Evanescence – St. Paul’s, Uffington, (interior) acrylic, 16×24 © 2009 Michelle Basic Hendry
To be evanescent is to be soon passing out of existence.
Choosing a title for this painting took as long as it did to paint it. This one is close to my heart as the last few posts might have indicated. I wanted to title it in a way that might communicate how special it was and that it is gone too soon. Light has that evanescent quality and since light is a prominent part of the painting, it seemed the appropriate word for both the feeling and the reality.
By the time the leaves are out for the Spring of 2009, this place is likely to be no more. The 120 year old church has had to make way due to a lack of funds in the community to save it. I was fortunate enough to spend some special moments in this sacred and spiritual place. This painting is a part of how I will remember it.
I wonder when the town of Bracebridge was aware of this – why did the Muskoka Heritage Foundation or the local historical societies not step up for the fundraising? Hopefully, I can find answers to those questions in the near future. I am hoping that the tragic loss of this once majestic building, will spur a movement to prevent others of our pioneer buildings on the edge of dereliction from the same fate. I am considering a project that will allow for a limited edition of prints for this purpose – something I don’t generally do. More on that later this Spring if I can get the right people to agree….
St. Paul’s, Uffington, Muskoka- History*
Uffington was founded in the 1860’s by the bold pioneers seeking homesteads in what turned out to be some very inhospitable wilderness. The town sprung up on the Peterson Colonization road – one of the primary roads built for the settlement of Muskoka and north. The timber and the traffic that resulted helped to make Uffington in the late nineteenth century fairly prosperous. However, this was not to last. When the trains went to Bracebridge, the growth stopped and the town began to shrink. Today, Uffington has a few residents, but almost no public buildings (St. Paul’s is/was one of the last standing along with the Orange Hall) and few original homesteads. The “Twilight” house is also unlikely to be standing in a couple of years.
Uffington had two hotels and three churches at its peak – a Presbyterian, a Methodist – and the oldest – St. Paul’s Anglican. The original church was log, built in 1870 and it was replaced by the structure in the painting in 1889. The land was donated by William Kirkpatrick, one of the earliest settlers. The church was supported in those early days by a large congregation that allowed for stained glass and a bell.
The last regular services were held in the church in 2002 and with a congregation of only five remaining, it closed its doors in 2005. Maintenance costs were too high and the crossbeams under the floor were rotting. In the years up until now, the church had been vandalized twice and some of the windows broken.
In late 2008, the decision was made to deconsecrate the church and tear it down – the wood being reclaimed. The deconsecration was held October 23 and the baptismal basin, altar and pews removed. For ceremonial and ritual reasons, the altar must be burned and if a new home cannot be found for the baptismal basin, it must be buried. Hopefully it will find a new home in Manitoba, where so many failed Muskoka homesteaders headed when their farms failed. No formal plans have yet been confirmed. The property itself will be used as further cemetery space for the Town of Bracebridge. The snow came too early in 2008 to finish the removal of the building. Demolition is expected to continue when the snow is gone.
Andrew Hind, Maria Da Silva, Ghost Towns of Muskoka, Dundurn Press
Interview with the Venerable Dawn Henderson