Heritage Register

1900 Fernwood Rd/1295 Gladstone Av
Spring Ridge Chapel; Emmanuel Baptist Church

2 buildings

Built 1886-87; 1892-93
Heritage-Designated 1979

For: Baptists

Architects: unknown (1886); Thomas Hooper (1892)

1900 Fernwood


Now The Belfry Theatre, this former church is distinctive by virtue of its steeple, which dominates the major intersection of Fernwood village. At one point it had been stuccoed, but it has now been restored to its original siding. The 1886-87 chapel to the right is a single-storey, front-gabled structure with a gabled closed entry porch in front; both have returns on the gables. It has a shed-roofed extension on the right side. Its windows and front door are Gothic. It is covered in drop siding that is slightly wider than that on the main building. A covered passageway connects this building to the main.

The 1892-93 building is an example of the Shingle style. It comprises a corner three-storey belfry with a tall bellcast, octagonal steeple between two identical steeply-pitched gables. There are four louvred vents in the gables and very large Romanesque stained glass windows under each gable. There are smaller Romanesque windows used liberally around the building. To the right of the Gladstone gable is a square two-storey turret with a peaked hipped roof. On the right side behind the turret is a third large gable identical to those on the front and left sides. To the rear there is a gable within a gable for the apse. Both the turret and the tower are topped with finials. Between the turret and the tower there is a narrow shed roof with gables over one of the entrances. On the ground floor of the belfry the original doors have been removed. The gables and upper portion of the belfry are shingled, and drop siding covers the first two storeys.

The Baptist congregation was formed in Victoria in 1874 when Alexander and Fanny Clyde moved to Victoria from Stratford, ON. First Baptist Church was officially organized in 1876, with eight Black and seven White charter members. A mission known as Calvary Baptist Church in 1885 opened a Sunday School on Edmonton Rd, now Bay St, at the home of Peter Wilson. That congregation purchased for $550 the 120’ by 120’ lot at the corner of Fernwood and Gladstone, and on February 6, 1887, dedicated the newly-built Spring Ridge Chapel. In 1890 Emmanuel Baptist Church was formed, and the congregation constructed the main sanctuary, beginning October 7, 1892, for $8,000. The Rev. Peter H. McEwen (1916 Belmont Av, Fernwood) acted as construction supervisor for the structure designed by Thomas Hooper and dedicated March 26, 1893. It was built at the terminus of Spring Ridge streetcar line, and was therefore easily accessible to many parishioners.

April 4, 1971, was the final Sunday service in this building, and the Emmanuel Baptist congregation moved to their new sanctuary on Cedar Hill Cross Rd in Saanich.


In May of 1970 The Pacific Community Self-Development Society made a $1,000 deposit to purchase the Church on behalf of the Victoria Youth Project/Cool-Aid group. By March 1971 the sale was completed, and Cool Aid’s staff and volunteers set to work to create its youth shelter and emergency services there. In April 1976, the Pacific Community Self-Development Society transferred ownership of the 1900 Fernwood property and all its assets to the Cool Aid project, with Cool Aid becoming a full fledged Society in October 1976. Dr. Joe Haegert, Jr (1516 Pembroke St, Fernwood) was one of its first presidents.

The Springridge Cultural Centre Society was founded in 1974 by Michael Stephen to promote culture in the city and make use of the church’s vacant space. In 1976 the main stage was rented to the newly formed Belfry Theatre and the building was renamed The Belfry. The first professional adult theatre production Puttin’ on the Ritz was mounted in 1977 by the Belfry’s first artistic director, Don Shipley. The Belfry Theatre bought the building in 1990 when Cool-Aid moved its resources downtown, although Cool Aid’s services were in the rest of the building until 2000. From 1990 the Belfry embarked on a program of renovation and restoration which was finally completed in 2003. In 2001 the Belfry won Hallmark Heritage Society and Heritage Society of BC awards for the restoration of the exterior.

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