LAKE OF BAYS, ON- A final move to save St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Grassmere is underway.
The church is set to be deconsecrated by the Archdiocese of Algoma, the northern Ontario organizational body of the Anglican Church. As a result, a group needed to take over responsibility for the building, which was built in 1891.
The Township of Lake of Bays has taken over the care of the cemetery that surrounds the small brick and wood constructed building. But in late July, it was determined the building should be demolished.
Township council was concerned that the building would have to be boarded up and as a result might be vandalized. A number of options were considered to help preserve the church, but none of them were sustainable.
Warden for the church, Jacquie Howell told Lake of Bays council that as much as the congregation would love to either preserve or move the church, it was just not possible.
With no septic or running water and the nature of its construction, it could not be used by any other group in place or moved without risk of it being irreparably damaged in the process.
The move to demolish the building had not been popular with the Friends of Grassmere Church, a group headed by resident Danielle Van Eyck. She’s now put a plan in motion to save the building, and move it to a new home.
In a recently-announced GoFundMe drive, Van Eyck indicated that the church wardens had asked for a detailed proposal on moving the church, as well as a $10,000 deposit as a show of good faith. The money would be returned after the church had left the property.
Van Eyck wrote that she had reached out to Muskoka Heritage Place to see if they could take the building, but was told there wasn’t a site available.
However, after speaking with the Jerrett family at Hillside Farm, a possible new home was found. The family agreed to take and preserve the church, with plans to use it in conjunction with the weddings they host at their location.
The church would also be available for other services upon request.
“The Hillside Barn is located only two km east on Hwy 60 but the move will still be expensive and the Jerrett’s will be paying for this plus many of the other expenses such as reinforcing the building, Township applications and fees, MTO permit, traffic control, moving Bell and Hyrdo lines, hydro hookup, and a new foundation on their property,” wrote Van Eyck.
“The Wardens are also wanting us to fix up the property as if the building was never there.”
The GoFundMe account is meant to defray the costs of the move, and Van Eyck told the MyMuskokaNow.com newsroom that the $10,000 deposit has already been put together.
“We are working on a tight deadline to move the building as they are planning to use the church until Thanksgiving and then the move has to take place before inclement weather sets in,” wrote Van Eyck.
“The Wardens have a plan to erect a 14-foot granite cross where the building once stood. No bricks or stone from the foundation was ever in their plan for use.”
Van Eyck indicated to the newsroom that the move was the final option for preserving the church.
“I hope people can find comfort; in that we are going to preserve this church in our community,” said Van Eyck.
“It will still be able to be used for weddings, that goes along with the services at the Hillside Barn. The Jarett family have been incredibly generous and lovely to work with over this, and have offered that if the community would like to use this for other services, they can, upon their request. Moving forward, I think this is our best and now our only option.”
If it doesn’t go ahead, the church would likely be torn down on Monday, October 14th.
“This church has meant a great deal to our community, it would be devastating to see it torn down when it’s in such immaculate condition,” said Van Eyck.
The proposal for the move will be submitted this afternoon, and the group has said that “everything is in place” for the move. An agreement will be put in place with the diocese, which could include changes to the plan, but will allow the preservation to go forward.