Emerson Baptist Church, Third Street, Emerson, MB
Using concrete as a building material dates back to 200 BC when Romans used it to bind stones together. At one stage in the evolution of concrete blocks, between about 1900 and 1920, molded blocks were cast right at building sites to the specifications and quantity deemed by the designer. This type of production allowed for a wide variety of sizes and textures for the face of the block, the other sides smooth and easy to install. Often itinerant crews went from village to village offering their services, sometimes contractors owned or hired block making companies of which there were dozens all over the province. Schools, houses, commercial buildings and the occasional church were constructed of molded concrete blocks. Emerson Baptist is an excellent and rare example.
Winnipeg architect Hugh McCowan drew up the plan for the church. Among McCowan’s other designs are the Kay’s Building on McDermot and the Stovel Building on Princess in Winnipeg as well as several schools in rural Manitoba. The contractor who built Emerson Baptist was well-known in the area. David Wright, one-time mayor of Emerson, constructed the church in 1905 from concrete blocks made on site.
Several sizes of blocks compose the church. Mainly elongated blocks with rough surfaces to simulate actual stone were used in the body of the walls. Smooth long and short blocks accentuate the corners, all openings and string courses. The contrast between the textured and smooth blocks is pleasant and settling.
The front facade has three increasing heights that begins the sensation of ascension. The pyramidal caps on the elevated corners, the elegant gable along the cornice above the triple narrow windows and the corner entrance tower with its steep roof topped, as are all roof peaks, with an elaborate pinnacle complete the ascent. It’s a beautiful choreography of your attention that flows naturally all the way to heaven.
About the roof, I am generally not much of a fan of metal roofs. This is purely aesthetic and rather moody on my part but I do get their value: long lasting, durable, low maintenance and effective – they keep the rain off the hymn books. In the case of Emerson Baptist, the green metal roof deters little from the overall building. Though appealing, the church’s roofline is not its main feature.
The windows and main entrance are peaked in the Gothic Revival style, each peak blunted by a keystone. The smooth surfaces used around the windows and front entrance have an interesting relationship with the quoins on the corners, a major feature of the detailing. Glass panes are multi-hued. In this picture you can see the ivied wall and the carved pinnacles atop the three roof peaks.
Emerson Baptist is one of the heritage sites where I shot a copious amount of pictures. Watch my 2:01 video to see it from its many wonderful angles.