70 James St South
Hamilton, L8P 2Y8
Canada

CIVIC ENGAGEMENT AND PUBLIC VALUE

Before the City of Hamilton had a City Hall, the town’s board needed a place to meet. Tired of using local taverns like Thomas Wilson's Inn, they briefly used St. Paul’s as a meeting place until a more permanent home was made available. This only makes sense given how many of St. Paul’s church members were civic leaders dedicated to contributing to the public good -- congregants like Sir Allan McNab, first Prime Minister of Upper Canada; Colin Ferrie, first mayor of Hamilton; Calvin McQuesten of Whitehern; and Peter and James Hamilton, the founding, namesake family of our city.

 

When the Durand Neighbourhood Association met in St. Paul’s this fall, it harkened back to that early town council meeting. St. Paul’s contributes to the public good in many ways, both direct and indirect, sometimes less obvious. St. Paul’s benefits the surrounding community by offering space for no charge or for less than market rates; volunteering hours and the impact of individual congregants; our mission services; our green space; and the magnet-effect of a well-maintained heritage building. For more details on the public value, read about the results from our Halo Study

Above: Colin Ferrie, First Mayor of Hamilton and Elder of St. Paul’s

NEW CANADIANS

In 1903 St. Paul’s initiated a “novel innovation” -- specialized education to Hamiltonians for whom English was a second language. The St. Paul’s school, which then had 40 teachers, over 350 pupils, and one of the largest libraries in Hamilton, admitted 14 Chinese students. They were provided one-on-one education with teachers selected for their “special aptitude” for teaching foreign born students. The program would later also include German ESL students.   

 

During the 19th century, Hamilton’s population swelled with Irish immigrants fleeing oppression and starvation.  Many of them were quarantined in railway sheds in squalid conditions.  Predictably enough, cholera broke out among them, but due to prejudice and fear of the disease there was little sympathy for them.  It was in this context that St. Paul’s, led by member Hugh Vallance, stood out for their mission to the immigrants by fundraising to provide for their basic needs.

 

In 2016 St. Paul’s joined five other Presbyterian churches to sponsor a Syrian refugee family’s resettlement in Hamilton. The support from the congregation in both time and resources exceeded expectations and allowed for St. Paul’s to sponsor a second family of five in 2017.  

SERVING THE COMMUNITY

St. Paul’s has a long tradition of finding original ways to help Hamiltonians, especially those who might be most vulnerable.

 

Three of the founders of the Hamilton YMCA in 1856 were leaders from St. Paul’s: Alexander Logie, Matthew Leggart, and George Young. They wanted to build a community for health promotion, positive influences, and a welcoming environment for young men in Hamilton who might otherwise fall into trouble. In 1889, these men helped oversee the Hamilton YMCA’s construction of a building across the street from St. Paul’s. This was the first building in North America built specifically for a YMCA.

 

Mission to the community would be a continual focus of success. St. Paul’s founded the Laidlaw Mission on Mary Street which offered free classes to children of the poor through the 19th and early 20th century. The congregation helped build and fund a hospital in Taiwan (the McKay Memorial Hospital, Taipei City) which still operates.

 

In more recent years, St Paul’s was the original home of Living Rock Youth Ministries. A safe place of community and support for at-risk youth, this ministry helps vulnerable youth meet their basic needs of food, education and shelter, and offers opportunities for personal development and employment training. Having outgrown St. Paul’s, Living Rock moved to its current location on Wilson Street where last year it received 32,000 youth visits.

MUSIC

In the spring of 1884, thirty years before the Hamilton Art Gallery was founded, and long before Hamilton’s Art Crawl began, St. Paul’s brought the art world to Hamilton’s citizens by hosting an art exhibit. Hundreds of original works filled the sanctuary and the hall for three weeks, open to the public. It was part of a fundraising effort that ultimately raised over $25,000 in today’s dollars.

 

St. Paul’s continues to engage art today by teaming with Dr. Milinda Alexander and the Hamilton Program for Schizophrenia (HPS) to host the Cottage Studio project, an innovative art and therapy program  that promotes both the mental health and the artistic realization of its members. St. Paul’s provides studio space in its historic “cottage”, and exhibition space in its sanctuary and hall.

Above: Hamilton Conservatory of Music

(now Hamilton Conservatory of the Arts) as it appeared in 1904.  

FINE ARTS

In the spring of 1884, thirty years before the Hamilton Art Gallery was founded, and long before Hamilton’s Art Crawl began, St. Paul’s brought the art world to Hamilton’s citizens by hosting an art exhibit. Hundreds of original works filled the sanctuary and the hall for three weeks, open to the public. It was part of a fundraising effort that ultimately raised over $25,000 in today’s dollars.


St. Paul’s continues to engage art today by teaming with Dr. Milinda Alexander and the Hamilton Program for Schizophrenia (HPS) to host the Cottage Studio project, an innovative art and therapy program  that promotes both the mental health and the artistic realization of its members. St. Paul’s provides studio space in its historic “cottage”, and exhibition space in its sanctuary and hall.

WHO WE ARE

Our Story

St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church building has stood at the centre of Hamilton since 1857, an architectural masterpiece older than Canada itself. Now as a designated national Canadian heritage site, the church stands as a potent symbol of our city’s great cultural legacy. But St. Paul’s has also been an innovator. Throughout its long and vibrant life, the congregation of St. Paul’s has striven to find new ways to engage and strengthen the community that envelopes it, in arts and music, in social engagement, and city building.