymmetrical façade with ecclesiastical appearance;
- insulated stucco finish over brick-and-stone underlying structure;
- steeply pitched cross gable roof with parapet gables on front and sides;
- five-bay front porch arcade with frieze, cornice, decorative Corinthian columns, steps along entire length and buttressed south corner;
- series of decorative carved heads on frieze above the arcade;
- large, round-headed windows on front and side gables;
- tall windows on corner towers (round-headed on second storey) with hood mouldings integrated with string courses;
- hood mouldings and lintels on tower windows;
- large projecting tower to the north corner of front façade;
- smaller tower on south corner of front façade with corner trim;
- large sectioned octagonal towers to the rear on each side of the building with tall, round-headed windows.