Thursday, March 21, 2013

95 MacDonald Avenue - Point Douglas Presbyterian / Our Lady of Lourdes Church

Our Lady of Lourdes

Place: Point Douglas Presbyterian / Our Lady of Lourdes Church
Address: 95 MacDonald Avenue (Map)
Opened: April 1, 1906
Architect: James McDiarmid
Contractors: Brynjolf & Co, J. C. Smith
Cost: $28,000

November 12, 1892, Manitoba Free Press

In 1886 a group of Point Douglas residents who were also members of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church began a Sunday school for area children out of their homes. The number of students grew large enough that in 1889 they purchased a former biscuit factory at the corner of Higgins Avenue and Gomez Street to house the school.

Led by prominent citizens such as James Stuart and Duncan Sinclair, the residents petitioned to create their own congregation. It was presented to the St. Andrews presbytery on September 12, 1893 and soon after permission was granted. The school building was expanded to include a small church that was said to be the  "plainest of meeting spaces."

Under its first pastor, Rev. T. W. Richmond, the Point Douglas Presbyterian Church grew quickly. After just a year the congregation boasted 108 members with 200 Sunday school students.

In 1896 Rev. Richmond moved on a new pastor was hired. 

Rev. Donald Munroe was ordained in Ontario and came to Manitoba in the mid 1880s. He worked in Deloraine for 8 years before accepting the position at Point Douglas. Munro, wife Alice and daughters Tassie and Helen lived at the chruch site.

In 1903 the church needed to expand again. Work on the nearby CPR Depot on Higgins was just beginning and land prices in the vicinity began to skyrocket. In fact, many neighbouring houses and stores had already been bought up for demolition to make way for industrial and warehouse developments.

The existing church was estimated to be worth $10,000 so the congregation purchased a larger,135 foot lot at 95 MacDonald Street for $8,500. (In the end, the church had difficulty disposing of the old building. In October 1909 they sold it by auction, giving the potential purchaser the option of making a $1500 down payment then six annual payments to pay off the balance.)

May 26, 1905, Manitoba Free Press

On May 25, 1905 the congregation met to approve the construction of a  “handsome Gothic structure of brick and stone”  that would take up 70 feet of the lot leaving the remainder for future expansion. The architect credited with the design is James McDiarmid, (source.)

The interior would be finished in "the best procurable material" and featured stained glass windows and a combination of electric and gas lights. Pews on the main floor would circle a raised pulpit and an upper gallery that ran along three sides would provide total seating for 700. The basement held the Sunday school classrooms, a children's room and a commercial kitchen for the church's various social functions.

August 7, 1905, Manitoba Free Press

Tenders were let in August 1905. Brynjolf and Company were awarded the brick and stone work and J. C. Smith the carpentry. The cost of the project, once estimated at $16,000, ended up costing around $28,000.

A formal cornerstone laying ceremony was held on October 5, 1905. The guests of honour were Lieutenant Governor Sir Daniel McMillan and his wife Lady Mary McMillan. It was she who tapped the stone into place with a silver trowel and formally declared it "well and truly laid." 

Our Lady of Lourdes

On March 25 the final service was held at the old church and on April 1, 1906 two dedication services for 95 MacDonald Avenue took place. There was one in the morning, mainly for the congregation, and a larger one in the evening led by Rev. C. W. Gordon that was followed by a concert. .

The church immediately became a hive of activity. Aside from its religious services and Sunday school, it regularly hosted concerts, recitals and guest lecturers.

On September 5, 1909 Rev. Donald Munro said farewell after 13 years to take up a position in North Battleford, Saskatchewan where he died in 1946. The next pastor was J. S. Muldrew of Souris, Manitoba who served until 1914 followed by Rev. George Farquar.

World War I would have been a tough time at the chruch as 46 men were on active service. One of them was James Kay.

1918 Henderson Directory

By the late 19-teens the size of the congregation was in decline. Many of its members had moved further south and  worshiped at new churches such as Knox off of Central Park. The neighbourhood around Point Douglas had become a working-class enclave and home to new Canadians who were not Presbyterian. In 1918, for instance, a Hungarian mission worked out of the church.

In 1922 Rev. William McCloy became the new pastor and oversaw the greatest period of change for the Point Douglas church. It soon began concentrating most of its efforts on missionary work and serving the basic needs of the neighbourhood around it.

Our Lady of Lourdes

When the Methodist Church of Canada, Congregational Union of Canada and a majority of the Presbyterian Church of Canada came together in 1925 to form the United Church of Canada, the Point Douglas church also merged and became known as Point Douglas United Church. The nearby Methodist-run Maple Street Mission was folded into their operations.

In 1930 the Home Missions Board of the United Church assumed control of the building. For the next couple of decades many of its ministers were new graduates who served just a year or two before moving on. This changed in 1936 when Rev. H. B. Duckworth, (father of Henry E. Duckworth), became its leader and served until 1948.

In 1941 the church underwent an interior renovation. It reopened on September 28th with an evening service and guest lecture by Rev. Hugh McFarlane.

The congregation continued to decline and in 1959 the Home Missions Board voted to close the church. On Sunday December 6, 1959 it held its last United Church service.

Our Lady of Lourdes

In 1962 the building was purchased by the Roman Catholic Church and after a four month renovation opened in 1963 as Our Lady of Lourdes Slovenian Roman Catholic Church. Its first priest was Rev. Father J. Mejac (1963 - 66 and 1968 - 76.)

Since 1975 it has been home to the Folklorama's Slovenian Pavilion and also houses the Canadian Slovenian Cultural Society.

In 2003, its celebrated its 40th anniversary as Our Lady of Lourdes.  

Point Douglas Presbyterian / United Church fonds

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