The church’s congregation has been dissolved and the building will soon be put up for sale.
Many people are concerned that this building, without heritage status, may be lost to the community for all time.
“This building has played an important role in the development and history of Summerland’s Lowertown,” said historian David Gregory.
According to Gregory, it was the local Baptist community that first built the church. The construction of the 225-seat building, with half-timber design, began in the spring of 1910 and was called the Lakeside Baptist Church.
In 1926, the United Church acquired the building. It was at this time that a massive oak pipe organ, built by Edward Lye and Sons, from Toronto was purchased and was shipped in pieces via Canadian National Railways.
Arriving along with the many boxes containing the components of the organ was an expert, Mr. McCrae, who put the pieces together.
As well as being a church, the building served other purposes over the years. From 1933 to 1958, the Summerland Regional Library was housed in the basement.
It was also used as a polling station during elections and for a short time served as the fire station for the Lowertown area.
The Summerland Masonic Lodge purchased the Lakeside Church in 1958.
It was through the efforts of lodge members that the building was completely restored.
In 1991, the building was sold to the Presbyterian Church.
Over the years many more renovations and improvements were made, including a major structural project that saw timbers in the loft replaced and the roof re-shingled.
The original bell that had been stolen more than once, was recovered from the bushes and the lake. It was re-installed by Dick Norris and Don Truscott in 1994 according to Church records.
The bell tolled for the last time with the congregation of the Lakeside Presbyterian Church, on Sunday June 28 at 4 p.m.
“It was pretty sad here when we had our moderator from the Presbytery of Kamloops declare this congregation dissolved,” said Lou Wolkowski, who served as an elder, trustee and treasurer for the church.
“We had our service and handed over our books to her and that was it, we were dissolved. A lot of tears were shed.”
Being a congregation made up of mostly seniors, the number of members attending services had fallen to only 15.
There were no longer enough hands to engage in fundraising efforts, such as the chili dinners and bazaars.
Wolkowski said that a sad story could turn into a joyful story, depending on what happens with the building in the future.
“It was the wish of some in the congregation that it be kept as a church,” he said. “Maybe it could be turned into an opera house or a musical house of some sort, because the acoustics here are excellent.”
The famous pipe organ could be dismantled and sold separately, but Wolkowski does not think it would be very happy about being relocated.
“I think this is the home for it,” he said.
A number of people have expressed their desire to see the church declared a heritage building.
In fact Summerland presented the congregation with a plaque in celebration of Heritage Week in 1998, recognizing the church as one of the town’s heritage buildings.
“Although the building was registered as a heritage building with the province in 1984, that registration was removed by the Masons and it is no longer on the land title now,” said Gregory.
The Summerland Heritage Advisory Commission is planning to hold a meeting in the near future to discuss the Lakeside Church and the public will be invited to participate.
“For now, the Presbyterian Church of Canada in Toronto has control over the building,” Wolkowski said.
“They are the ones handling the correspondence, paying of bills and the sale of the property.”
Wolkowski believes the outcome for the Lakeside Church lies with a higher power.
“It’s in God’s hands,” he said. “We’ll let him direct the disposition of it.”
If you know a positive story about someone in our community, contact Carla McLeod at [email protected] or contact the Summerland Review newsroom at 250-494-5406.