St. James Presbyterian
Old Route 5

Both the built and written heritage associated with St. James Presbyterian Church make it valuable to our community. When Isabella McKay wrote to the Edinburgh Ladies Society for a school and ministry to be established on Boularderie Island, the Reverend James Fraser was sent in 1823. For twenty five years he was the only minister for the entirety of Boularderie Island, and other surrounding areas of Cape Breton. The residents erected small and simple buildings that would act as the churches until 1885 and 1886 when Knox Presbyterian and St. James where built. In 1922, St. James Presbyterian Church narrowly escaped destruction by fire. Brush was being burned along the highway and a spark, carried by the wind, got into the steeple starting a fire. John D. and James G. MacKenzie from New Dominion saw the smoke and sounded the alarm. A bucket brigade was formed and the church was saved. The base of the steeple, however, was badly burned. Over the next year, the steeple was removed and the present bell tower was built and a bell was installed. The windows are original 6 over 6 double pane. They feature tracery with a fixed French Romanesque light. These windows are repeated over a gothic arch doorway. Stoves were used for heating and were later replaced by coal furnaces around 1921. There were wrought-iron chandeliers that used to hold oil lamps and wall lamps for lighting the church. Electric lights were put in St. James Presbyterian Church in 1948. The original high pulpit has been retained in the interior of the building. In 1954 the pews and much of the lower level of the interior of the building was renovated. In the balcony of the church remain the original pews and floor boards from when the church was built.

Architectural Comment

Located at the cross road of the community, St. James has stood on the corner of Old Route 5 and St. James Rd for one hundred and twenty one years. Original 6 over 6 double paned windows with tracery featuring a fixed French Romanesque. These windows are repeated over the gothic arch style door. The exterior is clad in wooden shingles with corner boards.

Contextual Comment

St. James Presbyterian Church was built by the MacInnis Brothers from Whycocomagh in 1885. This one and one half storey Neo Classical Church features beautiful original arched windows. Some windows show beautiful stained glass images dedicated to the church and its parishioners. Located behind the church is the St. James Cemetery which, to this day, acts as the official cemetery for both the Presbyterian and United Church in Big Bras d’Or. The church is set against the backdrop of Kelly’s Mountain and in its location is a formidable building from any direction.

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