The evolution of the use of older church buildings is an interesting study topic. Originally built as places of worship during the early growth of towns and cities, churches were imposing structures funded and constructed by community members. Over time, as local congregations have moved on, and religion has lost some of its relevance, increasing numbers of church buildings have become surplus and may be re-purposed.
The church located at 70 Brunswick Street in Stratford is a good example. According to one source, it was originally named the Congregational Church when it was built in 1873-1874. Congregational churches comprised Protestant groups arising from Puritanism, and were organized on the principle that each congregation should be autonomous. Many congregational churches later joined with other churches in the creation of the United Church of Canada in 1925. At some point in time, this church was named the Mackenzie Memorial Gospel Church.
About 40 years ago, the church was re-purposed as The Church Restaurant, and offered fine dining to local residents and theatre goers. In 2015, the church and restaurant were sold to new owners, and the premises were renamed Revival House. There are three components: Revival, a street-level event space; Chapel, a second-floor gastro pub; and Confession, a small balcony VIP lounge. After the restaurant re-opened, a leak was discovered in the roof. A group of local musicians assisted the owners in organizing a fund-raising event to help pay for a new roof.
Community support to build the original church in the 1800’s has evolved into community funding for the repair of a restaurant and event space in the 21st Century! The new roof can be seen in the accompanying image.
The hinges on the front doors are also noteworthy. Apparently, the ironwork on the doors was crafted by workers at the Grand Trunk Railway, which later became the Canadian National Railway, at their shops based in Stratford.
During our visit, we found a door oddity on Wellington Street in downtown Stratford. This image of a horse (at least I think it is a horse and not a mule) could be attributed to an aspect of the history of the city: either as an “iron horse,” to early railway buffs; or a role in a Shakespeare play, as there are references to horses in several of the bard’s plays. I chose the latter. I also found this Shakespeare quote about a painted horse, which may or may not be relevant.
Look, when a painter would surpass the life,
In limning out a well-proportion’d steed,
His art with nature’s workmanship at strife,
As if the dead the living should exceed;
So did this horse excel a common one,
In shape, in courage, colour, pace and bone.
Perhaps another visit to Stratford is warranted to inquire into the origins of this door. For more encounters with doors, be sure to check out other contributions to Norm’s Thursday Doors.