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                                 2012 Anniversary Vignette #5

     Building Chalmers Presbyterian Church – II

 


At the end of January 1912 – more than three years after the decision to move to a new site, the Bank Street Congregation’s vision of a larger church in a quieter neighbourhood started to become a reality.  On January 29, the Ottawa newspapers reported that Mr. C. Jackson Booth had purchased their old church property for $130,000.  On 02 February 1912, Robert McGiffin presented details of the contract with Mr. Booth to a joint meeting of the Session and Managing Committee, which immediately:

- Approved the sale to Mr. Booth;

-S
elected an architect to design the new church; and,

-
Elected a Building Committee, chaired by Robert McGiffin, to oversee the project. 

 

The architect chosen for the new church was Mr. Alex Hutchison of Montreal, a brother of William M. Hutchison, who was an Elder and a founding member of the Bank Street Church.  Alex Hutchison had designed several churches and other buildings in Montreal.   Some members of the Bank Street Congregation had inspected one of the churches designed by Mr. Hutchison (probably St. Andrew’s in Westmount) and expressed the wish that “the interior [of their new church] will be exactly the same”.  

 

 At the Congregational Meeting on 26 March, the architect, described the new church:  “The building is designed after the Romanesque Architecture of Southern France adapted to modern requirements.  The auditorium of [the] church is square in plan with [an octagon shaped balcony] and has a vaulted ceiling and dome supported on eight massive columns. … The interior woodwork of the church is of chestnut, the pews and furniture for [the] pulpit and platform are oak.”  “The exterior of [the Church and Sunday School Hall] are of Nepean stone, … , with trimmings of olive green Miramichi sand stone, with base of dressed limestone.  The front is flanked by two towers.”

Three issues dominated the meetings of the Building Committee
over the next few months:

The cost of the new church.   On three occasions, the projected cost of the new church was revised upwards. The Building Committee, with input from the architect, managed to alter the building specifications to minimize these cost increases.   What proved to be the final plans were approved by a special meeting of the Congregation held on 27 May 1912, which also imposed  a total cost ceiling of $105,000.

 The location of the choir-loft in the new church.

 

The architect’s  design for the chancel placed the choir in front of pulpit (Diagram).   Some members of the choir objected to this location but the architect insisted reversing the placement of the choir loft and the pulpit “would make a number of seats in the church very undesirable as they would be behind the minister”. 

Choosing a name for the new church.   Seven possible names were presented to the Congregation: Chalmers, Church of the Covenant, Calvin, St. Enoch, St. Stephen, St. Columbia [sic], and Central.  Because none received a majority of votes in the first balloting, the three names with the most votes were presented on a second ballot: Central, Chalmers, and St. Stephen.   A majority of the Congregation voted for the name Chalmers, which was formally ratified at a Congregational Meeting on 27 May 1912.

As will be described in later vignettes, the corner stone of Chalmers Presbyterian Church was laid on October 27, 1912.  The Sunday School Hall was opened for worship on Sunday, 04 May, 1913 and the first service in the new sanctuary was held on 22 March 1914.