Shaarei Zedek Synagogue/Calvin Church - Saint John Jewish Community Centre
Saint John Jewish Community Centre
Centre communautaire juif de Saint-Jean
Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Shaarei Zedek Synagogue/Calvin Church - Saint John Jewish Community Centre consists of two buildings in the City of Saint John: a 2-story rectangular Neo-Gothic brick building constructed in 1871 on the corner of Wellington Row and Carleton Street and a smaller rectangular 2-story red brick Georgian building facing Wellington Row.
The Shaarei Zedek Synagogue/Calvin Church - Saint John Jewish Community Centre is designated a Provincial Historic Site for its cultural and spiritual importance in relation to the Saint John community and for its architecture.
The Shaarei Zedek Synagogue/Calvin Church was originally built for the Calvin Presbyterian congregation. Presbyterians were among the Loyalist refugees who founded the city in the 1780s. The Calvin Church was purchased by the Saint John Jewish community in 1919. The first members of Saint John’s Jewish community arrived in the city in 1858. By the 1960s, the community comprised of some 250 families whose cultural and religious life was sustained by their place of worship. “Shaarwi Zedek” means “The Gates of Righteousness.”
The Shaarei Zedek Synagogue/Calvin Church is also noted for its architectural qualities, which combine elements of the mid-19th century Gothic Revival and High Victorian Gothic in a substantial, though not overly ambitious brick composition. The Shaarei Zedek Synagogue/Calvin Church appears to be the second major public building designed by David E. Dunham. He was assisted by contractor William Causey, and painting contractor James H. Pullen.
The building’s substantial interior underwent significant renovation and redecoration altering it from a Christian church to Jewish synagogue. The stained glass windows were removed, all Christian symbols were replaced with Jewish iconography, and the building was thus transformed into a place of worship appropriate for an orthodox Jewish congregation.
The Saint John Community Centre is a beautiful example of brick Georgian architecture and continues to serve the Jewish community in Saint John as a community centre, as well as being home to the Saint John Jewish Historical Museum.
Source: Department of Wellness, Culture and Sport, Heritage Branch, Site File
The character-defining elements that relate to the The Shaarei Zedek Synagogue/Calvin Church include:
- original design by David E. Dunham;
- pointed-arch doorway set off by twin stone columns with dog-tooth motif and small stone brackets above;
- large stained glass window contrasted with a smaller window at the top in the central tower;
- large tower window being the central figure in a triad of Gothic windows with symmetry to the front façade;
- applied decorative 5-tier buttresses on the tower, 4-tier buttresses separating the windows on the sides of the building and 3-tier buttresses on the corners;
- symmetrical composition of six lancet windows dominating each side of the building in two tiers;
- substantial stone sills and Gothic arches above the six lancet windows;
- polychromatic stone work outlining each of the major windows.
The character-defining elements relating to the Saint John Jewish Community Centre include:
- rectangular massing;
- red brick exterior;
- symmetrical fenestration and central entrance;
- collection of artifacts and documentation relating to the Jewish community
Province of New Brunswick
Historic Sites Protection Act, s. 2(1)
Historic Sites Protection Act – Historic
1919/01/01 to 1919/01/01
Theme - Category and Type
- Building Social and Community Life
- Religious Institutions
- Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
- Architecture and Design
Function - Category and Type
- Social, Benevolent or Fraternal Club
- Religion, Ritual and Funeral
- Religious Facility or Place of Worship
Architect / Designer
David E. Dunham
Location of Supporting Documentation
Department of Wellness, Culture and Sport. Heritage Branch.
File number 54.
Cross-Reference to Collection