Description of Historic Place
St. John's Anglican Church and Cemetery comprises a red brick church, with a Gothic Revival style sanctuary and Norman style tower, and an adjacent graveyard with tombstones dating from 1793. This site has been an integral part of the historic Sandwich community of west Windsor for more than 200 years.
The site is recognized for its heritage value by City of Windsor By-law 43-2004.
Prominently sited at the busy intersection of Sandwich and Brock Streets in close proximity to other municipally designated properties, St. John's Anglican Church and Cemetery are important components in the heritage character of the neighbourhood. It is also notable that civic and religious uses were planned for when Sandwich was originally laid out. The four corners of Sandwich and Brock Streets were reserved for these uses. With the exception of St. John's Church Hall, which was replaced by senior citizen housing in the 1990s, these uses remain as planned.
St. John's Anglican Church and Cemetery have had a 200-year association with significant events and persons in the former Town of Sandwich, now part of Windsor. The oldest continuous European settlement west of Montreal, Sandwich became the seat of government of the Western District of Upper Canada (Ontario) in 1796.
Founded in 1802, St. John's was the first Protestant church in the area and the mother church not only of the Western District, but of the Michigan territory as well. Richard Pollard, formerly sheriff and registrar of the Western District, was the first Anglican minister. During the 1800s, St. John's played a role in the formation of other Anglican parishes in present-day Windsor.
Located on one of the four lots reserved in 1796 for church and government use in Sandwich, the present building is the third structure on the site. Meetings were originally held in a log civic building until the first log church was built circa 1806. This log church was burned to the ground by retreating American troops during the War of 1812. In 1819, a new brick church was erected, which has evolved into the current building.
Architecturally, the church has evolved over time and the present building incorporates both Norman and Gothic Revival styles. The original 1819 brick structure was built in the Norman style, with the existing Norman tower added in 1852. To accommodate a growing congregation, the main part of the church was rebuilt in 1871, this time in the Gothic style.
The basic form of the church is a basilica with apse and transept, “cathedral” ceiling, and main entry through the tower narthex. Gothic (ogive) windows with limestone lug sills grace the body of the church, while the tower has rounded Norman windows. Two round-headed windows (ventilators) mark the upper half of the tower on each façade, recessed under corbelled arcading. Buttresses are located on each corner of the main structure.
St. John's Cemetery is the oldest Anglican graveyard west of Niagara Falls. Tombstones dating from 1793 reflect many aspects of the area's history. They bear the names of prominent pioneers, escaped slaves from the United States, and veterans of the War of 1812, as well as indigents and executed criminals who were interred in a Potter's field adjacent to the original cemetery. Of note are markers for Dr. James Hume, murdered during the Battle of Windsor in 1838, and the Hon Alexander Grant (1734-1813), a senior member of the executive and legislative councils of Upper Canada.
Markers and monuments in the cemetery display an impressive range of materials, styles, sizes, sophistication and ornamentation, including detailed inscriptions, stone carvings, bronze plaques, vases and other unique features.
Sources: Building Analysis Form, September 17, 2003; City of Windsor By-law 43-2004; and City of Windsor Heritage Planner's files.
Character defining elements that express the heritage value include its:
- setting on the same site set aside for religious uses in 1796
- gravesites from 1793, including those of many prominent individuals
- prominent siting on a large corner lot at a major intersection in Sandwich
- close proximity to other significant heritage properties along Sandwich Street, including Mackenzie Hall (1855) directly across the street, Sandwich Post Office (1905), and the Robinet Winery Building (circa 1895).
- brick construction (common bond on the body of the church and Flemish bond on the tower) with limestone trim
- load-bearing masonry walls with stone foundations
- basic design in the form of a basilica with apse and transept, “cathedral” ceiling, and main entry through the tower narthex
- Norman style tower
- Gothic (ogive) windows with limestone lug sills on the body of the church
- round-headed windows (ventilators) on the upper half of the tower, recessed under corbelled arcading
- buttresses on each corner of the main structure
- round-headed entrance door with a stone surround
- variety of materials in the cemetery including the styles and age of the tombstones, which date from 1793 and range from historic markers of local limestone to modern monuments of granite and marble
- wide range of detailed inscriptions, stone carvings, bronze plaques, vases and other unique features adorning some large monuments