Located in the center of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, the Third Avenue United Church is a symbol of the area’s rich cultural diversity and stunning architecture. Lovedly referred to as the “Carnegie Hall of the Prairies,” this ancient church has been an important part of the history of the area and is still a treasured representation of culture and creative expression.
In 1910, work on the Third Avenue United Church in Saskatoon began. At this time, service was held at a more humble facility on the intersection of 3rd Avenue and 21st Street by the Methodists, who would subsequently form the United Church in 1925. The church was designed by architect J. Semmens. David Lusk placed the cornerstone on May 13, 1912, behind which first mayor James Clinkskill and first University of Saskatoon President Dr. Walter Murray buried a copper time capsule. On property that the Temperance Colonization Society had purchased, construction was completed in 1913. Dr. Walter Murray, the university’s president, referred to the church as “the first permanent home of religion in Saskatoon” when it was consecrated on June 29, 1913.
The Third Avenue United Church, constructed in 1913, is a magnificent example of Gothic Revival building design. Its opulent spires and minute embellishments provide a feeling of grandeur while also expressing the community’s goals at the time. It was originally a Methodist church, but in 1925 it joined the United Church of Canada.
The church, which was created by architects Storey and Van Egmond, is adorned with magnificent stained glass windows, lofty arches, and a stately pipe organ. It is a unique architectural treasure in Saskatoon because of the painstaking workmanship and attention to detail. Over the years, the church has undergone a number of restorations that have preserved its historical beauty and maintained its structural integrity.
Third Avenue United Church was the biggest stone building in Saskatoon’s downtown, made entirely of natural stone from the base to the summits of its two towers. It was designed in the Tudor Gothic style using limestone. The church has the third-biggest sanctuary in Canada and the largest sanctuary of any church on the prairies. The enormous, manually painted stained glass windows are 6.7 meters wide at the top and 8.2 meters wide at the base, making them one of the province’s biggest art installations. Within the church is a remarkable network of wood ceiling beams that support the roof without the need for massive, unsightly pillars. There is also a gigantic Casavant organ with 2,468 pipes, the actual working pipes of which are concealed behind a wall. Musicians claim that the distinctive form of the sanctuary, which is a result of these architectural elements, provides the greatest acoustics in Saskatoon.
Third Avenue United Church has been dubbed “Carnegie Hall of the Prairies” for its cultural center status, which goes beyond its architectural importance. Numerous community activities, concerts, and plays have taken place in the church. Similar to New York City’s famous Carnegie Hall, its acoustics and atmosphere make it a favorite venue for musicians and artists.
The church has served as a hub for social movements and community involvement. It has arranged social justice, diversity-celebrating, and inclusive events throughout the years. In addition to being a place of worship, Third Avenue United Church serves as a forum for discussion and community development.
The Third Avenue United Church has had preservation and upkeep issues recently. Nonetheless, the neighborhood came together to aid with the rebuilding efforts. Initiatives to raise money, volunteer labor, and collaborations with historical institutions have all been vital in guaranteeing the survival of this famous site.
The United Church of Canada’s governing board denied the congregation’s request to seek the church’s historic designation in 2012. But the present membership is smaller than before and finds it difficult to cover the substantial maintenance required to keep the church operational. The land is now worth more than the church, and it would probably be destroyed if it were sold. Obtaining historic classification would eliminate the risk of commercial destruction and would result in funding opportunities to assist with necessary roof maintenance.
To digitally preserve the famous building, Third Avenue United Church, Tourism Saskatoon, CyArk, and Stantec joined up in June 2012. In order to do this, a Stantec team used traditional survey techniques in conjunction with terrestrial LiDAR scanners to thoroughly scan the church and produce an exact digital reconstruction of the location. In order to support future conservation efforts and catastrophe rebuilding, this data is safely kept in CyArk’s archive.
Third Avenue United Church, known as the “Carnegie Hall of the Prairies,” is still a beloved representation of Saskatoon’s rich cultural heritage. Its continuous function as a communal and cultural hub, together with its rich architectural history, solidify its status as an essential component of Saskatchewan’s cultural fabric. It is certain that the Third Avenue United Church will uplift, amuse, and bring the community together for many years to come as we look to the future.