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Steeple on historic church to be repaired this fall, church restoration to follow

Church of Our Lord in downtown Victoria is almost 150 years old
Rev. Rob Szo in front of the Church of Our Lord on Blanshard Street. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

The crumbling wooden steeple on a historic downtown Anglican church is being preserved, thanks to the generosity of the congregation and a contribution from the Victoria Civic Heritage Trust.

Church of Our Lord, at the corner of Blanshard and Humboldt streets, is almost 150 years old and is an example of Gothic Revival architecture from the mid-19th century.

It is affectionately known as The Grand Lady of Victoria by the church community, and was designated a national historic site in 1990.

When it was noticed that its 4.5-metre steeple was starting to rot and in danger of becoming unstable, an architectural assessment was arranged in September 2021.

That led to an examination by a building-conservation engineer that determined rain was leaking into the structure and it was not seismically sound.

“It’s not going to fall down tomorrow but it needs attention,” Rev. Rob Szo said.

Herold Engineering was hired in spring 2022 and set an estimate for repairs at about $140,000.

Over half of the amount needed has come from the heritage trust, with the rest coming from the approximately 250 church members.

“They’re very generous ­people,” Szo said.

The rebuilding of the steeple will go ahead soon, and there are plans to fully restore the church in preparation for its 150th anniversary in 2025-26.

A fundraising campaign will be organized for that project, Szo said.

The first service was held in January 1876, with the church set on the edge of the tidal flats that were filled in during the early 1900s and became the site of the nearby Fairmont Empress Hotel.

Bishop Edward Cridge, namesake of the Cridge Centre for the Family, and his wife, Mary, were behind the church’s construction; other notable congregants included James Douglas and Emily Carr.

“There are still markers on the pews, like the Douglas pew,” Szo said.

The church was designed by architect John Teague, and features a gabled roof and decorative pinnacles. Samuel Maclure designed the church annex known as Cridge Memorial Hall.

Over the years, the church has become home to such organizations as the Sanctuary Youth Centre, Street Hope Victoria — which helps people facing homelessness, addiction and other issues — and a group to help new immigrants called New Foundations.

“Hopefully people see it as a community hub, for outreach in the community,” Szo said.

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