Description of Historic Place
The Central United Church is located at 88 King Street, near Welland's downtown core. This magnificent three-storey Norman or Romanesque Revival style church was constructed in 1908.
Central United Church was designated by the City of Welland under By-law No. 8757.
The Central United Church has had a long and interesting history, with unfortunate events that threatened its survival, in the early 20th century. Methodism was established in Niagara by Major George Neale upon his arrival in Queenston, in 1786. The first Wesleyan Methodist Church in Welland was a wooden building erected, in 1862, on East Main Street. In 1880 the present King Street lot was chosen as the site for the new church. In 1882, the Central Methodist Church was constructed to incorporate both the Welland West Methodist Episcopal Church and the Wesleyan Methodist congregations, later renamed Central United, after the Congregational, Methodist and part of the Presbyterian churches joined together, in 1925, to become the United Church of Canada.
In 1907, two disastrous events struck the congregation: in June, a spark from R. Moore and Sons Warehouse set the church's roof on fire, causing light damage; three days after its reopening in August, a city street roller punctured a gas main, causing an explosion that nearly gutted the entire building. By nightfall, only the walls and bell tower remained; damages cost the city $11,669. The present church was built on the foundation of the original church and was dedicated on May 8, 1908 by Reverend Dr. Carman, Superintendent of the Methodist Church.
The commitment of church members and parishioners in early stages of the church's development, especially during the unfortunate disasters in 1907, was essential to its survival. The church has played a significant role in community development during its long history, and a Christian Education building was opened on the site in 1953. The Central United Church is a recognizable local landmark, serving the community as a religious institution and focal point in Welland for a century.
The church's design is a fine example of Norman or Romanesque Revival style architecture and it was built by N. Vanderburg. The church's square massing is relieved by the numerous tall narrow windows that create a sense of height. The front facade is decorated by a large multi-sectional stained-glass window. The four-sided brick bell tower, a surviving element of the original church, adds character to the church's orange brick exterior, while the eight-foot cut stone foundation contrasts with the brick above. An enclosed stairway was added to the building to replace a previous projecting front entranceway. The church's interior is characteristic of Methodist churches of the time, with its Akron plan of semi-circular pews, separated by two aisles, facing a raised pulpit.
The church's location on King Street makes it part of a collection of heritage sites of similar age in downtown Welland, and it is valued for its proximity to the banks of the historic Fourth Welland Canal.
Sources: Report on Designation of Central United Church, 88 King Street, Welland, Ontario, City of Welland, 1987; Welland LACAC Heritage House Tour 2002: Central United Church, Welland LACAC, 2002; The City of Welland By-law No. 8757.
Character defining elements that reflect the heritage value of the Central United Church include its:
- location on King Street across from the Fourth Welland Canal
- proximity to other heritage sites of similar age near Welland's downtown core
- original eight foot tall cut stone foundation of broken coursing
- Norman or Romanesque Revival architecture, with its long narrow stained glass windows commemorating prominent community members
- four-sided brick bell tower that survived the two fires of 1907, adding to the building's grandeur
- central stained glass window facing King Street
- interior Akron plan of semicircular pews, separated by two aisles, facing a raised pulpit