Description of Historic Place
Westminster United Church, a substantial stone edifice built as a Presbyterian facility in 1910-12, stands at a major street corner in the Wolseley residential district of west-central Winnipeg. The provincial designation applies to the church and its large site.
Westminster United Church, a magnificent masonry structure in the Late Gothic Revival style, is an outstanding religious and architectural landmark in Manitoba. Its masterful design by J.H.G. Russell, Winnipeg's leading Protestant church architect of the early 1900s, is of monumental proportions with a disciplined yet expressive exterior. Equally impressive is the refined, well-organized interior with its excellent acoustical properties and Casavant pipe organ that make the nave an important performance venue, ancillary spaces that accommodate community uses and various symbolic and memorial features. From its imposing towers to its monochromatic limestone dressing and exquisite rose window, this august multiple-use facility, the second church built by the congregation since 1893, is a striking and vital presence in the tree-lined Wolseley neighbourhood with which it has evolved over the past century.
Source: Manitoba Heritage Council Meeting Minutes, October 17, 1987
Key elements that define the site character of Westminster United Church include:
- the prominent location at northwest Westminster Avenue and Maryland Street, a gateway to Winnipeg's Wolseley district
- the church's east-west alignment with its towers facing east, somewhat set back from the public sidewalks but otherwise consuming most of its site
Key elements that define the church's exemplary Late Gothic Revival style and stone construction include:
- the substantial, expansive form of an elongated rectangle on a high base, with wide stubby transepts and a deep west annex, all built of stone around a metal and wood frame
- the vertical emphasis provided by the main volume's two-storey-plus mass under a high gable roof with cross gables; also, its long slender windows, many buttresses and elevated front entrance flanked by soaring towers of unequal height with tall belfry openings and crocketed pinnacles
- the exceptional stonework, including walls of rough-cut Manitoba limestone randomly laid, smooth- and rough-cut door and window accents, staged buttresses with smooth offsets, broad stone staircases, etc.
- the distinctive Gothic-style openings, many set in Tudor arches, some with matching hood-moulding, many with tracery, including the main volume's five-part transept openings, etc.
- the large multi-hued rose window with curvilinear tracery
- Gothic details such as crenellation, raised gable ends with smooth stone coping and banding elements, panels of blind pointed arches, pinnacled colonnettes, etc.
- the two-storey annex with its hipped roof, dormers, south pavilion and porch, and generous fenestration
- additional features such as large chimneys, a north-side metal fire escape, etc.
Key elements that define the church's elegant, symbolic and functional interior include:
- the main volume's roomy and largely unaltered spaces, including vestibules, a vaulted narthex and side balcony staircases, and a commodious nave with a two-storey arched ceiling accented by wooden ribs
- the nave's auditorium plan incorporating curved pews on a sloped floor, a large cantilevered balcony, and a semi-circular raised chancel and choir area set against the backdrop of an arched opening
- the numerous Gothic Revival details, including the tracery in the chancel, narthex screen and nave doorways, the arched balcony doorways, the arched wood panelling in the solid balcony balustrades, etc.
- other fine materials, finishes and features, including the nave's wainscotting, the light-coloured oak chancel, hardwood flooring and balcony staircases, the stained-glass windows, etc.
- ancillary spaces such as wide hallways with high doorways and transoms, an upper-floor auditorium with a stage, a lecture hall, library with a brick fireplace and ladies' parlour, offices and classrooms, a one-bedroom attic apartment, etc.