Historic Sackville church eyed as future cultural centre
Owner wants a proposal by January or the church may be demolished
By Sonya Varma, CBC News Posted: May 13, 2013 6:21 AM AT Last Updated: May 13, 2013 9:06 AM AT
It's an iconic local landmark. For 135 years the old United church has sat at Sackville's main intersection. The white exterior only hinting at what's inside.
"The very spectacular thing is the interior," says long-time Sackville resident Virgil Hammock.
"It's the sanctuary which is all hardwood. It was all hand done by local Sackville craftsmen and it's the kind of craftmanship you just don’t see anymore because people just can't do it."
The church is now privately owned and has been sitting idle for months.
Hammock is leading the charge to save it from being torn down.
Hammock says in addition to the intricate woodwork, the church contains stain glass windows and a classic Casavant pipe organ.
"The idea is we'd like to save the building whatever use we can make of it," says Hammock.
Hammock has support from town council, Renaissance Sackville and other local organizations that are keen on preserving the building and converting it into a cultural centre.
Hammock says Sackville's Live Bait Theatre is interested in the church; the troupe needs a new home and church has great acoustics.
John Lafford, the church's current owner, said he would prefer to see the historic structure kept intact.
"It's part of Sackville and our company was born in Sackville," says Lafford.
'Long way from a done deal'
But the old church is far from move-in ready.
It's leaking and needs a new roof. It could cost as much as $400,000 to stabilize and another $400,000 to convert it to a cultural centre.
“It's a long way from a done deal," says Hammock.
"It's is expensive and will cost a fair amount of money and we're looking at provincial and federal money and private money."
Lafford says he's willing to give the church supporters some leeway, but he can't wait indefinitely for a firm proposal.
He said he'd like to see one by January.
"If there's no funding, I think the church would have to come down," says Lafford.
Hammock says if the church were to be torn down very little inside would be salvageable and the classic Casavant organ would likely sold for scrap.