St. Paul’s Indian Church


Donna Oseen, St Paul’s Indian Church Preservation Trust
Dave Mathieson, Nu-Tech Roofing Ltd
John Polgalse, Syncra Construction Corporation 

St. Paul’s Church is associated with the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a Roman Catholic missionary order that played an important role in the introduction of Catholicism to western Canada and the Lower Mainland of British Columbia.

The original chapel, built in the mid-1860s on the north shore of Burrard Inlet, was replaced by a larger frame church with a projecting front steeple in 1884. The current St. Paul’s, which incorporates the walls of the 1884 church, was extensively remodelled and expanded in 1909. The addition of twin spires, transepts and a vestry, along with circular-shaped chapels and stained glass windows created a sophisticated cruciform shape. Two chancel columns were retained from the 1884 structure; otherwise the structure is substantially retained in its 1909-10 form. The church was reopened and rededicated in 1919.

St. Paul’s was the last mission church of this scale and complexity to be built on a First Nation mission in British Columbia. For nearly 130 years St. Paul’s Indian Church has served as a continuous house of worship for the Squamish people and others in the community.

In 1979-80 there was a major restoration of the building, and in 1980 St. Paul’s was designated a National Historic Site of Canada because it is the oldest surviving mission church in the Lower Mainland. It has long been a focal point of the Mission Reserve, and is an example of the Gothic Revival ecclesiastical architecture style in Canada.

The overall conservation framework for St. Paul’s Church was outlined in a comprehensive Conservation Plan developed in 2013, which established the relevant heritage values of the National Historic Site and how they would be preserved and conserved.

The restoration included:
• Restoration of the lighted crosses on top of the spires
• Original wood/glass windows were sent to a heritage restoration company in Victoria
• Replacement of sheet metal cladding and dormer “bird-house” vents were fabricated to match the original spires
• Original fir shiplap sheathing and cedar rafters were replaced with materials matching the originals, including 30-foot long rough cedar rafters
• New gutters and downspouts that were more sympathetic to the historic character were fabricated
• Vents/louvres at the top of the towers were removed, repaired, reinstalled and painted back to their original condition
• Siding and trim repainted with the colour scheme as directed by the Heritage Consultant
• Dentils were removed and replicated to match the original specifications
• Structural repairs were made to the front of the church, including new entrance steps and new doors and hardware
• The original church bell and treated wood support were cleaned and repainted
• The original church cross was relocated for better viewing

The 2013 restoration to St. Paul’s has significantly contributed to ensure longevity of the site while maintaining the heritage character and value of the historic building.

All of the preservation, rehabilitation and restoration work was done, to the greatest extent possible, in such a manner as to preserve or enhance the historical authenticity and integrity of the church. All of the work has been reviewed to be consistent with the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada.



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