Christ Church – Georgia and Burrard

Christ Church

We’ve made several references to one of the city’s earliest churches, but we haven’t actually given it a post. It dates back to 1889 – or at least, the basement floor does. The congregation of 52 first met that year in the basement – apparently nicknamed the ‘root house’ at the time, but took a while to get the necessary finances together to compl;ete the building.

Despite the presence of CPR Executives in the congregation, including Henry Cambie, the company threatened to have the sheriff seize the land as they considered the half-built structure was damaging their land sales nearby. A number of other prominent Anglicans helped out, including Lacey Johnson, Henry Ceperley and W J Salsbury. J.W. Weart – a law student at the time – came up with a complicated scheme to establish a company that issued $40,000 of stock, and on the strength of the $4,000 raised by the parishioners then borrowed $18,000 on a mortgage from the Sun Life Insurance Company to pay for the building.

C O Wickenden was given the job of designing the church – not bad for an architect who had only arrived in the city the year before. Once building of thev main structure started – in July 1894 – things went fast and the church dedication service was in February 1895. The completed church is shown in this early picture (around 1900), and today it’s quite a bit bigger. In 1909 the first addition was completed, designed by Dalton and Eveleigh. The building was lengthened and widened to the north and a balcony added, increasing seating capacity to 1,200.

In 1929 the Archbishop of New Westminster constituted Christ Church as the Cathedral Church of the Diocese, and the bishop’s throne was moved from Holy Trinity in New Westminster. A year later the cathedral planned to expand again – this time designed by Twizell and Twizell. The land was acquired using funds from the estate of E D Farmer – the Fort Worth based real estate baron who built the Farmer Block, and who had died in 1924. The actual construction didn’t take place until 1937, once the depression was over. That’s pretty much the building you see today – although there has been extensive restoration and the roof and floor have been restored to their original appearance.

A 1970s proposal to demolish the church and replace it with an Arthur Erickson tower (that would incorporate a new church space) raised massive opposition. Instead a scheme was devised to allow the development potential of the site to be added to the adjacent site (Park Place – completed in 1984) and the cathedral became a designated heritage building. This was the first of many similar density transfer projects that has allowed some of the city’s older buildings to be saved – and even somewhat ironically an Arthur Erickson office building.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 1376-174

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