The Architecture

An Architectural Gem

St. James United Church is a national historic site of Canada and a Quebec religious heritage building.

Built between 1887 and 1889, St. James United Church reflects the design of the Methodist churches of the late Victorian period by its scale, its central location, its eclectic neogothic exterior, its interior plan inspired by an amphitheater and its sophisticated facilities for its Sunday school.

Designed by renowned architect Alexander Francis Dunlop, St. James Church was at the time of its construction the largest Methodist worship venue in Canada. It is distinguished by its monumentality and its Gothic Revival style.

The exterior of the church is a Victorian neo-gothic image of a medieval French cathedral. The interior is designed in “the Akron auditorium plan” popular with North American Presbyterians, Baptists and Methodists in the late 19th century but unique in Montreal. Central to the sanctuary are the pulpit and communion table which are located directly in front of the choir loft.

Its interior is organised as an amphitheater of 1,200 seats and the choir lofts are arranged on different levels. These are sought after and rare elements in Quebec.

In 1926, commercial buildings were erected ""temporarily"" in front of the church to provide the congregation with income. These buildings completely obscured the church from view on Ste. Catherine Street for almost eighty years. Having served their purpose, the buildings were finally demolished in 2006 and St. James is again open to the busy street-life in the heart of Montreal.

The lighting of the facade facing Sainte Catherine Street was installed in December 2013, allowing St. James to distinguish itself in the Quartier des spectacles. Contemporary and dynamic, the architectural lighting embraces perfectly the will of the church to continue its technological advances to be part of modernity.

A Tour of the Building

The Main floor houses the church sanctuary, seating 800 people and another 400 at the sweeping mezzanine level. This space offers fixed seating and optional stage platforming, as well as the use of the magnificent fully restored pipe organ. Just down the hall at the rear of the building can be found the open plan Dawson Hall with its own fixed seat mezzanine. The adjacent Douglas Hall with its catering kitchen and the nearby Richmond room offer support for other reception needs. 

The Lower level is the present home of building support spaces but projected future renovations would see it house new public washrooms to serve events held in either the Sanctuary or Dawson Hall, as well as a performer green room, a lounge, kitchenette and general office area with limited storage for renter groups. Also found at this level is the historic bowling alley which dates from World War I as well as an sweeping stone walled space that opens out onto rue Mayor. We hope to find funding to convert both of these areas into additional social spaces for rentals.

On the Second floor you will find the offices for St. James United Church and the Montreal City Mission, as well as the business office for the Square St. James.

The entire Third floor of the rear part of the building houses the 5,000 square foot Churchill suite, available for office rental to a cultural, social or artistic organisation. The Churchill room with its soaring vaulted ceiling is part of this suite.