Description of Historic Place
St. Mary's Polish Church is located on Wesley Street in the area of Sydney, Cape Breton known as Whitney Pier. This wooden, Gothic style church with its sixty-five foot high spire, was built between 1913 and 1918. The building and property are located in the provincial designation.
St. Mary's Polish Church is valued for its role in maintaining Nova Scotia's diverse cultural heritage and for its association with the industrialization of the province.
The first step by the Polish immigrants in Sydney in organizing their own, ethnically oriented, place of worship was the formation of St. Michael's Benefit Society in 1909. The Society provided insurance for members who might be injured at the Sydney Steel Plant and strived to provide the polish community with a social and religious base. In 1911, the Diocese of Antigonish responded to a request by the Polish community of Sydney by providing a Polish Priest, Reverend Antoni Plucinski. Two years later, the Polish community acquired four lots of land on which they planned to build a church and glebe house. Work proceeded quickly and by September of 1913 the church basement was completed and consecrated by Bishop Morrison of Antigonish.
While the Parish celebrated Mass in the basement of the church for about four years, the congregation raised money for the completion of the church. The church was completed in 1918, largely through the dedication, volunteer labour and generous donations of the Polish community.
The role of the church as the focus of the polish community in Sydney has been underlined by the use of the church hall in the basement for meetings of various organizations and the use of the large yard for social events. The use of the Polish liturgy has also been an important factor in the recognition of this church as the center of an ethnic community.
St. Mary's Polish Church is the only Church currently serving a Polish community in Canada east of Montreal.
Source: Provincial Heritage Property files, no. 29, Heritage Divivion, 1747 Summer Street, Halifax, NS
Exterior character-defining elements of St. Mary's include:
- a rectangular, wood frame building with short facade;
- a medium pitch gable roof measuring 42 feet at the peak, with a roof line height of 23 feet;
- projecting eaves and verges with decoratively moulded cornices and freizes;
- a single, centered, inset steeple at the south end rising to a height of sixty-five feet;
- bottom portion of the steeple serving as the main entrance and porchway;
- a four-sided steeple rises to the verges where it tapers, through hipped corners to an eight-sided section decorated with crosses, to the spire which is almost fifteen feet in height and is topped with a cross;
- simulated pilasters projecting from and extending up the two sides of each corner at each corner of the main plan; rising to a height of twenty-six feet and each topped by a four-sided roof and cross;
- five Gothic-peaked windows featured on each side of the main section; within each peak is a quatrefoil placed above three decorative fixed panes;
- double panelled main entrance doors with one fixed pane glass panel;
- two other panelled doors located one on each side of the main section of the facade; recessed Gothic designs above the doorsand a quatrefoil encased in decoratively moulded peaked frames;
- the church's ongoing use by the local community of Polish descent.
Interior character-defining elements of St. Mary's include:
- Gothic influence in the high altar, pulpit, baptismal font and communion rail, all in white with pillars of simulated marble;
- arched ceilings and unique Stations of the Cross;
- tall translucent glass windows and high ceilings.