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July 6, 2012
For immediate release
St. Mary’s Church designated a heritage place
Tourism and Culture
St. Mary’s Church, home of the popular Indian River Festival, has been designated a heritage place in recognition of its historical and architectural significance to the Island, says Tourism and Culture Minister Robert Henderson.
“St. Mary’s Church is the true star of the Indian River Festival,” said the minister. “One just needs to hear the acoustics and tour the building to appreciate the details that make this church so architecturally and culturally significant.”
St. Mary’s Church was presented with a certificate and provincial heritage plaque Friday at the opening night of the Indian River Festival.
Constructed between 1900 and 1902, St. Mary’s Church is the largest wooden church in the province with seating for 600. Widely admired for its architectural and acoustic details, the church has many recognizable features, including the dominant 128’ circular tower on the southwest corner decorated with statues of the 12 apostles.
Designed by well-known and accomplished architect William Critchlow Harris in the French Gothic style, St. Mary’s is considered the highlight of his work. The church was built by Nathan MacFarlane, a very skilled master carpenter whose works can be found throughout the province.
In 1987, the Save St. Mary’s campaign was launched to undertake a significant restoration of the church. An overwhelming community response ensured the necessary work was completed. From that campaign, a Sunday summer concert series was established and the Indian River Festival Association evolved to present world-class musical acts and assist in the upkeep of the church.
The church was decommissioned by the Roman Catholic diocese in September 2009 and purchase by the Indian River Festival in 2010. An extensive restoration program was undertaken in 2010 and 2011 under the direction of Indian River Festival Association and the Friends of St. Mary’s, which saw the roof replaced, the exterior painted, the large gothic window restored, and improvements made to the stained glass windows and entranceways.
“The dedication of the community and Islanders to preserving this important building is to be commended,” said the minister.
Properties may be designated as a heritage place under the Heritage Places Protection Act. Designation provides legal protection of the place, and changes to the exterior historic architecture or character-defining elements may require a heritage permit. Nominations for the Register of Heritage Places are reviewed and evaluated by the Heritage Places Advisory Board for a number of criteria.
Further information regarding Prince Edward Island heritage places and the heritage recognition program can be found at www.peihistoricplaces.ca.