83 Essex Street

Bylaw: (2013) – 19616

Legal description: Part Lot 383, Plan 8

Designated portions

The following elements of 83 Essex Street are to be protected under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act, R.S.O. 1990, Chapter O.18.:

  • All existing stonework;
  • All lancet windows and doors, their openings, construction, and surrounds;
  • Rectangular floor plan;
  • Front-end gabled roofline;
  • Chimney on the south elevation; and
  • Gothic gable vent on the church façade (east and west elevations).

It is intended that non-original features may be returned to documented earlier designs or to their documented original form without requiring City Council permission for an alteration to the designation.

Property history

Built in 1880, the building at 83 Essex Street is a one and one-half storey rectangular-shaped church constructed of locally quarried limestone. Similar to other churches built during this time period in Ontario, it is designated in the Gothic Revival style and features three symmetrical bays with three, 4 over 4 lancet windows on the north and south elevations. The façade features a centrally-placed, pointed arch front door flanked by lancet windows, with a Gothic gable vent above the door.

The B.M.E. Church has direct associations with the fugitive slave movement and is located within a Guelph neighbourhood that was the historical settling area for the black community. Many blacks came to Guelph, especially when border towns became more precarious for fugitive slaves, and in the mid-19th century when northern communities such as the Queen’s Bush were being developed by the government. This forced black squatters to uproot and settle elsewhere. The B.M.E. Church became the religious focus and centre of community life. It served as a meeting place for the black community, providing a safe-haven for them and became a symbol of “pain, hope and freedom”.

The British Methodist Episcopal Church’s cultural heritage value lies in the building’s link to Guelph’s historic and cultural association with black history; its architectural merit as a fine example of Gothic Revival construction; and its contextual presence within the historical settlement area of Guelph’s black population.