Most of James Street Baptist Church is coming down. Only the eastern facade and tower will be saved.
By Ryan McGreal
Published June 06, 2014
this article has been updated
The good news is that James Street Baptist Church is not being demolished. The City issued a building "minor alteration" permit, not a demolition permit. The bad news is that 80% of the building is being altered out of existence. Only the tower and the eastern facade, which face James Street, will be retained.
James Baptist east facade and tower on James (RTH file photo)
demolition work began in mid-May, when hoarding went up around the building and Jackson Street was closed to automobile traffic just west of James.
May 20: hoarding up around the building
May 21: Removing the roof shingles
Workers started by removing the roof shingles on the western side of the building, letting them fall to the ground to break up rather than saving them. By the end of May, the roof had a large hole and the upper part of the north-facing facade was open.
May 29: Large hole in the roof
May 30: North facade coming down
June 4: extensive roof removal
The work progressed significantly today, with a large section of the north and east walls knocked down.
June 6: North wall being removed
The sky is visible through the opposite wall
demolition generated a large cloud of dust. Workers sprayed water from a fire hose on Jackson Street, but the dust triggered a fire alarm in the next-door building on Jackson and evacuated its occupants. A fire truck was dispatched to the scene.
From dust to dust
Dust in the laneway west of James Baptist
The pictured worker was not wearing a breathing mask.
Large cloud of dust several storeys in height rising from the James Baptist site (Image Credit: Eric McGuinness)
By noon, the building was pretty much gone
All that remains is the east facade and tower
The pipe organ was removed over the winter and donated to Northern Organs, with the understanding that they will store it until they find another church willing to take it and will only charge their expenses to transport and install it. In addition, several windows, including a large transept window, have also been removed intact.
Otherwise, it is not clear what, if anything, is being saved from the destruction of this heritage treasure. It looks like the beautiful pink granite arcade columns, flanking arches and polished wooden vaults are simply being knocked down rather than retained.
James Baptist was designed by Joseph Connolly and built between 1878 and 1882. Connolly trained under architect James Joseph McCarthy, regarded as the "Irish Pugin" because he embraced the principles of church architecture laid down by the famed Gothic architect Augustus Welby Pugin.
James Street Baptist was the only non-Catholic church Connolly designed. One motivation for its impressive design was a friendly competition with St. Paul's Presbyterian Church on the other side of Jackson, which had set the bar high for architectural distinction.
The building went up for sale in summer 2012 and was sold in early 2013 to Stanton Renaissance for $610,000. The company partnered with Hamilton-based McCallum Sather Architects to redevelop the property.
Stanton Renaissance submitted a 129-page report requesting a demolition permit in September, arguing that poor construction and maintenance had resulted in structural problems that required a partial demolition.
Company president Louie Santaguida argued in an interview in October, "The extent of the damage to the building's structural integrity was not known at the time of purchase, and after engineers completed an intrusive investigation, the structure was deemed unsound."
The City issued a "minor alteration" permit to
demolish 80 percent of the building, a staff decision that has raised some serious questions about the process that was followed.
Stanton Renaissance has not yet submitted any redevelopment plans to the City.
Update: updated to add a photo from Eric McGuinness, used with permission. You can jump to the added photo.
Update 2: updated to note that a large transept window was removed intact from the building yesterday. You can jump to the changed paragraph.
Update 3: updated to add photos taken at noon, after most of the building had been taken down. You can jump to the added photographs.
Update 4: the article incorrectly identified the church next door as St. Paul's Anglican Church. It is actually St. Paul's Presbyterian Church. RTH regrets the error. You can jump to the changed paragraph.
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