For many years, something over one hundred, the Cathedral Parish Hall building stood on Queen’s Road across from the Sergeants’ Memorial. Today it is no more, and if you walk along the street you will see a high blue fence hiding the empty ground.
But in its heyday, the parish hall was a busy place and housed several different groups, mostly associated with the church, but parts of the building were rented out from time to time. One such was to The Model School which closed in 1952, and another was a dance studio. The clergy house built beside it still stands, and has a date of 1893 marked on the eaves.
Following the Great Fire of July 1892, the Parish Hall became the centre of much of the diocesan business for Newfoundland. This was because the church buildings that were on Gower Street, directly across from the cathedral, were destroyed in the fire. These comprised a clergy house, Synod Hall, the rectory, and one other building which may have been an orphanage. I suspect the parish hall became essential to the function of the diocese and the cathedral at this time. Certainly many meetings took place in that building, and with a square footage of 16,380 feet, there was ample room; the cathedral office was housed there for many years, thus vestry meetings were held there as well.
So now, let’s get to the cup of tea of the title of this article. I am a relative newcomer to the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, having only been a parishioner for 43 years, but many parishioners have been there all their lives, and remember so many meetings and the cup of tea that always followed. The list is long but here are a few groups that met during the year. Firstly there were the two church sales, one in the spring and one in the fall. They brought the whole parish out during the day for morning coffee or tea, lunch, and turkey teas. It was a wonderful time of fellowship—a time to show off the many hand made items a time to purchase that necessary gift for a friend, and most of all to have a cup of tea with a friend and catch up on all the news and/or gossip. Sunday school met on the upper floor. Congregational meetings met there annually, and that was certainly followed by a cup of tea and a sweetie.
Concerts were put on by the choir (see photo of Michael Donnan and Catherine Cornick). There was the ACW, and the ACW Christmas party; the altar guild; the men’s Bible class; the young mothers; and many others who all found a comfortable place to gather and then have a nice cuppa to further discuss the meeting, or maybe who would win the next soccer match.
So many wonderful times were had in the parish hall, but it must be reported that in 1966 there was a fire in the building which burned the tower; it can be seen in the photo from 1914, and it was not rebuilt. Thus the building remained until it was torn down this fall. So many many good times were had in the parish hall that we should all toast the hall with a cup of tea. Cheers and Hallelujah!
The three photographs above show the parish hall at various stages of being torn down. The top one was taken by the Rev’d Fred Marshall, and the other two were taken by Ellen Reid.
The house on the left of the former hall, 70 Queen’s Road, was for many years used for clergy housing, and it has not been torn down.
The property, including the house, was sold by the Diocese of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador a few years ago, and the land no longer belongs to the Church.