The Windsor an Annapolis Railway establishing its offices in Kentville, Nova Scotia in 1864 brought economic and population growth to what had until then been a small rural community. In 1915, the Kentville Presbyterian congregation inaugurated a new church to replace their earlier house of worship, demolished to make room for a new Royal Bank. Built of local stone, the new St. Paul Presbyterian church combined a squat tower of “early English style” with a steeply pitched nave lit by wood-framed stained glass windows. I’ve seen its construction be attributed to prolific Nova Scotian architect Andrew R. Cobb, but I’ve so far been unable to find a mention of the Kentville church on his list of works, so the question remains open.
With the merger of the Presbyterians with the Methodists in 1923, the church joined the names of the two congregations’ patron saints to become St. Paul and St. Stephens before becoming a United Church in 1925. The last worship on the site was in 2014, after which the edifice was decommissioned.
In 2015, a crowdfunding campaign succeeded in collecting funds to refurbish the former church into a new home for the Kentville Public Library, which had outgrown the former car dealership it had been operating in since 1987. The campaign was supported by author Margaret Atwood, whose mother was an native of the Annapolis Valley, likely contributing to its success.
Completed in 2017, the library conversion is the work of Lisa Tondino of Houdini Design Architects. Her respectful intervention maintained the nave’s original features, with dark polished Douglas fir rafters contrasting against a ceiling of white hemlock trim. Light comes in from the original stained glass windows, which had been donated to the church in the 1960s and 1970s, as well as from the original lanterns. A glass partition separates the nave from a community room installed in the former choir, where decorated wood panels were reused as ceiling elements.
The images shown here date from my visit in October 2023. My thanks to the Annapolis Valley Regional Library for letting me photograph this space!
Library detail pages are primarily a place for me to collect information I gather on the libraries I visit, and are frequently updated. None of this should be considered authoritative, I am not an architect, nor a historian. If you notice something incorrect, please let me know!