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St. Paul's Roman Catholic Church

1133 Cambridge Road - Route 17A, Sturgeon, Prince Edward Island, C0A, Canada

Formally Recognized: 2009/02/02

Showing front elevation; Donna Collings, 2007
Showing front elevation
Showing side elevation; Donna Collings, 2007
Showing side elevation
Archival image of church and grounds, c. 1900; St. Paul's Parish
Archival image of church and grounds, c. 1900

Other Name(s)


Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1873/01/01 to 1888/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2009/02/19

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

This well preserved Island sandstone church is a landmark in the rural community of Sturgeon. It is the first Roman Catholic Church designed by William Critchlow Harris and his first constructed of stone. Its French Gothic style features a rectangular nave with gable roof and side stone tower. The building is accented with Nova Scotia freestone and an array of Gothic arch and lancet windows.

Heritage Value

The church is valued as a fine example of a design by William C. Harris; for its French Gothic architectural style; and for its contribution to the community of Sturgeon.

The construction of the church began in 1873 with sandstone being quarried at nearby St. Mary's Road. The parish priest, Father William Phelan (1836-1921), was instrumental in orchestrating the building project. Both he and his brother, Father James Phelan, of St. Joachim's Parish in Vernon River, were natives of County Wexford, Ireland, and also trained stonemasons. They personally carried out and supervised much of the physical work of erecting the building. The land on which the church sits was owned by William Phelan.

The church was designed by famed Island architect, William Critchlow Harris. He chose the French Gothic style with a central rectangular nave with gable roof. A large centred Gothic window dominates the facade. It consists of three lancets surmounted by a rose window. Other lancet windows adorn the facade and in the clerestory. A tall segmented tower rises from the corner of the church and is adorned by a cross.

The building was completed in 1888, but not officially dedicated until 1892, when the interior was finally completed. One of the means used to raise money was by hosting tea parties. The Sturgeon Tea Parties became locally renowned in the southern Kings County area. Usually held in July, the planning would begin much earlier in the winter months. They could often gross upwards of $600 which was a large sum in the late 19th century.

Father William Phelan's wish was to be interred within his church and after his death in 1921, he was buried in a vault beneath the building. After 35 years of service, he was the longest serving pastor in the parish's history. A plaque was erected on the facade near the main entrance to commemorate his life.

Today, the church has undergone some changes in its history, including the addition of dormers above the aisle roofs. The original cross which once topped the spire was also removed and placed in the cemetery and replaced with another. It remains an excellent example of the talent of W.C. Harris and is greatly valued by the community.

Source: Culture and Heritage Division, PEI Department of Communities, Cultural Affairs and Labour, Charlottetown, PE C1A 7N8
File #: 4310-20/TR11

Character-Defining Elements

The heritage value of the church is shown in the following character-defining elements:

- the rectangular configuration of the nave with side aisles and semi-circular apse
- the gable roof
- the gable dormers in the aisle roofs with paired and quatrefoil windows
- the segmented side tower with wooden spire terminating in a cross
- the Island sandstone exterior accented by Nova Scotia freestone
- the variety of Gothic windows including narrow lancet windows and the large tripartite window with decorative tracery
- the location of the church in a rural setting next to its parochial house



Prince Edward Island

Recognition Authority

Province of Prince Edward Island

Recognition Statute

Heritage Places Protection Act

Recognition Type

Registered Historic Place

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Philosophy and Spirituality

Function - Category and Type



Religion, Ritual and Funeral
Religious Facility or Place of Worship

Architect / Designer




Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Culture and Heritage Division, PEI Department of Communities, Cultural Affairs and Labour, Charlottetown, PE C1A 7N8 File #: 4310-20/TR11

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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