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Deteriorating 174-year-old structure described as “largest birdhouse” in province by neighbour
The Rockville Church will soon disappear from the neighbourhood landscape. The structure has deteriorated badly over the decades.
YARMOUTH - Likely hundreds of baptisms, weddings and funerals have taken place within the walls of the Rockville United Baptist Church.
Time has taken its toll, however, and the building is about to join the growing list of churches that have died along with their congregations.
It’s the biggest birdhouse in the province.
Rob Porter, neighbour to the Rockville United Baptist Church
The Rockville church was built in 1843 on the Chebogue Point Road in Yarmouth County. In early May of 1886 it was moved about a mile to its present site near the corner of the Chebogue Point Road and Chebogue Road. The building was renovated and redecorated by its members.
In December 1887 James W Killiam, owner of the lot where the church was moved, sold the land for $29 to the trustees of the day. The building was registered in the municipal registry of heritage property on May 28, 1997.
Rob Porter, now the closest neighbour to the church, will be happy to see the rotting structure gone.
“It’s the biggest birdhouse in the province,” he said.
Work is now underway to remove anything that can be saved from the structure.
Daryl MacKenzie, director of facilities & finance with Canadian Baptists of Atlantic Canada (CBAC), says he’s heard “the spire is a really good nesting structure for the birds.”
“We’re concerned that spire might come down. Even if someone were to trespass, they could get hurt inside. We don’t want any of that,” he said.
He explains that an act of the legislature for the Province of Nova Scotia states if a church has been declared as having lost visibility (ceased to function because the members have either all died or transferred their membership to another congregation) CBAC has the responsibility to deal with the property, if the remaining congregation hasn’t done it themselves.
“That’s the situation here,” he said. “There was no money left to do anything with the existing structure and it has fallen into disrepair and we don’t have the financial resources ourselves to do anything with it.”
The situation is being repeated throughout the Atlantic provinces with churches that have very small, or no, congregations left.
Although he doesn’t have any statistics, he says he knows in the mid-1980s, 550 churches were listed with the CBAC.
“Now we’re down to 450.”
Emily Anthony remembers the Rockville church having very few members when she sometimes attended in the 1980s.
It was small, just one little stove in the back of the church, and there was an organ,” she said.
Anthony’s primary church was Arcadia Church, which later amalgamated with Chebogue and Plymouth churches. One pastor serviced all churches.
Residents expressed sadness on social media about the loss of the Rockville Church.
Anne Beattie remembered it being beautiful inside.
“In the morning I could sit at my kitchen table having coffee and decide the day's weather by if I could see the steeple clearly. At night as the fog would roll in it would disappear. I remember one Thanksgiving service there in the evening – my first and only – and it was enchanting.”
Myrna Darling says she attended a wedding there and has fond memories of both the event and the lovely historic church.
MacKenzie says that wherever CBAC can, the organization will donate church properties back to the community if they need a community centre.
“We’d certainly be open to doing something like that. But this situation has just gone beyond saving.”
The church must be de-registered as a heritage building before the actual demolishing of the exterior. This may not take place for weeks or even months.