Church Restoration

Church Restoration

A Time to Celebrate!

The end of the year 2000 marks a time to celebrate the many accomplishments of the restoration plan for Leith Church. Throughout this year, The Friends of Leith Church have been particularly encouraged by the increased outpouring of community interest in this significant heritage project. With your assistance- whether spiritual, financial or through direct involvement-there have been numerous repairs and renovations made to this historic site. Now that the structural integrity and the exterior preservation of the church has been secured and the interior walls and ceiling have been repaired and painted, we are delighted to be embarking upon Phase 3 of the restoration plan.

Over the next few months the partition wall will be relocated, the original pulpit and dais will be constructed, the floor, wainscoting and pews will be restored along with numerous other smaller projects. We are tremendously buoyed by the recent discovery of 135 year old pencil lines on the church floor which define the shape of the original pulpit and dais and which were revealed when the 100 year old stage, was removed. Ken Sobiski, our consulting architect, is now actively engaged in preparing drawings of the 1866 dais based on these newly discovered floor plans and related historical research. The work of restoration begins full time on January 2, 2001 although shop work, component design and selection of materials will occupy much of December.

Leith Church Restoration Phase #3 2000-2001

With your help, the interior of Leith church will be restored or repaired according to the following schedule:

  • Basement cleaned, concrete floor repaired, storage shelves constructed.
  • Cocoa matting and linoleum removed; pine floors cleaned, repaired and protected.
  • Existing front platforms to be removed and original 1866 dais restored.
  • Interior partition restored to its original position; missing pews to be replaced and existing pews repaired and refinished.
  • Wainscoting to be repaired, replaced and refinished.
  • Wood trim repaired and refinished.
  • Original entrance doors repaired, refinished and set in place.
  • ‘Coffin’ door repaired, refinished and installed.
  • Electrical wiring program to be completed.
  • Security System to be installed.
  • Storage cabinet to be constructed.
  • Six kerosene replica lamps to be purchased and installed.

This is a summary of Phase 3 of the Leith Church Restoration project and represents only an outline of the work plan. There are many minor details omitted and some changes may occur as the work progresses.

The Farmer and the Boat Builder

It sounds like a great story-and-indeed it is. To begin, The Friends of Leith Church are thankful for the skills of two extraordinarily talented wood workers who met only recently, Tim Singbeil and Richard Lyons and whom we’ve appointed to carry out the interior restoration of Leith Church. Tim and his wife Jan (and children) are successful beef farmers who live near Balaclava; but Tim is also known as an excellent craftsman who has lovingly restored heritage houses and built many a wonderful additions to homes throughout Sydenham and elsewhere. Tim has also constructed sets for motion pictures and television programs, worked on heritage buildings at Black Creek Pioneer Village and of course has laboured lovingly on his own home. And in his spare time, Tim is an ardent sailor.

So that brings us to the boat builder-Richard Lyons, one of those passionate marine craftsmen who believe that any material can be used in boat building, as long as it’s wood. Richard has won international awards for his skill in building new craft and restoring old. His work can be seen cruising the waters of Ontario and New York State resplendent with sparkling varnish and dazzling chrome. Chapel tradition churches are different of course-precious little chrome and not much mahogany. But they do require adherence to the same restoration principles: respect for the past and an intense knowledge of traditional carpentry practice.

Tim and Richard say you are welcome to drop in and see them any time they’re working at the church. But don’t stay too long!

Contributions to the “Leith Church Restoration Fund” may be mailed to:

419134 Tom Thomson Lane
Leith, Ontario N0H 1V0

Income Tax Receipts are issued for donations of $20 or more.

“Holy Family” Stained Glass Window

The Holy Family, the circular stained glass which figures prominently in the Chancel, was given to the Leith United Church in 1952 by Laura Webster and dedicated to the memory of her daughter Frances. It was designed by Ellen Simon and created in glass by Yvonne Williams, both prominent 20th century members of the Canadian arts community. The Madonna and Child section of the window was featured on the 52-cent Christmas stamp issued by Canada Post in 1997. Adherents of the Church of Scotland, known to them as The Auld Kirk, built Leith Church in 1865.

It became a Presbyterian Church a few years later and joined the United Church of Canada when it was formed in 1925. The Leith Pioneer Cemetery in the churchyard is also a designated heritage site where the grave of the renowned Canadian landscape painter Tom Thomson is located. Leith Church is open for public viewing on summer Sunday afternoons and on special occasions. The annual Anniversary Service is celebrated on the first Sunday in August.