March 22, 2017


-1° C, Overcast

Full Forecast


Advertise With Us


House of God for sale

Heritage church in the North End presents challenges to new owners

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/6/2015 (641 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

For about the price of a starter home, one lucky Winnipeg faith group could buy a new 10,000-square-foot worship space with some serious amenities, such as seating for 1,100, a three-manual pipe organ and century-old architectural details -- all for the low, low price of $149,900.

The only catch? A heritage designation for this red brick North End church constructed in 1907 for St. Giles Presbyterian, and a renovation bill running well into six figures, says realtor Regan Archambault.

"It's going to be about finding that right buyer who is ready to tackle that challenge," says Archambault, referring to the interior plaster and roof repairs needed at 294 Burrows Ave., occupied for the last 20 years by Bethlehem Aboriginal Fellowship.

"Very little of the work that needs to be done is as simple as 'We'll change the carpet.' You don't realize the extent of what needs to be done until you see it."

Archambault is realistic with potential buyers about the shortcomings of the Late Gothic Revival property designed by architect C.S. Bridgman. It was designated as a municipal historical property in 1999 for its footprint and interior worship space, including the distinctive horseshoe balcony and Casavant pipe organ.

A new owner could apply to the City of Winnipeg's heritage department to have the designation removed if the building is structurally unsound or if they make a good case for the redevelopment of the property, says Cindy Tugwell of Heritage Winnipeg.

"We're not talking about just fixing up a building. We're talking about incorporating a building back into the community and re-using it," says Tugwell, adding the non-profit organization would be happy to work with the new owner to figure out the next steps.

She acknowledges this is just one many historic inner-city and downtown churches facing uncertain futures as congregations can't manage the challenge of keeping the buildings running.

"It's going to continue to be an increasingly big problem, and in the next decades it is going to be worse, because these church groups can't afford to maintain these buildings," says Tugwell.

That's exactly why Bethlehem Aboriginal Fellowship moved out on June 1, unable to pay $4,500 in monthly insurance and utility bills, let alone tackle the lengthy repairs listed on their website, including replacing washrooms and windows, fixing the pipe organ, and replacing the rippling green carpet in the sanctuary.

"I would really like to see it used again for the purpose God intended it for," worship co-ordinator Jo-Ann Swenson says of her congregation's hope for the building.

"It's nice that it's called a heritage building, but if there are no grants to fix it up, it's difficult."

During the two decades they've owned the building, the congregation repointed the stone foundation, insulated the attic, repaired the boiler and replaced the roof.

A leak in the sprinkler system five-and-a-half years ago damaged the plaster of the vaulted ceiling, pushing the group of 35 into the basement for their Sunday worship, and eventually out the front door. They now share space with the Living Word Temple, located nearby at 467 Manitoba Ave.

"We feel we work well together; we have separate services, but there are lots of things that cross over," says Swenson, referring to their ministries of job-search support, youth work, and running a clothing and food bank.

The congregation got its start two decades ago, when former pastor Dietrich Desmairais had a vision he would be given a church in the North End. He ended up buying the building for $1 from the former Burrows Bethel Mennonite Church, says Swenson.

Tugwell says it will be more difficult for the next owner, who will face more costs and many years of renovation.

"It isn't for the faint of heart. It's not easy," she says of the challenges of restoring a historic building.

"It sometimes takes decades."

The link for the property can found at


Advertise With Us

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective January 2015.

Photo Store

Scroll down to load more