An important piece of East Delta history will continue serving the community, as it has for more than a century.
On Thursday, Aug. 6, The City of Delta announced the purchase of St. Stephen’s Church, a historic building that has served the East Delta community for over 120 years.
The church, located at 9696 Ladner Trunk Rd., closed in November 2019. Prior to placing it on the market, the United Church reached out to the city to see if there was interest in acquiring the heritage site and its surrounding lands and garden.
Although the building is on the City of Delta’s Heritage Register, that alone would not have automatically protected the building from being demolished if the property had been purchased by a private owner.
Consistent with Delta council’s desire to provide further community and social services’ programs in the area, and with council’s unanimous approval, the city subsequently purchased St. Stephen’s Church for $450,000 using dedicated funding from Delta’s annual land acquisitions budget.
The city’s acquisition of the historic property ensures that it will be preserved and maintained while gaining a useful space for community services and programming.
“The city values the historical significance of this church and surrounding area. I’m thrilled with council’s support for this project, helping ensure its preservation as part of our shared community heritage,” Mayor George Harvie said in a press release. “This investment is also an excellent opportunity for the city to repurpose this cherished heritage site for local services and community group outreach.”
The city is reviewing various uses for the building, and services that could be offered include youth and adult drug/alcohol counselling and referral services, referral services for homeless or at-risk individuals and families, outdoor space for adult mental health programs or childcare and youth programs that would benefit from a community garden or physical activity space, and group counselling for substance use education and prevention, addiction day treatment and multi-lingual group counselling.
The city may also engage in exploratory discussions with local service agencies and community groups regarding the potential for space sharing to assist with their programs.
“Although it is always sad when one of our congregations closes, we are delighted that the City of Delta was willing and able to purchase this historic church and property. The United Church of Canada has been an active part of this community for over 120 years. We are happy that this legacy will continue through the public use of this building, providing service for others for generations to come,” Treena Duncan, executive minister for Pacific Mountain and Chinook Winds Regional Councils of The United Church of Canada, said in a press release.
According to a release from the city, the heritage building is valued for its association with pioneering Delta families and the early development of the East Delta community.
The first country parish church on the property was built in 1881 on land donated by the McKee Family, one of the original pioneering families in the area. Two years later, the church burned down and was replaced by the current building in 1890-91.
The building has been recognized as a good example of early simple Gothic Revival vernacular church structure and was built by prominent local contractor, John B. Elliot (1857-1930).
While the church is in good structural condition, given its heritage and age, the city is considering necessary renovations and restoration work to ensure the building is safe for its intended uses. Any such modifications to the church will follow the Delta’s adopted standards of maintenance for heritage buildings to ensure its preservation.