Burgess Church

Burgess Church Heritage Designation

heritage church buildingEarly in 2002, the Township of Muskoka Lakes designated the Burgess Memorial Church in Bala as a heritage property under the Ontario Heritage Act. Research by Municipal Heritage Committee showed this property should be designated on the basis of its architectural/ historical importance. In brief, our reasons for designation are as follows:

The Burgess Memorial Church, built in 1926 on Bala Falls Road, is recommended for designation for architectural reasons as it is a beautiful example of a simple Gothic church built in Muskoka in the early 20th century. Erik Skat-Petersen, Dick Hamill, Knud Skat-Petersen, Aage Skat-Petersen and Gordon Ing, whose initials are carved in the mortar on the east side, all played an intricate part in building the church. Elements of the Gothic style are evident in the pointed arch-shaped windows, gable roof, and decorative bargeboard.

Of particular interest is the fact that local and seasonal residents were encouraged to bring stones for the construction. As a result, the uncoursed fieldstone exterior includes rocks of all shapes and sizes from as far away as the United States.

The six-over-six sash windows in the lower level are surmounted with concrete hood mould or dripstone. The yellow pebble glass in the nave windows is original. Round windows in the entrance and terra cotta roof tiles on the entrance and on the windowsills give the church a picturesque charm befitting its prominent location on a small island in the Moon River, next to the Bala Falls.

The church is named after the founder of Bala, Thomas W. Burgess, who arrived in the area in 1868. It owes its existence to Presbyterians who did not accept the 1925 union of the Methodist and Presbyterian faiths and the designation of Bala’s original Presbyterian church as a United Church. The Burgess Memorial Church was built on land owned by the Thomas Burgess estate.

In August 1964, the board of the Presbyterian Church sold the building to Shirley and Thomas Linke. The church was used as a Baptist Church during the Linkes’ ownership. Known as the Stone Church by many, the Burgess Memorial Church is a prominent landmark of historical significance. In the summer of 2000 the church was decommissioned and was rezoned for commercial use in October, 2000. The retention of the existing exterior features is recommended to preserve the character of Bala’s streetscape.

The specific features of the Burgess Memorial Church deserving protection are:                             

  • uncoursed fieldstone exterior

  • six-over-six sash windows in the lower level

  • multi-paned arch-shaped windows in main level (nave)

  • builder’s initials on the east face

  • decorative concrete hood mould over basement windows

  • round shaped windows in the entrance

  • terra cotta roof tiles on entrance and windowsills

  • bargeboard on gable ends of building



w3cP.O. Box 129, 1 Bailey St., Port Carling, Ontario, P0B 1J0  Phone:(705)765-3156  Fax:(705)765-6755
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