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Notice of Intention to Designate 24 Main Street West, Hamilton (New Vision United Church - former Centenary United Church)

In the matter of the Ontario Heritage Act and the property in the City of Hamilton known municipally as 24 Main Street West, Hamilton, notice is hereby given that the City of Hamilton intends to designate this property as being a property of cultural heritage value.

Why? New Vision United Church, formerly named Centenary United Church, is a gabled roof, red brick church building, built in 1868 in the Romanesque Revival style with Gothic Revival influences. It is a rare surviving example of a church building built for the Methodists in the 19th century in the downtown core of Hamilton that has remained in continuous use by congregations in the Canadian Methodist tradition.

Statement of Cultural Heritage Value or Interest

New Vision United Church, formerly named Centenary United Church, municipally known as 24 Main Street West is a two storey high, gabled roof, red brick church building, built in 1868 in the Romanesque Revival style and also including Gothic Revival influences, including six octagonal turrets.  It has a gabled roof entry addition on the Main Street West façade, built in 1896, and a flat roofed, one storey addition, built in 1992. This one storey addition has decorative parapets, and extends along the MacNab Street South elevation, wrapping around the rear of the building, culminating with a façade facing the east alleyway.

The building is situated on an approximately 0.36 of an acre parcel of land located on the north side of Main Street West, between James Street South and MacNab Street South in the core downtown area in the City of Hamilton.

The property has design or physical value because it is the only surviving example of a church building built for the Methodists in the 19th century in the downtown core of Hamilton that has remained in continuous use by congregations in the Canadian Methodist tradition. It is a representative example of a Romanesque Revival red brick church and is distinguished on its interior by the layout of the auditorium designed with a U-shaped plan balcony gallery and pulpit area at one end.  The 1868 building and 1896 front entrance addition display a high degree of artistic merit in the design, composition and execution of the carved limestone accents, granite column shafts, incorporation of slim octagonal buttresses, brick corbelling and castellations and stained glass window work. In the interior its artistic merit is displayed through the metal columns supporting the balcony area, the carved stone memorials at either side of the choir and former pulpit area.

The property has historical or associative value as it has direct associations with the theme of religious organizations in Hamilton and their contributions to the cultural and social life of the City of Hamilton.  The property has direct associations with the Methodist and then the United Church of Canada organizations which are significant to the community in Hamilton.   At the time of its construction, Methodists represented a rapidly increasing number of the Hamilton population, and as a result, the building was constructed to accommodate this growing Methodist downtown congregation.  The church's significant scale and its vast interior auditorium space were specifically designed for religious worship and authoritatively symbolize a key part of Methodist religious belief and practice.  Later, the United Church in Canada at its inception in 1924 as a union of Methodists, Congregationalists and Presbyterians instantly became the largest Protestant denomination in Canada and remains so to this day.  As such, the United Church continues to have influence in communities.  It has continued to serve as a downtown based community hub, which will incorporate a music gathering space within the same building. 

Centenary Women’s Missionary Society, the first in Canada, was founded at the Centenary Church in 1881. It is associated with Martha Cartmell, member of the congregation and first Canadian woman Methodist missionary abroad. It is also associated with Edward Jackson, member and trustee of the Centenary United Church, who funded the first Chair of theology at Victoria University in Toronto. The property also reflects the work or ideas of an architect who is significant to the City of Hamilton community.  The church was designed by Albert H. Hills, early builder and architect in the City of Hamilton.  He is the architect of several notable buildings some no longer standing.  The Centenary United Church represents a unique example of his work due to its larger scale compared to the other surviving ecclesiastical work and execution of the design in the Romanesque Revival style with the unique octagonal turrets.

The property has contextual value because it is important in defining the character of the heart of the downtown core in the City of Hamilton. The building was oriented to have a strong presence on the street, with a prominent entrance for pedestrians and attendees to the church.  The visual prominence of the Main Street and MacNab Street façades speaks of the important presence of the church building and as an organization in the neighbourhood and City.  The building has been a defining architectural element of the streetscape since 1868 and from a social perspective, its presence within the downtown urban fabric demonstrates a longevity to religious devotion.

The cultural heritage value of the New Vision United Church building, municipally known as 24 Main Street West resides in the following heritage attributes that are related to the cultural heritage value described above:

Attributes present on the exterior of the 1868 portion of the church:

  • Gabled roof and timber roof framing;
  • Massing and form of the 1868 church building including its rectangular plan;
  • Moulded red brick construction, laid in a stretcher bond, with areas of brick turned on their header (not consistently for entire courses). This occurs in variations of pattern on every elevation of the building;
  • Stone construction at first floor, clad in red brick;
  • Load bearing brick walls at second and attic level elevation;
  • Contrasting colour mortar;
  • Stained and coloured glass windows with their original wood frames on the west, east, south and north (closed in) elevations.

Composition, size and placement of the following architectural elements with respect to the whole on the 1868 portion of the church:

  • Elongated window openings with masonry brick arches with stone sills and their profile on each elevation;
  • the masonry brick arches over the window openings on the north, west and east elevations and the elaborately profiled stone arches over the windows on the south elevation;
  • Brick corbelling and castellations on each elevation;
  • Segmental brick arched windows with paired one over one wood windows and the segmental brick arch (formerly a window) on the east elevation;
  • Symmetrically arranged architectural components identified on this list on the south elevation;
  • Quatrefoil windows with elaborately profiled stone surround on the south elevation;
  • Red brick slim buttresses with stone cap accents on the east and west elevations; and,
  • Four symmetrically placed octagonal brick buttresses with decorative, intricately detailed, cut stone accents, that extend beyond the roof line to make slim decorative octagonal turrets on the south elevation and one each at the northeast and northwest corners of the main, tallest section of the building.

1896 front entrance addition:

  • Red brick, pattern laid on a diagonal;
  • Red mortar with traces of tuck pointing with white lime mortar;
  • Stone accents, including but not limited to arches, quatrefoil window surround, coping (under metal flashing); and,
  • Red granite columns with limestone base and capital accents.

Attributes present in the interior of the 1868 portion of the church:

  • Layout of main auditorium with "U- shaped plan" balcony and extension to the north of the building, separated from the nave/main auditorium space by an arch;
  • Balcony with its supporting metal columns with decorative metal capitals;
  • Balcony railing made of wood and metal;
  • Round metal grilles at ceiling;
  • Curved ceiling, with decorative faux beams and associated brackets on the walls;
  • Interior doors into the auditoriums; and,
  • Buttresses and dressed stone base along original west exterior wall now enclosed within 1992 addition.

Written Notice of Objection

Any person may, within 30 days after the date of the publication of the Notice, serve written notice of their objections to the proposed designation, together with a statement for the objection and relevant facts.

Dated at Hamilton, this 15 day of May, 2020.

A. Holland, City Clerk
Hamilton, Ontario

Contact: David Addington, Cultural Heritage Planner, Phone: 905-546-2424 ext. 1214, Email: [email protected]