Cochrane Street United (formerly Methodist) Church, is a steel and reinforced concrete framed church reminiscent of the Italianate-Tuscan style of architecture. Built in 1915, Cochrane Street United Church is located on Cochrane Street in downtown St. John’s, NL. This designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
Statement of Significance
Formal Recognition Type
Registered Heritage Structure
Cochrane Street United Church was designated a Registered Heritage Structure by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador in 2005 due to its historic and aesthetic value.
The Methodist congregation that would become Cochrane Street United Church was established in 1878. Initially renting the Old Temperance Hall (now known as the LSPU Hall) on Victoria Street, they soon decided a church building was needed to better serve the growing Methodist population in the city’s east end. From 1880-1882, a wooden Gothic Revival church was built at the top of Cochrane Street. It survived the Great Fire of 1892, but was destroyed by a fire on January 18, 1914. The son of then-minister George Paine was an architect in Montreal, with connections at the architectural firm of Ross and McDonald. Ross and McDonald were possibly the longest-operating architectural firm in Canadian history. They built many notable Canadian structures, including Union Station in Toronto and numerous buildings on the McGill University campus in Montreal. Construction of Cochrane Street United Church was led by the Downing Cook Company of Toronto, using local materials and local labour.
The cornerstone of Cochrane Street United was laid on the site of the previous church on May 15, 1915. The church held its first service less than a year later, on April 23, 1916. Cochrane Street United Church is still home to a small congregation today, who meet in the sanctuary. The remainder of the building, including the Sunday School annex, has been converted to a community centre and affordable housing complex. Sitting on the edge of the St. John’s Ecclesiastical District, Cochrane Street United is a testament both to the historic centrality of religion in St. John’s and to the ways modern congregations have adapted their historic churches to make continually relevant gathering spaces for the people of St. John’s.
Designed in an Italianate-Tuscan style of architecture, Cochrane Street United Church is a innovative example of this style in St. John’s. The style was chosen to create a communal, auditorium-style space, more relevant to Methodist worship than the Anglican-affiliated Gothic Revival style of the previous church. The unusual architecture style has prompted a common local legend that the church was actually pre-built in pieces in Canada, destined for a Mediterranean market. The First World War brought an end to trans-Atlantic trading and – as the story goes – the church was sold to the Cochrane Street congregation instead.
The church’s Italianate-Tuscan elements include the square bell tower with its arcaded belfry, the enclosed front porch with an arcaded entrance, and the rounded arch windows with their ornamental brick trim. The most prominent feature of the interior is the soaring Byzantine dome, which is invisible from the front facade of the church. The interior of Cochrane Street United Church, however, is distinct from many true Byzantine and Byzantine Revival churches in its lack of grand ornamentation – reflective of the values of a Methodist congregation. Hand-finished woodwork on the pulpit and choir loft adds visual interest, as do the bronze capitals on the interior column. The most prominent ornamental touches are the stained glass windows on the front and sides of the building, which depict various scenes from the Bible. These windows, made by a Toronto company with English glass, were not part of the original plan but were donated by members of the congregation. The attention given to these finishing details in Cochrane Street United Church reflect its importance to the congregation who funded its construction.
Source: Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador property file “St. John’s – Cochrane Street United Church – FPT 2050″
Character Defining Elements
All those elements which represent the Italianate-Tuscan architecture of Cochrane Street United including:
-general massing of structure;
-irregular roof line;
-steel frame and poured concrete construction;
-white and terra cotta brown colours of building;
-Byzantine dome with sphere finial;
-barrel vaulting in front entrance;
-square bell tower, with arcaded belfry featuring Corinthian capitals;
-size, style, trim and placement of rounded arch windows;
-size, style, trim and placement of exterior doors;
-arcading and blind arcade trim;
-decorative brickwork around doors and windows, and;
-dimensions, location and orientation of building.
All those original interior elements which reflect the age and use of Cochrane Street United Church, including:
-double-stepped stained glass windows;
-all original wooden doors in the Sunday School annex;
-Greek cross chandelier;
-Arts and Crafts-influenced elm pews;
-oak woodwork on pulpit, communion rail and choir loft, and;
-bronze capitals on square columns.
All those environmental values which reflect the historic importance of Cochrane Street United, including:
-large lot with entrances on Cochrane Street and Stewart Ave, and;
-location within the Ecclesiastical District of downtown St John’s.
Location and History
City of St. John's
081 Cochrane Street
1915 - 1916
Downing Cook Construction Company, Ross and McDonald
Rectangular Short Façade