Major restoration in store for Ottawa cathedral

Blair Seaborn, chair of Restoration 120, and Dean Shane Parker pose before a window at Christ Church Cathedral showing an area in need of urgent repair. Photo: Art Babych
Blair Seaborn, chair of Restoration 120, and Dean Shane Parker pose before a window at Christ Church Cathedral showing an area in need of urgent repair. Photo: Art Babych
Published April 12, 2017

Christ Church in Ottawa marks its 120th anniversary as a cathedral this year, but along with the celebrations comes word that the heritage church is urgently in need of repair.

A consultant’s report commissioned by the cathedral corporation last fall identified six “critical areas” needing to be fixed immediately and other areas requiring attention over the next five years.

One of the most critical areas are buttresses located on the west wall of the cloister garden, also known as the Garth, where mortar is crumbling and cracks are appearing.

“Not far in the future, the gaps and cracking could cause individual stones to fall, leading to the collapse of the walls,” says Blair Seaborn, who is chair of Restoration 120, a fundraising campaign to raise $120,000 for repairs.

“We’ve been told over and over by engineers that they’re not decorative,” said Seaborn. “The buttresses are rather critical in holding up the roof and walls.”

“Some things simply needed to be done immediately,” said Cathedral Dean Shane Parker in an Anglican Journal interview March 14. “We felt we needed to ramp it up quickly now, as we have this window, in order to address those things which are important and urgent, with the full understanding that we will continue to do restoration for years afterwards.”

The “window” is the result of a pause between two phases of construction in the joint venture Cathedral Hill development project started in 2012. The first phase involved the demolition of cathedral hall and the construction of a 21-storey condominium complex by Windmill Developments on church-leased land.

The repairs to the west wall were part of the restoration strategy presented to a special vestry meeting January 29 when the members of the congregation voted unanimously to authorize expenditures of up to $450,000 for the restoration work on both the cathedral and Lauder Hall, located on the same property.

“We have about $400,000 dollars of restoration that ought to happen in this calendar year and we will do some refinancing,” said Parker. “But, we wanted the congregation to have an opportunity to contribute, as well as anyone who loves the cathedral for its heritage, for its religious and cultural value, and we thought we would start an appeal for $120,000.”

In earlier years, the cathedral received some small grants from the federal and provincial governments, but money for the restoration has come mainly from parishioners and other parish groups. “The simple truth is that it is a heritage asset but it’s ours to maintain,” said Parker.

Christ Church Cathedral, built in the 1870s on a bluff near Parliament Hill, is the public face of the Anglican church in the nation’s capital as well as the mother church of the diocese of Ottawa.

It has hosted the state funerals of three governors-general and two prime ministers and a commemorative service for the Queen Mother, and is the cathedral of the Anglican ordinariate.

It is also the church where the primate of the Anglican Church of Canada delivers his annual New Year’s Day message, and is the church where most of the clergy in the diocese are ordained.

As well, Parker said more than 300 non-church events are held in the church each year. “Our ministry touches the lives of many, many people in the nation’s capital and in a lot of different ways beyond the building’s external beauty,” he said. “We welcome any participation in this restoration project.”

Those wishing to donate to Restoration 120 can do so by cheque, marked clearly on the envelope as well as on the cheque for “Restoration 120,” and addressed to Josephine Hull, Administrator, at this address:

Christ Church Cathedral,
414 Sparks Street,
Ottawa, ON K1R 0B2

Contact information:
Phone: 613-236-9149
Email: [email protected]


  • Art Babych

    Art is the former editor of Crosstalk, the newspaper of the Anglican diocese of Ottawa.

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