Zion Baptist Church

CLOCK IS TICKING FOR IMPORTANT TOWN LANDMARK

A part of the Yarmouth community for nearly 115 years, this unique church is in need of costly structural repairs. Although City Council has denied the church’s application to deregister the building to enable its demolition, the Municipal Heritage Property Act, only protects it for a period of three years.  

Why it matters

Built in 1895-1896 for the congregation of the First Baptist Church in Yarmouth (originally located on Main Street) and designed by local architect James E Huestis, Zion Baptist Church, with its irregular multi-level massing, is an impressive example of the Queen Anne revival style. An important place of worship in Yarmouth for over a century, the church continues to be used for weekly services, bible studies, Sunday school by a congregation of 50 and as a place for community meetings.  The distinctive exterior features include the asymmetrical façade with recessed entrances, large round- arched stained glass windows, landmark bell tower and large gabled roof areas. The church was registered under the Municipal Heritage Property Act (MHPA) in 2002.

Why it’s endangered

The exterior south wall and bell tower are suffering structural damage associated with water penetration and freezing and thawing. Due to miscommunication the Trustees never formally applied for the provincial funding support they are entitled to under the Act. Although minor repairs have been done, the congregation is unable to afford the full repair costs estimated at $300,000 or the engineer estimated longer-term costs of $700,000. In September, 2011, the church requested permission to demolish the building, which would require City Council to first approve its deregistration. In a letter to Council Pastor Brian Wallace states that although the congregation does not want to see the building torn down, deregistration would give them the freedom to do what they want.

Where it stands

In September, the application to deregister was submitted but was refused. Under the MHPA, this refusal allows for a period of three years for Council and the community to work with the Trustees to develop an alternative plan from the date of application (September 30, 2011). If nothing can be accomplished in that time, the building can be demolished. The building is abutted by the Yarmouth County Museum and it is suggested in the report that the church could be incorporated into something related to the museum, or it could be used as an anchor facility for the Collins Heritage Conservation District.

The congregation and the Heritage Advisory Committee (HAC) have met to discuss options for the building but nothing has been accomplished to date. In April, Council turned down HAC’s recommendation that the city fund a structural engineering study to help determine a future course for the building. The community does not want to see this building leave the landscape of Yarmouth, but time is pressing to find a solution.

Update: The church was demolished in 2014.

Location: Yarmouth, NS

Top 10 Endangered Places List: 2012

Status: Lost

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