United Church - Okanagan Falls, BC
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member T0SHEA
N 49° 20.567 W 119° 34.409
11U E 313073 N 5468748
Quick Description: Built some 120 years ago in a rough and tumble mining town, the "Blasted Church", now in a different town, serves the United Church congregation of Okanagan Falls.
Location: British Columbia, Canada
Date Posted: 9/1/2021 11:11:35 AM
Waymark Code: WM14WJA
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member Weathervane
Views: 0

Long Description:
The church was built as a Presbyterian Church in 1898, just before the turn of the twentieth century, in the gold mining town of Fairview. Gold was discovered at Fairview in the 1880s, with the staking of the first claim in 1887. By the turn of the century Fairview was one BC's largest towns. The gold ran out soon enough and the town slowly died, with the post office finally closing in 1926. One of the few remaining buildings from the town, the Fairview Jail, has been moved to the Oliver museum site. Today, all that remains to indicate the location of Fairview are some historical markers.

In 1929 the congregation of the United Church in Okanagan Falls, less that 20 kilometres north of Oliver, was in need of a new building and the old Presbyterian Church in Fairview came to mind. A not uncommon practice at the time had been to seal a building and ignite the appropriate amount of dynamite within to loosen the nails holding the exterior boards prior to dismantling. This is what was done with this church, hence the name Blasted Church. The materials were then hauled to Okanagan Falls and reassembled. Rededication of the church took place on January 19, 1930.

On a cool spring morning in 1929, a small crew from Okanagan Falls set off to a deserted mining camp some 16 miles away from home. Their mission: to dismantle an old wooden church and bring it back to Okanagan Falls.

The plan called for a controlled blast of four dynamite sticks inside the church in order to "loosen the nails". Odd as it may seem, the explosion spared the wood from damage during dismantling.

Save for losing the steeple, the plan succeeded. Now, the 120 year old wooden church stands proudly in its second home of Okanagan Falls.
From the Blasted Church Vineyards
United Church AKA The Blasted Church
The United Church of Okanagan Falls represents a colorful era in the history of the south Okanagan, the gold rush era, and it is a memorial to many of our community’s ancestors. The church was originally built in 1898 in the town of Fairview, BC. Fairview sprang up in 1890 as a result of the discovery of gold and became one of the largest towns in the south Okanagan at the turn of the century, with a population of 500. However, as the gold supply diminished so did Fairview and in 1920 Oliver sprang up in its wake. Fairview was located on the benches above and approximately 3½ km west of Oliver. All of the buildings at Fairview were either torn down, or moved over time to Oliver, leaving only the cemetery to show that a town existed.

In 1929 Reverend Feir, a Presbyterian minister who was holding church services in a store in Okanagan Falls, spearheaded a movement to acquire the church building in Fairview. Under the direction of an engineer named Harley Hatfield, four sticks of dynamite were hung from the rafters of the church, the windows boarded up on the inside and the fuse ignited. This process loosened the nails so that it could be easily taken apart, transported and reassembled in Okanagan Falls. It was officially reopened as the United Church with a dedication service on January 19, 1930.

The Church was the only place of worship in Okanagan Falls in 1930 so the United Church congregation held its service on Sunday morning and the Anglican congregation used it in the afternoon. It also served as a meeting place for several youth groups and the Women’s Association, which was formed with members from both congregations.

Today this beautiful 110 year old church sits at the corner of 11th and Willow Street in Okanagan Falls. It has survived through unusual times in the South Okanagan: the gold rush; rise and fall of Fairview; and the flooding of Shuttleworth Creek in 1936 in Okanagan Falls.

The United Church has significance to the community of Okanagan Falls for several reasons:
  1. It is a memorial to the hard work and determination of the ancestors of many of our present day community members who wanted to provide their families with a formal place to worship.
  2. It has played a key role in bringing the families of our rural area together for 90 years to worship, to socialize, to celebrate births, marriages and to recognize the passing of a loved one.
  3. It is one of only a very few buildings left in our community that dates back a hundred years.
  4. Because of the unique method used in disassembling it, the church has become widely known as “The Blasted Church”, which intrigues locals and tourists alike and makes it a building of interest.
  5. It is a repository of local historical artifacts such as:
    1. The pews were made from hand sawn lumber by Jim & Arthur Madden for the community hall in Fairview. Elliott’s Hall served as a place for all of Fairview’s social events, including the venue for famous BC artist, Pauline Johnson’s speaking engagement in 1902. When the hall was torn down the pews were then moved to the Fairview church and moved to Okanagan Falls with the church.
    2. The Baptismal Font was hand carved by a local orchardist and environmentalist, Carleton MacNaughton.
    3. The stained glass window to the north was donated by Major Hugh Fraser in memory of his mother.
    4. The stained glass window to the south was donated by Arthur and Rachel Benge in memory of Mrs. Olive Cartwright.
    From the RDOS Heritage Register
Photo goes Here Photo goes Here
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Official Heritage Registry: [Web Link]

Heritage Registry Page Number: Individual pages, not numbered

1108 Willow Street
Okanagan Falls, BC Canada
V0H 1R4

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