After nearly 100 years of facing the wrath of Port aux Basques weather, the St. James Anglican Church is beginning to show its age.
According to Rev. Jane Allen, the present church was erected in 1927, thanks in large part to the fishermen of the time.
“They would bring fish in, and that would be their donation towards helping the church. They would sell that day’s catch, and if they didn’t catch anything or couldn’t go out due to the weather, then they would help to build the church itself.”
Rev. Allen goes on to say that construction on the current church began in 1925, with its first divine service held in June of 1927.
With time and weather being a constant for the building, Rev. Allen has just overseen the second year of a three-year effort to bring the church back to its youth.
The towers of the church, at a height of 65 feet, present a large portion of the expenses towards maintenance and restoration. Allen states they have already spent approximately $65,000 on repairs and have done about half of the building.
“The side towards East Haven funeral home is done, the side with the stained glass window is done, and we got one of the towers done.”
Allen hopes to have the job completed next year, emphasizing the importance of the building.
“Its a landmark. Our church is a landmark. You can see it whichever way you come. My father used to use it as a marker when he was out fishing!”
While the inside remains in excellent condition, the wind and salt air have taken its toll on the exterior.
“Hopefully we can get the old shingles off next year, and get it all insulated, with new siding on next year.”
One hundred percent of the money for the work on St. James has come from donations and estate bequeathments. The church has received donations from as far away as Ontario, as well as via electronic money transfers.Allen says the towers alone have an estimated cost of over $30,000 worth of work, with the north tower having had the shingles and rotten wood both replaced and new siding put on.
Those who have been inside the old church are frequently amazed at the beauty and style inside, which fortunately needs very little work aside from a new carpet. Allen says the current carpet is fairly well worn.
“This is basically a complete overhaul of the church, and after this is done, she should be good for another 50 or 60 years,” chuckles the reverend.
The large stained glass window, which was dedicated in 1960, has not escaped the rigours of weather either.
“This year when we took the siding off, we found that there wasn’t a lot of caulking compound and around the panels themselves, the solder, that all had to be replaced this year. So the window should be able to withstand a few more storms.”
Repair of the stained glass over the years is a frequent issue, as Allen says they had a glass window fund for the multiple panes, having had new windows come in back in 2017 at a cost of around $43,000.
“Whatever has got to be done is going to be done,” says Rev Allen firmly. “I’d sort of like to get it airtight, wind tight and watertight before we do anything inside.”
A monument for Rev. LeGallais, who served as rector of the church from 1857-1869 and who drowned while serving in that capacity, still stands next to the church driveway.
Says Allen, “There’s so much history in this building. We have to do out best to preserve it.”