Restoring the past

Rudy Norman
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A group in Smith's Harbour is reclaiming history by restoring a building that served that community for many years.
Melvin Osmond says the little United Church he and his wife were married in 50 years ago is still much the same as it was then - with a few exceptions, of course.
In 1963 Osmond and his wife, Joan, were married in Smith's Harbour in what doubled as a Methodist/United church and a school house. The building was built in 1917, and once sat where the cemetery in town sits today.

The building that served as the United Church in Smith's Harbour from 1917 until the 1960s is being brought back to life by the local recreation committee. The church, which was being used as a shed in recent years, was moved to a new location and work is underway to restore it to its former glory.

"It was both back then," said Osmond. "During the week they used it for the school and then on Sunday they had church there."

The couple was the last to be married in the building, before it was taken out of commission after the new United Church was built.

"Sometime after that they opened up the new church, so then that one wouldn't no good no more," he continued.

Osmond purchased the old church after the new place of worship was christened.

"I bought it at the time, for a shed," he said. "But even back then I had the idea that one day I'd like to restore it or something like that, you know?"

The church was moved from its original location to land that Osmond owned near his house. It's been sitting there since then, serving as his shed.

Last year, though, Osmond says he donated the building to the Recreation Committee to fulfill his original plan of having it restored.

"I want people to be able to see it and experience it like it was one time," he said.

"We tried to move it back to the original location, but there isn't enough room there now."

So, the group decided that another location would have to suffice - a clearing not far from where the building now sits was chosen, and last week they got down to the task of moving the old building to its new home.

"I got it all ready to move," explained Osmond. "Actually, we did a lot of the work last year, but it just didn't work out that we could get it all together, so we had to wait until this year to do it."

The building, resting on large sleds, was slowly and carefully pulled to its new home using an excavator. It was an event that nearly the whole town showed up for.

"Once we got going it wasn't too hard," said Osmond.

Now that the old church is where it supposed to be, the next steps for the recreation will be restoration of the building.

"I still had some of the stuff that came out of it when I bought it," explained Osmond. "I still had the old stove - that's a great big old thing - and then we had a couple lanterns out of it, and the pulpit is still around too."

The Recreation committee plans to restore the roof using wooden shingles like the ones that were original to the building. They also plan to create replicas of the pews that were once used, and lighting.

"There won't be any electricity to it; everything will be like it was years ago," explained Osmond.

When the restoration is finished, the town already has plans for the first event to be hosted in the old building.

"I think we're going to have a church service," said Osmond with a happy chuckle.


Organizations: Recreation Committee, United Church

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Recent comments

  • Denise Dawe
    December 13, 2013 - 22:22

    This is heartwarming to see this old church being refurbished...cant wait to see it completed..Way to Go Smith's Harbour

  • shirley tilley
    December 12, 2013 - 18:15

    I think this is wonderful Melvin you kept this old church this long it should be restored.. wishing the Recreation committee and the united church good luck on Restoring the past....