St. Matthew's Anglican Church (Ruby Church) Registered Heritage Structure
Statement of Significance
Formal Recognition Type
Registered Heritage Structure
Description of Historic Place
Constructed circa 1913, St. Matthew’s Anglican Church (also known as Ruby Church) is a wooden building with a steep pitched gable roof and bell tower. Located on Main Road in the Goulds area of St. John’s, NL, it is a simple country church employing elements of Gothic Revival style. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
St. Matthew’s Anglican Church was designated a Registered Heritage Structure by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador in 1988 due to its historic, aesthetic and cultural value.
St. Matthew’s Anglican Church has historic value due to its age in the context of the Goulds and as a physical representation of the area’s agricultural heritage. It is located in the Goulds –within the city of St. John’s. The Goulds was historically an agricultural community and was spread out over a large geographical area. In 1910, the Anglican Synod approved plans to build the Church of the Presentation in the Goulds, as Anglican services were being conducted in a school chapel. The approved location was in the southern end of the Goulds. Residents who lived further north soon began a campaign to have a church built in the northern end of the Goulds. They were led by farmer George Ruby, who started a fundraising campaign and conveyed land for the church to the Anglican Synod for $1. The Synod approved both the building of the second church and the fundraising campaign. On September 10, 1913 the cornerstone of St. Matthew’s Anglican Church was laid while construction was underway. Local residents, Anglican Church officials and government dignitaries attended the ceremony. While officially a part of the Anglican Diocese, St. Matthew’s Anglican Church was basically operated as an independent church. For many years it was administered by Postulants from Queen’s College and the congregation and caretakers were mostly members of the extended Ruby family.
The building of St. Matthew’s Anglican Church did cause a rift within the Anglican congregation of the Goulds. But by 1940, St. Matthew’s Anglican Church was integrated into the larger Goulds parish. A new church meant to serve the entire parish was opened in 1963. The Church of the Presentation was torn down but St. Matthew’s remained standing. The church was neglected and had been vandalized when the Synod gave approval for its demolition in 1983. The demolition was delayed and by 1985 the Goulds Historical Society was formed to save the church. They were successful in their efforts and St. Matthew’s Anglican Church remains as possibly the oldest surviving public building in the Goulds.
St. Matthew’s Anglican Church has aesthetic value as an example of a rural, country church in an agricultural landscape. It was designed by Tom Pope and built by Henry Louis (Harry) Chafe with the help of volunteer labour. Constructed of local materials, the church stands as a testament to the quality of craftsmanship during this period. Furthermore, the church employs a number of simplified Gothic Revival elements, such as Gothic arched windows and a central tower, which were typical in small churches during this period. St. Matthew’s Anglican Church has further aesthetic value as it is located on the main street running the length of the Goulds and is a well-known landmark.
St. Matthew’s Anglican Church has cultural value as a reminder of an earlier time and place. The Goulds was once a sparsely settled, agricultural community. In the face of modern development, St. Matthew’s Anglican Church stands as a physical connection to the area’s agricultural past.
Source: Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador property file “St. John's (Goulds) - St. Matthew’s Anglican Church (Ruby Church) – FPT 1544”
Character Defining Elements
All those exterior features that are reflective of the Newfoundland vernacular ecclesiastical interpretation of the Gothic Revival style, including:
- steep gable roof;
- number of storeys;
- three-storey tower with pyramidal roof;
- narrow wooden clapboard;
- wooden corner boards;
- Gothic arched wooden windows size, style, trim and placement;
- size, style, trim and placement of exterior wooden doors;
- wooden transom window over main door, and;
- dimension, location and orientation of building.
Location and History
||St. John's (Goulds)
||City of St. John's
||38 Main Road, Goulds
||1913 - 1913
Henry Louis (Harry) Chafe
||Rectangular Short Façade