CHARLES DOBIE : LOCAL HISTORY
KEARNS & VIRGINIATOWN, ONTARIO

Design and Construction of the new Anglican Church,
Virginiatown, Ontario, 1958.

Many thanks to for this document.

THE DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION OF THE NEW CHURCH

The location of the new church having been decided, attention naturally turned to the building itself. The vestry considered the possibility of engaging an architect, but investigation indicated that this would not be financially possible. We therefore decided to be our own architects as well as builders.

The vestry was not ill-equipped for such a task including among its eleven members a Professional Engineer, a Designer-Draughtsman, two Surveyors, a carpenter and two gentlemen prominent in the hardware business who were able to supply much pertinent information regarding building materials.

Having tentatively decided upon leaving the present church where it was and building a church complete with basement on the new site, the vestry first considered a conventional low-roofed building with a steeple and front entrance, around which much discussion, sketching, figuring and general planning revolved. Another proposed building, again with front entrance, sported no steeple but a belfry which incorporated a chimney, However, about the end of February a completely different design was submitted which, while preserving a traditional ecclesiastical appearance, departed largely from the standard building practice of its predecessors, and at the vestry meeting of March 2nd, 1958 this design was adopted.

The whole building structure is founded on three triangular frames, the base representing the floor and the sides the roof. The base of each triangle is an 18" steel floor beam 38' 8" long, and the sides are 18" x 10" Douglas Fir rafters, also 38' 8" long. Each frame is supported at its two bottom ends on two concrete piers cast integrally with the basement walls. The distance across the outer corners of the triangles is thus about 39' 0" while the width of the inside of the church is approximately 29' 0", the remaining five feet at each side being enclosed as buttresses. The roof and floor of the church thus forms an integral unit, and give a large measure of structural stability to the building.

With such a design a steeple or belfry is obviously out of character. On the other hand, the location of the bell under the roof of the church would necessitate unsightly bell louvres in the front wall. In order to avoid both this and a prominent array of steps at the front of the building (which we were not quite sure what to do with) the entrance was moved to the side and a free-standing belfry incorporated with the entrance porch.

The overall dimensions of the church are length 52' 0", inside width 29' 0", (outside width over buttresses 39' 0") and height 40" 0". Inside the church the height from main floor to roof apex is 33' 6" and total height from basement floor to roof is 45" 0". The figure of 40" 0" will be increased when the cross is eventually installed on top.

Under full load conditions of congregation, wind and snow, the main rafter deflection on the windward side will theoretically be 1-1/4", the floor beam deflection 1/4".

The building has a total floor area of 33-1/4 square feet. The basement consists of a 29 x 40 foot hall, ladies and men's toilets, furnace room, and a 12 x 15 foot kitchen. The main floor accommodates the 29 x 40 foot church itself, a 12 x 12 foot "Crying" room with two clear windows facing into the church and which can be opened, and the entrance hall. Above the entrance hall and "Crying" room is a 12 x 22 foot "balcony" room, so called because its inner wall incorporates four clear windows which, when opened, give the room the function of a balcony. Above this room is another room 12 x 11 feet, which will be used by the Rector as his office. "Crying" room, balcony room and Rector's room can of course all be used as Sunday School class rooms.

Heating of the building is by warn air duct from a 200,000 BTU/hour thermostatically controlled oil furnace. The basement, balcony room, and Rector's room can be heated independently of the main body of the church which will only be heated at week-ends,

The church has a normal congregation capacity of 140, with provision for an "overflow" of 60 in "Crying" room and balcony room.

One feature perhaps worthy of mention is the windows. Those are a translucent fibrous glass laminate, known popularly as "fiberglass". Though unbreakable, children will please note that they are liable to splinter if objects are thrown at them. The windows were a special order for the suppliers, being moulded to our own colour specifications.

Construction work may be said to have commenced when the 10 x 24 foot building storage hut was erected one evening in early April. This was followed by the final survey of the building site and the erection of "batter boards" by our surveyors,

The basement excavation followed -- an ominous quarry-like gash in what was previously a peaceful piece of undulating "no man's land."

At the end of April a contractor moved in to set up the forms, and on May 8th the basement was poured. The "Corner-Stone" was laid by the Bishop of Moosonee on May 11th and on the following day work began in earnest by the congregation and other volunteers, stripping the forms. At this time it was arranged that one member of the Building Committee would be present every evening to supervise work.

Up to this time the only actual construction drawing that had been made was that of the basement, and associated equipment. For the next month work proceeded so rapidly at the building site that the two-man drafting crew had a hard time keeping up with the builders. Very often prints had to be hurriedly made from drawings before they were finished so that the builders could be kept supplied with work.

Incidents of this period which will no doubt remain engraved on the memories of many are the evenings when a fifteen man crew of volunteers (both within and without the church) coaxed the main floor beams -- the triangle bases -- into position, spanning the basement on their piers. And another evening when the main rafters, each weighing a ton were hoisted into position, to complete the triangles.

By the end of June the building stood as a complete framed structure. It is an interesting fact that in the design stage the space above the balcony room was never regarded as anything other than dead storage, and was thus scheduled as a loft. It was not until the main rafters had been erected and the framing of the building was well advanced that the true potentialities of this space, right under the roof apex, were realized. Following some quick calculations on a convenient piece or 3/4" plywood, the ceiling joists of the balcony room were doubled, an opening was cut in one corner, a "companion-type" stairway was installed from the balcony room, and the Rector had his office.

July 6th marked the first service to be hold in the new church, by which time the walls and roof were sheeted and roof shingling was under way.

On August 16th the basement floor was poured, this time by our own volunteer labour, and five gentlemen will remember the troweling of the wet concrete that continued until 3:00 a.m. the following morning. Services were then held in the basement while insulation and interior sheeting were installed in the church itself.

Mid-September saw the main entrance porch and belfry largely completed, with the bell from the old church safely hung in its new home.

Samples of concrete taken from the basement walls and floor at the time of their respective pours gave ultimate strengths of over 4000 pounds per square inch in compression. These figures compare most favourably with normal building concrete strengths of 2000-2500 PSI. We are reminded of how St. Paul most aptly puts it in his first letter to Timothy: "- - - - - Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come - - - - - ."

D.H.Tyrrell
Fall 1958




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