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St. Thomas' Church - City of St. John's Heritage Site

Historic illustration of St. John's
St. Thomas' Church, St. John's
Interior, St. Thomas' Church

Statement of Significance

Formal Recognition Type

City of St. John's Heritage Building, Structure, Land or Area

Description of Historic Place

St. Thomas’ Church is a timber-framed church built in the Gothic Revival style of architecture. This church, built 1834-1836, is the oldest church in the city of St. John’s. This designation is confined to the footprint of the building.

Heritage Value

St. Thomas’ Anglican Church is designated because it has aesthetic and historic values.

St. Thomas’ Anglican Church is architecturally valuable as an excellent example of an early Gothic Revival building in Newfoundland. As the oldest Anglican Church in Newfoundland, St. Thomas’ exhibits a simpler plan than many of St. John’s other large churches. St. Thomas’ Anglican Church is constructed of local spruce and pine, with a simple shape and timber frame construction, and these features make St. Thomas’ unquestionably a pioneer church. Furthermore, in its application of Gothic motifs to the exterior of the church, St. Thomas’ is also an example of the early development of Gothic Revival architecture in Canada. The early Gothic Revival tradition in Canada involved the use of elements such as pointed arch windows on the exterior of traditionally simple buildings. Perhaps the most distinguishing Gothic feature of St. Thomas’ Church is its spire, which sets it apart from other Gothic Revival churches in British North America during this period. Other structures had the same central square tower façade but the spire did not become common until the 1840s.

St. Thomas’ Anglican Church is also architecturally valuable for its association with locally renowned builder Patrick Keough. Keough came to Newfoundland from Wexford, Ireland and is noted for his work on Government House, Presentation Convent and the Harbour Grace Courthouse. St. Thomas’ Church is valuable as a rare, surviving example of this prominent builder’s work in wood.

St. Thomas’ Church is historically valuable as the oldest, continually used Anglican Church in Newfoundland, having survived both great fires of the 19th century in St. John’s. Built in 1836, the land for the church was secured by Governor Sir Thomas Cochrane with the stipulation that space in the church be reserved for officers and troops of the nearby Garrison. St. Thomas’ served as the Garrison church from 1837 until 1871 when the British Garrison in St. John’s closed. St. Thomas’ is also valuable for its association with Bishop Aubrey Spencer who commissioned the church and consecrated it in 1840.

St. Thomas’ Anglican Church is environmentally valuable for its location in St. John’s. This church forms part of a complex of select buildings which symbolize the early governmental, religious, and military history of Newfoundland.

Source: City of St. John's Council meeting held 2005/05/30

Character Defining Elements

All those elements which are representative of the building's age and construction in the ecclesiastical Gothic Revival style of architecture, including:
-central square tower, pointed arches, spire;
-use of local materials;
-mid-pitch gable roof;
-layout of building;
-window style and placement;
-window and door trim;
-narrow wooden clapboard sheathing; and,
-building height, massing, dimensions and size.

Location and History

Community St. John's
Municipality City of St. John's
Civic Address 008 Military Road
Construction 1834 - 1836
Patrick Keough
Style Gothic Revival
Building Plan Rectangular Short Façade
Website Link