It survived the Halifax Explosion and Hurricane Juan but now, there’s a new threat facing Saint Patrick’s Church in Halifax.
The Roman Catholic church on Brunswick Street has been in the headlines after the Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth called the property unsafe and too expensive to fix. There are concerns about the 130-year-old building’s steeple and facade, especially after pieces of granite fell off the building recently.
READ: City and parish both say Saint Patrick’s Church in Halifax is safe
Yet, despite the archdiocese’s opposition, Halifax council voted to designate the church a historic property last week.
In a statement, the archdiocese said achieving the heritage status does not guarantee funding and that despite having provided loans to Saint Patrick’s over the years, they were no longer in a position to do so.
“The parish and the archdiocese do not have the financial means to continue caring for the current property,” it read.
But parishioners and the Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia dispute that assertion, saying the immediate repairs would only cost about $800,000. The two groups have already raised about a third of that.
“We do not think this task is insurmountable,” said Andrew Murphy, chair of the church’s building committee.
A complete restoration would cost in excess of $3 million with estimated timelines of 2020, 2025 and 2030.
“We feel that we can do the necessary stabilization work for much less than the $3 million,” said Murphy.
“The $3 million is an overall number that includes restoring these windows, insulating the roof cavity, completely refurbishing the basement into more of a performing arts centre than a church hall than it is now. And a lot of what’s in the $3 million dollar is nice to have, not necessary to have.”
Murphy, who also sits on the Heritage Trust board, says the heritage designation is “a great thing” and will not hinder the restoration process as the archdiocese has implied.
“It’s a myth that we have to restore it exactly authentically like it was built in the mid to early 1880s,” he said.
“The Heritage Trust is fine with the use of modern materials. What we really see that we want to do is we want to preserve the inside of this church in all of its glory.”
Built by Irish immigrants in 1880s
Heritage Trust president, Joe Ballard says the group would prefer to see Saint Patrick’s continue operating as a church and has offered their moral and financial support.
“We’ve pledged our support to the Saint Patrick’s Church Restoration Society as well as the archdiocese so that may mean we have to come up with some money ourselves,” Ballard said. “We can certainly canvas our supporters and friends and see what we can come up with.”
He calls the church a “piece of public art” that is full of historical significance to the community.
“It’s been lost from public memory that these great magnificent churches were not built entirely by faith communities. In most cases, it was usually the broader community that helped out with the building,” he said. “So, the Heritage Trust believes that still should be the case, the broader community should help.”
Saint Patrick’s was built in the 1880s by Irish immigrants who came to Halifax after fleeing the potato famine. The north end neighbourhood was home to an Irish community, as well as several churches which are still in operation to this day.
The chairperson of the Parish Pastoral Council, Michele O’Neill, says that history is important to parishioners and the community alike.
“I truly believe that our continued presence in this old north end really promotes the healthy diversity…of this particular neighbourhood in its renewal,” O’Neill said.
“It’s really a church that not only belongs to the Roman Catholic Church history, but it’s the history of this city of Halifax as well.”
Two engineers were at the church Wednesday to inspect the structure. An up-to-date report on the building is expected soon, and the building committee plans to share that with the archdiocese.
A meeting between all the parties is anticipated for later this month.