Athabasca United Church - Athabasca, Alberta
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member wildwoodke
N 54° 43.145 W 113° 16.971
12U E 352963 N 6065923
Quick Description: After nearly 100 years, and after an extensive renovation, the Athabasca United Chruch still stands providing worship services to its congregation in Athabasca, Alberta.
Location: Alberta, Canada
Date Posted: 12/27/2012 3:51:18 PM
Waymark Code: WMG09H
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member GeoKs
Views: 0

Long Description:

An impressive, large wooden church sits above the downtown area. This church has a long history that is documented in the chruch website:

"History of the Athabasca United Church

The Methodist congregation in Athabasca began in 1907, led by the Reverend Mr. Hopkins.

The Church was built in 1913 as a Methodist Church for the staggering cost of $14,000.

Edmonton architect, E.W. Morehouse was hired to design a church that could hold 600 worshippers and local contractors, Barrows and Tarrant, were hired to construct this huge building. Construction of the church took the entire winter of 1912-1913.

This magnificent building boasted gothic architecture, high windows and natural gas lighting.

It remains today, the largest wooden frame church north of Edmonton.

In the May, 1913 issue of the Athabasca Times the front page story said "The church was built to meet the demands of an ever-increasing population in Athabasca and large as the building now seems, there is no doubt that in a few short years, at the present rate of increase it will be all too small".

The main floor housed a 300 seat sanctuary with sliding doors which, when opened, allowed another 150 people to see the pulpit; there was a ladies parlor, two classrooms and a minister's vestry.

In the basement a men's clubroom could seat 125 people and was often used as "a splendid dining room". A shower bath, kitchen and cloakroom adjoined.

For a congregation totaling 71 people in 1913, this was a huge undertaking.

Dedication service was held on May 18, 1913 with Methodist Minister Rev. A.T. Bole officiating.

About 2 months after the church was completed, a fire destroyed a large part of the town. The church, however, was spared from this blaze. The damage to the town was estimated at $1,000,000.

Unfortunately, the town, promoted as the Gateway To The North, had difficulty recovering from this devastating fire. The railway had connected through Athabasca, and the importance of the town as a distribution centre for goods and furs was waning. Many of the businesses destroyed by the fire were never rebuilt. Because of this, the population of the town declined.

The name of the church was changed in 1925 when the union of the Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational churches was sanctioned by an act of Parliament. The Church became the United Church of Canada.

After almost three quarters of a century of continuous use, the building began to sag and lean. This once beautiful church was vacated for safety reasons in 1985. When engineers examined the support structure in the rafters and attic they marveled that the building was still standing. Deficiencies in the struts and weight-bearing beams were causing the walls to slowly move away from the roof. The building was listing to the east.

There was great debate in the United Church congregation whether to restore or to demolish the church. With a majority vote supporting restoration and with the promise from the provincial government to consider designating the church as an historic site, a committee was set up to spearhead the restoration project.

The restoration of the church cost $415,600 with the money coming from federal and provincial grants and from donations. The United Church congregation held many fund raising events to raise the money required for this restoration.

During the restoration several fascinating discoveries were made:

• An embossed leather alter Bible was found that dated back to 1882, still in prime condition
• Doors and windows that had been boarded up and forgotten over the years by congregations struggling with costs were rediscovered
• Four brass natural gas lighting fixtures were found in the attic, evidence of the original lighting with natural gas in 1913
• A stairway leading from the minister's study to the basement was uncovered as interior walls were removed. When or why it was walled off remains a mystery

May 18, 1986 exactly 73 years to the day after the church was first dedicated, the restored church was rededicated. The rededication service was led by Rev. Don Hutton. From a newspaper article it was expressed "The Good Lord smiled on this rededication on Pentecost Sunday with a warm, sunny day for over 300 people who came to the celebration".

Reverend Don Hutton gave the sermon in which he stressed it should not only be a rededication of the church but also a rededication of people. "All man-made walls must come tumbling down. Morbid brooding over what is wrong with the church must stop! If we (the people) want what God's church was designed for then we must proceed to do what God wants."

The Church continued to grow in the community until March 3, 1991 when the Church congregation split over the issue of homosexual ministers. The vote was by secret ballot. The result was 80% of the congregation split from the United Church of Canada and 20% remained.

Although this almost decimated the Athabasca United Church, the remaining congregation continued on. The church congregation has been rebuilding since the split and the Athabasca United Church continues as a part of the community of Athabasca.


See the church’s website at:

Type of Marker: Cultural

Sign Age: Historic Site or Building Marker

Parking: There is on street parking

Placement agency: Alberta Culture and Multiculturalism

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