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Glebe Community Centre

Gymnasium, Glebe Community Centre, Ottawa
Preserving a community hub's "spirit"

Formerly: St. Paul’s Methodist Church
Address: 175 Third Avenue, Ottawa
Built: 1914-24
Adapted: 1972-74 and 2004

A large dome rising above Ottawa’s Glebe neighbourhood marks an excellent example of adaptive reuse. St. Paul’s Methodist Church – later St. James United Church and now the Glebe Community Centre – was originally designed by Colonel Clarence J. Burritt in the Palladian Revival style. “The building has a monumental copper dome, and is a landmark in a city where domed buildings are rare,” says Ian McKrecher, Glebe community heritage leader. By the 1960s, the size of the church’s congregation had declined and the property was sold to the City of Ottawa, which retained the building as a community centre, making only minor interior alterations. Through the activitism of the Glebe Community Association, which had long been vocal about the building’s importance to the neighbourhood, major renovations were eventually made to it under the direction of local architect Barry J. Hobin & Associates.

The central space was not subdivided, as sometimes happens with large-volume interiors, but preserved, allowing for flexibility of use and a cost-effective conversion. The original stepped floor was removed, but replaced with patterned hardwood that mirrors the dome’s ceiling.

By reusing the former church, the community has benefited from the building’s convenient location, distinctive architecture and utility as a community centre. Stuart Lazear, Heritage Planner at the City of Ottawa, describes it as “a community focal point and landmark for cultural and recreational activities in the Glebe neighbourhood.” The Glebe Community Centre’s successful conversion demonstrates the wisdom of simplicity and minimal intervention in preserving a heritage building of significant character.

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