Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Another Landmark? Disappearing:

 While many honoured the memories of Canada's fallen soldiers this month, the city of Montreal was issuing a demolition permit for what long has been known as the city's church for soldiers.

The Centre hospitalier de l'Universite de Montreal will use that permit to demolish the former Trinity Anglican Church, which has stood at thecornerof St. DenisSt. and Viger Ave. since 1865.

The church -rechristened Eglise St. Sauveur after the First World War -is to be torn down starting this

week by St. Pierre Excavations, which will kick off the destruction by levelling four adjacent greystones that used to house tourist rooms and apartments on the block bounded by Viger, la Gauchetiere St., St. Denis and Sanguinet St. to make room for the superhospital.

Trinity Church, at 1010 St. Denis, was built in Early English Gothic style with Montreal stone. It was 51 metres long by 23 metres wide, with a height of 51 metres. It had a seating capacity of 1,250.

The church contained a nave, side aisles, a chancel, a tower and a basement but was best known for its massive stained glass windows.

A representation of its original steeple -built in 1866 with a $10,000 donation from Mrs. William Molson and claimed by fire in the 1920s -is to be integrated into the new project.

The church is known for its close association with the local military from the day Bishop Francis Fulford laid its cornerstone in June 1864.

The church replaced its namesake predecessor on Gosford St., which opened in 1840 and also welcomed worshipping warriors from nearby barracks before it was turned over for military purposes.

In 1909, the church founded the Last Post Fund for military funerals. The Last Post Fund has since spread throughout Canada and has paid for the funerals of more than 150,000 Canadian war veterans.

The Trinity congregation moved west to a new facility at Sherbrooke and Marlowe Ave. in Notre Dame de Grace in 1926; the church on St. Denis became a Catholic church variously described as Lebanese, Syrian or Melkite. It remained open until 1964 and was noted as the church in which Rene Angelil was baptized.

"It was an important and beautiful church, but it wasn't one of the downtown churches chosen to be preserved," said veteran preservationist Michael Fish, who has closely tracked the fate of the building.

Investors inquired about turning it into a dance hall or a concert venue. Instead, those planning the superhospital claimed a need for the land.

For some time, the property went unprotected and in 2006 squatters entered and smashed the stained glass windows, which were later covered in plywood.

Heritage Montreal's Dinu Bumbaru says he believes the CHUM has enough land available across the street and there's no need to raze the church. The house of worship could have added much to the new facility, he contends.

"The new hospital building will probably have a space about the size of the church where they'll want people to congregate," Bumbaru said.

"It will have drywall and dropped ceilings and art in the corner rather than use this great gothic cathedral; that's how they will dehumanize this space."

While the preservation and integration of the church steeple might be seen as a partial victory, facadism -as the practice is known -doesn't entirely satisfy Bumbaru.

"In the 1970s, that practice became popular because it seemed to be the best we could do," he said, "but now we're in 2010 and you would expect our generation would find better use for such facilities.

"We should define the project to fit the place, rather than make the place fit the project."

A CHUM spokesperson says all the stained glass windows from the church will be handed over to nearby religious orders.

1 comment:

Les F said...

I'm sure they could find a way to incorporate part of if not all of the Church into the new plans....
A city like Montreal ( and any city for that matter) should be more thoughtful in their plans to tearing things down, We've seen Montreal demolish whole neighbourhoods (of both languages) and also just hap-hazzardly rename main arteries ,almost in a knee-jerk reaction,without giving any thought to the actual real history that will be sent into oblivion............... HF&RV