Description of Historic Place
Situated in Niagara Falls in the former Township of Stamford, Old St. John's Anglican is a stucco church built in 1825 and stands as the oldest original church building in the Niagara region. Its Norman-style tower and Regency Gothic windows contribute to its commanding view along Portage Road, where the church has been a significant landmark for those passing between Queenston and Chippawa for many years.
The building has been recognized for its heritage value by the City of Niagara Falls under By-law 7824.
Old St. John's Anglican is located on Portage Road, a former Indian trail linking Queenston to Chippawa via a portage around the Falls. This route was considered the most important road in the entire province from 1782 until 1829. The road was used for all of the commerce travelling from up-and-down the lake prior to the opening of the first Welland Canal in 1829, and the church served as a crucial landmark for those travelling on this route.
Constructed as an inter-denominational church in 1825, this building is the oldest original church edifice still standing in all of Niagara South, and is likely one of the oldest churches in Ontario. It is associated with Lieutenant Governor Sir Peregrine Maitland, who took great interest in the church and assisted with its construction. At his request, the church was built on a spot where he could look out upon it from the window of his summer residence at Stamford Park. The site was donated by Captain Dee, with all denominations collaborating to aid in its construction and development.
Reverend William Leeming, was sent to Stamford around 1820 to help establish an Anglican congregation and was the first pastor of Old St. John's Anglican. Leeming was the Anglican missionary to six parishes at one time, and was instrumental in building three churches including Holy Trinity, of Chippawa, and All Saints, near the Falls. Graves in the churchyard date back to 1810, and serve as visible reminders of the earliest settlers in the former Township of Stamford.
In addition to the religious use of the building, the church also served as a meeting place for a number of social functions, and was an important place of meeting on the well-travelled Portage Road, a former Indian trail, between Queenston and Chippawa.
Old St. John's Anglican is a charming example of vernacular architecture executed in Queenston limestone. The church is rectangular in plan with the east end being semi-octagonal, its slim spire being surrounded by the Norman-style tower that exists today. Restored in 1985 with stucco, it features Regency Gothic windows and six-panel double wooden doors, buttresses along its southeast angle and an apsidal rear chancel. The longevity of the early nineteenth century Canadian vernacular architecture used for Old St. John's Anglican contributes to its overall value as a reminder of the materials and methods used during the time of its construction.
Sources: Old St. John's Anglican, Municipal Register of Heritage Properties, Planning and Development, City of Niagara Falls, 2006; “Historic church to be restored, made into museum”, Ron Roels, Niagara Falls Review, Dec. 2, 1978; St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church, Planning and Development, City of Niagara Falls, 1976.
Character defining elements that reflect the heritage value of Old St. John's Anglican include its:
- graves in the churchyard dating back to 1810
- location on Portage Road; as an important meeting place on the well-travelled former Indian trail linking Queenston to Chippawa
- Regency Gothic style windows and six-panel double wooden doors
- use of Queenston limestone
- slim spire surrounded by Norman-style tower
- location as a recognizable landmark for travellers and businesspeople using Portage Road