First United Church - Kelowna, BC
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member T0SHEA
N 49° 53.167 W 119° 29.300
11U E 321257 N 5528937
Quick Description: Built in 1909, this was the replacement for the original wood framed Knox Presbyterian Church, which dated from 1897.
Location: British Columbia, Canada
Date Posted: 11/13/2015 11:51:18 AM
Waymark Code: WMPYZ5
Published By: Groundspeak Regular Member Dorcadion Team
Views: 2

Long Description:
Large when compared to the town of Kelowna in 1909, this substantial brick church was actually built in stages from 1909 to 1947, with Sunday school rooms added in 1920-20 and the adjoining church hall being built in 1928.

An interesting factoid about this church:
The first church on this site, built in 1897, was the small wood framed Knox Presbyterian Church. It was named, as were many Presbyterian Churches at the time, after John Knox, the Scottish religious reformer. The land on which that church, and this church, stood and stand was donated by pioneer rancher A.B. Knox, a distant relative of John Knox, making that Knox Church the most appropriately named of all Knox Churches. Text from the plaques at the church is below, while a more complete history, from Historic Places Canada, follows further below.


On this site, the first downtown Presbyterian Church was built in 1897. At the time there were barely enough members to form a congregation, so the project was both ambitious and optimistic. Prior to this, two ministers had come on alternate weekends to hold Presbyterian and Methodist services in the school house. The white frame church opened Christmas Day, 1897, and served its congregation until 1945, when it was demolished. Made of Kelowna brick, the building before you is much larger than the original white frame church. Construction began in 1909 and finished in 1910. In 1916 the Presbyterian and Methodist churches in Kelowna amalgamated, anticipating an official declaration of union in the rest of Canada by 10 years. The church then became the First United Church led by the Rev. E. P. Braden. For many years it was a hub of activity, and over the years a hall and classroom were added. The Church still houses a very active congregation. Tudor-style timbers give the outside walls a unique look, and apart from the recent restoration of the brick tower to its original sturdiness, it remains virtually unchanged as an enduring part of Kelowna's faith community.

The first Knox Presbyterian Church was built at this location on land donated by A.B. Knox, a pioneer rancher, in 1896. The church, built by prominent contractor M.J. Curts, opened on Christmas Day 1898. The present building, originally also named Knox Presbyterian, was designed by architect F.W. Peters and constructed with local brick by contractor and first Mayor of Kelowna, H.W. Raymer. The cornerstone was laid in September 1909. The Church Hall was built in 1929 by M.J. Curts and enlarged in 1947. As a result of discussions between members of the local Presbyterian and Methodist congregations, a decision was made to become a Union Church in 1916, one of the first in BC. This was a precursor to the formation of the United Church of Canada in 1925. In 1925, the ladies of the congregation paid for a Casavant Pipe Organ, still in use today. In 2001 the congregation of the First United Church voted in favour of requesting Municipal Heritage designation for the church buildings.

This building holds a prominent location at the intersection of Bernard Avenue and Richter Street, marking the boundary between the commercial and residential sections of Bernard Avenue.

The Gothic Revival features include pointed-arched doors and stained glass windows, buttresses, gables and a crenelated tower. The Tudor Revival designed Church Hall has decorative half-timbering and vertically-oriented windows.

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First United Church

The historic place is the First United Church and the adjacent church hall and Sunday school, begun in stages between 1909 and 1929 in the Gothic Revival and Tudor Revival styles, and located at 721 Bernard Avenue, at the corner of Richter Street, in Kelowna's historic North Central neighbourhood.

The First United Church has architectural value for its distinctive architectural quality, its having been a product of work by important local architect and builders, and its landmark status. It has historical value for its long-standing place in the community, including its association with specific people and events that were significant in the history of the City; and for its role in Church Union.

This prominent church, built in 1909 during the first wave of development in the young City of Kelowna, is a highly significant heritage resource because of its stalwart Gothic Revival design and its strong architectural presence. The large brick church is also a neighbourhood landmark that marks the dividing point between the commercial and residential sections of Bernard Avenue, and is the main landmark in the area.

This dominant position has been held since the first church was built at this location in 1898. A.B. Knox, pioneer rancher and owner of land to the east of the Kelowna townsite, had donated a large lot at the corner of Bernard Avenue and Richter Street to the Presbyterians two years earlier. The first, wooden, Knox Presbyterian Church was built there by prominent builder M.J. Curts; the name was apt, as Knox had a distant family relationship with John Knox, the Scottish religious reformer for whom the church was named. The church was part of a 'student field,' which included the Benvoulin Church, until 1905, when Kelowna's Presbyterian congregation became self-sufficient and separate.

The present building, the second Knox Presbyterian Church, was designed by architect Wesley A. Peters, who designed two other churches in Kelowna at this time; and was constructed in local brick by prominent builder Harry W. Raymer. It has value as a very good example of the late Gothic Revival Style, a manner in which the Gothic historicism is set within a restrained, almost proto-modernist architectural treatment.

Sunday school rooms were built in 1919 and 1920 (the latter built by M.J. Curts). The Tudor Revival school and hall, built in 1928-29 and enlarged in 1947, expanded the Sunday school and provided a hall for many other community activities. The hall remains a popular venue for general secular community activities, as well as for the Church.

The building also has value for its role in the formation of the United Church of Canada. The Reverend Alexander Dunn, who served as minister from 1912, returned from a Presbyterian General Assembly in Winnipeg in 1916 so fired with the idea of Church Union that he immediately resigned to make union possible in Kelowna. As a consequence the Union Church of Presbyterians and Methodists came into being, one of the first union churches in British Columbia. In 1926 the United Church of Canada was formed, including Congregationalists as well, and the building became the First United Church.

The First United Church seized the opportunities of new technology. When the radio station 10-AY (predecessor of CKOV) started broadcasting in 1928, among its first regular programs were morning and evening services from the Church every second Sunday, as well as many concerts put on by the Church to help raise money for equipment upkeep for the station.

- Prominent location at the intersection of Bernard Avenue and Richter Street
- Large mass, which dominates the open view at the intersection
- Asymmetrical plan, with a corner entry through the base of the tower
- Gothic Revival features, including pointed-arched (and segmental-headed) doors, pointed-arched stained-glass windows, buttresses, gables, and crenellated tower
- Stepped buttresses, with sloped coping at each step
- Light brown brick walls with cream concrete trim
- Large stained glass windows that dominate the two main church facades
- Stairs with parapets leading up to the principal doors
- Tudor Revival Church Hall and Sunday School, which is sympathetic in massing with the Church, and which has features of that style, such as the decorative half-timbering and vertically-oriented windows - Landscaping with trees and shrubs at the small open corner
- Fieldstone retaining wall along narrow raised landscaped beds on Richter Street
From Historic Places Canada

Date the Church was built, dedicated or cornerstone laid: 1/1/1909

Age of Church building determined by?: Other reliable source

If Church holds a weekly worship service and "all are welcome", please give the day of the week: Sunday

Indicate the time that the primary worship service is held. List only one: 10:00 AM

Street address of Church:
721 Bernard Avenue
Kelowna, BC Canada
V1Y 6P6

Primary website for Church or Historic Church Building: [Web Link]

Secondary Website for Church or Historic Church Building: [Web Link]

If denomination of Church is not part of the name, please provide it here: Not listed

If Church is open to the public, please indicate hours: Not listed

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