His­toric church be­ing torn down

De­vel­oper plans to de­mol­ish St. Paul’s in stages, start­ing with steeple

The Peterborough Examiner - - Front Page - JOELLE KOVACH Ex­am­iner Staff Writer

St. Paul’s Pres­by­te­rian Church is be­ing torn down, start­ing with the steeple.

De­mo­li­tion be­gan on Satur­day with the re­moval of the top half of the metal-clad pin­na­cle.

“I have com­pas­sion, em­pa­thy and un­der­stand­ing for the mix of emo­tions about los­ing this build­ing in our down­town,” stated the owner of the build­ing, Kevin J. Mac­Don­ald of Mur­ray Hold­ings Inc. (a sub­sidiary of Clear Global Cap­i­tal, a pri­vate in­vest­ment com­pany).

In a se­ries of in­stant mes­sages, Mac­Don­ald, who is from Peter­bor­ough, stated the whole struc­ture — all ad­di­tions in­cluded — will be torn down in phases, start­ing with the steeple and spires (which he says are crum­bling).

“Af­ter that we will be dis­man­tling with care the in­te­rior fea­tures,” Mac­Don­ald stated. “This will be a pro­longed and care­ful process.”

Ten­ants of the ro­tunda have un­til Fe­bru­ary to va­cate, Mac­Don­ald writes in an open let­ter, posted to the church ex­te­rior — al­though the Brock Mis­sion in the hall can stay at least through the win­ter if not longer.

In the in­ter­view, Mac­Don­ald stated that he has “not for­mal­ized” his plans for the prop­erty, once the church is razed; he stated he in­tends to bring for­ward an ap­pli­ca­tion to the city in a few months.

The church has no her­itage des­ig­na­tion to pre­vent de­mo­li­tion.

One her­itage ad­vo­cate wrote on Sun­day she was “dev­as­tated” to learn the church was be­ing torn down.

Ann Far­quhar­son, a lo­cal lawyer, wrote in an email to The Ex­am­iner Sun­day that if the city, prov­ince and fed­eral gov­ern­ments act fast they may be able to save “this beau­ti­ful down­town land­mark”. “It’s not too late,” she wrote. Mean­while, the Brock Mis­sion is ex­pected to re­main in the build­ing — at least for awhile. The city’s home­less men have been stay­ing in the hall at St. Paul’s — the

north­east ad­di­tion, built in 1959 —since the ram­shackle mis­sion build­ing down the street was torn down in 2017 to make room for a new fa­cil­ity.

Con­struc­tion on the new Brock Mis­sion is ex­pected to be­gin this spring; the new build­ing isn’t ex­pected to be ready un­til 2020.

“We want to do all we can to make sure Brock Mis­sion can con­tin­u­ously op­er­ate un­til their new home is com­plete,” Mac­Don­ald stated in his in­ter­view.

Mean­while, Mac­Don­ald does ex­plain the de­ci­sion to tear down the church, in his let­ter to the com­mu­nity.

Mac­Don­ald writes that when his firm pur­chased the prop­erty in Au­gust, he was aware of the struc­tural is­sues that made the sanc­tu­ary un­safe for wor­ship.

He also writes that he thought per­haps there was a way to still save the build­ing, a pos­si­bil­ity that had been “over­looked.”

“Un­for­tu­nately, it was not to be,” he writes. “Af­ter our en­gi­neer re­viewed the cur­rent state of the prop­erty it be­came clear that the sanc­tu­ary and steeple had be­come in­creas­ingly un­safe and posed an un­ac­cept­able risk to pub­lic safety.”

Mac­Don­ald writes that as he be­came aware of the “se­ri­ous­ness” of the sit­u­a­tion, he was con­cerned about how the build­ing might hold up this win­ter in the wind and snow.

He waited for ideal weather, he writes — light winds and sun — to be­gin de­mo­li­tion.

St. Paul’s church was built in 1859. The ro­tunda was added in 1885.

The church guil­d­room is where the con­gre­ga­tion has been meet­ing; it is in the ro­tunda, which is ac­cessed through the Water St. en­trance.

On Sun­day, a hand­writ­ten note was posted to the door on Water St. ad­vis­ing wor­ship­pers that the morn­ing ser­vice was be­ing held at The Mount on Mon­aghan Rd.

The Ex­am­iner re­ported in Oc­to­ber that the con­gre­ga­tion was search­ing for a new place to wor­ship on a per­ma­nent ba­sis. Church­go­ers haven’t wor­shipped in the sanc­tu­ary at St. Paul’s for years: It’s been deemed un­safe due to loose plas­ter and rot­ting sup­port beams.

The Ex­am­iner re­ported in 2014 that church of­fi­cials be­lieved it would cost at least $2.4 mil­lion to re­pair the church on top of the $100,000 in an­nual main­te­nance just to keep the doors open.

The de­mo­li­tion per­mit — is­sued Fri­day by the city — was posted to the ex­te­rior of the church this week­end.

It states that per­mis­sion has been granted to tear down “a por­tion” of the church, it also states that the scope of the per­mit will be “amended” as de­mo­li­tion pro­ceeds.

It also states that the build­ing will need to be sta­bi­lized as it is dis­man­tled, and that the de­vel­oper will need to seek city per­mis­sion to close the side­walks or streets dur­ing de­mo­li­tion.

On Sun­day the Brock Mis­sion was still open and ac­ces­si­ble, and one home­less man came out­side to take pho­tos of the steeple un­der de­mo­li­tion.

The man — who did not want to be iden­ti­fied — called the de­mo­li­tion “a trav­esty”. He said he’s dis­mayed that places of wor­ship can so eas­ily be re­duced to rub­bish.

When the church went up for sale last year, city staff con­sid­ered buy­ing it, but even­tu­ally passed on the op­por­tu­nity — even though the Peter­bor­ough Po­lice sta­tion next door is get­ting cramped for space.

Al­lan Seabrooke, then the CAO of the city, said the costs would quickly have added up: the ask­ing price was $900,000, plus the city would have to foot the bill ei­ther for de­mo­li­tion or a pricey restora­tion.

JOELLE KOVACH EX­AM­INER

The steeple at St. Paul’s Pres­by­te­rian Church at Mur­ray and Water St. was un­der de­mo­li­tion Sun­day morn­ing. A let­ter posted to the ex­te­rior of the church from the owner of the build­ing, Kevin J. Mac­Don­ald of Mur­ray Hold­ings Inc., states that the church is be­ing “dis­man­tled” a piece at a time un­der “a phased ap­proach to de­mo­li­tion.”

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