St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church
St. Peter's Catholic Church
Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church is a reinforced concrete structure designed in the Moderne style, with a large side bell tower surmounted by a neon cross. It is sited diagonally on a prominent corner lot at Royal Avenue and Fourth Street, near New Westminster's historic downtown core.
Constructed in 1939, St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church is valued for its many years of service to the local Catholic community; this is the third building on the site to bear the name of St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church. The first, built in 1860, was replaced with a much larger church built in 1886. The second church was declared unsafe after a violent storm hit New Westminster in 1934. Despite the hardships of the Depression, the congregation worked to build a new house of worship, donating both money and labour, and this current structure was completed in 1939.
St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church is valued as an excellent example of the adaptation of traditional church architecture within a modernistic vernacular. Emerging from the Art Deco movement and heralding the new machine age that embraced new technologies, this church stands as a testament to that style and the optimism of those recovering from the Depression. Marked by clean lines and geometric patterning, this church incorporates many fine details of the style. It follows a traditional plan, with a front entry with vestibule, a long nave with transepts, and a raised altar in the apse, but uses a modern expression of form, including set-back massing on the bell tower. The church was built in modern materials, with a reinforced concrete structure and steel-sash windows. A pointed-arch motif is used throughout the design, but rather than the traditional Gothic rounded arch, a geometric straight-line arch is used, which reflects the geometric expression of the Moderne style. Despite later additions, the interior and exterior remain substantially intact. With its location on Royal Avenue and its unique neon cross, the church is a prominent landmark for the community.
Further, St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church is valued as a surviving design by prominent Vancouver architects Twizell and Twizell. The firm of Robert Percival Sterling Twizell (1875-1964) and George Sterling Twizell (1885-1957) brought high standards of professionalism to a field that had been for decades infiltrated by practitioners with lesser training. Especially prolific was the firm's output of school designs, ranging from large city schools such as King George V School, Vancouver (1919) to one room country schools such as Langley's Willoughby Elementary School (1931). Twizell and Twizell are best remembered for their churches, however, winning the national competition for the Canadian Memorial United Church, Vancouver (1927). St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church is an example of one of their more modest religious commissions, but the refinement of detail reflects their superior design skill. It is also one of their few churches to be built in exposed reinforced concrete, reflecting the economic constraints of the late 1930s.
Source: Heritage Planning Files, City of New Westminster
Key elements that define the heritage character of St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church include its:
- diagonal placement on a prominent corner site on Royal Avenue at Fourth Street, on a steeply sloping site
- continuous use as a Roman Catholic church since the time of construction
- religious function as expressed in its form, scale and massing, with a shallow front gabled roof, gabled transepts, lower level partially exposed at rear of site, and a front entry flanked by corner towers of uneven height
- prominent bell tower, square in plan but stepping back as it rises to an octagonal roof
- use of structural reinforced concrete, exposed on the exterior
- elements of the Moderne style, such as the consistent use of geometric detailing, incised shadow lines and step-back tower massing
- additional exterior features such as decorative wrought iron grilles on the tower openings, the cross at the roofline above the entry, the later red neon cross that caps the bell tower and the cornerstone incised with 'STI PETRI 1939'
- steel-sash windows set into the concrete walls, with straight-leaded coloured glass panels
- arrangement of interior spaces including an entry vestibule, open rectangular nave with raked floor and transepts, cantilevered balcony and apse with raised platform
- interior features including heavy timber truss roof, plaster walls, original wooden pews and original hardware
- interior artwork including statuary niches and the Stations of the Cross
Local Governments (BC)
Local Government Act, s.954
Community Heritage Register
Theme - Category and Type
- Building Social and Community Life
- Religious Institutions
Function - Category and Type
- Religion, Ritual and Funeral
- Religious Facility or Place of Worship
Architect / Designer
Twizell and Twizell
Location of Supporting Documentation
Heritage Planning Files, City of New Westminster
Cross-Reference to Collection