The saws and hammers are pounding away the effects of time on old wood.
Burns Lake’s third-oldest building, Barney Mulvaney’s “Bucket of Blood” and Lakes District News newspaper’s office are older, is finally getting the facelift so many history enthusiasts have been hoping for, and in the process, the community will once again have an active public area under the same roof that has been calling people together for almost 100 years.
“The historic St. John’s Heritage Church will be redeveloped to create a space for community events and workshops, while preserving the historical features of the building,” said Sheryl Worthing, chief administrative officer for the Village of Burns Lake (VBL).
It was Aug. 25, 1929 when Reverend J.H. Kerr and local community activist Baynard B. Keddy succeeded in their campaign to open a proper Anglican church after two previous ones of decidedly rustic condition. It was located at 125 First Avenue with a view of the valley, a unique arched door, a CN Rail locomotive’s bell, and picturesque stained glass windows.
It barely missed being one of the structural victims of the big Burns Lake fire of 1931, only to be threatened again by time itself. The municipality bought the property after its 60th birthday, used it decreasingly for public functions, until it went dormant in 2012 – but not forgotten. A fundraising campaign obtained $735,000 for renovations, with contributions from Heritage BC, Nechako Kitimaat Development Fund, Northern Development Initiative Trust, TC Energy, and the village.
“It has been a very interesting project, and I am fortunate to be a small part of it,” said Dale Ross, VBL’s director of public works, marveling at “the history behind the Anglican Church, the original fine craftsmanship within the building, the hard work from the community for its original construction, using materials readily available or those that were donated. The Anglican Church has an indescribable sense about it as you work through the challenges of its renovation. Through all stages thus far there have been some surprises such as finding a safe boarded up within an interior wall or glass bottles and pieces of pottery buried deep around the hand poured exterior concrete walls. It is all quite fascinating and rewarding.”
He said that the construction team has encountered many challenges during the renovation so far, but nothing insurmountable. The list of problems included failing concrete basement walls, scant insulation, no water or sewer to the building, no perimeter drainage, dirt floors in the basement, and limited power supply.
This project is more than a fix-up. It is also an expansion, to allow unprecedented public use, and give the community a significant social amenity all wrapped up in handsome historic personality.
“Throughout the project the goal was not only to provide services to the building, but to also preserve the historical values found within its walls,” said Ross. “The new addition incorporated the same type of roof lines, and stained glass windows. In regards to the interior finishing of the addition, the goal is to try and have it blend in with the interior of the existing building.”
It is so far on schedule to be complete in June, close to the original opening date 94 years prior.
Project Tasks: Construct a 500-square-foot addition to add plumbing, washrooms, and a kitchen, connect water and sewer, replace wooden sidewalk and add wheelchair access, new front steps and new deck to rear addition, complete electrical upgrade of outlets and install LED lights, upgrade furnace with new duct work, install items necessary for fire code compliance, preserve stained-glass windows, complete basement renovation which includes: structural concrete wall repairs, new concrete flooring, insulation, drywall, purchase folding chairs and tables, fridge, stove, microwave and kitchen supplies, insulate the building, complete bell tower retrofit and new roof.