First Baptist Church



1301 4 Street SW


The first Baptist meeting in Calgary was held in 1888, and two years later a church seating 160 people was completed at the corner of 2nd Street and 6th Avenue S.W.  The present building is the third church to be built by the congregation.  It was built in 1911-12 to designs by architect D.S. McIlroy.  The building is a very good example of the Gothic Revival style, with numerous pointed arches, gables, decorated windows, and attached buttresses.  The building features a square tower with a spire at the corner.  It seats 1300 people, with room in the vestibule for an additional 200, and is believed to be the largest Baptist church in Canada.  Money for the construction of the church wasraised by many prominent citizens, including Thomas Underwood, a member of the church board, and R.B. Bennett, who was the acting solicitor.  Many socially prominent Calgarians worshipped in the church over the years, and for this reason it has very good historical significance.  The interior details are very good, and the church is unaltered from the outside, except for a two-storey brick addition which was added inconspicuously at the rear in 1951 to house a church youth centre.  The church forms part of an important historic grouping. (1982)

(From Calgary Heritage Authority, Summary 11-114)


Calgary’s First Baptist Church originated in 1888, when seven of the town’s sixteen Baptists met for organizational purposes.  After meeting in temporary quarters, the congregation built its first church in 1890 at the northeast corner of what is now 6th Avenue and 2nd Street SW (now the site of Bow Valley Square).  Within a decade, First Baptist had outgrown its edifice and built a larger church at the northeast corner of what is now 7th Avenue and 1st Street SW (now the site of the Len Werry Building), designed by architect D.S. McIlroy and completed in 1901.  It was destroyed by fire in 1905 and rebuilt on the same site.  The church’s leadership established mission churches across the city, including Hillhurst and Westbourne in East Victoria.

First Baptist grew in tandem with the city’s pre-World War I boom, and in 1910 the congregation purchased its present site from lawyer, provincial Conservative leader, and future prime minister R.B. Bennett.  When he was paid $25,000 in cash for the sic lots, Bennett was reportedly so impressed that he donated $1000 towards the building fund.  Former mayor Thomas Underwood, who lived across 13th Avenue behind Burns mansion, was a prominent member and also contributed to the building fund.  Dr. John Clifford, president of the Baptist World Alliance, laid the cornerstone on July 12, 1911, and the Gothic Revival church building was dedicated on May 12, 1912.

The church complex was considerably expanded in the 1950s and 1960s.  A youth wing was added in 1951.  In 1958 the congregation bought the Seventh Day Adventist Church to the south and replaced it with the Christian Education Building, completed in 1962.  The original manse next door to First Baptist was converted into offices in 1957.

(From Historic Walks of Calgary, Harry Sanders, 2005 (Red Deer: Red Deer Press), pp. 243-244)





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