Update to a post originally published on December 4, 2014
St. Matthew’s United Church
Walk to the corner of Spring Garden Road and Barrington Street, and it’s safe to that you are in one of the most historical parts of Halifax. On your right is the Old Burial Ground, and directly across the street you have St. Matthew’s United Church founded in the same year as Halifax, 1749, and the oldest United Church in Canada. That’s where I am taking you today, on week 362 (3/15/2018) of Travel Photo Thursday.
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The church that stands today, an outstanding example of Gothic Revival architecture, is not the original, which burnt to the ground on January 1st, 1857.
There is nothing pretentious about the interior. I’m not sure that I’d want to sit in one of those pews for very long. However, had you been a wealthy member of the congregation back in the 1700s, the best pews rented for the tidy sum of $144.00 annually. You would have also found the church to be unheated. Churchgoers wore so many layers that it was next to impossible for them to walk. Wealthy churchgoers had their servants carry in iron foot warmers with live coals! If you believe the historical lore, there were three female parishioners who brought their fat poodles to service to use as foot warmers. In 1795, I am sure to the relief of much of the congregation, a stove was finally installed at Saint Matthew’s United Church.
You will find some outstanding stained glass…
The church boasts a Casavant pipe organ, originally installed in 1921, and totally refurbished in 1998. Music continues to play an important role in the church. In addition to Sunday services, there are regular concert performances.
Taken from the church’s website…
“The choir sang in the gallery and was trained by Mr. Henry Hill. He had three beautiful daughters who were good singers, and also Jane, who was not beautiful and who could not sing. The minister then was a young bachelor who admired one of the trios beautiful singers to such an extent that he often gave out the hymn beginning “Unto the hills around do I lift up my longing eyes.” The congregation enjoyed such moments, but Henry Hill frowned on the young man, who was not highly paid. One summer evening, Mr. Hill dozed through the sermon, began dreaming, and was nudged awake as the hymn was once more announced. In his fuddled state he shouted: “It’ll be Jane or none!”
March 13, 2018 Update…
On Tuesday evening Nova Scotians experienced the 3rd nor’easter in 5 days. Wind gusts, up to 128 Kilometers per hour, battered much of the province. Sadly, St. Matthew’s church steeple was a casualty, toppling down early Wednesday morning. I’m not in Halifax, so I don’t have a photo to share. Here’s a link to a CBC news article chronicling the damage. The top photo is St. Matthew’s United Church shattered steeple. I see it as a grim reminder that Mother Nature can hit anywhere, anytime, and age and history aren’t immune. I have no idea what the future will bring for the church and the steeple. I’m hoping the steeple will be rebuilt, and the church will continue to be an important historic landmark in downtown Halifax.
Have you ever visited a historic building that was later damaged/destroyed by Mother Nature? Let us know in the comments.
If you’re thinking of visiting anytime soon, phone or email in advance (numbers and email address below)
St. Matthew’s has regular Sunday worship, including Sunday School. The church is also open to visitors on weekdays (free to enter).
St. Matthew’s United Church of Canada
1479 Barrington Street
Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3J 1Z2
Tel: (902) 423-9209
Fax: (902) 423-2833
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