After a nearly five year-long battle with a diocese intent on demolishing it, a historic 103-year-old church has been saved by a Cape Breton community group that it hopes to restore to its former splendour.
“It’s going to be the best Christmas ever,” Melanie Sampson, the president of the Stone Church Restoration Society, told CTV Atlantic after receiving the ownership papers.
The group was formed to save the St. Alphonsus Roman Catholic Church in Victoria Mines, N.S., which has since 1916 sat atop a hilltop overlooking the entrance to Sydney harbour.
Since the Diocese of Antigonish closed the church in 2007, unwilling to pay the more than $600,000 in needed repairs, the site has fallen into further disrepair.
Sampson’s group agreed to buy the church from the Diocese of Antigonish for $40,000 in 2015, and hopes to restore it as a tourist destination and wedding chapel.
But first, the group will need to complete a host of repairs, including replastering it and upgrading its heating and electrical systems.
“We’ve lost so many opportunities over these past five years,” Sampson said. “Now, it will be like starting from square one, but the building will be saved, and that’s the main thing.”
The National Trust for Canada once classified St. Alphonsus as one of the top 10 endangered places in the country.
For its work in saving the building, Sampson’s group has received a national award from the Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia.
With a report from CTV Atlantic's Kyle Moore