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Ottawa Centre Deanery

Ottawa, Trinity

Archive photo of the interior of Trinity Anglican Church, Ottawa
Diocesan Archives 51 07 3
By on May 1, 2021

Gothic Survival

Trinity Church, Ottawa South, had humble beginnings in 1876, with its first worship services held in a local temperance hall.  By the end of the 1870s a small brick church was built at Billings Bridge, and in 1892 a brick parsonage replaced an older frame house.

In the annals of church building in the Diocese of Ottawa, Trinity has two claims to fame. The first is that in 1925 it built a very ambitious Gothic Revival brick house of worship with details picked out in Ohio freestone at the corner of Cameron and Harvard streets in Ottawa South.  That impressive house of worship was designed by architect L. Fennings Taylor.  The second claim to fame is that that notable house of worship was gutted by fire on 19 March 1947—one of the very few fires to destroy an Anglican church in the history of the diocese.

Life must go on, both for people and their churches.  Barely a generation after the walls of the second Trinity Church, Ottawa arose in 1925, the church we see here was built on the same site, and was opened and dedicated by Bishop Robert Jefferson on 29 September 1948.  The prolonged sacrifices required to rebuild Trinity would mean that the parish hall was not completed and dedicated by Bishop Ernest S. Reed for another eleven years, on 6 May 1958.

Some 130 years had gone by since the first pointed arches were used in local Anglican churches.  Almost a century had intervened since the High Victorian Gothic Revival of the first parliament buildings spurred churches such as Saint Alban’s (1866) and Christ Church Cathedral (1872) to be built in that style.  Gothic Revival so suited Anglicans that other denominations veered to other styles such as Romanesque for Presbterian and Roman Catholic churches, and Byzantine for Methodist houses of worship.  Anglicans in Toronto even made experiments with these styles.  Even among Ottawa Anglicans there were murmurings against the Gothic Revival per se, as shown by Saint Barnabas’s, Ottawa (1931) being built with Romanesque arches.

No such doubts assailed the parishioners of Trinity, Ottawa as they set about rebuilding their church in the late 1940s.  Perhaps they were attempting to revive the memory of their fine 1925 Gothic Revival house of worship, as shown by the side windows in the nave being placed in groupings of three as they had been before.  What strikes us as we view this photograph of the interior while it was still new is that it, like the rebuilt Centre Block of the parliament buildings after its 1916 fire, is how archaeologically correct the Gothic design of the new Trinity was.

There were short cuts.  The cut stone chancel arches were actually mere trompe l’oeil effect.  The pews and furnishings of the chancel were all co-ordinated and ordered from the same church furnishings firm, in contrast to awaiting individual memorial donations over a number of years.  The clear glass in the pointed windows suffused the interior with light, with the small wide windows in the chancel bathing the altar and reredos in a soft glow of light that added to it being the focal centre of the entire church interior.  As it doubtless was intended to be.    

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