Friday, October 14, 2011

Abandonment Issues: Knox United Church

Knox Church was constructed on Wolfe Street, between Park and Rubidge, in Peterborough, Ontario, in 1910. Within a few years, the body of the large church was added and this portion of the building became known as Keith Hall, a multi-purpose community centre.

Laying the corner stone 1910

The original Knox United Church / Keith Hall

Knox United Church Peterborough, 
Ontario

Knox United Church

In 2011, one hundred and one years after the church opened, the congregation at Knox United Church had dwindled and shrunk to an unsustainable low, from over four hundred to a mere forty, and the church was shut down by the United Church of Canada.

A potential deal quickly emerged to sell the property to a local community drop-in centre, but the neighborhood went into an uproar about the unsavory characters that would attract, and coincidentally, the deal fell through. The United Church is still hoping to attract a buyer, and as I found out, is currently renting space to several community groups, a catering company and other interested parties. Although it is far from being abandoned, it has lost its intended function, and its future is unknown. With the church actively seeking a buyer, it seemed important to document this magnificent structure in its current state before it is purchased and renovated into god knows what.

Most of the stained glass had been covered with thick plastic on the outside, I noticed, after ringing the doorbell. The gentleman that I had spoken with previously answered the door, with a smile, a handshake and a warmth that stayed with us for almost two hours. He answered all of our questions, discussed our own religious inexperience with no judgment, and best of all, allowed us to meander throughout the church extensively, with his company. He even allowed me to climb up into the old tower that no one had been into for decades, and climb around in the ultra-tight inner workings behind the organ, which was truly awesome. Unfortunately, it was so tight, I regretfully didn't bring the camera into the organ. He allowed us to poke around in back rooms, including the choir rehearsal room, which was now filled with Christmas storage and church memorabilia. He showed us artifacts and memorabilia donated to the church over the century that it served the community, and told us about his efforts to contact the kin of such donors, that have long since left the flock, to return these items. He took us into the locked minister's study and basement, and showed us every marriage certificate in the churches history. As we perused a plethora of historic photographs, he offered an elegant and timely narrative. He even chuckled when I jokingly referred to his beloved church as The Church of Hard Knox.

Upon exiting, we thanked him for his time and graciousness and offered one last series of questions that only time will ever answer...

Have the sheep lost their way, or has the Shepard? Is the flock doomed, or are they finally free?

Welcome to Knox United Church
Knox United Church lobby

MISSING: Congregation
MISSING: Congregation

the last sermon
the last sermon

the view from here
the view from here

organic
Organic

walking down the aisle
walking down the aisle

thy will be done
thy will be done

my grace is sufficient for thee
my grace is sufficient for thee

when the music stops
when the music stops

stairway to heaven
stairway to heaven

ascending
ascending

nailed to a cross
nailed to a cross

ladder to heaven
ladder to heaven

Goliath
Goliath

Knox Marriage Register July 1907 - Jan 1920
Knox Marriage Register July 1907 - Jan 1920

lead us not into temptation
lead us not into temptation

God grant me the serenity...
God grant me the serenity...

Scotch Banquet at Knox (Keith) Hall September 22nd, 1911
Scotch Banquet at Knox Hall (Keith Hall) September 22nd, 1911

Keith Hall August 12, 2010
Keith Hall

front and centre
front and centre

HOLY BIBLE Revised Standard Edition
HOLY BIBLE Revised Standard Edition

Ministers Study
Ministers Study

no one's arc
no ones arc

burning in hell for eternity
burning in hell for eternity

the best seat in the house of god
the best view in the house

upper level
upper level

Knox hockey team
Knox United hockey team

Knox Church Athletic Assoc.
Knox United hockey team

Fiftieth Anniversary 1910-1960
Fiftieth Anniversary 1910-1960

Are you last to leave the church?
Are you last to leave the church?

********* UPDATE *********
***February 22nd, 2016 ***

When the sale of the church was announced just over a year ago, I was ecstatic, as it was sold to an independent developer that planned to convert the space into desperately needed low income housing.

Unfortunately I dropped the ball on this one and didn't return until yesterday. The interior demolition has long since been finished and construction looked to be nearing completion.

I was lucky to arrive at the moment I did, because as I introduced myself to the foreman/owner he told me that his wife loves my blog and showed him this post last night. He was a very kind man with a lot of passion for not only this project, but the City of Peterborough. He gave me a guided tour of the entire building and shared specifics on the construction process and materials used.
He informed me that the building will have 42 single occupancy low income units, made up of 1 bedroom and bachelor, as well as 5 specially designed wheelchair units.

The apartments all have a very clean modern feel blended perfectly with the historic elements that make this building so special. Sunlight shines brightly through the tall arched windows in the units and much of the stained glass has been preserved in the hallways. A second floor has been added already and some units have already been spoken for. Occupancy date is scheduled for June 1st, 2016.

Thank you Paul.

click here to check out all of jerm & ninja IX's ABANDONMENT ISSUES

4 comments:

Nicole Ertl said...

Doesnt look very abandoned

Nathaniel Christopher said...

What a great post. Thank you for documenting this extraordinary Peterborough landmark for all of us out there who can't check these spaces out ourselves.

I went to university in Peterborough back in the early 2000s and I always thought that Knox United was a rather imposing and kind of spooky old building.

The fact that it was relatively close to the sidewalk made it seem even larger than it was and the yellowed plastic window coverings and non-descript doors add to the whole creepy effect.

I haven't lived in Peterborough for over eight years but I still ocassionally have dreams about that church building for some reason. I had one last night, in fact, which is how I came upon this site.

It was great to see the inside of the beautiful structure and I do hope that it is preserved for some kind of community purpose.

Thank you again for this post. I love your blog and it reminds me of how much I loved the old architecture in and around Peterborough. I'm from British Columbia. We do have old buildings but they are few and far between compared to Peterborough where we were absolutely spoiled.

The old churches are especially stunning. Not only because of their architecture but also their historic place in the hearts of generations of women and men as a centre for their commnunity and family.

I come from a non-religious background and identify as an atheist but I would sometimes attend church services in and around Peterborough just so I could sit inside these spaces for a time.

I think a lot of the people who went to these churches would agree that your photos and thoughtful commentary serve as a dignified and loving tribute to these sacred spaces.

Marlene Fisher said...

im looking for a minister that was there in the early 70s named rev smeeten. do u no where i may get a pic of him for my memories

Marlene Fisher said...

For anyone remembering Rev smeaton from early 70s. Well I found out yesterday he past at 80 in August 2015. God rest his soul