Description of Historic Place
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church is a landmark red-brick structure, located at the corner of Douglas and Broughton Streets in downtown Victoria. The Church is notable for its prominent corner tower, which is situated at a bend in Broughton Street and terminates the view to the west. The church displays a number of distinctive features, including crow-stepped gables, a variety of projections and towers, corner tourelles, and a picturesque roofline. Three sets of double entry doors are set in round-arched openings. At the rear there is a curved two-storey projecting bay.
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church is valued as a symbol of Victoria's ecclesiastical history and is representative of the ethnicity of its early immigrants. Victoria’s first Presbyterian church opened in 1862, but in 1866 the new congregation of St. Andrew's was formed with the blessing of the Church of Scotland. Their early ministers were integral in fostering Presbyterianism on Vancouver Island and in the interior of the province. From the earliest days of settlement, Victoria’s population had a high proportion of Scots. As the population of the city grew, so did this congregation, necessitating a larger place of worship. The cornerstone of this new building was laid on March 7, 1889 and the building was dedicated on January 12, 1890. When the United Church of Canada was formed in 1925, this congregation declined to join, and stayed with the Presbyterian Church of Canada, where it remains today.
The prominent site, massive size and lavish construction of this church, the largest in Victoria at the time of its construction, symbolized the importance of Scots in the social structure of the city. St. Andrew’s was associated with many notable members of Victoria’s society. Members of the congregation included pioneer industrialist, coal baron, politician and railway builder Robert Dunsmuir (1825-1889). Dunsmuir died before the church was complete, and his family donated the rose window in the church and the two flanking windows in his honour. All three windows were made by A. Linneman of Frankfurt am Main and shipped over to Victoria. Robert Burns McMicking (1843-1915) incorporated the Victoria Electric Illuminating Company with a group of local investors, which in 1883 introduced the first commercial electric lights in Canada and lit up the streets of Victoria. McMicking had the church provided with electric light, a rarity, as there was only one other church on the continent that was powered with electric light. Premier John Robson (1824-1892) was an elder of the church, and his funeral was held at St. Andrew’s.
St. Andrew's is valued as an important example of Late Victorian ecclesiastical architecture with distinctive Scottish Baronial elements as well as innovative structural engineering. It was designed by architect Leonard Buttress Trimen (1846-1892), who came to Victoria in 1887. He had a prolific, but short career, designing commercial and residential buildings, and the church was his most prominent commission. The style of St. Andrew’s is the Scottish response to the Jacobethan Revival in nineteenth-century England, and was a popular style for Scottish country houses. Drawing on the characteristics of fortified medieval tower houses and castles in Scotland, the style employs such elements as battlements, tourelles, and conical roofs as a declaration of national identity. Polychrome red and black banding demonstrates an awareness of contemporary architectural trends in England. The interior retains its distinctive amphitheatre seating with surrounding balcony, wrought-iron balustrades, and high vaulted ceiling; interior features have remained in notably intact original condition. The organ, in a round-arched surround inscribed with the text 'The Lord is in His Holy Temple – Let All the Earth keep Silence', is on axis with the entrance to the sanctuary. It retains some of the components from the organ that originally stood in the first St. Andrew’s, made by S.R. Warren & Son, Toronto. There are stained glass windows on the side and rear walls, including the large rose window. The church is also a highly sophisticated example of late Victorian-era construction, with massive brick structural walls; reputedly a million bricks were used to build the church. The complex roof truss system displays an early use of metal tension rods, which allowed the sanctuary to be spanned without interior columns.
Source: City of Victoria Planning and Development Department
Key elements that define the heritage character of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church include its:
- location at the corner of Douglas and Broughton Streets in the heart of downtown Victoria
- siting on the property lines with minimal setback
- ecclesiastical form, scale, and massing as expressed by its picturesque, asymmetrical composition, grand entry, corner tower, and varied gabled and conical roof forms
- masonry construction as expressed by its polished red-granite columns at the entrance with carved sandstone bases and capitals; massive red-brick structural walls; courses of blackened brick; and elaborate details such as a variety of rubbed and angled bricks, corbelled arcades, and tall brick chimneys
- Scottish Baronial-style details such as: tourelles, crow-stepped gables and conical roofs; polychrome brickwork; and a variety of round-arched and segmental-arched window and door openings, some with herringbone nogging above
- other exterior features such as three sets of double entry doors set in round-arched openings; wooden doors with iron strap hinges; sheet metal cupola with round dome; sheet metal finials; and metal name and date sign above side entry on Broughton Street
- windows such as: round-arched windows with diamond-leaded coloured glass, fixed stained glass windows; large rose window; double-hung wooden sash windows, some 12-over-12 and some with original stained glass; and bull’s eye windows in the corner tower with diamond-leaded coloured glass
- substantially intact interior with original features such as: amphitheatre seating with curved pews on a raked fir floor; wood-lined segmental-vaulted ceiling; pipe organ; balcony with wrought-iron balustrades; wooden panelling, floors and trim; and staircases with massive newels and lathe-turned balusters
- interior roof structure including heavy timber trusses with iron tension rods
- memorials and dedications, including the Dunsmuir memorial windows, the cornerstone of the first St. Andrew’s Church, and a plaque commemorating Robert Burns McMicking