St. Saviour’s Pro-Cathedral, one of Nelson’s most picturesque heritage buildings, is in line for major repairs as well as a potential 820 square foot addition.
It follows the recent sale by the Anglican diocese of the neighbouring parish hall, with proceeds earmarked for renovations to the church itself.
“This project is about managing change and growth while preserving heritage,” architect Thomas Loh told the community heritage commission this week. “Consolidating functions in one building is not easy. Our effort is to meet today’s needs without interfering too much.”
The single storey addition on the east side would have a kitchen, washrooms, and storage space, and allow the building to be more functional for both church and community events.
However, it will require moving two stained glass windows to clear a passageway between the buildings. Five windows would no longer be visible from outside, although they would form part of an interior wall within the addition.
Loh said they chose the least visible part of the building for the addition to minimize its impact, while the “predominant public face” at Silica and Ward won’t change. The addition will be set back from Silica, and “physically discrete” from the rest of the building.
“By placing it on the side, there’s a lot less visual pressure. We don’t have the budget for new stonework to match the existing building,” Loh said.
Instead, a combination of stucco and cement will be used to mimic the stonework in colour and texture: “We’re trying to be sympathetic while keeping cost in mind. We want to do it as sensibly as possible, but there are trade-offs.”
The project also includes cleaning the stonework, installing gutters and drain-spouts, painting the exterior trim a dull black to replace the present green, and painting all existing stucco a stone gray.
Although the present nave space will remain largely unchanged, the pews are to be replaced with new, more flexible seating.
Heritage commission members had mixed feelings about the project.
“You have an honest approach and are trying to be as careful as you can,” said Barry Rice, adding he was fine with the addition. “It’s a huge positive to rectify and maintain the building. If this work isn’t done, who knows what would happen eventually?”
However, Pat Rogers felt the plan will change too much of the building.
“I’m concerned about the character-defining elements,” she said. “By blocking off five stained glass windows, you change the heritage value. I don’t find the addition compatible — it will look like a shed tacked on the side. If you don’t have the money to do it right, don’t do it.”
Rogers was also unhappy about the loss of a parapet over the side door and worried removing the pews may hurt the building’s acoustics.
Church warden Julia Roberts replied they are “very conscious” about the sound, and will look for cathedral chairs instead of upholstered ones — also satisfying the congregation’s desire to keep a wooden look.
As far as the windows, she noted they are best viewed from inside.
“During tours people gasp,” she said. “You don’t see them as well from the outside because there is usually no light from inside the church.”
Church historian Greg Scott, a former heritage commission member, said he struggled with moving the windows, but ultimately concluded it was the only alternative.
“Churches change and evolve,” he said. “It’s a living, breathing entity and we’re trying to sustain it. Yes, it’s a compromise.”
The commission ultimately voted to recommend the application be approved as presented, with Rogers opposed. It’s expected to come before council May 7, along with a related variance application.
The church was originally built in 1898 and rebuilt in 1929 following a fire. The city’s heritage register describes it as being “perhaps Nelson’s most impressive church,” and an “excellent example of Gothic Perpendicular church architecture.”