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Ottawa East Deanery

Orléans, Saint Helen

Exterior of Saint Helen's, Orléans
Diocesan Archives, Brian Glenn fonds OE06E100 51 07 3
By on June 1, 2021

Name That Style

Planners for the national capital were concerned by the 1990s that growth in the urban core was getting increasingly lopsided.  Two generations earlier, in the 1950s, the greenbelt was developed to contain the urban core and give breathing room between the congestion of the core and the suburbs out beyond the greenbelt.  Urban growth in Ottawa-Carleton’s far west end caused that end of the city to grow faster than planners had anticipated.

From the 1970s on, the Orléans area grew as a counterbalance to the west end.  Those coming to live in Orléans touted that it was closer to the countryside.  Those commuting back and forth to work downtown claimed they did not endure the sun being in their eyes when they drove to work in the morning and again when they returned home at the end of the day

At that time no one imagined that all cities and townships of Ottawa-Carleton would be amalgamated.  Orléans was beginning to develop from a village to a major suburban community on the boundary between the east end of the city of Gloucester and Cumberland Township.

As there was a substantial distance between Saint Mark’s, Cumberland and the nearest churches in Gloucester, attempts were made to develop another congregation.  The first one was known briefly as Queenswood Anglican Church in the late 1960s.  It was followed in the 1970s by Saint David’s and Saint Hilda’s, which a generation later amalgamated to form Saint Helen’s Church.  The house of worship we see here was built on the crest of a hill at 1234 Prestone Drive in 1993.  We see it as a parishioner, Brian Glenn, photographed it on 2 October 2008, before an addition incorporating a servery (“we’re not allowed to call it a kitchen”) was built eight years later.  Care was taken to have it conform with the architecture of the larger structure.   

Which raises a question.  How exactly do we describe the architecture here?  Some readers who feel this writer is too focussed on Gothic Revival (Hello Judy Marples!) may assume this is not Gothic Revival.  But if not, pray tell, what style is it?

Could we say it is a generic low slung suburban building that takes its cue from the shallow pitch of roofs on the tract housing we see in the distance?  The pitch of roof on the church is steeper, it is true, but the banks of white and black brick emphasize its horizontality.  The sloping outer walls of the entrance gable imply a modern version of buttress.  And yet, the main entrance has a pointed arch reminiscent of the chancel windows at Christ Church Cathedral and Saint Matthew’s, Ottawa.  Could we deem this a type of Gothic survival?  Within that entrance arch there are green spokes suggesting a sunrise, as if to echo the yellow circle around the cross in the main gable.  Can we term this New Age Gothic?  Post Modern Gothic?  What?

This we must take pains to assert, was a building designed by a professional architectural firm.  Indeed, the Diocesan Archives has in its collection a scale model made of pasteboard, the roof of which lifts off, in order that one may see the proposed interior layout at one glance.   

The Archives collects documents for parishes including parish registers, vestry reports, service registers, minutes of groups and committees, financial documents, property records (including cemeteries), insurance records, letters, pew bulletins, photographs, paintings, scrapbooks and parish newsletters. 

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