This year marks an important anniversary for a Chilliwack institution. Established in 1873, a mere two years after the province of B.C. joined confederation, St. Thomas Anglican Church celebrates its 140th birthday in 2013, starting in September.
To help kick-off the 140th anniversary, I have made a list of some fun and interesting facts about St. Thomas (and Chilliwack).
Did you know?
- St. Thomas, located where Gore and First Avenue meet, is not the original church. The first St. Thomas Church was called St. Marks and was built in the mid 1800’s in Port Douglas (at the top of Harrison Lake). In 1873 the un- used church was floated down Harrison Lake on six canoes to its new home in Chilliwack.
- Chilliwack pioneer Isaac Kipp donated one acre of wooded land, where five corners is now, for the relocated church. St. Thomas was consecrated in November, 1873.
- A new, larger church was built in 1897, replacing the smaller building. The new church was designed by an English architect (Richard Sharpe) who later became well-known for his partnership with Samuel Maclure, a prominent B.C. architect who designed the Parliament Buildings in Victoria.
- Built with donated timber the interior was crafted by hand using local douglas fir, cedar and maple and was built to resemble an early sailing ship, turned upside down.
- In 1909 the land St. Thomas was situated on became needed for further development as Chilliwack’s downtown was starting to grow. Blacksmith shops, a school, hotel and other new businesses now surrounded the church. The property was sold and with the assistance of the Royal Engineers, St. Thomas was placed on rollers and moved to where it sits proudly now on Gore Avenue. This incredible feat took almost two weeks!
- Early Chilliwack residents Horatio Webb, John McCutcheon and Jonathon Reece played an important role as founders of St. Thomas. Their legacy continues today with streets and schools in Chilliwack named after them.
- The church property on Gore Avenue originally occupied the entire block from First Avenue to Nowell Street. Tennis courts were situated on the east side of the property where two homes now sit.
- In addition to Sunday services, St. Thomas continues its tradition of serving the community with monthly soup kitchens and by providing volunteers for the annual Salvation Army Christmas kettle, to name just a few. In addition, weddings and funerals have been continuously held at St. Thomas for 140 years.
If you have not had the opportunity to view this well-preserved historic church, I recommend stopping by either on a Sunday or by calling 604-799-3988 to book a private tour.
Why not make a historic weekend get-away? Stay at the Royal Hotel in downtown Chilliwack and tour historic St. Thomas Anglican Church – two of Chilliwack’s well-known landmarks.
photo of church on rollers