April 6, 2022
By Mike Riley
Journalist of the Local Journalism Initiative
A church in St. Ola, Township Limerick, is in dire need of repairs not only to remain viable as a place of worship and a community gathering place, but also to remain standing. Founded in 1888, this church has witnessed many community events over the past 134 years. Residents are considering a myriad of ways to fund a restoration to keep St. Ola’s United Church in the community for many more years.
The unfortunate state of this historic St. Ola’s Church was posted on the Bancroft and Area History Facebook page on March 23 and on the Old Hastings Mercantile and Gallery Facebook page the same day.
A year after the incorporation of the Township of Limerick, construction of St. Ola’s Church began and was completed in 1889. The church’s congregation dates back to 1871. Originally a Methodist church, the church became a united church in 1925 and 41 years later joined the Coe Hill and The Ridge pastoral charge.
Bryan Kernohan is an engineer in Minden who is the director of Bryan Kernohan Engineering. At the request of Coe Hill resident Gail Nicol, he carried out a preliminary inspection of the church on October 16, 2021 to determine if there were any obvious structural issues visually apparent without uncovering the internal structural components. Gary Pattison, owner of the Old Hastings Mercantile and Gallery with his wife Lillian, says the congregation decided to seek an engineer’s assessment because the interior walls looked very threatening; the plaster was cracking and breaking and there were bulges indicating that the roof support might be failing. He says the decision to have the assessment done would most likely have been made by Jim Polmateer and Arnie Nicol, Gail’s husband, who he says are sort of the church leaders of the little congregation.
Kernohan said in his report, dated November 24, 2021, that the church’s roof structure has a wooden truss with a lower steel rod acting as a lower tension rope, spaced 12 to 13 feet apart. The load acting on the wall at the bearing locations would be greater than 11,000 pounds at each bearing, using climate data from the Ontario Building Code. At the northwest end of the church, Kernohan saw significant deterioration of the truss and it was crushing its support. He also found significant crushing and some rotation of the outer retaining wall, which showed up as cracks and bulges at the northeast end of the church. The four corners of the stone foundation with partial mortar joints have failed and need to be repaired, and he also found traces of mold in the building due to a lack of humidity control. Despite all the shortcomings of the building, he said the floor joists were in good condition.
A new inspection was recommended by Kernohan, which would require the walls to be opened to check the internal structures. He also strongly suggested that windows be located away from load-bearing parts of any load-bearing elements and that walls be fixed in those places, the building should be heated with an HVAC system to control humidity (thereby eradicating perspective of mold coming in the back), and longer steel plates should be attached to the truss rods to distribute the weight load over a larger area (depending on what is found when the walls are open when of a later inspection).
Based on this preliminary inspection, Kernohan came to the following conclusion regarding the church;
“I am of the opinion that the walls may have deteriorated to the point that the building could fail at any time. It is imperative that any further inspection and analysis be carried out before any activity is carried out,” he says.
Pattison posted on his company’s Facebook page that he was sad to report that the church “was in serious decline and was in danger of being lost forever.” Along with reporting on its sad state, the Pattisons were looking for ways to help the church stay standing and even return to its former glory. Comments quickly poured in on Facebook with memories of the church and suggestions on how to raise the funds needed to renovate it. They suggested a GoFundMe campaign, looking at different levels of government funding, asking other large local churches for help, reaching out to the United Church of Canada, and even donating materials and manpower. ‘artwork. If you would like to help or have a suggestion for funding to help with the renovation of the church, contact Gary and Lillian Pattison on their Old Hastings Mercantile and Gallery Facebook page or at www.oldhastingsgallery.ca/contact/.
While many people in the area undoubtedly have many memories of St. Ola’s Church and the special place it has held in their lives over the years, Pattison also has his own memories of the church. , including a very special one; he met his wife Lillian there in 1992.
“She was singing at a St. Ola birthday service in 1992 with her vocal trio Close Enough. St. Ola is part of a pastoral charge that includes The Ridge, which is my church, and St. Andrew’s in Coe Hill. I saw her sing at this service and asked a minister to introduce me, being a musician myself. I suggested that the trio could sing something at the church in Ridge and that I could add brass as backing instruments. I thought that was a good reason to ask him for his contact details. Well, I managed to lose that phone number, until a year later the trio sang at St. Andrew’s birthday service. This time, I made sure to keep this number! he says. “And, 30 years later, here we are.”