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Kamloops History: A tour of the city's oldest public building

It dates back to 1887, two years after the Canadian Pacific Railway was built through town and six years before the city was incorporated

St. Andrews on the Square is Kamloops’ oldest public building.

It dates back to 1887, two years after the Canadian Pacific Railway was built through town and six years before the city was incorporated.

Rev. George Murray was the first itinerant Presbyterian minister who traversed a large part of the Southern Interior, including Kamloops.

With the dramatic increase in the population after the railway was completed, Rev. John Chisholm then became the first resident Presbyterian minister in Kamloops who responded to the need for a permanent church. The local population of Kamloops at the time was about 1,000.

Built on land donated by the CPR, then on the outskirts of town, construction began on St. Andrews Presbyterian church and a manse on Seymour Street in September 1887.

The manse was a duplex — one side for the minister and the other side for rent. Much of the funding for the church came from CPR workers living in camps around Kamloops.

Designed by Robert Henry Lee in a late Victorian Gothic Revival style, the wood-frame church features Gothic pointed-arch windows and stepped buttresses. The interior reveals a vaulted ceiling with a checkerboard of diagonally patterned wood panelling.

The lumber was sourced locally from James McIntosh’s mill on Kamloops’ waterfront.

The steeple was 79 feet (24 metres) tall and designed for a heavy bell, but none was installed. Even today there is no bell. The design of the finial atop the steeple is also a mystery. There may be a connection with the Saltire or St. Andrew’s Cross.

St. Andrews
St. Andrews on Seymour Street, ca. 1920. - KMA 6585 photo courtesy of Kamloops Museum and Archives

Additional funds for the church were raised through local musical concerts, Sunday school events and socials.

In the end, St. Andrews cost $5,000 to build and furnish. The first service was held on Christmas Day 1887 and, on Jan. 1, 1888, a dedication was held.

Electricity was installed after 1896. In 1901, the Ladies Aid Society pressed for improved water and bathroom facilities and, between 1910 and 1912, the wood stoves were replaced by a coal furnace. A small balcony was added to the interior of the church. A hall was added to the rear of the church in 1910.

With the amalgamation of the Presbyterian and Methodist congregations in 1925, the United Church was formed and St. Andrews was abandoned for the newer Methodist building at Fourth Avenue and St. Paul Street.

In 1936, the St. Andrews and Caledonian Society bought the old building as their meeting hall.

In 1942, St. Andrews was bought by the local Pentecostal assembly for its church, renamed Calvary Temple.

By late 1945, the building had been restored by Rev. Phil A. Gaglardi.

During the late 1950s and 1960s, Calvary Temple housed the largest Sunday school in Canada. A large annex was built by Gaglardi in 1958 next to the original church. Gaglardi stepped down as pastor in 1972.

Over the years, the old church building was used by various groups for meetings and served as a badminton hall and as a gymnasium.

By the mid-1980s, it was abandoned.

In 1991, the building was acquired by the City of Kamloops, which halted its demolition.

By 1996, the Kamloops Heritage Society was formed and with grants from the city and the province and through the collective efforts of many volunteers and thousands of hours of work, St. Andrews was restored and reopened for public use as a multi-purpose community facility.

The total cost of restoration was $500,000, 100 times the original cost.

Calvary Temple eventually closed and the site next to St. Andrew’s became the present public square, with a bronze statue honouring Gaglardi.

The building is listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places and can be found on the City of Kamloops Heritage Register.

ST ANDREWS TODAY

The Kamloops Heritage Society still operates St. Andrews on the Square for public and private functions.

To make a booking for your wedding, reception, meeting or other event, call Mel Formanski at 250-377-4232.

Ken Favrholdt is a freelance writer and historical geographer. He was formerly curator/archivist of the Kamloops Museum and Archives. The Kamloops This Week History page appears three times per month in print and online at kamloopsthisweek.com, under the Community tab. To comment on this or other History columns, email editor@kamloopsthisweek.com.