Enduring stewardship preserves a treasured heritage church

Beaverton’s Old Stone Church benefits from a dedicated group of stewards

Photo: Beaverton’s Old Stone Church benefits from a dedicated group of stewards


Jane Burgess and Ann Link

Buildings and architecture, Community

Published Date: Sep 10, 2009

Located just east of Beaverton, the Old Stone Church, built in 1840 by a predominantly Scottish congregation, is a simple but handsomely proportioned small Georgian church, a rare example of its type in Ontario. The church is unique in that its original exterior and interior remain untouched, as the church, originally St. Andrew’s Presbyterian, was in regular use for only 30 years. The settlement it was built to serve developed closer to Lake Simcoe at Beaverton, so the congregation built a second St. Andrew’s “in town,” but continued to hold services in the “Old Stone Church” for Gaelic speakers and original parishioners.

The congregation’s history reflects the turbulent development of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. So fractious were the disputes that the last disagreement over union with the Methodists could only be settled by the Legislative Assembly, through the Beaverton Presbyterian Church Act, 1927. This statute gave the new St. Andrew’s to the newly formed United Church of Canada, and the Old Stone Church to the Presbyterian congregation, making it the only Presbyterian church in Canada owned by its congregation. The congregation eventually built yet another church in town, but maintained its commitment to the Old Stone Church.

By 1988, the church was in poor condition. As part of a fundraising drive, the Old Stone Church Trustees entered into a conservation easement with the Ontario Heritage Trust, and applied for and received National Historic Site recognition and much needed funding from provincial and federal governments. The church was fully restored in 1991. A conservation master plan was created, which included yearly, five-year, and 50- year monitoring and maintenance plans. Every year, the trustees conduct a review with the conservation architect, filling in monitoring worksheets that are kept on file by the church, the architect and the Ontario Heritage Trust. The reviews offer opportunities to identify and prioritize repairs and maintenance, and to determine whether the work can be done by donated labour or should be given to a professional conservator. The specialized work involved in staining the building’s wood trim and windows is undertaken every five years, so other repairs requiring expert help are often done at that time as well.

The church’s maintenance fund – comprised of bequests, money raised from church activities, visitors’ donations and rental fees – is managed by the trustees. Volunteers, traditionally referred to as the Old Stone Church Women, clean the church each May, and open it to the public on Sundays in July and August. Services are held on the first Sunday of each summer month.

To date, the church has been self-funded, but the reshingling scheduled for 2040 may require a special fundraising drive. Of greater concern, however, is the ability of the aging congregation to continue providing caring trustees.