Description of Historic Place
The Big Intervale United Church is located on a rural road north of Portree that runs along a tributary of the Margaree River in Inverness County, Nova Scotia. Surrounded by wooded hills, this white-framed rectangular church with its simple Neo-classical details, is situated close to the road and presents a pleasant contrast to the countryside around it. It has served both an earlier Presbyterian community and is still in use on a seasonal basis as a United Church in the Margaree area. The church and property are included in the municipal designation.
Big Intervale United Church is valued as a very good example of the Neo-classical form as developed in Cape Breton and applied to religious buildings. Most of the churches built in this style in the nineteenth century in Cape Breton were for Presbyterian congregations. Even though this building is a very modest and simplified form of this style, it has many of the details associated with it. A rectangular building with a front gable end, this church has simple fluted pilasters on either side of a double door, a transom window above with an entablature and slim cornice. On either side of the entrance is a tall four-over-two double hung sash window with original glass panes. Returned eaves just below the roof line and corner fluted pilasters with just a hint of an abacus at the top, give the impression of a Greek temple front. Three windows on either side of the building are identical to the front ones and all have simple fluted trim with narrow entablatures above. A cornice moulding runs the length of the building on either side and under the gable returns.
The Big Intervale United Church is also valued for its spiritual heritage as a religious and community focal point in the upper Margaree area of Inverness County. In the early years of the nineteenth century, Scottish Presbyterian settlers located in this part of the county met in each other’s homes when visiting clergymen made their rounds. A sign above the door commemorates the establishment of the congregation in 1828; however the church itself was not built until 1868. When it opened, it was known as the Big Intervale Presbyterian Church and was affiliated with the Presbyterian Church at Margaree Harbour. The congregation was served by a number of clergy in its early years who had charge of a large area, and as there was never a resident pastor, catechists were trained to teach and preach in their absence. After 1871, the Big Intervale Church was included in a larger charge which covered both Margaree and the Lake Ainslie area.
In 1925, this church, along with the Presbyterian church at Margaree Harbour and the only Congregationalist Church in the County at Margaree Centre, joined with other churches in Canada to become the United Church of Canada. While the area of Big Intervale is sparsely populated today, the Big Intervale United Church still continues to be active.
Source: Municipality of the County of Inverness, Municipal Heritage Files, Big Intervale United Church
Exterior character-defining elements of the Big Intervale Church relate to its Neo-classical style and include:
- wood frame construction with rectangular massing;
- gable fronted end (no tower) with small attic window and sign commemorating establishment of the congregation;
- double panelled entrance door with transom and simple entablature above;
- fluted pilasters on either side of entrance which is flanked by a pair of tall four over two double-hung sash windows;
- four fluted corner pilasters with a hint of an abacus at top of each;
- under eaves cornice mouldings and cornice returns;
- three large windows along each side of nave with simple fluted pilasters and narrow entablatures above.
Interior character-defining elements in the Big Intervale Church include:
- entrance foyer flanked by two storage closets;
- set of double doors enter the main body of church;
- simple interior in keeping with Presbyterian spirituality;
- tongue and groove flat ceiling;
- tongue and groove wainscoting which is elevated to form an arch above raised dais for pulpit;
- Gothic detailing in the pulpit;
- plastered walls and original wood floors;
- simple wooden trim around windows;
- wood burning stove for heat.