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2012 Anniversary Vignette #3

Bank Street Presbyterian Church



      The Presbyterian heritage of Dominion-Chalmers United Church began in 19th century Bytown, but was molded by events in Scotland.  The first Presbyterian church in the area was St.Andrew’s, built in 1828.   Because there was no Anglican church in the region at the time, St. Andrew’s, associated with the established Church of Scotland, benefitted greatly from the practice of clergy reserves.  When the Free Church movement in Scotland, led by Rev. Thomas Chalmers, spread to Canada, some members left St. Andrew’s Church in 1844 and established Knox Presbyterian Church in the Sandy Hill district of Bytown.      

        As the population of Ottawa (incorporated 1854) expanded, pressure mounted to meet the needs of the growing number of Presbyterians in the city.  The enlargement of Knox Church in 1860 provided temporary relief but by August 1864, the Presbytery of Ottawa recognized the need for the  establishment of a new congregation west of the Rideau Canal. 
The proposal came to fruition after a few months’ delay caused by actions taken in the church courts by a Nepean Township minister who feared the proposed new church would erode his congregation.

       On 27 August 1865, the unnamed congregation held its first worship service of in the Hall above the Mechanics Institute at 58 Sparks Street. The following evening, 19 members attended the founding Congregational Meeting at which a Committee of Management was elected.   The Committee acted diligently and without delay.  At the first Annual Meeting of the congregation on 28 December 1865, plans were presented for a new church to be constructed at the corner of Bank and Slater Streets.    At the same meeting, a process for securing a full-time pastor was adopted.  Within two months, a call was issued to the Rev. William Moore, who was ordained on 28 March 1866.


        In July 1866, the still-unnamed congregation moved from Mechanic’s Hall to a small frame building constructed on its lots at Bank and Slater Streets.   Because the congregation grew rapidly, plans for 

their new stone church were accelerated. The laying of the corner-stone of “Bank Street Presbyterian Church” occurred on 08 May 1868; the building was opened and dedicated on 21 March 1869 (Photograph).                           

         Music in Bank Street Church was led by a Precentor until 1876 when the first organ was purchased.  Growth slowed during the commercial depression   of the late 1870s but resumed during the 1880s, related in part to the introduction of evangelical services.  A near-disaster occurred in 1880 when, in the early hours of 04 April 1880, the church was broken into and set on fire.  Although the fire was extinguished before the building was destroyed, the damage was severe enough that services had to be held in the Orange Hall for the next four months while repairs were made.  Construction of a Sunday School hall was completed in 1890. 

         Dr. Moore, the first minister of Bank Street Presbyterian Church who served the congregation for 36 years, retired at the end of 1902 and was succeeded by Rev. J.H. Turnbull.  By 1907, the congregation recognized the need to relocate.  This decision led to the building of Chalmers Church, the topic of Vignettes #4 and #5.