26 Jul History of St. Giles United Church, Hamilton
Our most recent project at BD Salvage has been the deconstruction of St. Giles United Church in Hamilton. We have been working to preserve the historic pieces in the church to keep this part of Hamilton history alive. Every piece in St. Giles tells a story.
In March 1907, discussion began about the erection of a Presbyterian Sunday School which would also serve as a church. After a petition gaining 116 signatures in May 1907, the Presbytery of Hamilton granted permission to establish a new congregation known as St. Giles Presbyterian Church.
In the congregation’s early days, they met in a tent on the property. The first meeting was in June of 1908 conducted by Reverend R.B. Cochrane. It was also in June 1908 that the contracts for the erection of the Sunday School were signed.
In November 1908, the congregation moved into the newly erected Sunday School building. This is when Reverend J.B. Paulin began serving the church community and kept this post until 1916 when Reverend W. A. McIlroy took over.
The main portion of the church was constructed in 1912-1913 including the bell tower that was added above the arched entrance on Holton Avenue South and is the majority what exists today. It was designed by Hamilton architectural firm Stewart & Witton, who are responsible for a number of other notable buildings in Hamilton such as King George School, Central Fire Station (John Street North) and the Herkimer Apartments (at Bay Street South).
The bells in the bell tower are believed to have been donated by the Holton family, for whom Holton Avenue is named. Based on records, however, there is some suggestion that the Holton family donated the organ rather than the bells. The bells were crafted in the McShame Bell Foundry of Baltimore, Maryland which still exists today and has provided bells all across the world since 1856.
In 1925, the Church voted to become part of the newly formed United Church of Canada. A rocky period of transition was recorded in the local newspaper after 557 members voted for and 368 members voted against becoming part of the United Church. The Hamilton Spectator reported on a number of tense meetings revolving around the transition of the Presbyterian term for elders (for life) and the United Church’s terms for elders (three years).
Around 1945, the Church added an addition on the east side of the building constructed as a war memorial to those church members who died serving in WW2.
In 1958, most of the original Sunday School building with the exception of the arched entrance on Holton was demolished to make way for a new Christian Education Centre. This 1958 addition was designed by Hamilton architectural firm Bruce Brown & Brisley.
In 2013, St. Giles United Church congregation amalgamated with Centenary United to form New Vision United Church whose congregation is in the former Centenary United Church at 23 Main Street East, Hamilton. The building at St. Giles ceased to be used.
The New Vision Board of Trustees was pursuing the redevelopment of the church land. Unfortunately, the cost of adaptive re-use of the church was determined to be cost prohibitive.
BD Salvage was an active participant in an on-line auction of historic building components, and furniture within the church. We were successful in the purchase of several lighting component, architectural components, solid wood doors, furniture, etc.
Upon completion of the on-line auction, BD Salvage purchased the rights to salvage the remaining wood elements – paneling, baseboards, door trim, newel posts, spindles, ornate components, lighting, etc. This is a labour-intensive process but fulfills our goal; to salvage the craftmanship of the past for future re-use.
View our journey of the deconstruction and salvage of St. Giles on our Instagram!
Information from the City of Hamilton Planning and Economic Development Department.