Swedish Lutheran Church – Princess Street

Some readers will know this as the former St Francis Xavier Church, but that’s not how it started life. In 1910 the Swedish Lutheran Church, whose congregation were in a more modest building a block to the west of here, hired J G Price to design a $30,000 ‘brick veneer’ church on a site that had been acquired for $15,000. It had stained glass windows, oak pews made in Sweden, and could seat over 600 people, and up to 1,000 for special occasions.

This Vancouver Public Library image shows it in 1912, when it had just been rebuilt, but before the Arlington Rooms were built next door. An overheated furnace started a fire in January 1912 that gutted the interior of the church, and saw the roof collapse. The press report stated “In addition to the roof, the pulpit and adjoining parts were burned outright, while the remainder of the building was destroyed by water.” Fortunately the congregation had taken out insurance, and Mr. Price was still around to design the $8,000 rebuild.

The street names here have changed in confusing ways. East Pender was originally Princess, and today’s Princess was Carl Avenue. The church has always had a Princess address, but not on the same street. We had trouble lining up the images because the top of the steeple didn’t match. Then we realized those have been rebuilt, and are slightly shorter today.

It looks as if this building was the first to be built on this lot; the entire block was still vacant in 1903. It may have been owned publicly, as the block to the south of Strathcona School (which is across the street to the south) was also vacant, although the rest of the neighbourhood had been built out.

The church has evolved through many denominations over 109 years; the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church moved out in 1944, and it was subsequently St. Stephen’s Greek Catholic Church until 1968, St. Mary’s Ukrainian Greek Church, St. Francis Xavier Chinese Catholic Church, the Korean Foursquare Church, and now the independent Strathcona Church, owned by The Chin Wei Family Foundation and used by a number of different Christian congregations.


Posted 17 May 2021 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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