Historic Church on Endangered List

Posted by Daniel on May 28, 2010 - 7 comments

You may have seen in the press that History Television is making a program about the Church of the Holy Cross (above), named by Heritage Canada as one of the ten most endangered places in the country.

The church is located at Skatin, formerly Skookumchuck, a First Nations community on the Lillooet River north of Harrison Lake. The community, which predates European contact, lies close to an important waterfall on the river, site of an abundant fishery. When gold was discovered on the Fraser River in the 1850s, miners built the first access road to the interior, the Douglas Trail, from the head of the lake through this spot. Eventually the trail became a wagon road and provided the principal route to the goldfields until the construction of the Cariboo Road in the mid-1860s.

The first church on the site was built in the 1860s when Oblate missionaries arrived in the area. Members of the community built the present church between 1895 and 1906 using local cedar and photographs of French gothic cathedrals as a guide. The stained glass windows were imported from Italy, paid for by the Skatin people who hand-carved much of the interior finishings.

Parks Canada declared the Church of the Holy Cross a national historic site in 1981 but the structure has been deteriorating despite the efforts of the local community to repair it.