This ignoble fate may have been inevitable


(The ill-fated bells of Trinity Anglican Church, photographed by Darcy Cheek.)


It is indeed a most ignoble fate.

Once a proud house of worship, Trinity Anglican Church now faces the wrecking ball, deconsecrated, hollowed out and stripped of some of its bells by thieves.

It is, however, a fate one could have predicted. In fact, the property's current owner even gave us a timeline for the church's demolition, one he is now following quite precisely.

In May 2011, Rolf Baumann was still committing to maintaining the church building for three years, even though, once the sale was completed, it was deconsecrated and therefore no longer a church.

Three years is a large enough window to pursue all possible opportunities and avenues,” he said at the time.

Now, the window has been shut, months after it was broken into by thieves who did long, meticulous work of cutting up and removing two of the bells, a bronze plaque dedicated to those bells and cast-iron radiators.

It is, of course, unfortunate to see this property, part of the city's heritage stock, face demolition.

It is equally important to realize that demolition was always the most likely outcome for the venerable building, the moment two Anglican parishes merged into one and chose the former St. Peter's Anglican Church over Trinity as its new home.

Baumann came along as a potential purchaser once the Kingston-based Anglican Diocese of Ontario found it impossible to continue shouldering the costs of maintaining an empty church.

At the time, local Anglicans felt Baumann's plan was the likeliest to preserve the building, in some form, into the future.

But even in 2011, demolition was an endgame the diocese was itself considering had the sale fallen through – and who could blame them? Their job is ministry, not property management at a financial loss.

So they got a three-year commitment, and now those three years are up.

One can argue back and forth about whether a developer whose principal interest lies in Ottawa really made a sufficient effort to sell the merits of the Trinity site.

There was talk of a brew pub at one point, although that failed to materialize. (It would be academic to ask whether the folks who objected at the time will be happier with a rubble-filled lot.)

One can also speculate – and we will – about how these brazen thieves managed to get into the building and saw off the bells, generating a racket loud enough to rouse the ghosts of worshippers past, but not, apparently, suspicious residents.

But the fact is those bells would have left the building legitimately soon enough, to be sold to cover maintenance costs, and would have only bought the old church a bit more time.

Baumann's main objective has been to build a condo tower, and the condo tower market in Brockville has been... let us say in need of a miracle.

Barring that miracle, sadly, it seems Trinity Anglican Church will live on only in history and our memories.

(UPDATE: Mr. Baumann has since expressed his intention to relist the property for three months. That is a hopeful sign, to be sure -- but also a depressing sign the condo project is not only stalled, but dead. I will have more on this very soon.)