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Benvoulin Church

2279 Benvoulin Road, Kelowna, British Columbia, V1W, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1983/12/19

exterior of Benvoulin Church, Kelowna, BC; City of Kelowna
front elevation
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Other Name(s)

Bethel Presbyterian Church
Bethel United Church
Benvoulin Church
Benvoulin United Church

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)


Listed on the Canadian Register: 2005/07/28

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The historic place is the Benvoulin Church, built in 1892 as a wood Gothic Revival church with a prominent belltower, and located at 2279 Benvoulin Road, in Kelowna's Benvoulin neighbourhood.

Heritage Value

Benvoulin Church has heritage value as the first Presbyterian church between Vernon and the U.S. border and the first Protestant church in the Central Okanagan; for the locally prominent people associated with its construction; for its distinctive architecture and landmark status; as the last significant vestige of the failed Benvoulin townsite; and for the value placed on it by Kelowna residents in restoring it as a gathering place for the community.

The church was built in 1892 by H.W. Raymer, then newly arrived in the area, who went on to build many important buildings in Kelowna. Lumber came from the sawmill of notable pioneer Eli Lequime. The lot was donated by real estate promoter George Grant MacKay, who had been involved in the development of Vernon. Building the church was part of MacKay's scheme to develop his Benvoulin townsite, laid out in 1891. MacKay was promoting Benvoulin as a station stop along the projected Vernon & Okanagan Railway, which was intended to build to the U.S. border. He died in late 1892, eliminating his driving force, and the railway was never built (rails reached Kelowna only in 1925), so the high expectations for Benvoulin never materialized. Settlement focussed instead on Lequime's Kelowna townsite on the lakefront, close to steamer transport on Okanagan Lake, laid out in 1892. A few businesses hung on in Benvoulin until about 1900, but the area reverted to rural use.

When the church was built in 1892, hopes for prosperity were high. Prime movers for its establishment were the Governor General, Lord Aberdeen, and Lady Aberdeen, who purchased the neighbouring Guisachan Ranch from MacKay in 1890 and who provided liberal donations to the church building fund. Howard Dell made the plans, reputedly based on Crathie Kirk near the Aberdeens' home in Scotland, but looking like a pioneer Canadian church. The wood-framed and wood-sided building is representative of a Gothic Revival church - sometimes called 'Carpenter Gothic' - with its steep cross-gabled roofs, cruciform plan, prominent belltower, and pointed-arched windows. When the church was dedicated on 11 September 1892 by the Rev. Thomas Somerville, a visitor from Glasgow, the congregation had only three families, along with several unmarried men. Mrs. Robert Munson chose the name 'Bethel' for the church.

The church has value for the various communities it served for seven decades. While the expectations of Benvoulin were not fulfilled, Bethel Presbyterian Church served Presbyterians scattered through the whole Central Okanagan until the first Knox Presbyterian Church was built in Kelowna in 1898. Methodists held services here until they had their own building. In 1925 the congregation voted unanimously to enter the newly-formed United Church of Canada, becoming Bethel United Church (and Benvoulin United Church c.1934). In 1953, with the belltower leaning precariously, its top portion was removed and the tower was given the truncated appearance familiar to older residents of the area. The gradually shrinking congregation and easy automobile access to other churches made the church unviable, and it closed in 1964.

Benvoulin church has further value for its survival and conservation, evidence of the value placed on it by the community. After it stopped religious services, it was used as a youth centre and coffeehouse. In 1982 the Central Okanagan Heritage Society was formed, with the restoration of the church its first project. The restored building opened in 1986, with the tower rebuilt to its original appearance. The Benvoulin Church now serves as a community facility for public, family, and cultural events, and is a popular site for weddings, meetings, concerts, and exhibits.

Source: City of Kelowna, Planning Department, File No. 6800-02

Character-Defining Elements

The character-defining elements of the Benvoulin Church include:
- A dominant landmark, marked by the tall belltower, with no adjacent buildings on this side of the road
- Very good representative example of a wood-frame Gothic Revival church, seen in features such as the pointed-arched windows on four sides and the steeply-pitched cross-gabled roof
- The cruciform plan
- Original beveled horizontal wood siding, with vertical boards at the top
- Details of belltower, including the segmental arches and pointed-arched railing in the opening at the top, the pointed-arched louvred openings, and the ornamental shingles near the bottom
- The entry through the base of the tower



British Columbia

Recognition Authority

Local Governments (BC)

Recognition Statute

Local Government Act, s.967

Recognition Type

Heritage Designation

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Building Social and Community Life
Religious Institutions
Building Social and Community Life
Community Organizations

Function - Category and Type


Civic Space


Religion, Ritual and Funeral
Religious Facility or Place of Worship

Architect / Designer

Howard Dell


H.W. Raymer

Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

City of Kelowna, Planning Department, File No. 6800-02

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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