First Baptist Church (FBC) had, as one of its early objectives, the planting of daughter churches in the neighbourhoods of the city as it gradually grew. The focus of this post is on the churches of that ‘brood’ and, specifically, the buildings they occupied over the course of their lives. I’m not including the history of First Baptist’s buildings in this post, as I have pretty thoroughly dealt with FBC’s history elsewhere in multiple posts of this blog.
The content in this post was first presented by me at a Vancouver Postcard Club meeting in June 2018. Although the format is different (a post versus a PowerPoint presentation), the information is largely the same.
First Born: Mount Pleasant Baptist
Mount Pleasant Baptist Church (MPBC) had initial, temporary church homes on 2nd Ave (1890) and in the Good Templars Hall (1891). On May 10, 1891, several members were dismissed from the ‘mother’ church, FBC, so they could form the nucleus of MPBC. FBC offered Mount Pleasant Baptist $200/yr (for how long isn’t clear) and a pulpit chair and a pulpit Bible to support the new church’s first pastor, Rev. A. B. Lorimer.
Building 1 (1904-1908): 7th Avenue near Quebec Street
The first building would be on 7th Avenue, adjacent to what, by 1911, would be the Mt Stephen apartment block (today called Quebec Manor). In 1908, this building was sold to the Salvation Army.
Building 2 (1908-1910): Kingsway near Main
MPBC bought their second building from the local Presbyterians. This structure was at 2340 Westminster Road (now Kingsway near Main); this is the site, today, of Mt Pleasant Community Centre and the branch library of VPL. MPBC was at this location for just a couple of years.
Building 3 (1910-1990): SE Corner of 10th Avenue at Quebec Street
In 1909, MPBC approached Toronto architects, Burke, Horwood & White (the firm used by FBC to design their Burrard & Nelson building) to design a new building for them at the SE corner of 10th Avenue and Quebec Street. The building would be of the Tudor Revival style and have a seating capacity of about 650.
The building was destroyed by fire in 2004. But the Baptists had called it quits and moved out by 1990 due to diminishing numbers of attendees and donations. By 1996, a new church (a Pentecostal one) occupied the building. Today, a condo development is on the site of the former MPBC structure.
Second Child: Jackson Avenue Baptist
The congregation that ultimately became a Baptist church in the East End, began as a Sunday School mission of FBC. It started in a carpentry shop, later moving to a space on Powell Street, and finally to Harris Street (today’s East Georgia).
Building 1 (ca1894-ca1898): On Jackson Avenue
The first building occupied by Jackson Avenue Baptist Church (JABC) seems to have been a re-purposed residence (versus a purpose-built church structure). It was somewhere on Jackson Avenue, but exactly where it was is a bit of a mystery.
Building 2 (1899-1952): NW Corner of Jackson and East Pender
By 1898, JABC was growing beyond the capacity of their first building and so JABC bought the former building of the local Presbyterians, Zion Presbyterian (NW Corner of Jackson and Princess (East Pender). JABC, for a while, was known as Zion Baptist.
JABC, like most of the people of Strathcona – the community in which it was situated – was not rich. By the late 1940s, its membership had dropped significantly. Therefore, in 1952, JABC merged with another (also dwindling) Baptist church in the East End, East Hastings Baptist, to form a new church: Ward Memorial Baptist Church (in memory of Rev. Albert W. Ward). It continues to operate today at 465 Kamloops Street
Third Child: Fairview Baptist
Fairview Baptist Church was typical of the offspring of FBC in that it began as a Sunday School. In 1902, Mrs. E. Peck offered her home at Maple and 3rd Avenue for a Sunday School. The school met there for 2 years.
Building 1 (1904-1909): Maple and 4th Avenue
In 1904, 20 members of First Baptist ‘got their letters of dismissal’ and formed the nucleus of Fairview Baptist; they also built their first building at the corner of Maple and 4th Avenue. FBC’s historian William Carmichael claims that the first building was built for $500. But the Vancouver Heritage Building Permits site tells a little different story. The building permit indicates an estimate of $1000. The architect/ builder was R. E. Scarlett.
Building 2 (1909-1924): Fifth Avenue and Arbutus
In 1909, Fairview pulled up stakes. It isn’t clear why. FBC historian, William Carmichael, claims it was “because of the laying of the street car tracks on Fourth Avenue”. This doesn’t further my understanding much, however. Was there a safety concern for the kids?
Fairview built a new structure on 5th Avenue at Arbutus. It was designed/built by Samuel Buttrey Birds for about $5,500.
With the move to Arbutus and 5th, Fairview Baptist seems to have undergone a period of identity crisis, given subsequent name changes. In ca1913, after being near Fifth Avenue for a few years (although the address was actually 2029 Arbutus), it started calling itself “Fifth Avenue Baptist Church”. In 1918, scarcely five years later, the name was changed to “Kitsilano Baptist Church”. The church building address didn’t change with either of these name changes.
In 1922, following a tumultuous period for “Kitsilano Church” (there was at least one significant split of the Kits congregation), Kits amalgamated with Central Fairview Baptist to form, wait for it . . . “Fairview Baptist”!
Building 3 (1924-1951): 12th Avenue at Fir
In June 1924, Fairview moved into a brick building at 1605 W 12th (NW corner at Fir). In 1949, Fairview briefly and temporarily joined with Chalmers United Church (Hemlock at 12th).
Building 4 (1951-present): 16th Avenue at Pine
In 1951, Fairview opened the building which houses the church today, on W. 16th Avenue near Pine.
Fourth Child: Ruth Morton Memorial Baptist
Rev. J. Willard Litch, ca1910, approached the prominent (and generous) Baptist, John Morton, about endowing a new church in the Cedar Cottage district of Vancouver at 27th Avenue and Prince Edward. Morton agreed. Litch wanted to name the church after Morton, but Morton demurred. He instead suggested it be named after his second wife, Ruth Morton (nee Mount). Three weeks after Morton made his endowment to Ruth Morton Memorial Baptist Church (RMMBC), he died (April, 1912).
In 2014, RMMBC amalgamated with 19th Avenue Christian Fellowship (formerly the Metropolitan Tabernacle) to form a new congregation that meets at the former Ruth Morton building. It is known as Mountainview Christian Fellowship.
RMMBC/Mountainview has continuously met in the same building from the start.
Fifth Child: South Hill Baptist
Building 1 (1908-1909): South Vancouver Municipal Hall
As usual, this church plant had its start as a Sunday School. It began in the home of the Frank Birketts in 1908. Later, it moved to the South Vancouver Municipal Hall.
Building 2 (1909-1912 ): East 50th and Frederick
In 1909, a small building was erected (to which FBC donated $200) at the corner of East 50th and Frederick Street (just a block off Fraser). There don’t seem to be any publicly-available photos still existing of this building.
Building 3 (1912-1970): East 50th and Frederick
The small building was replaced with a more substantial one that was dedicated in October 1912 (same site).
The church still stands today (although with some modifications) as the South Vancouver Pacific Grace Mennonite Brethern Church. South Hill Baptist ceased to exist in 1970. The majority of the remaining congregants (some 35) joined Killarney Baptist.
The Sixth Child: Broadway West Baptist (Collingwood and 7th)
Due to a greater population density in western Kitsilano by 1913, a Sunday School was started in a small store at 3417 West Broadway. In March, 1915, 25 FBC members helped form the nucleus of Broadway West Baptist Church (BWBC). BWBC met in the store until their building was finished ca1923 at Collingwood and 7th Avenue.
Broadway West considered changing their name since they were no longer located on Broadway. The new name they decided on was a mouthful: “Broadway West Baptist Church Seventh & Collingwood.” That remained the legal name for the balance of the church’s life (which seemed to end by the mid-1990s).
The former Baptist Church building still stands today. It is occupied by a Pentecostal congregation, Redemption Church.
The Last Kid: West Point Grey Baptist (11th Avenue near Sasamat)
In December 1926, 12 members of FBC met at the home of Dr. and Mrs. Wilbur Watson to plan the formation of a church in their neighbourhood of West Point Grey. The initial temporary home of the church was a Presbyterian building on 4th Avenue east of Sasamat. The first pastor was a former FBC assistant pastor, J. R. Turnbull.
On September 10, 1932, dedication services were held celebrating the move of West Point Grey Baptist (WPGBC) into their building located at 11th Avenue near Sasamat. The FBC choir presented the special music, and then-FBC pastor Rev. Elbert Paul gave the address.
In 2020, West Point Grey merged with Lord’s Peace Chapel (formerly located in Marpole).
WPGBC has been at the same site since 1932.
- There was nothing at all pejorative about the word ‘dismissed’ when used in this context; dismissal simply meant that members were free to request membership at another Baptist church. For more on Baptist membership transfer, see here.